Music is a language that Lynn Swanson speaks fluently. As head of the Gig Harbor Academy music program, she prides herself on this language being taught to the children in preschool, as early as age two,
through the building blocks of steady beat and sense of pitch.
|Lynn Swanson and family
"By the time they reach Kindergarten, they are ready to hit the ground running."
Anyone that has ever attended a GHA music show can attest to this. Both the younger and older grades shine in performances that far surpass what one would expect at a school show, resulting in a truly ente
evening. But entertainment is never her only goal. Mrs. Swanson chooses musical arrangements that are educational and include a historical perspective. "There is real musical value to what we're doing here," she explains, illustrating this statement by pointing out the Jazz
numbers in last year's show. "It is important to me that the children develop skills they didn't have before the show and become critical thinking musicians."
This musical maturity is exhibited in the ensemble pieces, where the students often sing two and three part rounds. The advancing skills and experience of musical collaboration leads to deeper lessons and develops the students' emotional side, explains Mrs. Swanson. "It's in that moment, when the hairs on their arms stand up and you know they are feeling the music. It's magic when the music touches their hearts."
Seeing the growth of the students over the last six years she has run the program motivates Mrs. Swanson to continue aiming higher. "Every day, I want the kids who
come to my class to experience five things: singing, reading music, listening to music, moving their bodies and playing an instrument." Using funds raised by the school community, she plans to further develop the music program by increasing the number of classroom instruments and manipulative items such as streamers and scarves. "I want the music in their bodies to develop a complete sense of beat, rhythm and pitch."
When they leave GHA, students have completed a wide range of musical instruction, along with two years experience reading music and playing recorders. It's a solid foundation of musical literacy. And, now that her first round of GHA students have graduated and gone on to middle school band programs, it's something she often gets feedback about from other musical directors in the district. "My former students are at the top of the pack, and it's nice to know I played a part in that," she says proudly. "Giving my students the tools to successfully enjoy a music-filled future...that's the legacy. That's why I do this."
Author - Amanda Marley-Clarke, Board of Directors