It’s so fulfilling to teach young students to love music. Many schools around the country have music programs But maybe not quite as young as the kids at El Rincon Elementary school. These kindergarteners know how to read music!
“It felt like I was on a stage and singing,” said five-year-old Allisson Rastelli, who wants to be a singer when she grows up.
The success of these public school students at a time when most of their peers are still mastering the alphabet can be largely credited to the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra.
The non-profit provides half-hour music sessions for 16 weeks to about 400 of the district’s 500 kindergarteners. The 67-member orchestra also performs occasional concerts in local venues.
“Culver City district has always been really, really supportive of the fine arts, and that’s something that’s really difficult,” said Kindergarten teacher Diane DiFranco, whose students participate in the class. “You don’t really see that too much in other districts because of budget cuts.”
The jazz is one piece of a rich arts plan that the district has been refining since 2003. Today, the district provides access to a variety of arts disciplines to students from Kindergarten to 12th grade.
Its arts program is graduated, with instruction in upper years building on that provided during the early years. By fourth grade, the kindergarteners at El Rincon will be able to join the orchestra, for instance.
Arts instruction is also embedded into the teaching style in Culver City Unified schools. All elementary students in the district receive arts instruction every day, according to one district official.
In middle and high school, students have access to extensive dance and theater training as well as coursework in film, ceramics, painting and photography, among other art forms.
“This wouldn’t be possible if this wasn’t an environment that collectively embraced the whole child,” said Dave LaRose, the district’s superintendent.
He said arts access in the district didn’t spring from grants or geographical location – but because residents, district staff and the local school board are committed to the arts.