Music teacher Emilie Rohrbach of
Willow Creek Academy
gives school kids the best of both worlds. They get to really learn how to make music and have fun doing it at the same time. She uses the
, which introduces students to all aspects of music: singing, rhythm, movement, and literacy help children realize all that they can with each lesson.
Emilie likes to challenge the kids in her classroom by inspiring them often with music from guitarists of the 60s and 70s era.
"We listen to influential guitar players like Carlos Santana, Steve Ray Vaughan and Bonnie Raitt as well as different styles of playing," she says. "I believe it's important to share a wide range of music with students to really open their minds to what's possible with the music they create - this includes multi-cultural styles, classical, and modern rock."
Although Emilie teaches piano, flute, and guitar in other classes, she chose the ukulele for her younger kids because it provides advantages not seen with other instruments. For example, this sometimes overlooked miniature guitar fits quite nicely in little hands, making it ideal as a starter instrument.
"The ukulele is a lovely sounding instrument! In kindergarten through third grade our focus is Orff Schulwerk based, so we are learning how to play in a xylophone orchestra. Ukulele is a wonderful first step into the foray of string instruments and reading both chords and the treble clef," she says.
Emilie takes this fearless approach because she firmly believes that young minds are naturally capable of learning so much in the way of music. She says that some of her students will pursue a music interest long throughout their lives where others may "rediscover it" later on.
"I've seen children excited by what they discover in themselves through musical exploration - and yes, some might have a proclivity towards a particular instrument or their own singing voice. But music is a beautiful window for all kids," she says.
With so many distractions and choices in the world of media today, it's often quite difficult to retain the attention of a child let alone to get them to actually participate and show a growing interest. Emilie recalls one such student who was a pleasant surprise in her class.
"I had a fourth grader last year who had a beautiful singing voice and was painfully shy. I knew she had this voice but she would get tongue tied in front of other people," she says. "She learned three chords on the ukulele and suddenly became a songwriter."
Emilie was so impressed that she had her class learn the song. The young girl overcame her shyness and performed it for family and friends on stage during the school's "Spring Extravaganza".
"She had the solo. Her glow when the audience gave her a standing ovation gave me goosebumps," she says. "It is why I am a music teacher. Music has the power to be incredibly transformative."