Philadelphia Elementary School music teacher Phillip Pope teaches his 2nd grade class the proper method for making music with sticks. PES has recently expanded its music program to 45 minutes once a week and Pope said that students are really responding to the new program. Pope said part of the reason for the expansion of the program is to get students interested in pursuing band.
Philadelphia Elementary School music teacher Phillip Pope teaches his 2nd grade class the proper method for making music with sticks. PES has recently expanded its music program to 45 minutes once a week and Pope said that students are really responding to the new program. Pope said part of the reason for the expansion of the program is to get students interested in pursuing band.

Philadelphia Elementary school has expanded its music program this year with the hopes of generating interest in the arts and improving overall student academic performance.

PES Principal Travis Creel said the move is part of the Whole Schools Initiative, a program of the Mississippi Arts Commission that’s a back-to-basics concept to include more art instruction in state schools.

PES music teacher Phillip Pope, who formerly served at Philadelphia High School as the school's band director, said that the district recently made a commitment to double the time students receive instruction in music. One of the reasons the district expanded the program is because Pope said it was difficult to recruit students into the band.

“By the time they got to 5th and 6th grade they really didn’t have an interest in music because they hadn’t been exposed to it enough,” Pope said.

Previously art and music teacher Tanya Kilpatrick had been handling both duties by herself, but with the addition of Pope to the staff, the district now has another teacher who can focus on classroom music instruction.



“The program kind of started off slow, it has been part-time for years,” Pope said. “Mrs. Kilpatrick did a great job, but she was only one person, she was having to split time between art and music. Now we have doubled the instruction to 45 minutes one day a week in music and we have also expanded the art program as well. Now we have two programs where we had one before.”

The program is age specific but includes similar modes of instruction at each grade level.

“For the first few weeks the overall curriculum is the same for every class,” Pope said. “The students learn at different levels. After Christmas the 4th graders will be able to step in and actually play in the band, the younger students, of course, will not be that far along yet.”

Pope on Thursday had his 2nd-grade students learning about a variety of instruments. During the 45-minute session students played wooden sticks, tambourines and their own version of maracas to the Beatles “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and Katrina and the Waves “Walking on Sunshine.”

Students appeared to be having fun during the class, a reporter observed. At one point, Pope had the students walk around the room playing their sticks and maracas in a sort of drum line.

“The kids are really excited about music and art,” Pope said. “Often when students are asked what their favorite class is they say music or art. I think it is because these classes, like P.E. allow kids to run around and do things. They aren’t just sitting in a classroom.”

Pope said that the classes are not just about kids having fun.

“There are all sorts of studies out there that show the importance of music to learning in general,” Pope said. “For instance, there are studies that show test score improvement being directly related to arts education.”

Pope said music training also gives students another opportunity when it comes to obtaining college scholarships. He noted that there are a number of scholarship opportunities available for band members. He noted that in 24 years in music and band he has only had one student who was not able to get some form of scholarship from band or music related activity.

Creel said he was excited about the opportunity the expanded music program provides.

“We are so happy with the program,” he said. “We are trying to incorporate more things, including dance into our programs. We even want to incorporate artistic elements in our regular classes.”

Creel said the theme this year at Philadelphia Elementary is “Dream it, believe it, achieve it,” and he feels that expanding the arts program at the school is one way to ensure that the school meets its model.

“Our job here is to help students make their dreams come true,” Creel said. “We have a great team behind us here at PES and I think we are going to be able to achieve our goals this year and each year going forward.”

Creel said part of the goal would be to eventually extend the school’s artistic offerings into theatre and dance.

One of the programs the two men have in mind is a live version of Schoolhouse Rock Jr. to be performed by the 5th and 6th-grade classes at PES. Creel said he wants to see the school produce more programs and performances to give the students an opportunity to showcase their talents.