For years I’ve tried to catch — but have missed — Vaughn Elementary School’s Whole Note Huskies Ensemble of xylophones perform at the Key Peninsula annual Livable Communities Fair.
This year, I scored!
The group’s leader, Vaughn music teacher Lisa Mills, filled me in on the ensemble’s background.
“Mary Farr was the much-loved and very talented music teacher who preceded me at Vaughn,” Mills said. “She retired three years ago, and is enjoying performing in the Gig Harbor Area as ‘Sweet Mary’ at different venues such as farmers’ markets.”
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About 12 years ago, Farr was awarded a grant from Oscar Mayer and purchased the ensemble’s xylophones.
“They were a great investment, are used almost every day, and will easily last another 25 to 30 years,” Mills said.
I, for one, will never forget the enormous Oscar Mayer Wienermobile vehicle parked in front of Vaughn Elementary in those days. Kids loved crawling through it.
The Whole Note Huskies is a percussion ensemble open to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.
“It is not an auditioned group,” Mills said, “so anyone who wants to can play with us. The kids sacrifice two lunch recesses each week to rehearse and prepare their songs. We work on mallet and hand drum techniques, rhythmic precision and reading music. This year’s group is very talented and fun to practice with. The half hours fly by!”
Fifth-grader Mia Stitt was on the drum, and “liked getting to see new people in my community and see people come together to have fun.”
Mia thinks “it is important to get involved in your community and spend time learning new things together.”
Xylophonist Kendall Powers declared, “I like to play the xylophones! It’s a passion that I never noticed before. I really like music with Whole Note Huskies.”
“Music gives me the confidence for other things like math,” said Lila Marshall. “I just have the music in my head and it keeps me focused. Music is really fun.”
Fellow musician Dannikah Rowland confessed, “I normally have stage fright but music helps me not think about being scared anymore.”
“Last year in second grade,” said Ena Bailey, “I was wondering why these people were wearing Whole Note Huskies shirts at school and wondered what it was. When I was old enough, my mom made me sign up for it and now I really love it!”
Alex Miller plays xylophones at recess “because once you play a song you want to keep pursuing it and it gets stuck in your head. Music is a good way to build friendships.”
To Deven Loska, “It’s just really fun and everyone in Whole Note Huskies is like my friends and family. Music gives me happy butterflies!”
Jessica Neumann feels that playing music is “like another voice inside of you. You can speak your feelings into the music.”
Fellow musician Abigail Oliver says, “In Whole Note Huskies, you are around people who are like yourself and you find a circle of friends in each other when you play music together.”
Teacher Mills cautions: “Exposure to music may cause sudden outbursts of joy, happiness, energy, creativity and awareness. Use at your own risk!”
“Music is something I look forward to at school because it makes me happy!” declared Sydney Tucker. For Sydney’s friend, Mia Stitt, “There is a little music trigger in my brain, and when it is set, all my problems go away because I just focus on my music.”
I remember that sensation when in boys choir at Tacoma’s Park Avenue Grade School a long time ago.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.