Maverick Elementary School music teacher Paul Perea leads students in a guitar lesson at Maverick Elementary School.
Maverick Elementary School music teacher Paul Perea leads students in a guitar lesson. Photo courtesy of SAISD.

At Maverick Elementary School, we rock – literally and figuratively.  Our students, in kindergarten through fifth grades, are learning to play acoustic guitar through a program launched at our campus last year. The iGuitar program has been hugely popular with our students. It’s different from the hand bell, xylophone and recorder – the standard instruments used in elementary school music education.

Students learn guitar in February and March, with first-through-third grades learning how to play basic chords. Fourth and fifth graders learn to use chord progressions to create and play songs.

The program, funded by a grant from the SAISD Foundation, is just one way we teach music at Maverick, which is in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD). The goal is to extend the guitar lessons to parents, as well, so they can learn side-by-side with their child. This program is just one of a number of ways that music educators in Bexar County’s public schools are using music to engage students and inspire creativity.

Our mantras around music education at Maverick are “With great music comes great responsibility” and, my favorite, “Sing long and prosper.” We whole-heartedly embrace both thoughts.

I’ve seen the inspiration born in my classroom amidst sheet music, walls papered with musical concepts and rows of guitars. The guitar lessons helped propel one of my students, a gifted singer who has the talent to one day grace the stage of any reality singing show, to greater musical sophistication. She had been singing her own songs, but learning guitar gave her focus and structure that helped her organize her pieces. Assisting and watching these types of transitions is what makes my job phenomenal.

Maverick Elementary School music teacher Paul Perea direct the school’s show choir during a performance at the school carnival March 21.
Maverick Elementary School music teacher Paul Perea direct the school’s show choir during a performance at the school carnival March 21. Photo courtesy of SAISD.

In my classroom, music and technology are married. It’s a crucial union that helps give our students a solid foundation for the future. Students are learning how to use Garage Band to digitally edit the music they make, and they had great fun earlier this month in pulling together their skills and musical talents to script, choreograph and perform in a music video that we submitted to the Classroom Musical competition hosted by the Kidd Kraddick radio show. Winners will receive $1,500 for their classrooms, but even if we don’t win, the project itself served as a valuable exercise in channeling creativity and in reinforcing what they have learned in music and other subjects, such as writing.

Musical movement isn’t limited to our videos. At Maverick, we have introduced the idea of show choir – think “Glee,” the TV show – as an addition to standard choir instruction. Students worked hard to prepare for a 45-minute, Zumba-infused performance at the school carnival last week. With the aid of our coaches, we have infused music in motion. It was one way we celebrated Music in Our Schools Month.

I think it’s easy sometimes for people to overlook the value of music education to our students and their overall education. Yes, studies have shown that music education helps students academically and socially, and that, without a doubt, is great.

But I want to stress that music also moves people. It inspires creativity, joy and fulfillment. I cannot emphasize enough the value of a music education to the students of SAISD and of Bexar County public schools, where equally passionate music educators believe in the power of and value of the musical note to a student’s overall educational experience.

*Featured/top image: Maverick Elementary School music teacher Paul Perea leads students in a guitar lesson. Photo courtesy of SAISD.

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Paul Perea

Paul Perea is the music teacher at Maverick Elementary School in the San Antonio Independent School District and a 2014 SAISD Foundation INSPIRE Innovation Award winner.