When students at Crothersville Junior-Senior High School heard band and choir weren’t going to be offered this year, it wasn’t music to their ears.
But it struck a chord in senior Micah Cox, and he asked Principal David Schill about starting a music appreciation club.
Schill told Cox he was OK with it as long as he found a faculty member willing to stay an hour after school once a week to supervise.
Story continues below gallery
Cox asked Jeanette Yoder, who teaches Spanish and special education, and she was willing to do it. Together, they presented the idea to Schill, and it was approved.
Tuesday was the club’s second meeting, and about a dozen kids learned about acoustic and electric guitars, piano, ukulele and keyboard and even had the chance to try them out.
One week, club members will learn about a certain genre of music. Then the next week, they will have an open jam session, where they can bring their own instruments.
“Originally, I just wanted to set it up to where it was just people coming together and playing music at the school,” Cox said. “But then whenever I had heard from a couple teachers here at the school that they haven’t had a music appreciation club before, I wanted to make it something to where I can teach the kids about the different genres of music instead of just being fixated to one genre of music at all times.”
‘Music enriches your life’
Schill said Cox took all of the right steps in developing the club, and he was glad to allow it to happen.“Students know that I’m pretty easy to talk with and that, if they come and present to me a well thought-out and developed proposal, I’m usually supportive of the idea,” Schill said. “When he officially presented the idea to me, he brought Ms. Yoder with him. It was very evident from their presentation that they had worked out a very well-developed club idea that would meet student need/want and also be enjoyable.”Yoder said she was impressed with a student taking the initiative to start a club at the school.
“I thought it was amazing. The fact that students are advocating for themselves is just fantastic,” she said.
“It’s obviously sad that there’s currently no music department here. It’s something that I know a lot of the kids are really missing,” she said. “A lot of them, financially, they can’t just go out and take lessons from someone. Being able to take a band class and learn to play an instrument, being able to take choir and have vocal training, music enriches your life, so it’s really sad to see that go. I was really, really happy when Micah said, ‘Hey, this is something I want to do.’”
At the end of the 2014-15 school year, band director Joe Law took a job at another school, and choral director Peggy Adams was one of four staff members who accepted a retirement buyout.
Schill said severe budget cuts and a lack of participation caused the band position to be discontinued, and no one was found to be the full-time choir teacher.
The school hired Peggy Burns to teach choir at the elementary on a part-time basis. In early October, Schill said, a teacher will come on board at the junior-senior high school to do vocal music.
Filling the gap
A partnership between Crothersville and Austin high schools allows students to take specific classes at the other school if their school doesn’t offer them. No Crothersville High School students are going to Austin for music classes, but Schill said about 25 junior high students have expressed in taking band at Austin, and they are in the process of scheduling that.Schill said if someone is found to teach both vocal and instrumental music, band would return for middle school students. But Superintendent Terry Goodin has told him band at the high school level is no longer an available option.“Not only due to budget cuts, but also due to state curricular changes and requirements, schools have continually lost classes that are not only enjoyable but also provide lifelong skills in areas that help make life fulfilling and creative,” Schill said.
For now, the music appreciation club will fill the void by providing students an option to learn and develop their musical talents, Schill said.
Yoder said she is going to let Cox do most of the teaching, but she will chime in with her knowledge. With her part-time photography business, Yoder has taken pictures at concerts and became friends with bands, and she said she hopes to have some of them or others share knowledge about their genre or what it’s like to be in a band.
Cox came to Crothersville schools in fourth grade and took choir lessons before transferring to Terre Haute. There, he attended a music camp at Indiana State University and also took guitar lessons.
Cox returned to Crothersville the second semester of his junior year and joined the choir. When he headed back to classes this month, he said it was tough to hear music wasn’t going to be offered.
“It was very upsetting to me because I had just come back, and I wanted to be able to sing again because I didn’t really do it at Terre Haute,” he said. “Whenever I came here and I heard about that, it kind of just broke my dreams of singing here. But I continued playing guitar at home, so it kept me with my music.”
‘A great feeling’
Now, with the club getting started at the school, Cox is able to share his knowledge with other students.“I’m happy that I can give musical perspective to these kids,” he said. “Some of them haven’t even had musical training before, so this is a great feeling to see that they are learning so much already. These kids are getting it, and I’m very proud of them.”Freshman Karmyn Williams said she took band from fifth to seventh grade. She said she was disappointed when it was dropped because she had always wanted to learn guitar.
“So when Micah told me he was going to make this club, I thought I should join it,” she said.
In only two meetings, Williams said, she has learned a lot.
“I’ve learned how to play power chords on guitar, and we’ve learned about what genres we’re going to talk about,” she said.
Freshman Kiana Jackson said she was a member of the choir for a couple of years and had wanted to learn about instruments. The music appreciation club gives her that opportunity.
“You’re actually doing something with music, and if that’s what you love, you can do that,” she said. “It’s a learning experience for everybody, and it’s not hard. (Cox) explains it perfectly fine, and it’s just fun. It’s fun to hang out and jam with your friends and do something after school other than go home and do homework straightaway.”
‘A way to be happy’
Eighth-grader Howard Womack said he was involved with band last year and wanted to join choir this year. Since neither of those classes was offered, he joined the club so he could learn about guitar.“It’s just a way to meet with people who enjoy music and want to express themselves,” he said. “Some people might like metal, and some people might like country. It’s a way for us all to show what we like and maybe get others to like the same things we like.”Cox said he wants students to learn about music and have fun in the process because music is something they can do for the rest of their life.
“My goal for these kids is that they continue with a musical direction,” he said. “They should also know even though they do have to work to live, they can still have an escape, a way to be happy with their music.”
Yoder said she is happy to give her time after school once a week to help the students.
“All it costs is time,” she said. “And if I can give an hour a week and invest in the students here for them to have something like that, that’s worth it for me.”
Crothersville Junior-Senior High School’s new music appreciation club meets from 3 to 4 p.m. every Tuesday.
Students are invited to join the club at no cost. They will learn about music genres one week and have open jam sessions the next week.
If any singer, musician or band wants to Skype with the club or do a demonstration, they can contact Jeanette Yoder at 812-793-2051 or firstname.lastname@example.org.