Catherine Miller, music teacher at Christ Classical Academy takes “make a joyful noise” literally and so do her students. Together, they lift their voices as both a learning experience and an expression of faith. Miller hopes to instill an appreciation for music but “in this context, it’s about more than that. There’s a huge element of spirituality,” Miller said.
“There’s another question that’s transferable beyond our context and that is how can music be used throughout the entire school day and through my students’ lives.”
One of the ways Miller makes musical connections for her students is by aligning lessons to the literary arts. For her younger students, Miller introduces a book for each new concept. “We read a lot and we add instruments in to what we read. In pre-K, we do a lot of movement, pretend play, keeping a steady beat, basic rhythms, very foundational stuff.”
Miller’s older students are challenged to writetheir own songs. She explained, “I had them start looking at poetry in a musical way. I asked them to take a simple poem and turn it into a four-beat pattern. They do a lot of veryadvance poetry here, so they caught on reallyquickly. These students are very smart. It’s actually quite challenging to keep up with them,” she laughed.
It’s a good thing she has a solid background in music education from Florida State University. “I’m Orff certified (a developmental teaching approach) and I studied with Dr. Suzanne Byrnes and taught children’s choir with her.” This training and experience provide a facility with young children that serves Miller well when working with her pre-K through eighth grade students.
She is also a songwriter which allows her to further explore the intersection between music and storytelling. By incorporating books and poetry into her classroom, and encouraging her students to create original compositions, Miller is emphasizing the literary aspect of music. The two disciplines share a common metric structure and are both forms of communication and language.
Her students firmly grasp this concept as voiced by third-grader Case Moore. “She wants us to learn about how music has good beats and how we should really flow with it and the different kinds of things music has like music notes. Notes are important for reading music and writing a song is important so we can keep music alive.”
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