Significant Upgrades to St. John’s Music Program

Significant upgrades to the school’s music program are underway at St. John the Baptist School in Kenmore due to the school’s Annual Appeal. Since initiating the appeal three years ago, much has been accomplished, including acquiring state-of-the-art Science equipment, furnishing classrooms with SmartBoards, installing a wireless network throughout the school, and underwriting some much needed capital improvements to the building. This year’s appeal that is currently underway is focusing on acquiring instruments for the school’s music program.

“Music is a hands-on experience,” explains Lawrence Rizzuto, the school’s music teacher, “and students need the practical application on a musical instrument.” The school is in the process of acquiring keyboards to accommodate a class of up to twenty-five students. “The acquisition of keyboards from a pedagogical standpoint is one of the most efficient and rewarding instruments for a student to play.” Rizzuto explains that it’s often difficult for a student to hit that certain key when learning to play, but that with keyboards, “the response of sound is immediate, compared to other instruments such as guitar—where you really need ‘to work’ to find the note. Keyboards allow the transfer of musical knowledge with an immediate response and to that end—it’s a great instrument.”

Peer-to-peer learning is also paramount to the school’s decision to bring in keyboards, as opposed to another instrument. “Naming notes, hand positions, and so on can be easily achieved with keyboards among the students,” Rizzuto continues. “Students will be on different levels—either because of a natural talent or prior instruction. Whether working as a group or performing solo, they will be able to showcase their ability and learn from one another.”

Melody and rhythm are the two main components to teach music and Rizzuto relies on drums to master rhythm with his students. “You can teach the concept of rhythm through clapping, but students feel more empowered with pair of drum sticks in their hands. To that end, having twenty-plus students hitting drums in unison—with adjacent classrooms surrounding mine—makes sound a consideration.” Coupling his desire to create an authentic learning experience with the logistics of cost and sound, Rizzuto devised a clever and ingenious approach. “I headed over to True-Value to purchase 6-foot pieces of pipe insulation at ninety-nine cents apiece—and they became my instrument and means for bringing drums to St. John’s!” Rizzuto placed insulation pieces on the backs of students’ chairs to create a device similar to a drummer’s practice pad without damaging the furniture. “It provides students with a similar experience and provides a physical and authentic learning experience.” Although the dedicated music teacher has done what it takes to bring genuine learning opportunities to his students, Rizzuto is very much looking forward to the acquisition of the new keyboards slated for later this year.

“The enthusiasm resulting from this broadening of our students’ experience of music has been tremendous,” comments Director of Advancement, Michelle Salemi. “It’s the generous and loyal contributors to our Annual Appeal that provide the essential funds needed to make initiatives such as this a reality—we cannot adequately express our gratitude for making all of this possible!”