School music program unites diverse student population - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

School music program unites diverse student population

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BURLINGTON, Vt. - Music is in the air at Edmunds Middle School in Burlington.

Calder Sky is a multi-instrumentalist student at Edmunds Middle School in Burlington.

"I sing soprano at chorus here and I play the cello in the orchestra here," Sky said.

He's one of 300 students in the school's music program. Edmunds school officials say participation has grown over the years and this is the highest number of participants in nine years.

"I like 'Hallelujah.' I like listening to different artists, like do a cover of that song. One of my favorite artists that does that song is John Mayer," said Siri Beck, a seventh-grader in the program.

In addition to the core classes-- math, science, history-- the school offers a variety of musical classes like band, chorus and orchestra. Students in the Burlington School District start their musical education in elementary school.

"They give the kids a great music knowledge base to come in with, so we have a great program in the entire district," said Michael Hakim, the school's orchestra teacher.

Music teachers at Edmunds Middle School say part of what makes their music program unique is not only the high level of participation, but the diversity of the students participating.

"What we see is students who maybe are struggling to gain literacy in the English language because they've come here from another country-- thrive in music," said Betsy Nolan, the school's chorus teacher.

Burlington  is the most diverse school district in Vermont. With a student body of  400, Edmunds Middle school has 80 students from diverse backgrounds-- 20 different countries, speaking 24 different languages.

"My family, we're Latino, so we play a lot of music. My family members love music. They like to express themselves, whether it be through an instrument, singing or dancing," said seventh-grader Sophia Toche.

The diverse songs in the school's repertoire include songs from Africa.

"Teach African drumming. We teach Gahu in our general music, so each student gets to learn to be an instrumentalist using these lovely drums to teach our students. We're really blessed to have these, not everybody would," said Graham Lambert, the school's band teacher.

In the chorus department, the students from different cultures who are in the early stages of learning to speak English get exposure to the language in a different way. Educators at Edmunds say the music program is an important part of education. And research shows students who participate in music do better in other subjects. According to the American Psychological Association, music lessons may benefit children's IQ and academic performance, and the more music, the bigger the effect.

Sophia Toche says she feels music brings together all the different students at her school.

"Essential part of your life because if you don't express yourself nobody's ever going to understand you, nobody's ever going to know where you're coming from, so I think it's really important to involve yourself in that and expose yourself to different types of people," she said.

People who may come from different places, speaking different languages, can enjoy the sound of music in the same way.

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