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Armed with mallets, they make music

Gabe Abadia, 9, plays Jingle Bells during a practice session with the Orff Ensemble at Cypress Elementary. The group is preparing for its winter concert.

MICHELE MILLER | Times

Gabe Abadia, 9, plays Jingle Bells during a practice session with the Orff Ensemble at Cypress Elementary. The group is preparing for its winter concert.

NEW PORT RICHEY

It seemed a little weird to Gabe Abadia to be plugging his way through Jingle Bells in mid September — five full days before the official start of fall. But there's the winter concert to think about. Two practices down, eight to go. Up till now, Gabe, 9, never played a musical instrument. One day he'd like to play guitar or maybe the drums in the middle school band. Right now he's learning his way around the metalophone as one of 30 students playing percussion instruments in the Orff Ensemble at Cypress Elementary School. "It's not that easy," he said. "But it's fun."

The kids in the Orff Ensemble arrive early on Wednesday mornings; about an hour or so before the rest of the kids.

Their instructor, music teacher Nicole Fisher, was only supposed to take 16 fourth- and fifth-grade students into the exclusive group. But the response was remarkable. Her budget? Not so remarkable.

So she scrounged around for instruments and mallets and even took the ones in need of repair.

Now, thanks to schools like Seven Springs Middle, she has enough metalophones, xylophones and glockenspiels for 30 kids to play.

They all were chosen on a first-come basis. Those who got their paperwork back early got in. Simple as that.

"No auditions," she said. "Just a real desire to play."

Still, there's a waiting list.

Just like in chorus. Fisher was supposed to take 60 for that program. She let 100 in.

"I hate to turn anyone away," she said.

Especially when it comes to music.

After all, it was in a sixth-grade band program that she started playing the flute.

"Now look where I am," she said with a smile.

Back to where it all starts for so many future music lovers. They get a little taste in her classroom early on playing the sand blocks, hand drums, rhythm sticks and finally the Orff instruments.

"They'll learn how to read music. They'll learn mathematical skills," Fisher said. "They'll learn the history behind The Star Spangled Banner."

They'll learn how to sing the Drinking Gourd Song. They'll learn how it's part of American history; the Underground Railroad and the Big Dipper and how slaves found their way to freedom by following the North Star.

"Music is really cross-curricular," Fisher said. "They'll learn geography, literature, history — bunches of stuff."

And for an exclusive group of fourth- and fifth-graders, they'll learn how to play Jingle Bells even though it might be 90 degrees outside and winter is months away.

Two practices down; eight to go.

Fast facts

The Orff instruments and the Orff program, named for German composer Carl Orff, are a mainstay in the music programs at some elementary schools in Pasco County. Orff, who died in 1982, co-founded the Guenther School for gymnastics, music and dance in Munich, Germany, and developed a simple way of teaching music to youngsters using percussion instruments.

The Orff Program at Cypress Elementary is in need of donations of mallets, instruments and funds to repair instruments. To help, call Nicole Fisher at (727) 774-4500.

Armed with mallets, they make music 09/23/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 10:20pm]
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