Guest column: Arts in school matter

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 2, 2017

By Lynne Robinson

“It looked like another version of me. I felt famous.”

“When we start singing, I don’t think about all the other things going on in my life.”

“Band is a place where we learn to work together and get along even without words.”

These are a sampling of the quotes from students reflecting on their work in art, chorus and band at Erwin Middle School this year. The students, led by teachers Meredith Abramson, art, Elizabeth Cook, chorus and Sonya Ferguson, band, participate in competitions, concerts and art shows. Their students receive skills and lessons for which many people would pay to experience. Through performance and exhibits, they build confidence, polish social skills and exercise creativity.

Abramson’s Artists, the moniker of students in “Mrs. A’s” classes, showcase their work throughout the school as well as in Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. They read Achieve 3000 articles about the benefits of art to learning in other subject areas. Abramson often employs the flipped classroom model of teaching where students watch videos of Abramson demonstrating the current project, freeing her to provide one-on-one guidance as the students create. She has a special talent for finding and bringing out the artist within every student she has.

In chorus, Cook incorporates many activities to bring music to life for her students. Tape on the floor marks a staff as seen on sheet music. Students move around the tape representing musical notes. They sing, dance and set personalized goals. Music sung in class ranges from gospel to Broadway to current hits. Throughout the year, students perform — at school and All County Chorus concerts, awards assemblies and with East Rowan choral students at the popular annual Madrigal dinner. A coveted class for which auditions are held is Cook’s eighth grade honors chorus.

Smartmusic is software Ferguson uses with her band students for group instruction and which the students can use for individual practice. It covers ability levels from beginner through professional allowing the students to set personal goals. As with chorus, the band participates in school and All County concerts. They also travel to places such as Carowinds, Atlanta, Myrtle Beach and Williamsburg to participate in festivals. Many of Ferguson’s band students say that they never would have had the opportunity to travel out of Rowan County if it were not for these special band-sponsored activities.

During the holiday season, the students in these three subjects use their talents to spread joy throughout the community. Abramson’s Artists create mini works of art using colored pencils. Each student selects a person to thank and the drawings are affixed to cards with thank you notes inside. Oil pastel poinsettias are gifted to special people in the young adults’ lives. Cook and Ferguson take their students to both Trinity Oaks and the Veteran’s Hospital where they perform for the folks living there. The students are as blessed by the visits as the audience members who are so appreciative of the special performances.

Between them, Abramson, Cook and Ferguson have taught 68 years, but the number of ways they’ve touched students during that time is immeasurable. Take it from student Itzia Pena whose reflection was:

“Rise. Hope. Dream…I’ve done things I have never done before I got here.”

The arts in school do matter. They change lives forever.

Robinson is the Media Center Coordinator at Erwin Middle School.