Sarah Harrison has the best job in the world.
At least, that's how Harrison sees her role as a music teacher and choir director at Cherry Creek High School. Harrison, who grew up in Idaho and attended college in Minnesota, gets animated when she talks about her job teaching budding musicians and singers at the high school level. It's a discipline that goes beyond notes and rhythms, Harrison insists.
"We teach the whole body through music. We teach the whole person through music. We teach teamwork, we teach empathy, we teach confidence," Harrison said. "We stretch the brain in different ways."
Harrison is just one of hundreds of dedicated music teachers in the Cherry Creek School District who bring out the best of the discipline for students of all ages, backgrounds and grade levels. For these teachers, the designation of March as "Music In Our Schools Month" is an important recognition. The month-long celebration hints at the lifelong benefits students can glean from learning music at a young age.
"I think music in the schools and the appreciation and awareness of it is necessary. I'm so appreciative that it's occurring," Harrison said. "So often, I think the arts are overlooked for what they do to the whole person."
"We teach the whole body through music. We teach the whole person through music. We teach teamwork, we teach empathy, we teach confidence ... We stretch the brain in different ways."
-- Sarah Harrison, choir director and music teacher at Cherry Creek High School
Those benefits aren't being overlooked at the Cherry Creek School District. Earlier this month, the district's Board of Education formally recognized March as "Music in Our Schools Month" in an official proclamation. Harrison and her colleagues in music departments across Cherry Creek offer their students opportunities to perform throughout the year, from spots in the orchestra for high-school stage productions to vocal performances by elementary school choirs.
Those opportunities offer important lessons about discipline, teamwork and the simple appreciation of beauty.
"Music is so important to our curriculum, because it teaches kids how to be better people," said Clare Ingolia, choir teacher at Laredo Middle School in Aurora. "You teach math through music, you teach science and vocal health. We teach about note reading, time signatures and different languages. It's physical education when they're learning how to stand and fine tune their vocal muscles to create the right pitches. Really, it's character education."
The Cherry Creek community isn't alone in recognizing the district's commitment to musical excellence. The district's large population of young musicians travel across the country and the globe to perform at musical conferences and high-profile concerts. For example, the Grandview Chamber Orchestra is set to perform for the American String Teachers Association in Salt Lake City later this month. Music teachers from Cherry Creek have received awards from prestigious organizations. Last year, Cherry Creek High School was one of 12 schools nationwide to earn the designation of GRAMMY Signature School by the GRAMMY Foundation for its commitment to musical quality at all levels.
Such achievements speak to a common culture of musical excellence, one that exists at all levels and at all buildings.
"The outpouring of support from our administrators, it's unparalleled, the way they support the kids and what they love to do," Harrison said. "I know that other choir teachers look to Cherry Creek as a model."
Celebrate "Music in Our Schools Month" in March and beyond with performances across the district. Check individual schools for orchestra, choir, jazz band and other ensemble schedules.
- 7 p.m., March 26, Bethany Lutheran Church – Grandview High School Masterworks Concert featuring choirs, orchestras and a band performing Rutter's "Requiem."
- 6 p.m., March 26, High Plains Elementary School gym – High Plains first-graders will perform Camille Saint-Saens' orchestral masterpiece "Carnival of the Animals." The show will feature costumes, dialogue and lyrical interpretations of the music.
- 6 p.m., April 20, Challenge School – The Challenge School presents a live performance of the classic education program "Schoolhouse Rock."