A soft melody exudes from Room 24, along with a quiet hum of high-pitched voices. As one steps inside, the voices become significantly louder, as giggly Lower School students sing along to an upbeat tune.
“Good morning!” calls out Lower School Music teacher Eddie Wiernik in a melodious voice. The students are chatty and bubbling with energy, wiggling in their spots on the rainbow colored carpet. Mr. Wiernik holds up a program for their upcoming Holiday Concert, eliciting gasps and ‘oohs’ from the students. “This has all of the music for the whole show!” he says, explaining that they will begin their musical morning by practicing some songs for the performance.
He begins to play a cheery sound on the piano, with a pulsing tempo, signaling the students to stand. “Plant your feet!” He instructs. The melody transforms into a song and the students begin to belt it out proudly.
“At 3 o’clock rehearsal we came to sing and play…” Lifting their hands over their heads, they begin to lower one arm out to their side, acting as the hand of a clock. “So all of us can bring you a happy holiday!”
They sing through the song, ending on a strong chorus of “Fa la la la!” Mr. Wiernik steps in front of the piano and opens his mouth into a long oval shape. “Remember to shape your mouth in the correct way,” he says, pointing to his own and explaining that this must be done for the note to be sung correctly with the right amount of breath. The tune begins again and the volume picks up as the small but mighty voices carry throughout the room.
A set of different chords on the piano signals the students to sit down. “When you’re singing, you have a fabulous sound, it’s so exciting!” Mr. Wiernik says. “But it’s time to think about when you’re not singing.” He clarifies that when you’re on a stage, someone is always looking at you so you need to stay in performance mode. He shows the students a series of facial expressions and gestures (such as picking at your fingers or crossing your arms) and asks what that may look like to an audience. Students call out thoughtful answers, “You look bored!” “It’s rude,” and “It looks like you don’t want to be here.” Nodding, Mr. Wiernik gives them a special word to remember while on stage: Shine.
“It’s music, we have fun!” He says, showing off a big smile, “Let me see your shine, we’ll practice for one minute.” Students sit up straight, beaming bright smiles back at their teacher. “Wow!” Clearly impressed, Mr. Wiernik returns to his spot behind the piano.
“Repeat after me,” he says, rolling the R on the word ‘repeat.’ “With these hands, a picture I can paint, I see it right here in my mind.” The students excitedly sing the words of the new song back. “It will be one of a kind and when I’m through, you will see it too!”
Mr. Wiernik shouts out complimentary feedback over the lively chorus as they run through the verses a few times. The young musicians demonstrate their quick learning as they sing the brand new number almost perfectly. They joyfully dance and sing from their spot on the carpet, incorporating vibrant hand movements.
Class continues with students practicing a few more bouncy upbeat pieces, including one in Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, a Romance language originating from Old Spanish. Additionally, they recite a poem titled “A Snowman’s Resolution,” that will be performed by a lucky Lower School student at the Holiday Concert.
As the class winds down to its final few minutes, the group stands and gathers in a circle around the room to start a fun game. Mr. Wiernik pulls out a fuzzy green and gold ball for the students to pass to each other while they sing a short jingle. The game is simple, when the tune ends with the words “out goes you,” whoever is holding the ball must sit down. The students waste no time, singing eagerly yet keeping an eye on the ball as it drifts around the circle. When Mr. Wiernik gets out, they double over in laughter. Soon, the thrilling game comes to end and the winner is met with loud cheers and big hugs.
As the music dies down and the laughter dwindles, the spirited students begin to take their places in line and head out to their next adventure.