Most Viewed Stories
- Man who robbed Foothills bank sentenced to nearly 20 years in federal prison
- Change of plea hearing delayed for ex-Yuma dancer
- Police seek timeline of days leading up to woman's death
- New trial date set and plea agreement accepted in baseball bat murder case
- Man accused of trying to smuggle almost $1M worth of cocaine
Music guides students through creative writing
Four professors set out a year ago to empower students through musical instruction. They've performed across the U.S., in South America and now — Yuma County.
First- through fourth-grade students at Mohawk Valley School took part in the Tetra Time program Tuesday and Wednesday, led by a quartet of Arizona State University professors, one of whom graduated from Cibola High School.
Tetra String Quartet member Chrystal Smothers moved to Yuma when she was 16 and has since graduated from ASU. During her time there, she met three other music instructors who shared her passion for teaching.
Together they formed a program designed to allow students to listen to chamber music in the classroom while simultaneously meeting state standards.
One of their most popular programs is the “Creative Writing in a Classroom” workshop, where the quartet performs for the students to get them acquainted with three contrasting musical excerpts and then leads them through a writing exercise.
“This project takes place over a series of visits to the classroom,” said Smothers. “After becoming acquainted with the sound of a string quartet, students practice actively listening to three contrasting musical excerpts. We guide them through the brainstorming process as they write down words and draw pictures that were inspired by the music.”
She noted that afterward, they have a discussion on story writing and how it can be enhanced by music.
The quartet also takes the students through the process of writing a story with a beginning, middle and end, Smothers said.
Doug Rutan, Mohawk Valley Elementary District superintendent, said that because the school cannot afford programs like music or art, he has brought in various specialists in those fields to present to the students in lieu of paying full-time personnel.
“This is a really special deal for us, we're really excited. It's been a lot of fun,” Rutan said. “They're getting exposed to some of the fine arts through these workshops that we bring in.”
Joyce Seriale, a fourth-grade teacher at Mohawk School, said the quartet is providing enrichment for the students that the teachers have not been able to address.
She shared a story of one student who seemed upset and was sitting outside by herself after the first day of workshops. When Seriale asked what was troubling her, the girl said that she loved having all that violin music in her ears and now it had all fallen out. She added that she longed to hear it again.
That same fourth-grade student, Abiela Conde, 9, said she would like to learn how to play violin after hearing the quartet perform.
“It was exciting because I got to hear it in real life instead of on the radio,” she said with a smile. “It was a really good experience.”
Third-grader Ian Gamble, 8, said he also enjoyed being able to hear a different type of music, and the lessons helped him separate out the three parts of a story.
Attaching music to lessons allows students to let go of their inhibitions and become truly creative by thinking outside of the box, Smothers said.
“We decided that we wanted to find a way to take our performance and use it as a teaching tool and use it to reach kids who don't get exposed to this all of the time.”
Fellow quartet member Heidi Wright, from the Phoenix area, said that the group's philosophy is to combat a student's fear of failing. Visit www.tetraquartet.org for more information on the program or how to donate.
Sarah Womer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858.