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Wanted: Kids to supply sweet sound of song

Children's Community Choir



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Dallas Community Schools instructor Mary Barnett-West runs through a holiday piece with Children's Choir members at practice on Monday.

By ERIN ZYSETT

The Itemizer-Observer

POLK COUNTY -- The Dallas Community Schools Program has organized a children's choir, and it is looking for new members.

A community school is a program that runs various after-school enrichment classes aimed at supplementing the public education system.

Dallas has had such a program for two years. It is being run out of Whitworth Elementary by Linda Pauls, but the classes are open to any interested student in the area.

The choir is directed by Mary Barnett-West. Barnett-West grew up in Dallas and her parents both taught music at Lyle Elementary.

She has a music degree, but hasn't gone back for her teaching masters yet. She said that she has always wanted to teach music, but has two young children now, so graduate school will have to wait.

In the meantime, she spends part of her day as a health assistant in the Salem-Keizer School District, and a few times a week she gets to teach kids how to sing.

"There is no grade school choir anymore," Barnett-West said.

"The music programs have been cut at that level, so when kids get in to junior high and high school, they don't know about performing in front of an audience and they don't have the basics of music."

The Community Schools program was designed to fill a gap like this. The classes are all taught by volunteers from the community who have specific skills. In Barnett-West's case, she has a music degree, but no teaching certificate.

She wouldn't be able to teach in a school, even though she has the talent and know-how to teach music.

She could be giving private music lessons at $20 or more a pop, but instead she is choosing to donate her time.

There is a monthly tuition for any community schools class, in this case $20, but waivers and scholarships are available for people who don't have the money.

In her November "choir newsletter," Barnett-West urged parents to never let the fee prevent a student from participating. She wants kids to turn out for the choir.

Right now she has about half the number of participants she'd like to have going into the Christmas concert season.

She said her current choir hasn't started learning Christmas music yet, so now is still a perfect time for kids to join.

A preliminary concert is scheduled for is 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. today (Wednesday, Nov. 9), at the Dallas Nursing Home.

The children's choir meets after school twice a week at 3 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, in the Oakdale Elementary School music room.

For more information: Linda Pauls at 503-623-8351.



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