We interviewed our AMAZING and magical Music Director and teacher, Brett Larsen, to learn more about the evolution of the music program at Adams. We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for our young musicians!
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to be the Director of the music program at Adams?
"Teaching music is my 2nd career, after having worked in the music and technology industries. I’m now in my 13th year of teaching music with the 1st 5 spent at De Anza Middle School in Ventura, where I taught band, orchestra, and mariachi. During my first 3 years of teaching in the Santa Barbara School District, I traveled with 7 other elementary music teachers to the 9 downtown elementary schools, where we worked with every child in the Santa Barbara Elementary School District. In my 4th year in SBUSD we went to a 1:1 model of music teacher to school, & Dr. Alzina invited me to work at Adams. I needed to quickly adjust from being a 4-6th grade instrument teacher to learning how to work with K-3rd students so that they’d be ready for those instruments."
Throughout the years, how the music program evolved at Adams?
"When I became the sole music teacher at Adams, I knew I had some growth and learning to do in order to be an effective K-3rd music teacher. To that end, I looked to exemplary music and classroom teachers of young students; Sela Viscara and Ron Zecher top that list along with many others. A common link that these teachers shared was Orff Schulwerk training-- an approach to teaching music where children learn through the integration of music, movement, speech, and drama, allowing children to learn through 'play'. For the past 4 years, I’ve been attending Orff workshops and certification courses to bring those concepts not only Adams, but to our larger elementary music community. Within our concerts you’ll begin to notice more drama, more instruments being played at a younger age, and more dancing! This will translate to better musicianship and greater joy in music making for our 4th-6th graders."
In order to sustain the program, what are your immediate needs and goals?
"Sustaining the music program requires both material support and building a strong system of advocacy among parents and students. Financing is always needed as the district's contribution to elementary music simply isn’t enough to maintain, repair, and replace the 250 instruments that Adams loans out to students each year. To date,100% of the instruments purchased for our school in the last 8 years have been made possible because of: grants, the parcel tax money that Santa Barbara citizens voted for, AND the Adams PTA. Since I’ve been at Adams, our PTA has been wonderfully generous, purchasing: a set of ukuleles, 3 much needed trumpets this year, and MANY other supplies over the years. Last year, the PTA sponsored a flute coach to help our beginning 5th grade players with their lessons. This year I’m hoping to purchase a large, round, music-themed rug to give our youngest students a nice carpet to sit on where they can see and touch music symbols and learn how to form and maintain a circle shape."
What do you envision for the future growth of our music program?
"Advocacy is the hardest part of sustainability. My goal is to instill the belief, with both students and parents alike, that practicing an instrument for 20 minutes daily is a vital component to childhood brain development. I want to build a community that understands that real, quality instrument practice is NOT an add-on, but a necessary component of learning. There is much research indicating that daily instrument practice is as equally important as daily reading. I hope for a future where parents require their child to not only read for 20 minutes, BUT ALSO practice music for 20 minutes-- every day. And I believe this is already taking shape at Adams. I invite parents to visit the music room anytime. Come remind yourself of how fun it is to sing, say, move and play!"