May 23, 2022
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Deedee Smith, Music Fine Arts teacher at Dillman Elementary

Provided by Muleshoe ISD

The basics of reading, writing and math will always be with us. But music trains the brain in ways that help learning in a multitude of ways.

“Music is one of the only skills that uses both the left and right sides of the brain. It’s analytical and creative at the same time,” said Deedee Smith, Music Fine Arts teacher at Dillman Elementary. “A student may not do well in reading or math, but music gives them the opportunity to flourish and to find their skill set.”

Smith, who has a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and a master’s in elementary education, has taught at Dillman Elementary for five years. The MISD music program starts with pre-K and continues through elementary school and beyond. Pre-K has music three times a week, and K through second have music every day.

The Dillman music program works in correlation with Susan White, music teacher at DeShazo Elementary.

“By the time they leave me, they’re foundationally ready for her to challenge them, moving them up,” Smith said.

Music is fun, but it is also a discipline, and much depends on good classroom management.

“This is where we’re creating, but you’ve got to have that line,” Smith said. “There’s lots of process.”

The elementary program uses two different curriculums, Kodály and Quavers, plus pieces the teachers have learned through their years of experience.

“English learners benefit because of how much audio-visual is used and because the curriculum is tailored to Texas TEKS and Texas culture,” Smith said. “Learning solfege (tones of the scale) is huge for language acquisition.”

Special education students either come in with general education teachers or are pulled from self-contained classes for music.

Students gain a broad perspective of geography and history through cultural dances and folk songs of all different kinds from all over the world.

“They’re as diverse as they possibly can be,” Smith said. “Susan especially brings in different songs from different cultures whenever she can.”

By the time students leave second grade, they are able to write their own treble clef compositions. They also prepare for learning to harmonize by singing rounds. Students begin to harmonize at DeShazo.

Rhythm instruments and Orff instruments, such as the xylophone, are introduced early. By the time students reach fifth grade, they are ready for the recorder band, which prepares them to play instruments in the junior high and high school bands.

A good music program needs support from both the community and school officials.

“We have a great school board and administration that support us in what we do,” Smith said. “Anything we need, they say we’ll figure out how to get that. We appreciate them greatly.”

Part of the music program is the opportunity to learn performance skills.

“Susan does three programs a year, and I do at least three performances,” Smith said. “In the first grade we go caroling at the senior center, in the second grade there’s the Christmas program, and the kindergarten will sing three songs at their graduation awards assembly that’s coming up.

“Because music takes place in an interactive, cooperative environment, it’s great for the social, emotional learning of the child.

“Music is not just about what it teaches the brain, but what it teaches the heart.”

Gail M. Williams

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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