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La Follette choir members perform musical story time to inspire youngsters to read, sing

Pamela Contant | Wisconsin State Journal

La Follette High School choir members put on a music show for a kindergarten class, hoping to inspire those just beginning their education.

Then the show, presented on the Henderson Elementary School playground, drew a wider audience as other students started to gather when they came outside for recess.

One of the La Follette choir members, junior Zym Jackson, remembers what it was like to look up to older students.

“There’s something magical about it,” Jackson said. “’You’re so cool (Jackson remembers thinking), I want to do this when I get older.’”

The choir’s community show — a musical story time — was a chance to inspire students to read and perhaps join a choir when they get older. It featured the school’s chorale and concert choirs, with Courtney Lindl, La Follette choir teacher, reading books and singing songs that went with the themes. The high school students interacted with the younger ones by asking some questions and blowing bubbles. At one point, one of the kindergartners shot back, “We’re friends now!”

“It is an amazing experience for our young learners to see their potential,” said Paddy Greeley, assistant principal at Henderson. “They get to see older examples of where they might be when they head to high school.”

Henderson, which is near La Follette, is a feeder school and one of the choir members, senior Julia Wendt, attended the elementary school and reached out to set up the concert. Wendt, who serves as an assistant director, also conducted during the story time.

“It’s really cool to think you might be inspiring students,” Wendt said.

Last year La Follette created an online choir concert for the community, and teachers and parents joined in the singing.

Then this year, the choirs decided to perform the musical story time and worked with Henderson music teacher Rachel Linsmeier Hart. It was originally planned for Henderson’s kindergarten and first-graders, but it was postponed twice and by the time it was rescheduled, only the one class was available. Lindl said she asked the choir students if they still wanted to proceed and they overwhelmingly voted “yes.” Students interviewed said the experience gave them a lesson about perseverance.

Lindl and her 8-year-old daughter, Colette, picked out the books. The first book was “Piggy” by Trevor Lai, which is about making friends, and the second was “Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall, which is about taking risks. The last book was “Sing.” Children’s book illustrator Tom Lichtenheld created the visual story for the 1971 song written by Raposo.

Created as the signature song for “Sesame Street,” it celebrates perseverance, self-expression and the power of music to help find one’s voice.

“Sing” has a lot of meaning for the choir because it was a closing song to recognize singers at our spring concert, Lindl said.

The songs included favorites such as “All You Need Is Love,” written by John Lennon for The Beatles, and “Seasons of Love,” from the Broadway musical “Rent,” written and composed by Jonathan Larson.

The choir board decided on the story time after Lindl talked to them about putting on a community event, and the students discussed different ideas she and the choir members pitched.

“It is a fun way to have stories being read to you in a different, unique way to hopefully inspire students,” Lindl said. “I am a strong believer that if you get the mic, you should use it for good.”

The board, which is made up of students in different choirs at La Follette, helps guide class decisions such as what music is performed, what shows are done and what social events are organized. The board also does marketing through a position created for that.

The concept was initiated at La Follette by Lindl, who is in her second year at La Follette. She said a choir board was something done at the University of San Francisco, where she had served as a guest professor. Lindl wanted to try it with high schoolers because one of the changing educational standards — the learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level — include more student voice, Lindl said.

Lindl said the choir board is “fantastic.”

“I like it a lot,” Jackson said about the choir board. “(Lindl) wants us to be more involved.”

Senior Ian Harried, who plans to sing in a choir when he attends UW-Whitewater, said the students chose three out of the four songs for the spring concert.

One of the initiatives by the choir board was to bring back the Singing Valentines tradition, which was no longer happening when Lindl came to La Follette. Wendt took the lead, and Harried wound up assisting with the organization of it.

“Ms. Lindl really listens to us,” said Wendt, who plans to study music education at Luther College.

This content was originally published by the Wisconsin State Journal on June 6, 2022. To view the full story on their website, please click here.

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