January 22, 2013

Como Elementary hits a high note with B Sharp program

The B Sharp Youth Music Program at Como Elementary offers free daily academic tutoring and instruction in voice, percussion, brass, woodwinds and string instruments. It's the district's only elementary-level symphonic orchestra.

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FORT WORTH -- For some west-side youngsters, the afternoon school bell means it's time to make a little music.

When classes end at Como Elementary School, about 65 students stay after school for three hours to study music theory and learn how to play an instrument.

It's all part of the B Sharp Youth Music Program, which offers participating students free daily academic tutoring and instruction in voice, percussion, brass, woodwinds and string instruments. The students, who are taught by professionals, make up the district's only elementary-level symphonic orchestra.

In November, Fort Worth school district officials announced that the program will be expanded and will become the district's first elementary school Gold Seal Program of Choice. Specialized courses in the Gold Seal Program are offered to students districtwide. High school students, for example, can study culinary arts or fire sciences.

In the fall, students in the B Sharp program will receive music education and instruction during the regular school day. The program will launch with first-graders, and then will add a grade every year. Eventually, a middle school component could be offered, said Michael Sorum, deputy superintendent for leadership, learning and student support.When the B Sharp application deadline closed last week, the expanded program had attracted 48 students, most of whom attend kindergarten at Como Elementary.

The Como students got first priority in admission, said Brenda Whitlock Como's principal.

"We're trying to get Como on the map. This enhances who we are," Whitlock said. "We're more than an at-risk school. To be chosen as a program at choice school, that says a lot about the district trusting us and the parents trusting us."

The Goff Family Foundation, established in 2007 by Fort Worth-based Goff Capital President John Goff, launched the after-school B Sharp program in 2010 after adopting the campus in 2008, said Jill E. Goff, the foundation's executive director and John Goff's sister.

B Sharp draws its approach from El Sistema, a music education and youth orchestra program founded in Venezuela that emphasizes group learning, peer teaching and ensemble performance.

In the after-school version of B Sharp, students do their homework first and then break into sections for music classes. The students learn from visiting artists, take field trips to special places, such as Bass Hall, and perform in the community. Instruments are furnished by the school district and the foundation.

On Thursday, students in a musicianship class were reading music. Standing before small drum pads, they used sticks to tap out a rhythm.

In another classroom, violin students watched teacher Fabricio Cavero use a student's violin to demonstrate the G major scale before trying it themselves. And in another small room, two student flutists took turns playing duets with Juan Ospina, their teacher.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Twitter: @jessamybrown

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