The Gift of Music

“Up like a rocket, down like the rain, back and forth like a choo-choo train,” echoes music into the hallway of Gerald R. Ford Academic Center.

Patricia Wunder’s new class of virtuosos, otherwise known as the kindergarten class of 2016, are learning how to hold their violin bows. Wunder uses the Suzuki method with her students, which emphasizes repetition and loving encouragement. Her dedication to her students shows. Every class starts with a recitation of The Bow Song to reinforce standing and holding the bow correctly. After that, the children gently pick up their violins. They are eager to learn.

And the value of this program goes well beyond the music classroom. Studies show that quality music education programs support child brain development, growth in academic performance, increased confidence, and enhanced creativity. But for Wunder, the real benefit is seeing how her students have grown.

“They have blossomed with this new musical opportunity. I see how they respect and love their instruments and how they concentrate as they learn each new skill and piece of music. In fact, classroom teachers have spoken to me about how wonderful it is to see students who had struggled in school, now engage and excel in music class.”

With the success of the program the challenge is that students outnumber available violins. Sharing instruments between students is required. For the kindergartners, this means that each class exercise is done twice, once with a first group and then by a second. In later years, students take turns bringing their instrument home to practice. While sharing instruments is a necessity, it slows the teaching and learning progress for Wunder and her students.

Thanks to the Women Who Care of Kent County, a new fund was started at the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, to answer this need. This past August, the foundation made its first grant from the new GRPS Violins & Strings Fund to purchase ten new violins for the elementary strings program in the 2016/2017 school year.

Now that is music to our ears.

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