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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Harbor Springs music program continues to grow

HARBOR SPRINGS — First, the choir found viral fame with its cover of “Michigan and Again,” and then the group won the chance to perform with the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra in a holiday radio contest with “That’s Christmas to Me.”
Now, the elementary music program in Harbor Springs is hard at work on their next audio project, and teacher Jason Byma has plans to continue growing the program to reach even more students.
Byma and around 30 students from the fourth and fifth grades performed a sample of their newest project on Monday for the Harbor Springs school board, a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Count On Me.”
“I thought they rocked it,” Byma said. “That’s just a snippet of what we’re working on for the spring.”
School officials praised the students and Byma’s ongoing efforts to
produce high quality musical performances.
“I just think that’s fantastic,” said interim superintendent Susan Jacobs. “We have put a lot of energy into increasing music curriculum and presentation quality and stuff like that. This just kind of shows the board that we’re really happy that they are supporting arts just as much as STEM and everything else. It’s a good thing.”
“Count On Me” will ultimately feature around 280 kids in grades 1-5. The music program has been working on the song since September.
“It’s a great song with a great message,” Byma said. “It’s about being there for each other and being there for your friends and others being there for you. It’s a great message, especially at the elementary level. It’s a little tricky to find pop songs that the kids like that are school-appropriate.”
Byma and his students are often working on multiple projects at once. “Count On Me” took a backseat for several weeks as the students prepared for their holiday concerts.
“I was already working on the first- and second-grade chorus once we got closer to November,” Byma said. “Each grade did at least four songs and some did five or six songs for the Christmas concert.”
Byma will soon be shifting from K-5 music to grades 3-8, meaning his students will continue to explore singing and music technology into middle school.
“Right now I am burning the midnight oil and pushing really hard getting all the first- and second-graders’ voices in the computer before I stop seeing them so they can still be a part of the project,” Byma said.
A new music teacher will soon be hired to cover K-2 music. Byma said it was a little emotional breaking the news to his younger students, but that the change is “by far the best option.”
“This is by far a very, very positive and exciting change for the kids that are into music,” he said. “To have music, a strong music program, for nine years, (then) by the time they get to high school they’re going to have a really strong foundation and then just explode into whatever they want to do musically. It’s really exciting.”
While third- and fourth-grade students are singing and learning to play instruments, Byma said his fifth-grade students will soon be learning how to record, mix and edit their own music.
“Right now I’m doing all the mixing and the editing,” Byma said. “But eventually ... the kids will do the actual audio recording, and then they’ve got to blend it and mix it and balance it so that way it sounds good. I have no idea how that’s going to go with middle school ... but the fifth- and fourth-graders, the kids that I have at Shay (Elementary School) right now, are super excited that next year they have more musical choices.”
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