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Fort Wayne Community Schools showcases student talent at Little Kids Rock concert

FWCS Little Kids Rock
A group of students from Holland Elementary School prepare to perform 'Hound Dog' by Johnny Hallyday in the auditorium at Harrison Hill Elementary on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

Fort Wayne Community Schools held their first post-COVID Little Kids Rock concert on Tuesday.

Students and families filled the auditorium at Harrison Hill Elementary School to hear some familiar songs played by some very little musicians.

Third through 5th graders from all over the district took the stage with drum sets, bass guitars and keyboards to demonstrate what they’d been learning over the past year in their music classes.

Sarah Warsco is a music teacher at Harrison Hill. She said it’s been important to adapt how teachers engage students in music classes, because kids aren’t interacting with music the way they were 30 years ago.

Warsco said kids aren’t listening to classical music or orchestra music, and most of what they know comes from the radio.

FWCS Little Kids Rock 2
Students from Fairfield Elementary School used their initials to give their band a name; 'The Jammin' Tacolords.'

“And if all of our music education focuses on things they don’t hear on the radio, then we’re not teaching them what they’re actually going to encounter in life and it’s hard for them to connect," she said.

That’s where Little Kids Rock comes in.

Little Kids Rock is a national organization, mainly stationed in larger cities throughout the U-S, that helps build music programs using contemporary music like rock, pop, Latin and rap.

Little Kids Rock provides instruments, but also helps train teachers who might not know how to teach more contemporary styles of music. Price Elementary teacher Chad Gay said that training has been invaluable.

“I’ve learned ways to, not only teach these instruments, but I’ve learned different ways to teach some of our other curriculum as well and tie it all in together,” he said.

When picking songs, all the teachers agree you start with the simplest songs. Those with only one or two chords that can be easily approximated by the students, said Holland Elementary teacher Justin Pose.

“Once they can play it with one chord, you add a couple more, cause the chords are the hardest but the drums are hard, too," he said.

FWCS Little Kids Rock 3
Fairfield Elementary students performed three songs; 'What About Us' by Pink, 'Best Day of My Life' by American Authors and 'Sunflower' by Post Malone.

But, Fairfield Elementary teacher Maelle Heath said they’re not looking for perfection.

“It’s to get the experience with the instruments and to enjoy making music," she said.

While Little Kids Rock is primarily in larger cities throughout the country, Fort Wayne ambassador Laura McCoy said Sweetwater was a driving force behind having the program in Fort Wayne.

Sweetwater does all the distribution for Little Kids Rock.

“And, when they came to visit Fort Wayne, Chuck Surak said ‘I went to Fort Wayne Community Schools so, are we gonna have this in Fort Wayne Community Schools?’" McCoy said. "And they said ‘yes, we are.’”

Little Kids Rock also provided some prizes for kids to win during a drawing, including t-shirts and drum sticks. Warsco said this program is also important because it sets kids up to continue engaging with music in the future.

“If they want to be in a band, these are the instruments they’re gonna play.”

Many of the students were able to swap between different instruments throughout the performances, some even singing while playing their instrument.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.
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