It may come as a surprise to know that an Oklahoma county thrust into the national musical spotlight suffers from little or no music education in its public schools.
Johnston County can rightfully boast that it houses almost 50 Grammy awards, but cannot provide music instruction for several school systems in the county due to budget cuts. State appropriations for public education have consistently taken a hit for several years, causing school systems to drastically adjust their budgets.
When money gets tight, fine arts programs are typically the first to get cut. The Johnson County Schools of Ravia, Mill Creek and Milburn have cut their music programs completely, which is why the area's art center has stepped in.
The Charles B. Goddard Center for Visual and Performing Arts is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the art education in south central Oklahoma. The new music program was developed by Goddard Center Director Leila Lenore and music clinician, Lee Ann Harris, with the assistance of the now former Goddard Outreach Coordinator, Kayla Walker.
The program was designed to assist schools in meeting the Oklahoma Department of Education's "Priority Academic Student Skills in The Arts" in music.
With some grant funding from the Oklahoma Arts Council, the Goddard Center is able to continue the program at Ravia, Mill Creek and Milburn schools for a second year.
"As much as we would love to expand this program, logistically we do the best we can with available funding," Lenore said. "This will be our second consecutive year at these schools and we will build on the lessons they learned last year as well as reaching a whole new class."
Current funding allows for the music clinician to teach a total of 12 hours at each school, which is further broken down by grade levels. The first 6-weeks at each school will be Kindergarten and 1st grade. The second 6-weeks at each school will be 2nd and 3rd grade. This is 1-hour per week for six weeks with each age group culminating in a total of 6 hours of music instruction per child.
"The lack of any general music education for these rural students translates into a lack of opportunity. Our music clinician's customized and concise instruction extends a child's range of experiences," Lenore said. "It insures that all Oklahoma children are afforded the opportunity of professional art instruction regardless of the economic status of the school district they attend."
Harris utilizes her own customized 6-week model which she designed to incorporate as many of the PASS Skills in the Arts for Music as time allows. Over the course of the project students are introduced to listening, age appropriate musical vocabulary and basic notation and music reading skills. Students also practice appropriate performance and audience behavior as they perform for the class using a musical instrument of their own creation. Past examples have included rain sticks made of empty wrapping paper rolls, water bottles filled with sand or pebbles, and even a change purse fill with coins.
The excitement of this program extends to the classroom teachers and to administrators who look forward to the weekly visits as much as the children.
"It is a well-rounded program that provides a service not only to the school but to young students that otherwise may not have been exposed to these skills," said Joey McBride, Milburn Elementary principal. "Ms. Harris has a tremendous knowledge and a great rapport with students and staff. She is a wonderful asset to our school."
To ask questions about the Goddard Center's Outreach Program, or to donate, call the business office at (580) 226-0909.
Contributions can also be mailed to The Goddard Center, P.O. Box 1624, Ardmore, OK 73402.