CSMA has kids singing a new tune | December 30, 2011 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

News - December 30, 2011

CSMA has kids singing a new tune

Holiday Fund donations help support music education in local schools

by Anna Li

A group of around 70 first graders at Bubb Elementary School are waving frantically at their proud parents as they wait impatiently to jump on stage for their performance. They have been practicing for weeks to sing "Jingle Bell Rock," "Feliz Navidad" and "Winter Wonderland" as part of the Music4Schools program from the Community School for Music and Arts (CSMA).

It is clear that the first-graders are excited to sing to a crowd that outnumbers them. Almost all of the parents are juggling a digital camera, a camcorder or even a smart phone to capture the moment.

Guillermo Ramirez, 6, winks at his parents while sandwiched between two equally passionate kids as they all sing "Winter Wonderland." The kids act out the lyrics to the song, cupping their hands to their ears during the lines "sleigh bells ring/ are you listening," and stomping their feet during the chorus of "walking in a winter wonderland."

Guillermo turns every few seconds to wave at his parents while they wave back to their son, a few steps from the stage.

"It was a priority for us to be here," says Willie Ramirez, Guillermo's father.

He said he rearranged his work schedule to ensure that he would be able to attend.

Georgina Rodriguez, Guillermo's mother, says that her son has been singing at home and practicing dance moves that he learned from YouTube to prepare for the show.

"Music helps with math and development in the brain, too," says Ramirez.

After Guillermo finished his performance, his smile spread from ear to ear.

"I enjoyed my violin class especially because we played games and our teacher made us march around the classroom while she played the piano," says Guillermo.

He says that the music classes sparked his interest in learning to play piano, and he hopes to start lessons next year.

Music4Schools is an award-winning program that brings CSMA music teachers into classrooms to build musical skills and creativity in children. The music classes are designed to meet California's state standards for music education.

CSMA is one of the seven local nonprofits chosen by the Voice to benefit from the Holiday Fund. Donations from readers will go towards CSMA programs to ensure the organization can continue its efforts in bring music education to public school students.

Anton Estaniel and Lillian Yu are two teachers who came to Bubb Elementary through the Music4Schools program to prepare the children for their performance. During the school year, Estaniel and Yu teach these first-graders the basic elements of musicality, including in-tune singing, reading music and performing melody, rhythm and form.

This music education is important for young students who may not otherwise have the chance to discover a hidden musical talent.

"For some of them, it does spark an interest in music," says Hector Armienta, the program director for Music4Schools. "Music is a creative exercise. It allows them to think outside the box. That creativity lends itself to thinking in other ways. I think that's critical."

CSMA offers arts education for Mountain View and its surrounding communities. The organization's faculty consists of professional musicians, practicing artists and experienced teachers who teach private and group art and music classes at the Finn Center campus on San Antonio Circle.

Volunteers and music educators, Natalie Werbner and Joan Van Stone, began the nonprofit organization in 1968 with 28 students and $150 of start-up capital.

Four decades later, CSMA provides more than 1,070 private music lessons per week and serves more than 7,500 students each year. The organization also managed to provide almost $300,000 in financial aid and program subsidies in the past year.

As resources from California public schools dwindle, CSMA hopes to provide art education to as many students as the organization can reach.

"There are a number of schools that don't have music education," says Armienta. "So this one is really supported by the Mountain View school district, the Mountain View Education Foundation, and more importantly, by parents. That is the most critical foundation."