Everything we do at Quaver HQ is done to equip and empower Music Educators to do what they do even better!
We’ll be profiling one of these wonderful teachers every month!
Today’s post is from Christopher Blackmon, a Metro Nashville music teacher with a heart for seeing his students soar!
Take it away Christopher:
I was a first year music teacher starting mid-year at a high-poverty, high-risk urban school. I decided to stick close to the advice I’d been given: go with what you know.
I had previously produced music for kids while I volunteered at church, and I got even more serious about it as a children’s pastor. So, I launched right into songwriting projects with my classes.
We wrote blues.
We re-imagined work-songs and revised folk-chants from bygone eras.
I also found myself teaching the communication and life-skills that were so needed and so lacking amongst the student population.
And how did we make it stick?
We put it in a song . . .
So picture this all-too-common scene: I’m walking down the hallway to get supplies. A ruckus erupts in a nearby room. Uh-oh, not that room. I rush over to see if I’m needed. Two third-graders are fighting, chairs sliding, desks falling over, fur flying . . . I help the teacher break it up. The boy is a mess. The girl is fine – again. She rarely loses. Her tongue is sharp and quick and gets her into plenty fights. Her hands are fast and heavy and seem best suited to punish people. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to her as she gets older.
Late one night while thinking about students, a song hook hit me. It was for girls like that third-grader – about growing and changing, about becoming something beautiful. I recorded the idea and approached a fellow songwriter/teacher to help with it. I knew she had the creativity and the passion to do a good job on it. And she was teaching an all-girl 3rd grade class. The song was an immediate hit with the students, so wee decided that the 3rd grade girls would record the song.
The day came to lay the lead vocal tracks. Several girls had tried out and one-by-one they were recording their parts. It just so happened that Ms. Quick-fists had to stay after school that day and was in the hallway outside our room. I asked her if she would try a solo. She hemmed and hawed for a moment. Then she agreed. She was fantastic. Pitch – great. Tone quality – great. Feeling? Who knew? I mean, WHO KNEW?!
The next day I let her hear herself on the recording. I saw something come alive in her eyes as she listened. Then I saw fear interrupt it. She tried to back out. She said she didn’t want to be on the project. I tried to get her to reconsider. She was adamant. Finally I told her I would need a note from her mom to take her off the project. Her mom wouldn’t give her the note.
When the CD was released, her classmates and grade-level peers began realizing that she was one of the soloists. Some began seeing her in a different light. At least 5 or 6 times in my presence she received praise from other students. Something was changing in this girl. But it was on the night of the concert that something changed in me. She stood up to sing that song before peers, friends, family and community. She sang it with heart – like she believed in the words, and in herself. She sang to people who had only known her as trouble. There was not a dry eye in the place. As she sang, she filled the auditorium with the power of hope. And she reminded me of the power of a song.
She has moved on to bigger and better things in middle school. But my experience with this student continues to get me through the challenges of working with a high-risk population. It keeps me motivated to write, to collaborate, to invest, and to believe in the catepillars all around me, waiting to sprout wings.
I know more than ever now – kids are listening.
So let’s say something that matters.
by Christopher Blackmon & Crisma Carter.
Adult vocal was sung by another 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Katherine Mathis.