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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Portland Symphony Orchestra musicians enhance learning at Portland elementary schools | Press Herald

"A recent $600,000 grant will enable the PSO Explorers program to expand and continue through 2020." notes Bob Keyes, Staff Writer. 

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The kindergartners laughed when Brian Thacker mentioned the word “pizzicato.”
“Is that a type of cheese?” he asked. “A fancy pizza?”

“NO!” the class bellowed as one, knowing better than to fall for Thacker’s trickery.
The students in Beverly Lawrence’s kindergarten class at Longfellow Elementary School in Portland knew that “pizzicato” is an Italian word that describes plucking the strings of an instrument – in this case, Thacker’s big, brown acoustic bass. And in this lesson, the pizzicato plucks that emanated from Thacker’s big brown bass described the action of a principal character in the children’s book “The Little Red Hen.”
Thacker, who plays bass in the Portland Symphony Orchestra, brings his instrument to school a lot these days, as part of the PSO Explorers program. His primary goal is not to help students understand musical terms and techniques but to help them become better readers and all-around learners by using music to sharpen their focus and concentration. Musicians partner with kindergarten and first-grade teachers at two Portland elementary schools to develop curriculum to help students with literacy, social and emotional skills.
After Thacker demonstrates the plucking sound of the goose in the children’s book, he introduces another Italian word, “arco,” which describes bowing an instrument’s strings. Lawrence reads the story to the children, who are seated on the floor in two arcing rows in a sun-filled gym, and Thacker bows the bass strings in a low rumble, imagining the sleeping dog in the story. 

The orchestra began PSO Explorers three years ago and recently received a $600,000 grant to expand and continue it through 2020.

The program is unusual because it’s not attempting to teach kids about music. It uses music to enhance existing reading lessons, said Lynn Hannings, who plays bass in the orchestra and coordinates the program’s curriculum. It’s premised on the notion that music helps students relax and learn by using different parts of the brain.
“Listening to music gets you moving and gets you thinking,” she said. “When using music to teach literacy, we have found that music helps increase the energy level, which helps get the brain going.”
Music has proved particularly helpful to students for whom English is not their primary language, Hannings said. For those students, music provides a different way to engage their interest and narrate a story.

Source: Press Herald