Looks Bright: Jasmine blossoms in music program

Published 12:16 am Saturday, November 21, 2015

LAPLACE — Before receiving a grant in 2013, Emily C. Wakins Elementary school didn’t have much of a music program, but three years later a music class and band have flourished.

Howard Gauley teaches music for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and also band for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. He started at the same time the school received its grant from VH1 Save the Music, which provided the school with new instruments.

“The grant was used to buy instruments to fill out a beginning band program,” Gauley said. “We got eight flutes, 11 clarinets, three saxophones, four trombones and six trumpets. We also got a base drum, snare drum and a bell set. The VH1 grant didn’t just gave us instruments, they really gave the whole school music.”

Gauley truly believes having music programs in schools is vital.

“I would argue that it’s just as important as core curriculum,” he said. “If it’s going to be successful that you have to think of it that way. I think it opens a lot of doors for students like Jasmine (Crushfield) and all of the other students take part in band and in general music. It opens up a lot of doors that were previously closed. Now they have an outlet, a creative outlet. It’s something that keeps you out of trouble, something that keeps you motivated intrinsically and extrinsically.”

The student Gauley speaks of is eighth grader Jasmine Crushfield, who has been in the band since the program started when she was in the sixth grade.

Her musical inspiration is linked to family.

“I look up to my cousin,” Gauley said. “She got accepted into the Southern band, and I wanted to be just like her.”

Under Gauley, students learn different aspects of music.

“With K-fifth, they learn a little bit of music theory,” Gauley said.

“That’s mixed in with some music history and some performance. I still see some of the smaller kids, but Tuesdays and Fridays are primarily band. In band we focus on a lot of things my general music class focuses on and we also work on reading music.”

Crushfield plays the piano and saxophone.

Being able to take her saxophone, dubbed “Jas,” home to practice means a lot.

“(Gauley) wants us to practice at home to get better,” she said. “I like taking it home, even though I aggravate my brother. He doesn’t like me playing in his ear. I love playing at home.”

Crushfield’s favorite part of playing music is getting on stage and sharing what she has been practicing.

“The hardest thing we do is when we’re playing, (Gauley) tells us to tap our feet and I just cant do it,” Crushfield said.

“I’m not used to tapping my feet when I play music. He has us tap our feet to keep up with the beat and play steady.”

Crushfield agrees with Gauley about how important a music program is for students.

“It keeps kids out of trouble,” she said. “When we didn’t have a music program, it made me sad. Music is what I look forward to when I come to school. When I go to band class, I get to be away from all the work that I have to do during the day. I can just sit there and play music. When we got the music program and the new instructor, I was so happy. I was the first one to sign up.”

— By Raquel Derganz Baker