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Leaving on a high note

Erving teacher’s legacy is musical playground

  • They are thinking of building a musical playground at Erving Elementary School in honor of retiring music teacher Emily Samuels.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    They are thinking of building a musical playground at Erving Elementary School in honor of retiring music teacher Emily Samuels. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • At the musical playground at the Northfieild Elementary School 2nd grade students Aliyah Soulia and Carly Norwood play drums while other students play a xylophone type instrument in the background.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    At the musical playground at the Northfieild Elementary School 2nd grade students Aliyah Soulia and Carly Norwood play drums while other students play a xylophone type instrument in the background. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • They are thinking of building a musical playground at Erving Elementary School in honor of retiring music teacher Emily Samuels.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • At the musical playground at the Northfieild Elementary School 2nd grade students Aliyah Soulia and Carly Norwood play drums while other students play a xylophone type instrument in the background.  Recorder/Paul Franz

ERVING — Emily Samuels is retiring after 39 years teaching music to the town’s children, but she hopes to leave a little music in the air of the Erving Elementary School playground.

The Parent Teacher Organization has already set aside money and hopes to raise more toward musical playground structures.

In light of Samuels’ plans to retire this year, and because it was her idea, the playground is to be in her honor.

“We hope to build it over the summer and dedicate it to her in the fall,” said PTO President Laura Bezio.

“Years ago I heard about the idea of an outdoor musical playground and it really intrigued me because so many kids don’t choose to do sports activities outside, and children want to make music,” Samuels said.

Samuels has seen a lot of children. After 39 years, she said she has gotten to the point that about a third of her students are the children of children she taught years ago. Bezio’s family is a case in point; “She taught my husband, which I think is funny, and now has my daughter,” Bezio said.

Also in that time, Samuels has grown the music program with the idea that music has a three-fold role, as a discipline unto itself, a means to enrich the classroom curriculum and a form of human expression.

Indoor musical play is already in place. Among Samuels’ accomplishments at Erving Elementary School was the creation of a hybrid gym-music-theater program, “music and movement,” with a physical education teacher. Samuels said the two found that a lot of what they were doing overlapped, and created a program to capitalize on the similarities.

Samuels found the instruments she is interested in in Northfield, where the elementary school already has a musical playground. Samuels was struck by the quality of the sound coming from a freestanding weatherproof toy.

“They make an absolutely beautiful musical sound, that’s what really struck me ... these are really able to play music,” Samuels said.

Samuels brought the idea to the PTO, which was enthusiastic.

“We tried to work towards it at the beginning of the year, and then she announced she’s retiring, so we’ve really stepped up our efforts — we applied for grants, which we did not receive — so last night at our PTO meeting we allocated $4,500 towards the musical playground, but we’re still hoping to earn more,” Bezio said.

Bezio said the PTO money will buy one of the giant xylophone structures, but if they can raise another $5,500, $10,000 will buy a full set of four instruments and installation.

In the meantime, there will be more fundraising. The PTO is raising money online via the website GoFundMe, at:

http://www.gofundme.com/4wzyy8

and accepts checks, which should be mailed to the Erving Elementary School, attn. PTO, 28 Northfield Road, Erving, MA 01344, with “musical playground” in the memo line.

The instruments are made by a Colorado company, Free Notes Harmony Park, and can be seen and heard online at:

freenotesharmonypark.com

In addition to general music classes, Samuels teaches the elementary chorus and directs the all-school-play.

Leaving a school where she has spent all but four years of her teaching career won’t be easy.

“It’s not easy but it feels like it’s time because I have a lot of other things that I’m interested in and I’d like to do, but it’s going to be very hard. I’m probably going to be a total basket case when the day comes,” Bezio said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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