Holiday music at Prairie in full swing

WORTHINGTON -- Like crafty elves at Santa's workshop, the Prairie Elementary music staff has been busily preparing its students for December musical delights.

Fourth-grade students at Worthington's Prairie Elementary rehearse Friday morning under the direction of Melanie Loy for their Wednesday concert. (Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Like crafty elves at Santa’s workshop, the Prairie Elementary music staff has been busily preparing its students for December musical delights.

  At three different times on Wednesday (8:45 a.m., 10:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.), two groups of young musicians will share their spirit with all comers in the Prairie Elementary (PE) gymnasium.

  The Celebration Chorus, directed by Jeanne Mammen and accompanied by Debra Moe, as well as the fourth-grade orchestra students, led by Melanie Loy, are set to show what they know.

  “Some of the kids have been saying they’re nervous, but I tell them it’s simply a demonstration of what they’ve learned so far,” reported Loy, PE string instructor.

  At the start of the school year, Loy had 54 fourth-graders eager to grasp the basics of playing violin, viola or cello; that number has since expanded to 82.


  “Of those, 16 students are cellists and the rest are either playing violin or viola,” explained Loy.

  “They meet in small groups of six to 13 students for 30-minute lessons three times a week,” she said. “I’m enjoying working with them a lot because they’re enthusiastic and love learning their instruments.

  “This concert marks their first time playing together in a large group.”

  Loy’s students are using every available school string instrument in District 518; about half of her fourth-graders have rented or purchased instruments.

  “They’ll be playing beginning pieces from our method book, including ‘Rolling Along,’ ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ ‘Dreidel,’ ‘Lightly Row’ and ‘Jingle Bells,’” listed Loy.

  “They’ve gone from learning proper playing position and posture to holding their instruments and plucking the strings, and we just added the bow before Thanksgiving.”

  Mammen, meanwhile, is leading 18 students (mostly fourth-graders, with a sixth-grader and a few fifth-graders added in) who rehearse with her and Moe weekly as part of an after school program.

  “When I started Celebration Chorus about 12 years ago, it was made possible through a grant that aimed to aid underserved students,” said Mammen.


  “That’s changed over time, and now it’s done through Community Education, but I still love introducing the kids to harmony singing, which is something we begin talking about in third- and fourth-grade music classes.

  “We move on to rounds and canons, and ultimately partner songs and parts singing, and the kids make huge leaps in their understanding of singing in parts through our weekly practice sessions.”

  On Wednesday, Celebration Chorus will entertain with familiar holiday tunes such as “We Need a Little Christmas” and “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” plus novelty numbers like “Cold Snap” and “Showbiz Snowman.” Their portion of the concert will wrap with a medley of “Jolly, Jingling Carols.”

  “It’s so rewarding to see students move on from Celebration Chorus to other musical groups during their middle school and high school years,” said Mammen.

  “They blossom in musical theater, choir and other instrumental ensembles, and I love seeing them continue to develop musically.”

  Both Loy and Mammen give credit to their teaching colleagues and the PE administrators for their encouragement of music instruction.

  “There’s great support at Prairie from the staff and administration,” said Loy, who also leads the Worthington High School orchestra; Zac Paulsen is in his first year at ISD 518 as the Worthington Middle School orchestra teacher.

  Additionally, the 12 PE kindergarten classes will perform their December musical program, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 13 and 14. Mammen, Moe and Linda Van Westen are the music teachers instructing the kindergarteners.


  “Ms. Moe was our creative inspiration,” credited Mammen. “We’ve recorded different students speaking the verses from ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ and added seasonal music to fit each segment.”

  The teachers emphasize that families, and the community at large, are welcome to attend the free concerts at Prairie this week and next.

Prairie kindergartners share “Twas the Night Before Christmas” on Dec. 13 and 14  Performances of the musical program “Twas the Night Before Christmas” will take place at Prairie Elementary on Dec. 13 and 14, with all 12 kindergarten classes participating.

  Tuesday, Dec. 13: Noon  Mrs. Appel’s and Mrs. Dahlquist’s classes

     1:30 p.m.  Mrs. Bell’s and Mrs. Palmquist’s classes

     2 p.m.       Mrs. Mimick’s and Mrs. Woitalewicz’s classes

     2:40 p.m.   Mrs. Mathiason’s and Mrs. Kremer’s classes

  Wednesday, Dec. 14: 2 p.m.  Ms. Oseland’s and Mrs. Kuhl’s classes

2:40 p.m.  Mrs. Jensen’s and Ms. Rosenberg’s classes

  Program directors are Prairie Elementary music instructors Linda Van Westen, Jeanne Mammen and Debra Moe.

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