Igniting a Love for Music

Katherine Idleman ’18 has had a passion for music since 5th grade, her first year as a student in Dain Shuler’s band class. “The first time I picked up a trumpet was in this building,” she said. “Since then, music has been a big part of my life.”

Recently, Idleman was able to share her passion with elementary school students at Albert E. Kagel School in Milwaukee, a bilingual school where nearly all students come from low-income households. As part of her English IV: Literature and Leadership course, she was assigned to work on a project that positively influenced the USM (or larger) community. “I knew I wanted my project to involve music education, but I didn’t know where or how to start. After some searches, I found Kagel School, which had an online fundraiser for a music education program.”

Idleman contacted Maria Ramirez-Acevedo, a teacher at Kagel School who started the fundraiser, to see how she could help. “Initially, we were trying to raise money for a strings program at the school,” said Ramirez-Acevedo, “but Katherine suggested we try recorders instead, because they are easy to learn, cost effective, and more durable than violins. We thought it was a great idea.” Idleman was able to raise enough money to purchase 25 recorders for a 5th-grade classroom at the school, and she went to the school to teach the students how to play them. “Recorders sometimes have a stigma of being annoying,” said Idleman, “but they’ve been around for a long time and used in a lot of music. [Johann Sebastian] Bach used recorders in his writing.” Idleman played clips from each century so the students could hear how the recorder was used, and also brought her trumpet to play for the students.

The program was such a success that Ramirez-Acevedo expanded it by raising more funds to purchase an additional 125 recorders for students in 3rd through 5th grades. She invited Idleman back to teach those students, too. “The recorder project was something new for us, and it appeared out of the clear blue,” said Ramirez-Acevedo. “We weren’t expecting anybody to want to help us, much less a high school student. But the students love Katherine; she is someone they can connect with. The kids are anxiously awaiting for her to come back again.”

As for Idleman, who will be attending Bucknell University in the fall for music education, the feeling is mutual. “Teaching music is something I see myself doing every day,” she said. “This project was like a dream come true.”

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