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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Music Comes to Howard R. Driggs Elementary

Sep 10, 2015 05:46PM ● By Bryan Scott

Jessica Smith

By Lauren Casper

Students at Howard R. Driggs Elementary School will be adding music to their school days this year. Music teacher Jessica Smith will be joining the faculty through funding provided by the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP).

The BTSALP is an initiative started in 1995 by Beverley Taylor Sorenson as a way to integrate the arts in Utah schools. Since 2008, the Utah State Legislature has been providing funding for the program. The BTSALP uses a side-by-side teaching model that allows arts teachers to collaborate with classroom teachers to create arts-based lessons in core subjects.

Principals can apply for a grant that provides 80 percent of the music teacher’s salary. The school is then responsible for the remaining 20 percent. Last year, Smith taught music part-time at Plymouth Elementary School through the BTSALP. This year she will be splitting her time between Plymouth and Driggs, each school covering 10 percent of her salary. 

In the Granite School District, there are only two music teachers working through the BTSALP. The district has other arts specialists in music, drama and art who are required to have a teaching certificate, but not necessarily be educated in the art that they are teaching. 

Teachers working through the BTSALP are required to be certified teachers educated in the art form that they are teaching. Smith has a music education degree from Arizona State University, where she studied voice and violin. At ASU, Smith studied both the Orff Schulwerk and the Kodály methods for teaching music to children.

Participating in the BTSALP requires a school-wide commitment. The principal applies for and then annually renews the grant, in addition to covering their portion of the teacher’s salary. Teachers communicate with the arts teacher about the things they are learning in the classroom on a regular basis. The arts teacher then uses those things as they plan their lesson plans. 

Teachers are required to attend the arts class with their students and be an active participant. Parents can also be involved in the program by attending the program’s required “informances,” informal performances. Smith is required to provide the students with an opportunity to perform what they have learned, either through assemblies or performances in the evening. The Driggs community is ready to take on the commitment.

Smith enjoys the side-by-side collaboration with classroom teachers, and also includes lessons related to the state music standards in her teaching as well.

 “We do a lot of singing. We also work on rhythm, movement, reading music and composition as well,” Smith said. 

Though Driggs does not yet have a set of instruments for the students to use, they will be holding a fundraiser in September to gather the funds to purchase the necessary instruments. Smith feels that the arts, music especially, are an important part of education. 

“The great thing about music is that it’s fun. It’s another way to present the information to the kids. I’ve always learned through music. Music uses parts of the brain that normally aren’t used, so when students learn music it helps them in other areas as well,” Smith said.

For the entire Howard R. Driggs community, Smith’s arrival is a welcome one. Students will be enjoying the power of music as they learn their core standards.