CARROLLWOOD – You don’t see a lot of elementary school students get excited about playing African folk music on instruments they know nothing about.
It’s also hard to find a lot of kids who play bluegrass fiddle. For example, there are no fiddle players in teen sensation One Direction.
Things are different at Muller Elementary Magnet School. The music program, which attracts kids from all over Hillsborough County, is very popular and they are excited to perform at the Magnet Mania event the school is hosting on Feb. 6.
They won’t be playing things you might hear on MTV or any major radio stations, but the children at Muller are getting a chance to experience cultures that are new to them.
The Gator Groove class, for example, takes the listener to Africa. Students travel via a mix of singing, barred instruments, drums and shakers. If you close your eyes, you might even be listening to the soundtrack at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.
The students embraced the new-to-them music even though they are still learning.
“Sometimes we sing without using words,” third-grader Isabel Hernandez said. “It’s music from Africa. I’ve never heard it on the radio or TV before.”
Some of the kids in the Gator Groove call their instruments a glock, others call it a soprano. Both instruments sound alike, said second-grader Jessenia Monsalvo.
“They sound alike, but there’s a difference,” she said. “We’ve been practicing and we aren’t nervous about playing in front of our parents.”
The Muller music program also includes strings, including fiddle classes, and they will perform bluegrass music at Magnet Mania. On their own, the kids might listen to hip hop, but they’re having a great time learning the fiddle.
“We all started in kindergarten,” said third-grader Damien Henderson. “When we first started, we were using cardboard boxes and rulers and we’ve gotten better. I would like to be a musician when I get older.”
It isn’t as easy to learn the fiddle at such a young age. Damien said the fingering and holding the fiddle the right way is a difficult task, but when more than 200 people are expected to show up for Magnet Mania, he said he’s ready for anything. And perhaps he should be – since starting at the school he’s learned how to play the recorder, guitar, drums and the violin.
Third-grader Ashley Cox wants to continue learning more about the violin, but also wants to be a singer. Second-grader Gabriel Wilson said he simply wants to learn more about other cultures.
Muller offers programs in dance and violin, and has also recently built an all-natural playground. Tours are available.