Heritage student helps younger kids find the joy of music

Ethan Perry’s project is part of his quest to become an Eagle Scout

Posted 8/1/17

Runyon Elementary School’s library spends most of the summer empty and silent, but last week it was filled with a cacophony of honks and twangs as a gaggle of youngsters fiddled with orchestral instruments for the first time.

The band kids of …

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Heritage student helps younger kids find the joy of music

Ethan Perry’s project is part of his quest to become an Eagle Scout

Posted

Runyon Elementary School’s library spends most of the summer empty and silent, but last week it was filled with a cacophony of honks and twangs as a gaggle of youngsters fiddled with orchestral instruments for the first time.

The band kids of the future were assembled by Ethan Perry, a 16-year-old Heritage High School student, who put together the event to introduce kids to music as part of his pursuit of the Eagle Scout rank.

“For the students, this is just something fun, but little do they know it’s getting them into the music program and learning about music,” said Perry, who will be a junior at Heritage later this month. “Students who get into music tend to do better academically and socially. It helps them build better mental scaffolding.”

The three-day event at the Littleton school allowed elementary-age kids to try out each of 15 or so instruments, coupled with older students and adults to teach them the basics. Perry said 16 volunteers were on hand the first day of the event, most working with kids and others handing out snacks.

The event was the culmination of a lengthy fundraising effort and instrument drive, Perry said. His efforts netted 40 old musical instruments and $4,000 earmarked toward their repair. The instruments will be donated to Runyon, and whatever money is left over after the repair bills will go to the school’s band program.

Connecting kids with music is more important and more difficult in the 21 century, said musician Laura Kishiyama, who came out to volunteer.

“What music means to kids has changed dramatically,” Kishiyama, of Littleton, said. “They want instant satisfaction — they have video games, and they want to sit inside and play those. The discipline of music — it’s much more difficult to get a kid to sit down and practice an instrument today than it was even 20 years ago.”

Getting kids started on music early instills a sense of camaraderie, said Runyon music teacher Curt Waibel, who helped Perry coordinate the event.

“To come into a band program, it becomes a community for the kids,” Waibel said. “It’s like being on a sports team: when somebody’s not there, they notice. Music enhances every aspect of your life. Even if you aren’t perfect, just being part of that ensemble is so good for them.”

Owen, a 9-year-old who honked and plucked and strummed his way through the instruments at the event, got a kick out of the trombone.

“I like the tuba but the trombone seems way less complicated,” Owen said. “I don’t know what I’ll play in band yet. Mainly, I just want to see all my friends.”

Playing music alleviates the stress of studenthood, said 16-year-old Heather Torgerson, a classmate of Perry’s at Heritage who came to share her love of cello.

“Music affected me a lot, and I want other kids to have that, too,” Torgerson said. “It’s a break from life. If I’m freaking out about a test or something, I can go to music, and I don’t need to worry.”

Perry said the program is among the most substantial steps toward achieving Eagle Scout rank.

“Being an Eagle Scout is a huge accomplishment,” Perry said. “Once you’re an Eagle, you’re always an Eagle. That’s one of the few things you can do when you’re younger that will impact your whole life.”

The lessons learned in Boy Scouts aren’t just for boys, said Christine Forner, who came out to help Perry and whose two sons and husband are involved in scouting.

“It teaches them life lessons they wouldn’t otherwise get,” Forner said. “I’m raising men, not children. I need them to grow up and be good men.”

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