SCHOOLS | March 9, 2018
Ronald Brown Academy seventh grader Jamari Christmas is new to the guitar, but until this year, he said he never would’ve picked up the instrument.
He’s one of a handful of students at the West Pullman neighborhood school who have joined beginner’s band, something their school never offered before this year, said Assistant Principal Donnell Rader.
“I like band,” said 12-year-old Jamari. “I also thought I was the boy who couldn’t do much, but when band started, I figured out my talent and that’s playing the guitar.”
Band member Lanyah Gordon, also in seventh grade, said she tried the violin first, but while it was getting repaired, she became interested in the flute.
“I just liked it more than I liked the violin, so I just stayed with it,” she said, adding that she’s gotten better with finger placement and playing notes because of her band directors.
“They’re cool and they help when you have an issue,” she said. “They’ll pull you aside and help you figure it out.”
Through a partnership with local organization Symphony of Change, Brown Academy students have taken an interest in music. They’re learning how to read music and play instruments as a band. They practice twice a week for an hour with their lead teaching artist Randell Jamrok.
Last Tuesday, the students warmed up, went over notes and reviewed last week’s lesson.
The new organization’s founder, T.L. Williams, fully immersed himself into the practice, something he said he does every time.
The musician and recording artist could be seen sitting, sharing a band stand with a young trumpet player. He made sure she was properly breathing. He switched it up and demonstrated for two percussionists who were on the xylophone. They were having trouble holding their mallets. He singled out a clarinet player later and helped him play on tempo while he directed. Toward the end of the practice he did a duet with a flute player who wanted to show that she could play last week’s song with ease.
The band formed in October and had a winter concert. They’re now preparing for their spring concert set for March 22.
“Brown didn’t have a band before and so it’s really cool to watch them go from zero to full band performing at their own assembly,” Williams said, adding that the goal is for the first group to continue advancing while new students join the beginner’s band.
The school is their pilot school, but he said they’ll be forming a new band in the fall at Murray Language Academy in Hyde Park.
Symphony of Change brings band directors, called teaching artists, to the schools. They also provide the instruments.
“[It’s] an organization for the arts that’s dedicated to restoring band programs in schools in the Chicagoland area that may have lost their band program or it may be under-staffed or at risk,” Williams said. “It’s also for schools that may have never had a band program or music program and want one [like Brown Academy].
The school’s assistant principal and Williams both said that students are gaining lifelong skills such as leadership, discipline, time management and how to work on a team.
“We talk so much about reading and math, but here we have a program that contributes to building the whole child, and this is going to go far for them,” Rader said.
To learn more about the music program, visit www.symphonyofchange.org.