NAfME member Lenna Harris has worked hard to infuse music throughout her school’s curriculum, but a recent opportunity helped her highlight the music program in a special way.
When her whole school (K-6) read The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White, creative projects throughout the school cut across the disciplines. For several weeks, everyone read the same chapters at the same time.
Louis the Swan, the book’s main character, was born without a voice and learns to communicate by playing a trumpet. Harris volunteered to play the trumpet for the school.
- When Louis began his career at a boy’s summer camp as a bugler, Harris visited each homeroom and demonstrated the three calls Louis bugled every day at the camp. “I bugled fifteen times that week,” Harris says. “It gave me a chance to promote the trumpet as an option for the school’s instrumental program.”
- When Louis flew to Boston to lead the swan boats, Harris played a song a day over the intercom during morning announcements. Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer” and other boat songs became familiar to all the students.
- When Louis moved to Philadelphia to play in a jazz club and solo with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Harris played jazz as well.
Children looked forward to the next opportunity to hear “Louis” with each chapter of the book.
- Children came to music class wanting to “hear it again!”
- Three trumpet players in the band asked for the bugle calls to play them for their scout troop.
- Harris’ administrator mentioned her efforts in her performance review.
- Harris had the largest trumpet class ever in her beginning instrumental program the following fall—8 months later.
- She also had the largest trombone and French horn classes ever—all the brass reaped the benefits.
- A third grader recently asked for the words to “Taps,” saying he remembered when she played it as Louis the Swan.
- Harris introduced and discussed elements of jazz with her upper grade students (4, 5, and 6) and played recordings of some great trumpet-playing jazz musicians.
- Classroom teachers and school administrators saw how music is part of the whole of education, not just a stand-alone subject.
Since Harris’ main instruments are piano and French horn, playing trumpet required extra preparation, “but it was fun!” she says. It also motivated the students and filled them with enthusiasm, and it put her school’s music program front and center. Lenna Harris recently retired from teaching general, vocal, and instrumental music and elementary band at Knowlton Township Elementary School in Delaware, New Jersey, where she was for 25 of her 37 years teaching. —Linda C. Brown, originally posted October 13, 2010, © National Association for Music Education (nafme.org)