Composer strikes right note with kids

Bill Covert’s students don’t hum just any old tune. The Wilkes fourth graders are creating their own song for a world premier. “Making up music is fun. I like it,” student Grace Campbell says. “I hope I get to hear them sing our song – but it’s up to my parents.”

  • Wednesday, December 12, 2001 6:00pm
  • News

Bill Covert’s students don’t hum just any old tune.

The Wilkes fourth graders are creating their own song for a world premier.

“Making up music is fun. I like it,” student Grace Campbell says. “I hope I get to hear them sing our song – but it’s up to my parents.”

Campbell and her classmates have been working with noted Seattle composer David Paul Mesler to craft a three-minute song as part of the year-long Bainbridge Island Arts Education Consortium.

The three-minute tune will be debuted by the 200-voice Bainbridge Chorale in at their upcoming spring concert.

Covert’s class is meeting Mesler for the second of four sessions in the music classroom, but the song is already taking shape.

“We could make our song a major key or a minor key,” Mesler tells the students. “Do you want to be happy, be celebrating something, or do you want to be melancholy and downtrodden?”

Mesler demonstrates the difference, playing tunes on a piano and testing students at the end of his demonstration with a sneaky version of “Happy Birthday to You” – played off-kilter in a minor key.

When he is satisfied they know the difference, he asks for a show of hands.

Emphatically waving hands denote that the song will be happy music in a medium-fast tempo.

Mesler refers all decisions about the song construction to the 29 fourth graders arranged before him in a large horseshoe.

“This is all about their ownership of the piece,” Mesler says. “It’s about their creativity.”

In the first session, Mesler generated musical phrases from the the letters in each child’s name that corresponded to the letters denoting the musical scale.

Now, he moves the children through the dizzying array of choices.

They select a subject and a setting – horses running on a beach.

Mesler demonstrates possible musical motifs, from the grand mode of choral music and the complexity of counterpoint, to the standard-issue melody-and-accompaniment.

Mesler is happy that the students decide not to stick to the familiar pop formula.

“You are a very sophisticated class,” he tells them. “So, is this getting you closer to what the subject of the song is?”

All Mesler’s gentle direction nudges students to more specific choices that focus the creative process.

The only sticking point is “Sparky the Fire Rescue Dog” – an image that a vocal contingent wants to include in the song, and which Mesler clearly wants to excise.

He asks pointed questions about the choice until support for Sparky wanes, as students realize that more generic images will work better.

“So if there’s horses running on the beach, what do you see?” Mesler asks.

Students eagerly put forward suggestions. After about 10 minutes, “Horses running on the beach” is “wild horses running at sunset on the beach with waves crashing, and getting lost in the woods.”

As the second session wraps, Mesler asks students to bring in phrases that will become lyrics for session three.

“We’ve done a lot today,” Mesler says. “We’ve selected tempo, mood, motif and subject matter. We have a real sense of where this song is going.”

Almost ready for the Bainbridge Chorale.

More in News

Bainbridge police chief finalists have given notice, previously been finalists elsewhere

Two of the three recently announced finalists for the open Bainbridge Island… Continue reading

Bainbridge announces three finalists for police chief job

Bainbridge Island city officials have announced the three finalists for police chief.… Continue reading

Bainbridge blotter | No plates, no license and no interlock device

Selected reports from the Bainbridge Island Police Department blotter. TUESDAY, OCT. 22… Continue reading

Kitsap Audobon Society to host Senator Christine Rolfes

Senator Christine Rolfes has been invited as a special guest to the… Continue reading

Kitsap County honors veterans with Monday ceremony

Roughly 1,800 local community members came out Monday morning to the county’s… Continue reading

Turnout improves in Kitsap after latest vote tally

Turnout in Kitsap County for the 2019 General Election is nearly at… Continue reading

Bainbridge council to consider putting off road repairs after passage of I-976

Bainbridge city councilmembers will get an update at their meeting Tuesday on… Continue reading

Genealogy Q&A sessions kick off at Bainbridge Public Library

The Bainbridge Island Genealogical Society is partnering with the Bainbridge Public Library… Continue reading

Most Read