"Music Belongs in Our Schools!" 4

Innovative Live Music Program Debuts 
At Nickajack Elementary School

The Nickajack Elementary School PTA president and father of a 5th grader had a recurring thought that would not leave him: “Music belongs in our schools!” He worked on many initiatives over the years but kept coming back to how he could encourage a love of music for students, because he knows music does belong in our schools.

This year it hit him. Bring live music to lunch! It’s already noisy so he figured it would be a good idea to give the kids some music to liven up their lunch period and even get the toes of the lunch room workers tapping. Beverly Lloyd, principal of Nickajack Elementary, loved the idea immediately and Live Music Fridays was born.

Since September, a live musical act is brought in each Friday. Parents are encouraged to eat lunch with their children so they too can enjoy the sounds.

To learn more about this creative approach to including more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) into an elementary school in Smyrna we sat down with Mr. Rubenstein at a recent performance.

VL: What are Live Music Fridays?

SR: From 10:20 a.m. to 1:01 p.m. all 1,000 Nickajack Elementary Schools students, grades Pre-K to 5, cycle through the lunch room. On Fridays, musicians of all types are scheduled to come in, play their instruments and engage children during their lunch period.

VL: How did you come up with the idea 
for Live Music Fridays?

SR: When teachers, staff, administrators and parents all expressed frustration at the noise level in the lunch room, it occurred to me that it might be a better strategy to get the children engaged in something positive, such as listening to, watching and enjoying live music demonstrations. They are children, ages 3-11, and battles over energy containment often seem futile. However, they do need to eat and learn to be responsible, respectful and clean. I envisioned Nickajack parents, relatives or local music teachers playing their instruments to rows of students, intrigued by the sounds that fill the cafeteria.

VL: What are the benefits of this program 
to the students?

SR: There are so many benefits. The most important ones include positive stimulation, fascination, aspiration, happiness and joy. Plus, it is fun!

VL: Who has participated in this program?

SR: We have been thrilled to include Campbell High School, Pebblebrook High School, Campbell Middle School, teachers from The Music Studio at Vinings, Maestro Benjamin Padilla, and Nickajack grandfather, Tom Bratton, so far. But there are still Fridays available in 2016. We’d love to see more community members. I’m even hoping to get some officers in the Smyrna Police Department who would be great for our program.

VL: Why is it important to you to have live music 
in our schools?

SR: When the Campbell High School Quintet, lead by Mark Pulley, came to Nickajack with two alumni students, I was thrilled this program was getting off the ground. And then they lifted their bows and started playing the most beautiful music and I was overwhelmed with emotion. My eyes teared up seeing how engaged the children could be. Each Friday, I watch these adorable children wiggle to the beat, wave their hands in the air, smile and tap their feet to all different kinds of music. I want the kids to love their school, to know they are special enough for stuff like this. Some kids may simply appreciate music in ways they never had before – and for others, this just might be that spark to encourage a future in music. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

Interested in participating in Live Music Fridays at Nickajack Elementary School? Contact Seth Rubenstein at nickajackpta@gmail.com.