McHENRY – Some kids immediately run across a room to hit the drum. Some of the older kids are more studious, methodically inspecting and trying out each instrument.
The Children’s Music Day, which is in its second year at McHenry West High School, gave 5 to 10 year olds a chance to try their hand at performing, composing and conducting Saturday morning.
An instrument petting zoo introduces the kids to 15 to 20 instruments, so they can feel what it’s like to play a clarinet or how heavy the symbols actually are, said District 156’s fine arts coordinator, Brian Weidner.
They’re also given the chance to conduct a group of high school music students, he said, adding that, especially with the 5-year-olds, it’s mostly a matter of the child waving their arms around and the high schoolers doing their thing.
The McHenry’s Tri-M Music Honor Society chapter started the program last year with the goal of reaching out to elementary school students before they hit the fifth-grade band program, he said. In its first year, it drew 120 kids.
“I have a 5-year-old at home, and anytime you bring music into play and allow them to participate, there’s a natural tendency to flock to it,” he said.
And it’s not just the elementary-aged students who were getting something out of the program, Weidner said, adding that some of students were considering going into music education because of it.
One of those students is Lizzie Kruse, a junior at McHenry East High School, who had given that career path some thought but had the possibility brought home through the program.
She ran the composition station last year where children were given staff paper and stickers. When their creations were complete, she would play the songs on the piano.
“It was so amazing to see the looks on their faces when they realized it was their music they were hearing,” the alto saxophone player said.
With the program still so new, Weidner doesn’t know if it will pay off in the long run, but the band program has been growing at a healthy clip regardless.
The district has expanded its offerings over the last decade, adding differentiated levels to its bands and choirs, a music theory class and a guitar program.