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March 15, 2003

Kids learn music via good vibrations

From: Salem Statesman Journal, OR - 15 Mar 2003

A percussionist plays for hearing impaired students.

Statesman Journal
March 15, 2003

Fourth-grader Cosette Hardman smiled and swayed to the rhythm of steel drums being played on the stage in front of her.

She seemed like any Salem Heights Elementary School student enjoying a performance from visiting musicians, as she patted her legs to the beat.

But Cosette's experience with the drums on Friday was not through sounds she heard, but vibrations she felt.

She is one of about 50 students at Salem Heights who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Elementary students from the Salem-Keizer area and surrounding school districts who need sign language interpreters are bused to the school, where they are mainstreamed into regular classes.

As a way to reach out to these students through the universal language of music, the school received a grant to allow a professional percussionist to visit this week and teach classes.

"To me, language is music," said Marcia Zegar, the speech and language pathologist at Salem Heights who applied for the grant. "Some of the deaf students can't do the regular music curriculum, but they can still enjoy music."

Zegar was already teaching music to hard-of-hearing students. The students hold balloons so they can feel the vibrations of music. They also are taught to perceive sound visually ? by watching the instruments.

Zegar wanted to share these lessons with all the students, deaf or not. That's where the percussionist, Brad Hirsch, came in.

Hirsch, a teacher at Western Oregon University, visited three days this week leading Salem Heights classes about feeling and seeing sound. His lessons culminated Friday with a schoolwide performance with some of his university students.

The musicians tapped cow bells, shook tambourines and pounded African hand drums.

The hard-of-hearing students often patted their legs or tapped their feet ? they called it body rhythm ? as their way of feeling the music. Sometimes they even put their hands to the ground to feel the vibrations better.

Fifth-grader Alexis Reyna, who is hard-of-hearing, said the week's lessons strengthened her love of music.

"I learned that anybody can play music wherever they want to," she said.

Copyright 2003 Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon