Celebrating and Honoring Veterans through Music

For the second year, Veterans Day was a musical event at Orem Elementary School in Orem, Utah. Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program (BTSALP) educator Cheri Hancock has been working for several weeks with all of the students in the school to prepare for this celebration.

During the weeks leading up to the special day, Hancock integrated social studies, literature, history, and science into her music class. Weaving music into the study of other content areas allows the students to understand what they are learning more deeply and have emotional experiences, especially when learning about historical events about the country where they live.

“We took time to study and enjoy the book This Land is Your Land, illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen with words and music by Woody Guthrie,” said Hancock. “We had discussions, listened to recordings of music, looked at pictures, used a map, and read from a book. I made flashcards of words that they might not know, and we talked about the definitions.”

While participating in the many learning opportunities, the students not only learned songs and performance skills, but they also discovered that they can express meaning through musical works and relate music to societal, cultural, and historical contexts.

Before the musical performances on Veterans Day, the student body was able to watch a flag raising ceremony, headed up by Utah Valley University’s ROTC. Then students in kindergarten through sixth grade performed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Students of different ages performed different pieces that they had learned as well. Younger students sang “Wave the Flag” and “This Land is Your Land.” Older students sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and the “Armed Forces Medley” after meeting local veterans.

In addition to the student body performing, Orem Elementary’s children’s choir performed pieces that they have been practicing before and after school: “Veterans’ March” and “One Voice.” Led by Hancock, the children’s choir comprises 30 students in fourth through sixth grades. The choir is an extracurricular activity open to all interested students.

“I believe children need to learn patriotic songs and the history of our nation. Teachers need to instill a love for our country in our students by participating in Veterans Day programs,” Hancock said.

Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first grade teacher in Alpine School District, and a writer for The Daily Herald newspaper. She is an Arts Leadership Academy graduate and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at LauraCGiles@gmail.com.

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