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A Richey Elementary teacher connects a recent symmetrical calendar date with Beethoven.
Published Sep. 16, 2009

Call it a teachable day. At least that's what music teacher Marilee Hall was thinking when she glanced at the calendar and realized that Sept. 9 - 09/09/09 - would roll around right about the time she planned to delve into Beethoven.

What better way to commemorate the day, she thought, than with a taste of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony- particularly the fourth choral movement, Ode to Joy. Put the date and the music together and maybe it would stick with her students for a while and become a pleasant memory of how they spent the ninth of September, 2009.

"I like numbers - oddball things like that," said Hall, who is in her 45th year of teaching elementary music, spending her career in New York and Florida, the past 10 years at Richey Elementary. "We do a lot of things in class that have to do with the math/music connection. And I think they'll probably remember it with the nine-nine-ninetie-in."

Ode to Joy is part of the Hall's first semester lesson plan for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, who by winter break will hopefully master playing a portion of the piece on plastic recorders that will be handed out this week.

"That's their goal," said Hall. "They think that's really cool."

Of course it will entail some practicing, both at home and in Hall's portable classroom that sits on the outskirts of the Richey campus.

But first, an introduction to Beethoven: Not the St. Bernard dog of family movie fame, but the grumpy, genius German composer who lived from 1770 to 1827 and managed to write some incredible music even after he went deaf sometime during his mid 30s.

"Was he grumpy his whole life?" Mykenzie Robertson, 9, wanted to know, and "How many symphonies did he write?"

"Well, I'm not sure," answered Hall to the first question, and to the second: "Nine. He wrote a ton of music - some very wonderful music. But he did something nobody had ever done in a symphony. Beethoven decided he would have singers."

So students also learned the name Friedrich Schiller, who wrote the poem that was set to music and how Beethoven used vibration and memory to write his Ninth Symphony.

The students listened to a portion of Ode to Joy sung in Schiller's native German. Then to everyone's delight, Hall brought out the choir chimes so that every student could take a turn at playing various chords of the piece while Hall directed and everyone sang, "Come and sing a joyful chorus..."