KINGS VALLEY — When Joaquin Dollar enters the fourth- and fifth-grade classroom at Kings Valley Charter School, he needs no introduction.
“Yay! Music!” several of the students say somewhat simultaneously as he walks through the door.
“Mr. J,” as they call him, will sing fun songs with the students, but also hopes to give them a foundation of musical concepts.
Last week, his 30-minute session with the class included singing “Jingle Bells,” followed by learning about the quarter note and meter.
“I just think, especially with young kids, the most important thing is instilling in them learning and enjoying music,” Dollar said. “We are just trying to have fun and sneak in music learning.”
Dollar is the first dedicated music teacher the school has had in two years. He began teaching at the school Nov. 1, through a partnership between Portland-based music education nonprofit Ethos and AmeriCorps, which provides grant funding for the program.
Dollar travels to each KVCS elementary school class for music sessions with students, helps out in a guitar-rock band class already established by math teacher Scott Castle, and has a few students in an introductory music theory class. He hopes to be able to offer private lessons to students interested in learning to play an instrument.
Mark Hazelton, KVCS director, said putting music back in the schedule adds a little more joy and fun to the day for students. He said not every student is going to connect with music, but for those who do, having Dollar on staff will allow them to dive a little deeper.
“We want to enable that,” Hazelton said. “It’s definitely a positive thing.”
Hazelton said the performances that come with a music program are yet another benefit of having a music teacher on staff.
“Kids performing, whether they like it or not … I think that is really good as a life skill,” Hazelton said.
Understanding the importance of preparation and practice that comes with getting ready for a performance will translate to other parts of a student’s life, he added.
“That is a good thing to learn when you are young,” Hazelton said.
He had a late start this year, but Dollar seems to be making an impression on students, with some even making suggestions about how classes should spend their music time.
One student in the fourth/fifth-grade class asked when he would teach them to play an instrument and another boy volunteered to bring instruments to class.
Dollar smiles at their enthusiasm, but plans to take things one step at a time. He will eventually incorporate playing recorders into music lessons, but for now the sessions are focused on the basics.
“We are starting at the very bottom,” he said.
Hazelton said the program in the elementary school might be starting from scratch, but it’s already making a valuable contribution: “When you walk down the halls, it’s good to hear singing,” Hazelton said. “That should be part of schools, kids singing.”