Eighth and quarter notes squeaked out of clarinets and saxophones. Half and whole notes blared out of the trombone and trumpets, as the nine member music class practiced several measures of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Music teacher, Jesse Mell had the class clap the rhythm of the song.
“Ta ta, ta ta, ta ta,” the class clapped.
On the count of three, a trombone, four clarinets, two trumpets and two saxophones played several measures and periodically stopped to go over playing technicques.
Trombone player, Brittany Washington was a previous violin musician. Although a novice, she kept with the tempo of the band and as her cheeks filled with air, she glided the brass instrument into a serious of sliding positions.
“I was used to holding the violin with my chin. It’s difficult because with the violin all you have to remember is the chords, [now] you have to remember the positions and notes,” Washington said.
She comes from a musical family. Her brother plays clarinet and sister plays violin. Although she practices for two hours a day, Washington said Mell’s assistance is helpful.
“Mr. Mell is an awesome teacher. He’s fun. He tells us when we’re wrong. If you mess up he’s like, ‘OK,’ try again. Let’s see if you can do it again,’” Washington said.
For “Bille Jean,” Mell explained the A flat to C, or position three, for trombone to Washington.
Last year the Jones musical students put on a regional arts festival at the Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School.
“It was really cool because getting everyone a chance to come together and see that we could really have a consistent music program start at the primary middle school level and move up to high school and have that continuity,” Mell said. “Kids get to eighth grade and then they have no options, because if they don’t go to a magnet high school a lot of the time the band program isn’t there in the high school. So we’re trying to make life long music learners.”
Mell said his goals are to encourage students to study music and see the value of playing an instrument.
“Making kids understand that what’s fun is not always worth while and vice versa. I always say, ‘Fun is playing X-box or jumping in a pool, but this is really something that you’re building a life skill for.’ Just getting them to see the long-term vision of where it’s going to take them, the doors that it could open or just the value of sticking with something.” Mell said.
In Lindsey McGarrigle’s reading enrichment class, fifth- and sixth-grade students began reading a new fiction book, “A Likely Place” by Paula Fox.
As students flipped to page 109, McGarrigle posed a question to the class.
“How do you react when adults think they know how you feel?” McGarrigle said.
“I get angry sometimes. If I’m sad they just automatically think I’m happy,” sixth-grader Joshau Berger said.
Fan of science fiction novels, Berger and his peers have tested out of the corrective reading program. During the enrichment course, students are challenged to tackle higher levels of reading and writing. Recently, the class participated in a school wide writing contest in which they wrote scripts for a movie, talk show or courthouse drama based on literature read in class.
“There’s a lot of kids that match my level,” sixth-grader Krizm Rosario said.
The class reads the passage out loud.
“Popcorn, Seriphim,” sixth-grader Umiko Webb said.
Webb passed the reading responsibility to Seriphim Bey, which is an activity that is often practiced during class.
In a third floor classroom, calculators, workbooks and pencils covered the desks of eighth-graders Nazsha Gonzales, Crystal Hernandez and Nilda Mojica. The three girls were practicing scientific notation in preparation for the PSSA tests.
Gonzales said she enjoys math the most, but plans to attend Kensington CAPA and major in dance.
Mojica said she enjoyed the class trips to the Philadelphia Zoo and to a St. Joseph’s University basketball game.
Although schoolwork may seem overwhelming, Hernandez said Jones is preparing her for high school.
“They give us a lot of writing to prepare us. We work more than any other grade in the school. That gives a chance to get use to it,” Hernandez said.