12/17/09

Moravian Music Students Play It Forward

Moravian College music students, including Courtney Eby '10 (above), mentor young musicians at Bethlehem's Donegan Elementary School one day per week. The program, launched by artist-lecturer Deborah Andrus, received a community grant for spring 2010. Photos by Michael Wilson.

Music, the universal language, has helped forge a special bond between six Moravian College music majors and forty fourth- and fifth-grade music students at Donegan Elementary School in south Bethlehem.

One afternoon each week, the college students (all volunteers) mentor the young musicians after school, giving advanced instrumental instruction to small groups as music teacher Janelle Zook works with the larger group of students. Deborah Andrus, Moravian artist-lecturer in clarinet, observes and advises the college students.

The two-month-old program initiated by Andrus seems to be hitting all the right notes. "My students really look forward to their time with the Moravian students," said Zook. "And they've progressed so much more quickly than in the past when I was teaching them by myself."

The lessons are more than musical. The fourth- and fifth-graders see "what it looks like to be in college and to serve your community," added Zook. At the same time, the college students take away important lessons about teaching.

"When Dr. Andrus asked campus members of Delta Omicron, the music fraternity, to join this pilot program at Donegan Elementary, I immediately accepted the offer," said Justin Holguin '11. "It's a great opportunity to use our gifts to give back to the community by helping students who need musical guidance. I learned not only about teaching, but also about myself as a flute player."

The Moravian student volunteer instructors are: Justin Holguin '11 (flute), Patrick Scheirer '11 (clarinet), Courtney Eby '10 (saxophone), Amy Putlock '10 (trumpet), Andy Borghesani '10 (trombone), and Peter Zimmer '10 (percussion). Lehigh University students Sebastian Estevez (percussion) and MariAnne Sullivan (woodwinds) also help with the after-school elementary music program.

Part of Bethlehem School District's larger ASPIRE program, the music mentorship program will resume in January with the additional support of a community grant. ASPIRE—After-School Partnership for Instruction, Recreation, and Enrichment—helps schools and community partners provide extended learning opportunities for children before school, after school, or during the summer.