CARY – The more than 100 children in the Three Oaks Elementary School gym Monday night might have had a hard time memorizing the words for the song “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” but there’s one part everyone remembered.
“I’m working on my ROAR!” they all shouted along to the “Lion King” tune, as they shaped their hands like claws and roared at the audience.
The kindergarten through fourth-grade students were there as part of the first “Don’t Stop the Music,” a program that’s slated to be a series of free monthly music workshops for District 26 children.
Cary-Grove High School seniors Kristen Cantieri and Claire Kelly organized the program, and about 50 of their peers showed up to help lead things.
“Music is such a big part of my life,” Cantieri said. “We wanted to bring that to the kids, excite them.”
The idea was born after District 26 – ranked fifth worst in the state financially – dramatically slashed its budget.
Officials cut about $6.6 million, and the move included laying off most special subject teachers, such as those who teach art and music. Those subjects now will be taught by in-classroom teachers, but the students won’t have the same exposure to specialists in the field.
So, after hearing the news, Cantieri and Kelly, both musically active, decided to step up with their program.
“It’s going to be fun no matter how it goes,” Cantieri told her peers before the elementary kids showed up and the organized chaos set it.
As the children filed in, the high school jazz band played in the background to set the mood. Then, after a brief introduction, things got under way.
Many of the children started out playing around with instruments such as bongo drums, tambourines, and boomwhackers.
The high school leaders played a short beat, and then all the elementary students would mimic it on whatever instrument was in front of them. The result was a lot of loud, excited banging with rhythm.
Then, the children learned the words and a dance to “The Lion King” song, which they later performed for their parents. Anna Krupp, a Cary-Grove senior, helped create the choreography.
“It’s kind of like a little-kid swing choir class,” she said.
Krupp added that programs such as this were important.
“Every person that’s here and helping has been impacted in some way by music,” she said. “And we want those younger kids to still have that in their lives.”
Debbie Wiseman, who’s second-grade daughter, Lauren, was among the participants, said the event helped keep the children excited about music.
“It’s neat that the high school kids are enthusiastic and I think it’s going to filter down to the young ones,” she said. “It makes music cool.”
Don’t Stop the Music next is scheduled to be held at Briargate Elementary school in late October.
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For information on Don’t Stop the Music, a music supplement program for Cary District 26 students, visit http://dontstopthemusic26.tumblr.com.