- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2000


An educational program injecting music across the curriculum at four inner-city elementary schools is entering its second year, buoyed by a glowing report card from Columbia University.
The Choral Arts Society of Washington introduced the program last year with the guidance of Artsvision, a group that assists arts education programs nationwide.
ArtsACCESS (Arts for Children Creates Educational Successes in Schools) integrates music into the classroom in unconventional ways. The program represents a three-year partnership between the Choral Arts Society of Washington and the D.C. public schools.
Officials with the society and the participating schools are singing the program's praises. So is Columbia University, which conducted an independent study of the program's first year. The New York-based university found that the program increased students' attention spans and decreased absenteeism, among other positive results.
Norman Scribner, the society's music director, says the program shows the value music can have for young students.
"Children do respond to music at a very early age," Mr. Scribner says. "It appeals to every part of the brain."
Mr. Scribner wants the program to be a "catalytic agent" for establishing more music education in D.C. schools. His group says area schools often lack such instruction.
Come budget time, the arts typically are the first items to feel the ax blade. Such fiscal planning runs counter to human nature, he says.
"Everyone has music in their heart," Mr. Scribner says. "It's a universal language."
The elementary schools participating in ArtsACCESS — Thomson in Northwest, Orr in Southeast and Slowe and Langdon in Northeast — will expand their programs this year to include second-grade students. More than 20 teachers and 400 students will take part during the current school year.
Orr Principal Helen Flagg says teachers and visiting artists seamlessly brought music into existing lesson plans during the last school year.
"The way they wove in the music was very natural for first-graders," she says.
One teacher, for example, read poetry to her students while they punctuated its rhythms by playing musical instruments.
Any subject can be taught with music, says Jeanette McCune, director of community and educational programs with the Choral Arts Society.
While her group routinely works with older students, it had not addressed the needs of the young before embracing ArtsACCESS.
Some of the lessons have blended culture with music appreciation. One instructor taught sing-along songs based on the African practice of shared storytelling.
"That's how stories are passed along through the spontaneity of music," Mrs. McCune says.
Although the percussion instruments proved the biggest hit with students, the children also bonded with the visiting musicians.
"The children loved the opportunity to get close to the artists and learn about the instruments," she says. "It's wonderful to reach children in new and creative ways."
A demonstration of the ArtsACCESS program by teachers, students and artists, plus a cafeteria lunch, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 13 at Thomson Elementary School, 1200 L St. NW.

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