Keeping the music alive

The Hills Tri-M Music Honors Society has enacted a program for middle school students to take free, 30-minute vocal and music lessons.

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Margarita Elkin

The vocal and instrumental instructors and their students conducting lessons via Google Meet.

The pandemic has put a hold on many important events and organizations at Pascack Hills, including the choir and band programs and those inducted into the Tri-M Music Honors Society. Those involved in this program have been facing struggles in not only producing music themselves, but in sharing their musical abilities with the community. 

Aware of this struggle, the Tri-M Music Honors Society has enacted a program for students at Fieldstone and Woodcliff Middle Schools to take free, 30-minute vocal and music lessons, in order to keep the spirit of music alive throughout the community.

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Mrs. Margarita Elkin, Hills choir teacher and leader of the Tri-M Music Honors Society, explained that the Tri-M Music Honors Society “is an organization, whose important role is to bring music to the community. Since our traditional events were either canceled or became virtual, it was very important to find a way to bring some meaningful activities on board. That’s how the idea of giving free lessons to the middle school kids by Tri-M members was born.”

According to Elkin, the decision to introduce this program came from a music department meeting where ideas of how to virtually connect the Tri-M students to the community were being discussed. After that, emails were sent to the Fieldstone and Woodcliff Lake middle schools’ administrations, and the program was up and running via Google Meet.

“The response of the community was overwhelming,” Elkin excitedly recalled. 

The response of the community was overwhelming.”

— Margarita Elkin, Hills choir teacher

Students, ranging from 5th to 8th graders, requested both vocal and instrumental lessons and were paired with Tri-M members as a result. However, due to the overwhelming response from the community, more students were requesting lessons than Tri-M members available to provide. 

“The decision was made to expand our instructors’ team. Based on Mr. Dore’s and [my] recommendations, the members of the concert band and chamber choir started to give lessons as well,” Mrs. Elkin added. 

Currently, there are a total of 37 people involved in this program, with 18 instructors and 19 middle school students.

The lesson plan differs for each instructor. According to Shariany Then, a junior at Hills and member of both the Tri-M Music Honors Society and Chamber Choir, “A vocal lesson usually consists of some vocal warmups for a few minutes and maybe working on solfege a bit. After that, we start working on either a song we’ve been practicing or one that the student wants to work on so that I can help [the student] improve [their] performance of the song with [their] voice.”

Then said that she “basically [goes] through the song with [them] to learn it, and we adjust certain parts of it to make [their] performance even better.”

The instrumental lessons are a bit different. Kelly Quinn, a junior, noted that her plans “differ between every music lesson, but what [she] likes to do is create small, inviting conversations, and then move onto the actual music lesson.”

Quinn said she works “through the bluebook –– a music book with practice songs and warmups that is used in Middle School and High School –– and then [she] introduces some tips for encouraging better playing!”

As expected, there have been a few difficulties over Google Meet experienced by the instructors, but Yemie Woo, a senior at Hills and member of both the Tri-M Music Honors Society and chamber choir, has learned to “go with the flow!”

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Those who have been involved in the program are very proud of how far their students have come in the short amount of time that they have been receiving vocal lessons. They said they would love to continue this newfound tradition in the future.