In The Classroom:

Kids find their own beats

School gets a visit from the Third Grade Music Mobile, which gives students the chance to try out instruments.

October 27, 2008|By Michael Alexander

Third-graders in teacher Jaime Blandford’s class at Lincoln Elementary in Corona del Mar got to saw on violin strings, bang on drums, hammer the bars of a glockenspiel and even push the slide of a trombone in and out Monday morning.

It was all part of the Third Grade Music Mobile, a program where volunteers show kids their way around an orchestra and then let them all give the instruments a whirl.

The Lido Island Committee of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County has been bringing this program to Newport-Mesa schools for more than a decade, said the program’s presenter, Ellie Yates.


In addition to the program for third-graders, the group offers other enrichment activities to the school system from kindergarten through 12th grade, from field trips to music education.

Students can play anything they want except for the blown instruments, like clarinets or horns, because of disease risk. But the complex structure of a French horn or a trombone draws curiosity anyway, Yates said.

“With the boys especially, sometimes they just want to look at the mechanism to see how it works,” Yates said.

“I like to tell them that there’s 16 feet of cord in a French horn, but there wouldn’t be room in the orchestra if it were all stretched out. They laugh at that.”

A mostly silent class slowly gave way to students talking about their own musical interests or the talents of their relatives, whether one child’s familiarity with a Chinese recorder or another’s knowledge of the horn.

That’s normal, said Cindy Dennis, who assisted Yates.

“They’re all very receptive,” Dennis said.

“They come here mystified, relatively quiet. But they’re so very expressive, and by the end, that comes out.”

So what did the kids like best? The winner was the string section, by a landslide.

Every student interviewed said they had the most fun with either a violin or cello.

But that doesn’t mean every student is planning to line up for violin lessons just yet. Guitar and piano appear to be the top choices, and the kids are sticking to those dreams.

“I like the violin, but I want to play piano because I know it better,” said Natalie Kowal, who is already taking piano lessons.


What’s your favorite instrument?

“My favorite was probably the violin because you get to rest your chin on the thing.”

Jay King

“My favorite instrument was probably the violin because I could rest my chin on it and then go down and up and down with the bow.”

Nico Santoro

“The violin was the best, because it makes a really cool sound.”

Bobby Purcifull

“I liked the cello because it made these deep sounds, but I want to play the guitar.”

Sydney Sharf

“I liked the violin because I’m very good at it.”

Natalie Kowal

MICHAEL ALEXANDER may be reached at (714) 966-4618 or at

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