Music teacher Susan Fetcho rehearses for Friday’s chapel with the first graders who will present St. Francis of Assisi and the blessing of the animals.
Music taps into the life of a community and keeps it moving. We sing, dance, and drum at St. Paul’s in our own way and in the ways of communities around the world and back in time. Our music teachers treasure the sounds of vocal, percussive, and instrumental expression. These sounds become tools that we use to connect with each other.
In kindergarten, first, and second grade, students learn to blend their voices in choirs led by Performing Arts Teacher Susan Fetcho. Imagine a group of voices holding one note. We listen, then adjust by Stepping Up or Stepping Down to make each voice heard singing that note together. At this point, a lot of energy goes to finding voice and learning when and how to use it. By third grade, that note has evolved to two- and three-part harmonies along with a distinct interaction of beat and rhythm. With the goal of “shaping world citizens,” Ms. Fetcho offers Pan-European and Israeli songs to her students. She also composes her own music to use in classroom, concert, and chapel settings.
An important component of the St. Paul’s music program is its bridge to Chapel. Each lesson ties in with that week’s chapel presentation so that K-3 students are included and encouraged to participate in our community gathering. “Chapel is a community venue where kids from the youngest age get used to sharing their stories and songs with the whole school,” explains Ms. Fetcho. “Performance becomes commonplace because everyone is doing it. It’s how we do community together every week, sharing from student knowledge and based on their curriculum.” The ability to stand before the entire school and speak, move or sing with confidence is a signature achievement for St. Paul’s students.
A favorite classroom moment for Ms. Fetcho is teaching We Shall Overcome to kindergartners. “Here are the seeds of new empowered citizens,” she says. “We march around the classroom, singing the song. It’s a simple song, and no one is there to watch. They make up their own verses; they make it their own. That pivot is what moves me. By that time in the year, they’re singing well together, they’ve found their voices. It’s beautiful and powerful at the same time.”
Another important moment for Ms. Fetcho comes at the third grade level, “when they get to the place where they’re taking it seriously, and it gels,” she says. Students have reached the highest level and the “culmination of four years of work is very satisfying.”