‘Tales of the Sea’ to showcase songwriting skills of students

MIDDLETOWN – The Cincinnati-based, award-winning duo Wild Carrot recently spent two mornings at Central Academy in Middletown, partnering with music educator Leslie Hicks, to create songs with the fifth and sixth grade students about the sea.

The songs will be among the featured pieces at Central Academy’s Intermediate Program, titled “Tales of the Sea,” Thursday, March 12 at 7 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

Hicks said the show will encompass collaborative teacher and student work that showcases the songwriting, along with singing, instrument playing, movement and drama.

“When we do shows at Central Academy, they are a collaboration between the students and myself, and they represent work that we are doing in class with the musical material that we are currently working on at the time,” Hicks said.

The program will highlight three original songs that the students wrote with the Wild Carrot duo of Pam Temple and Spencer Funk. As a guest artist, Wild Carrot will also accompany the students on stage.

“We often take a topic that is thematic in nature and then we work with that topic. I fuse that with learning goals that we have musically with our curriculum, and we put that all together to make a show that we present to the school, and the students’ families at an evening program,” said Hicks.

The work Wild Carrot did with the students largely involved lyric writing.

“We had done some preliminary brainstorming and writing before Spencer and Pam came to us,” Hicks said. “We had song topics, basically about how three ship wrecks came about, and then Spencer and Pam helped us write the lyrics for three different songs that told the stories of how each of those imaginary ship wrecks took place.”

Temple said she and Spencer have worked in the classroom for many years doing arts-integration, primarily with elementary schools.

“Our goal is to integrate the art form, which in our case is music and songwriting. So we talk about things like what are the elements of a song, rhythm, rhyme, melody and how are we going to craft all of this together with the vocabulary words and ideas to tell a story,” Temple said.

In empowering students and teachers, Wild Carrot hopes to further incorporate these techniques into the classroom and studying.

“We approached it that way with the students and we really try to give them ownership,” Temple said. “They come up with a lot of the vocabulary words, and help us to define those words, in ways they might need to learn as part of their curriculum. So it’s kind of like a Schoolhouse Rock sort of philosophy, where we remember lyrics. We learn our A, B, C’s through music, and so songs tap into an alternate style of learning. It’s another learning tool for students, using the art form alongside the curriculum.”

According to Susan Joyce, Miami University Middletown music faculty member and coordinator of performing arts outreach, the collaboration was funded by an Artswave grant secured through the Fantastic Free Friday performing arts outreach at MUM. The ArtsWave grant funded the two in-school workshop days at Central Academy and will continue music outreach at Safe Haven Farm.

“I pursued this workshop opportunity because I am a strong believer in arts integration, and know that our children learn all subject areas better when music is involved,” Joyce said. “I have worked with Pam Temple and Spencer Funk before, and admire their dedication to these same values. Their ability to take social studies information, math and science facts, literature or whatever a teacher wants to highlight, and set it to a memorable tune makes the information ‘stick’ in a way that no other method can. The skills the students learn from Wild Carrot are ones that they can carry forward for years, becoming song writers themselves. And it is fun.”

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