Thirteen/WNET, a New York-based affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service which produces professional development videos for Annenberg Learner, is in Juneau this week filming the Juneau, Alaska Music Matters program led by Glacier Valley Elementary School music teacher Lorrie Heagy.
Producer Jill Peters, who is working with a local film crew to capture Heagy’s classes and student performances on video, was introduced to the community at a reception Thursday night that was attended by members of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and the Juneau School District Board of Education, as well as many local businesspeople and other members of the public.
“Our department produces both broadcast and interactive media for children, educational media. But we also produce video and Web-based professional development projects for training teachers, and we produced a number of these for Annenberg Learner, which is funded by the Annenberg Foundation,” explained Peters, executive producer of children’s and educational media at Thirteen/WNET, Friday morning at Glacier Valley, in between filming Heagy and her students.
“We got a grant to do a project on music education and El Sistema-inspired programs that are growing in the United States,” Peters said, “and when we did our research, everyone said, ‘Have you heard about this amazing program in Juneau?’”
El Sistema, Spanish for “The System,” is a music education program originally founded in Venezuela during the 1970s. The curriculum and variants thereof have been adopted by programs in other countries as well, including the United States (http://bit.ly/TxEiwg).
According to Heagy, children benefit from JAMM because they learn both music skills and positive behavior from it.
“What makes this model so unique is all kindergarteners and first-graders receive violin instruction for 90 minutes as part of the school week,” Heagy said. “There’s so much brain research about playing an instrument and what it does when you start early for focus, discipline, perseverance, teamwork, that we’re using violin to help achieve those … habits.”
JAMM started in 2010 with the kindergarteners at Glacier Valley. Those students are now in second-grade, for which violin instruction is no longer a mandated part of the school-day curriculum. But many of them remain active in the program, Heagy said.
“We have about 68 percent of our students who come to an after-school JAMM club for, three times a week, two hours,” said Heagy. “And it’s now expanded beyond just violin. We’ve added cellos, so there’s a focus on ensemble skills, reading music, playing multiple parts together.”
Heagy said she plans to continue that after-school club into next year, when her original JAMM students will be third-graders, and add more instruments, like double bass. Eventually, she said, she hopes to fuse it together with the school’s Morning Musician program to create a mixed strings and woodwinds ensemble.
JAMM has also expanded to kindergarten at Auke Bay Elementary School and Riverbend Elementary School (http://bit.ly/TzJPop), and Heagy said she has also spoken with people in Anchorage interested in starting their own El Sistema-inspired program in Alaska’s largest city.
On Friday morning, Heagy was leading her violin class through the melody and harmony parts of the “Can-Can.” Peters, observing the class as the crew filmed, would occasionally ask for a certain action or phrase to be repeated, in order to make sure it was caught on camera.
“When I see your eyes and you’re looking at me, it tells me you’re right there with me,” Heagy told the class at one point, before naming a few children as particularly attentive examples. She continued, “You’re going to make Glacier Valley — you already make us proud — but there are going to be a lot of people who see what you’re doing. So thank you.”
When Heagy was in New York City this summer for a professional development workshop, she and Peters met.
“I got a chance to see her in action and was just amazed by her talent and skill,” said Peters. “And it became clear that once we got the green light to move forward on the project, that Juneau would be at the top of our list for model programs to videotape.”
JAMM is the first program Peters is filming for the El Sistema-inspired music education series, which is expected to be available for free on the Web at http://learner.org sometime in early 2014, according to Peters.
Heagy’s students will perform at the school board meeting Tuesday evening at Juneau-Douglas High School. Heagy said that performance will be filmed for the series.
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.