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Why music?


I got to be the keynote speaker at my 5th graders graduation in 2014. HUGE HONOR. Here is my speech about what you learn from music class that nothing to do with music:

5th Grade Graduation Speech Susan Appe, Music Teacher West Portal Elementary School May 30th, 2014

This is a special year for us. You guys are my first West Portal graduating class that I’ve had for music since KINDERGARTEN!! You remember kindergarten, right? That’s back when you guys were all cute and little? You put a lot of faith in me to guide you. Over the last six years, we learned SO much music, and SO many rhythms, we played a million games and I showed you all my crazy music inventions, but my goals for this music program are HUGE. They go far beyond music itself, I wanted to you to learn: -to listen to each other -to improvise -to step up and do YOUR part when it’s the right time, but to make space for, and give the spotlight to, someone else when it’s the right time. -that YOUR contribution to the group is ESSENTIAL, and if you don’t do your bit, the whole thing can fall apart -that one person ignoring the beat is heard by EVERYONE, which could be a good thing in life, it could be a bad thing. -that if you just give yourself a chance and DO the thinking, watching and listening, you can almost always find the answer -that there is always an underlying groove, an underlying pulse, and it will all come together, you WILL fit in, if you just stay ON…THE…BEAT…

Now that we’ve arrived at graduating day, I want to see if I’ve done my job well, so let’s see how I did, I’m going to give you….A CHALLENGE!!!!! Who ever answers these questions will win one of our chorus songbooks to keep forever.

What life lesson could you learn from: -the "Scoot" routine (answers I got: teamwork, you have to pay attention to everybody) -musical instruments made from junk or recycling (answers I got: you can make something out of anything, you can find a different way to do something) -echo circle (answers I got: listen to the beat, memory, how to make up stuff in the moment) -When we did the boomwhacker orchestra and you each came in the middle to conduct (answers I got: to be a leader, how to follow a leader, to show want you want clearly)

I hope that music is useful in the rest of your life. I hope that all the loud drumming you did will make you brave and not afraid of things that are bold. I hope all the times we sang out at the top of our lungs, will help you speak up when you are being bullied or hurt or being treated wrongly- or when you feel there is an injustice in the world. I hope all the listening games we did will help you, when you are stuck, hear something new inside yourself, inside others, or inside an idea. I hope all the kooky inventions I made out of junk or recycling will help you be resourceful, and see possibilities EVERYWHERE. I hope that all the conducting we did showed you how to be a good leader, to give CLEAR direction and to not abuse your power. And that someday, when you need to make a friend, or work with someone who you have NOTHING in common with, that you’ll think of your favorite song and tell them about it, and you’ll find out they like it, too.

I hope you know I love you very much. Now here’s the corny ending of my speech, I’ve been waiting to sing this to you -as graduates- since you were in first grade when I taught you this song, so this is my indulgent treat for myself, I’m hoping you will sing with me, and maybe even do the beat, too

“Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me, I want you to know I believe in your song, Rhythm and rhyme and harmony You help me along, making me strong….oh Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away…”