Crayon concertos - Drawings based on classical music

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Southeast Missourian

While walking the halls of Franklin Elementary School, the unmistakable sounds tell the story of education.

Children's voices spill into the hallway as they read simple words in unison. A teacher patiently raises her voice as she tries to get her students to stay in a single-file line while other teachers instruct their pupils inside classrooms.

But there was an uncommon, quiet, peaceful noise filling Amy Surman's third-grade class last Monday, a sound that Dr. Bob Gifford -- a professor in the Southeast Missouri State University music department -- says is too unusual in the classrooms of elementary schools.

Specifically, the sound was called "March" by Carl Mana Von Weber, "Partita" by Franz Kronner and "Slavonic Dance No. 15" by Antonin Dvorak as performed by the Southeast Chamber Players.

To third-grader Quincy Shaddox, it was "cute, happy music." Just like the cute, happy yellow Pokemon character, Pikachu, that he had drawn and colored.

The third-graders were participating in the third annual Children's Art Festival, sponsored by the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri.

The participants paint or draw pictures while listening to classical music. The art is supposed to reflect the feelings the students get when they listen to the music, although Quincy admitted that he was going to draw Pikachu no matter what the music sounded like. Still, the cute, happy analogy worked.

Less structure

Sharon Williams, an art teacher who works at more than one school in the district, said she emphasizes less structured pictures during her instruction.

A song can make one think of different shapes, lines and colors, she said.

"I want to show how music and art are connected," Williams said. "They both have movement. When you let art just kind of happen, the mistakes often turn out better than what would've happened if they designed it. We emphasize other things than a house that's a box with a triangle for a roof. I want them to think a little past that."

After the students finish their works of art, an Arts Council panel will choose 60 of the best pictures -- there have been between 600 and 1,000 entries in the past -- and the selected pieces will be featured in a booklet. The festival will conclude at the Old St. Vincent's Church at 3 p.m. Dec. 8 when the Southeast Chamber Players will perform the music that served as inspiration.

Following the concert, the young artists will go to the Arts Council for the opening of their exhibit. At that time, the artists and their families will be able to see the selected artwork and the children will autograph their pictures in the program booklet.

The program is designed to expose children to new kinds of music and art.

The music reminded third-grader Christopher Modglin of a rainbow.

"It's beautiful," he said.

'I just love art'

It made Somer Nunnally think of a hospital. She said heard similar music in the hospital once.

Caroline Sharp drew a picture of people dancing under a chandelier.

Andrea Artadi drew a heart with a crown of thorns wrapped around the right side of the heart. In the lower left-hand corner, there was also a cross.

Sam Abbott drew a castle with shooting stars, but he couldn't explain why the music made him think of that.

There were a couple of boats, a disco ball, a beach and a sunset or two among the creations.

"I just love art," said Surman, who is one of the few teachers who does the program as part of her regular class time. Most teachers, she said, prefer that the art teachers instruct the program. "I like to see what they create. There's always a story."

The contest is citywide and will involve students in grades three through six.

Gifford has been instrumental, figuratively and literally, in organizing the Children's Art Festival.

Gifford directs the Southeast Chamber Players, an ensemble comprised of Southeast faculty and students as well as area music teachers. The group will play the music live on Dec. 8.

Gifford said exposing children to the arts is important. He said many studies have shown that students who play music or take some sort of music or art classes perform better on standardized tests and attend school more regularly. The Children's Art Festival is another way of exposing children to the arts.

"One of the neat things about this," he said, "is afterwards we feel like we've made an impact on not just the children, but the families. It seems to stimulate interest in art. It's really a lot of fun to see what the kids come up with."

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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