Three creative programs united in creating a concert to showcase the poetic works of 20 third- to fifth-graders on Monday evening at a local elementary school.
Members of the Moores School of Music, Writers in the Schools and Houston Grand Opera’s community collaborative initiative combined efforts to host the recital, “My Voice,” at Kashmere Gardens Elementary School. The students’ original poems were brought to life through eloquent performances and piano accompaniment.
Poet, vocalist and songwriter Deborah Mouton of WITS defined the event as the greatest achievement that cannot be measured by a test.
“Students gain confidence, learn to respect others, learn to see past differences and become more compassionate and respectful people,” Mouton said.
The students wrote poems describing the color of their voices. WITS then shared the poems with HGOco that shared them with composers from MSM, who created musical pieces. Composition masters graduate Mark Buller explained the challenges of setting the children’s poems to music.
“Writing vocal music to be sung by trained opera singers with a children’s audience in mind can be challenging,” Buller said. “Of course, I’ve never seen poetry by anyone this young.”
Kashmere Gardens Principal Kristi Rangel-King noted the connection between increased student motivation in literacy skills and student achievement.
“This kind of experience makes students want to read and write more,” Rangel-King said. “It may not magically make a student reading below-level become commended on the state STAAR test, but it will put them well on the road.”
The diligent students worked to create a product that demonstrated a sense of pride and ownership.
A fifth-grader at Kashmere Gardens Demetria Pipkin described how an opportunity to participate in this program could benefit students’ lives at home.
“Some kids have a rough time at home,” Pipkin said. “They might be more excited to get up knowing that they’ll be in front of all these people, knowing that they’re the one everyone is listening to and knowing that everyone’s eyes are on you.”
Students felt that this experience was memorable and also affected other parts of their lives. Another fifth-grade student Jaela Thomas shared her positive experience in this program.
“We were really excited when Mrs. D. came to us,” Thomas said. “She showed us how we should read, write and interact with different poems. If you’re having a bad day you can always express yourself through poetry.”
The event produced a treasured memory for all participants and an authentic learning experience that nurtured the love of writing.