Instrumental music gets private boost at Washington – now everyone can play

       Washington Elementary students are having a more musical time this year. There are finally enough violins for all the fourth-graders, and kids in fifth grade are either playing violin, a band instrument or, in some cases, both. The point is, everybody plays. No ands, ifs or buts. Washington Elementary School music teacher Rob Rodine leads his band class through a song.
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       Principal Terry Martinez said the decision for 100 percent participation was based on studies showing that students improve academically (particularly in reading and listening) as a result of learning to read notes and understanding beat and rhythm.
       “Instrumental music helps kids do better in school,” summed up music teacher Rob Rodine, who works .6 of a day at Washington and .4 at another District 11 elementary (Rogers).
       The violins have been arriving as part of a community outreach program by Verizon Business at Washington that started last school year. Through a grant from the communications company, the school has been able to purchase 28 of the stringed instruments through a discount purchase program with the school district, and 12 more are on the way, Rodine said.
       Verizon also provided another musical gift last week, buying tickets and providing chaperones so Washington's fourth- and fifth graders could take in a Philharmonic Orchestra performance at the Pikes Peak Center.
       Other Verizon assistance to the school has included school supply drives; field trip sponsorships and volunteers for its writing program, according to Dona Quinlan of Verizon.
       The business is providing “wonderful support,” Martinez said.
       A 28-year music teacher, Rodine is ecstatic about what he can provide for students now at Washington. Not only had there formerly been an instrument shortage, band and orchestra were “pull-out” classes - meaning that every minute kids spent playing instruments meant lost class time in other subjects. Even then, it was only about a half-hour. Now, with the instruments and some creative scheduling, all students in fourth and fifth grade have separate 55-minute music classes every third day, Rodine explained.
       The violin is a good instrument for youngsters to start on, he said, noting that an example of this is arts magnet Bristol Elementary, where children in grades K-3 can take Suzuki violin classes.
       Having all students on one instrument makes teaching more efficient, Rodine added. And, the violin is a “good introduction to other instruments.”
       Almost all the students have responded well to the concept of having to learn an instrument, both principal and teacher said. In the past, kids could quit if they wanted to. “Now they don't have an option,” Rodine said. “That's unique for me.”

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