Saturday, January 25,2003
Educational concert scores high with students
By Kevin Felt, Staff Writer

PASADENA -- Clapping four different rhythms in unison and singing rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat,' some 500 fifth- and sixth- grade students from Pasadena and Los Angeles were introduced to a spectrum of musical concepts Friday at Shumei Hall.

Following a thundering piece by the Shumei Taiko Drummers, which drew oohs, ahhs and shrieks of delight from the students, 16 members of the Los Angeles Chamber Singers spent an hour relating how each of the six building blocks of music work together to create a song.

"We believe in the importance of music and the arts in life,' said music director Peter Rutenberg. "Everybody has a personal voice that they need to develop. It might be a musical voice; it might be a speaking voice; it might be a political voice, but it's a voice nonetheless. When kids learn about music, they learn to express themselves better and become better citizens because of it.'

From rhythm, melody and harmony to form, color and texture, Rutenberg challenged the students to listen for each concept in whatever music they're exposed to.
He introduced the children to melody by showing how it grows out of rhythm, "the driving force of music.'

Noting that when the chorus sang the simple melody of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat' in a round, more than one note was heard at a time. The students discovered harmony.

The concept of "form,' or "repeated patterns that make the music interesting' was conveyed by singing a piece that repeated the same notes and rhythms at its halfway point. Words were sung the first time through. However, when the harmonies and rhythms were repeated, the words were replaced by nonsensical syllables.

Comparing the "color' of scales sung by sopranos with the basses, children's eyes lit up at the shiny top of an F-scale and giggles followed the bellowing notes at the bottom of an E-flat scale.

"The bottom of each scale has a dark, rich sound and the higher you go, it's more bright and resonant,' Rutenberg explained. Texture, or "what the music feels like' was introduced by singing a multiple-part song, starting with four notes sung in harmony and ending with the thickness 16 different notes being sung in unison.

Lisa Mellow, a fifth- grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Pasadena, was pleased with the program. "They did a really good job of clearly explaining the different concepts and did an excellent job of getting the children involved in the program, not just leaving them sitting there and restless,' she said. "I think the kids were really engaged for the entire time.'

Damon Bonds, whose fifth- grade class at Washington Accelerated Elementary School in Pasadena also attended the program, said he wishes his students could experience more programs like this.

"The kids could really benefit from more exposure to different aspects of the arts,' he said. "I thought it was great.'

The Shumei Arts Council, which hosted the concert sponsored by the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, is largely focused on bringing the arts to children and dissolving the barriers between audiences and artists, said Executive Director Jane Imai.
"Children are our future,' said Imai. "We believe that quality arts upgrade the mind and the spirit so we want to put them in touch with high quality performers.'