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Friday, September 29, 2023


Moores connects with Third Ward elementary students through music


As part of an outreach program, the preparatory and continuing Studies department at the Moores School of Music brings UH faculty like Julie Kastner to children at Lockhart Elementary to teach children music in an after school program twice a week. Photo by Pablo Milanese | The Cougar.

UH is building a relationship with Third Ward through the language of music.

As part of an outreach program, the Preparatory and Continuing Studies Department at the Moores School of Music teaches children music in an after school program twice a week.

Assistant professor of music education Julie Kastner, teaches part-time at Lockhart Elementary School. She has a strong passion for children and the arts.

“I have always loved making music, but in a playful way,” Kastner said. “With the children, I love getting to provide experiences that are playful, fun and enjoyable.”

“One of the main goals of the outreach program is to ensure that children involved have a positive experience with the University and can enjoy the gift of music,” PCS Director Cara Spinks said.

Lockhart Elementary is home to a STEM magnet program and has cut fine arts funding. Spinks believes that the arts should be included in core curriculum because of the reward that it offers.

“Music is a way to bridge gaps,” Spinks said. “It’s a language that is universal that we can use to reach out to people who have troubles in various arenas in their lives.”

Kristy Towner, a post-baccalaureate student at MSM, participates in the outreach program alongside Kastner. Towner had not considered elementary music education until her husband suggested it to her. She then came back to school to get her music education degree.

“You’re having fun with kids all day… singing and playing instruments,” Towner said. “Why not do that every day?”

Kastner is the only educator from UH who is  participating in the Lockhart Elementary program and she has made an impact on other faculty and the students she mentors.

“To watch Julie in that classroom just gives me chills,” Spinks said. “It doesn’t matter what is going on, she can get them to focus on her and get them to do things they have never done before and with great ease.”

Kastner said a special part of the outreach program is seeing the effects the children have on Lockhart, her graduate assistants and herself.

“Many of (the participants) come from suburban programs that are highly funded and they also don’t have much experience working with young children,” Kastner said.

“This program allows them to work with children, learn from them and go into a school that may be different than a school they attended.”

A big lesson that Kastner and Towner have learned from the outreach program at Lockhart Elementary is that children are capable of a lot.

“They can understand a lot about music and they love music,” Kastner said. “It helps them grow as a whole person.”

Towner also experienced this feeling with Kastner while being in Lockhart Elementary. Students have repeated rhythms to her that she would deem difficult, but they do it easily. Towner said that the environment of teaching kids is different than teaching her peers.

“Your peers know if your wrong, but kids don’t know if you’re wrong,” Towner said. “You don’t have to apologize to them because they are just having a good time.”

Spinks believes that a good relationship with this part of Houston is important for UH.

“I think it is important for the University to know that we are out there and that we are doing great things for the community,” Spinks said. “We are representing the University and giving people really great experiences.”

The outreach program is being funded by the Jay Marks Family Outreach Initiative.

“The Jay Marks family donated funds to help this program for the first five years and we hope to continue it beyond that through other donations and other sources of funding,” Spinks said. “We would not be able to do this without that generous donation.”

Kastner said she is grateful for the chance to work with students through music.

“UH is situated in such a unique space, being an urban-metropolitan campus in this city,” Kastner said. “To have this opportunity (to connect) with kids and schools in this city makes it very special.”

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