DURHAM – Superintendent James Morse and Principal Misty Lowe are pleased to share that Mast Way Elementary fourth-graders had the opportunity to learn songwriting from professionals through a series of virtual workshops this week.
Oyster River Music Educator Pam Felber invited Kid Pan Alley (KPA) — an organization that works to build confidence in children by teaching them about songwriting — to teach students the songwriting process through the creation of original group songs for the second year in a row. Felber, as well as fourth-grade classroom teachers Beth Stacy, Maria Gerard, Ian Henry and Sarah Farwell, were inspired to invite Kid Pan Alley to the school last year after a number of musical events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Monday, Jan. 31, to Thursday, Feb. 3, Kid Pan Alley Founder and Composer Paul Reisler, Education Specialist and Music Educator Cheryl Toth, and Musician Natalia Zukerman met with students virtually. The three worked with each of the four fourth-grade classes, approximately 80 students, to write a group song with each class.
During the workshops, students collaborated to brainstorm ideas for song topics and write original lyrics. Students also learned about the creative process for songwriting, including using poetic devices, natural pitch and rhythm of speech to compose melodies. The end result of the workshops with each fourth-grade class was an original song.
Song topics included COVID-19, homework and animals. The students created the following songs:
- Stacy’s class: “Trapped Behind the Mask”
- Gerard’s class: “Flying Like a Bird”
- Ian Henry’s class: “Wild and Free”
- Sarah Farwell’s class: “Callie Likes Homework”
“Music Education had to be reinvented during the pandemic, and I was inspired to invite Kid Pan Alley to the school since the organization offers a safe and unique musical experience that students surely won’t forget,” said Felber. “These fun workshops motivated students to collaborate and use their creativity to make something that is lasting and meaningful.”
Reisler, Toth, and Zuckerman will perform the original songs for students on Tuesday, Feb. 15. They also plan to record the songs in a studio so that students can listen to the songs whenever they like.
Additionally, fourth-graders will practice the original songs in music class. The school hopes to be able to hold a live performance for students to showcase their hard work in the future.
“All of the students had so much fun during these sessions, and I would like to thank Paul, Cheryl, and Natalia for sharing their knowledge and experience with our young musicians,” Principal Lowe said. “I also commend Ms. Felber and our dedicated fourth-grade teachers for their commitment to curating safe, unique and memorable musical activities for students.”
Reisler has performed in more than 3,000 concerts, written more than 3,500 compositions and taught songwriting at Rocky Mountain Song School, Utah Song School and New Song Academy among others. Toth holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music education and has served as the supervisor for 136 elementary music programs in the Fairfax County Public School District. She has worked as coordinator for the All-County Choral Festival for 900 voices and has performed with the Symphonic Chorus at the Philharmonic in Koln, Germany. Zuckerman studied art at Oberlin College, has released eight independent music albums, and has toured internationally as a solo performer since 2005.
To view a sample of a few of the songs, please click here.
About Kid Pan Alley
Kid Pan Alley’s mission is to inspire and empower children to work together to become creators of their own music and to rekindle creativity as a core value in education. KPA does this through collaborative songwriting residencies for children of all ages: inspiring creativity, building confidence, and fostering community. Since 1999, the organization has worked with more than 70,000 students to produce 2,800 original songs.