Friday, October 19, 2012
Dixie students give harps a try, learn about history, math, science through instrument
By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
Students at Dixie Magnet Elementary explored the harp from a variety of perspectives as they plucked strings along with artist-in-residence Holly Pratt.
Pratt, who is based in Cincinnati, spent two days with third, fourth- and fifth-graders, sharing her love of the instrument, music in general and all things “400 years old.” She also delighted them by playing themes from “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” on her 70-pound, full-size harp. Whether focusing on rhythm, pitch, melody or dynamics, Pratt held the children’s attention through a brief assembly and a class workshop.
Dixie students used 30 mini harps that the visiting artist brought along for her workshops. (Photo from FCPS)
“It’s all about music, and they already know about music. It’s just transferring it to harp,” she said, praising the students’ foundation and Dixie’s support of the arts. “You never know what they’ll discover or remember,” she added. “I want them to have the sheer pleasure of having made music. For some, it’s a great expansion of their world.”
During Pratt’s demonstrations, she sprinkled in tidbits from history, math and particularly science as she explained the parts of the harp and how the instrument works.
“It’s a quick romp through the science of sound,” she said.
For instance, she told of how the strings’ vibrations are measured in frequencies and talked about cycles of air pressure changes in the range of low to high notes. Math skills came into play with the doubling of cycles-per-second in the progression from long to short strings, and the children quickly recognized the eight-string pattern of an octave. They also learned how the harp’s resonator amplifies the sounds reaching their ears.
Pratt, who first picked up the harp at age 3, taught the kids an Italian musical term: glissando, which means to glide over the strings, and at each session’s close, she showed them how to say “I played harp” in sign language.
Pratt was impressed by the students’ solid answers as well as the depth of their questions, especially when one girl asked if she had ever played with the Lexington Philharmonic; it demonstrated they are well-versed in core subjects and are familiar with the arts in their community.
“What a phenomenal program to make connections to science and the vocabulary they use and to bring music to life,” said music teacher Crystal Peters, who was pleased with Pratt’s broad-based approach for her students. “Especially with strings, it gives them instant success that boosts their confidence.”
Pratt agreed, saying every child can make music.
“They should know themselves as creators of art,” she said. “It feeds your brain and your soul.”