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Education that’s music to their ears

  • Flutist Zara Lawler, left, and Percussionist Paul Fadoul, right, perform for Deerfield Elementary School fourth-graders in the Pleasant Street School, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Flutist Zara Lawler, left, and percussionist Paul Fadoul, right, perform for Deerfield Elementary School fourth-graders in the Pleasant Street School, Friday. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Flutist Zara Lawler, left, and percussionist Paul Fadoul, right, perform for Deerfield Elementary School fourth-graders in the Pleasant Street School. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • Flutist Zara Lawler, left, and Percussionist Paul Fadoul, right, improvise to a student's improvised dance at Deerfield Elementary School fourth-graders in the Pleasant Street School, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo



Recorder Staff
Sunday, October 29, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Dozens of small hands shot into the air at Deerfield Elementary School as professional flutist Zara Lawler played the first few notes of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” each student hoping for a chance to identify the song’s title.

“I have been playing the flute for almost 40 years, and in that time I have never once been bored because the flute can make so many sounds,” Lawler told the roughly 50 fourth-grade students seated in a semi-circle on the cafeteria floor, in front of the school’s stage.

Beside Lawler, percussionist Paul Fadoul stood behind a marimba, a massive instrument that looks and sounds like a xylophone. The duo, known as Lawler+Fadoul, tour the country as musicians and educators with the National Symphony Orchestra. Recently, they led Union 38 students — making stops at all four elementary schools — through interactive music lessons.

The teaching series was organized by Steve Damon, music teacher at Whately Elementary School. Damon often plays instruments outside the school’s Long Plain Road building in the morning as students are getting off the bus. A few years ago, while playing, he met Zara Lawler’s sister, Sukie Lawler, who has two children in the school district.

Since then, Damon has worked to bring Lawler+Fadoul to Union 38 students. Recently, the musical duo received a grant from Chamber Music America, which, combined with PTO money, made the series possible. Lawler said, in the past, they’ve performed the same show at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

“Very interactive. They played a lot of music, and had students up and dancing, clapping, singing. The kids absolutely loved it,” Damon said, referring to the duo’s performance at Whately Elementary School Wednesday morning.

Last Friday, students identified tunes, clapped beats, spoke lyrics, hummed melodies, and jumped around the stage playing a musical game called “make your move.” Fadoul and Lawler improvised music to dance moves improvised by students — encouraging “active listening,” explained Marijo Sherrill, strings teacher at the Union 38 district.

“(Music) is such a vulnerable experience,” engaging in emotional and cognitive learning, Sherrill said. Students experienced both in Lawler+Fadoul’s show by analyzing musical sequencing and pattern recognition in a community setting, she continued.

Bringing accomplished musicians into the school also showed students that it’s possible to earn a living through music, said Union 38 Band Teacher Megan Carr.

“For my students, I want hem to be inspired, and see this could be an end for them,” Carr said. And for others who might not want to pursue music later in life, it’s a way to encourage students “to go out as patrons of music.”

“This is where our cultural identity is — in arts and music,” Carr said.

Capping Lawler+Fadoul’s Union 38 teaching week, they’ll perform a free show for adults in the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Bezanson Recital Hall on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 p.m. For more information on that performance, visit www.umass.edu/hfa/event/lawler-fadoul.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo