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Music made simple

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Groups of children run squealing into the Brewton Elementary School gym on a rainy Tuesday afternoon and promptly sit cross-legged at the sound of a whistle. Mr. Anthony Turk, the music teacher at the school, asks the students for correct posture. One by one, three children walk over to a musical instrument while the others form circles of three and hold hands.
Almost immediately, student Haley Baggett hits the chords on a xylophone with her mallet, which begins the ensemble group called the Brewton Elementary School Orff Ensemble, an after school program.
Orff, named for Carl Orff, a music teacher and composer who lived in Germany, is a method of teaching children music through singing, playing any type of instrument on hand and body movement.
Two groups of about 15 to 20 children in first through fourth grades meet twice a week, with one group rehearsing on one day and the other group on the other day. On this particular day, both groups were performing together in one of the last practices before their first big performance on Thursday.
Turk and the children have been practicing hard since September and have come a long way. This is the first year BES has incorporated an ensemble group for children including first and second graders.
Surprisingly, only a few of the students who perform in the ensemble group came from choir, Turk said. Based on his experience with choir, Turk said he wasn't surprised at the large turnout of children interested in joining.
A majority of the children, Turk said, are new to music, while others have some piano and vocal backgrounds. Tiana Stallworth, 8, said she joined because she though it would be a lot of fun. So far, her favorite part of the class is playing on the instruments.
The idea of the ensemble is not supposed to be complicated, but be as simple as possible and have the children get used to movement, Turk said. By incorporating music and movement, children use the less used portion of their brain and balances out the equilibrium.
Turk teaches everything by rote. What that means is he will play a note on a xylophone, for instance, and the children will mimic him. He teaches them the elements of music – rhythm, melody, form and more. They, in turn, create music.
The Orff method is fairly new to Turk. In fact, he attended a conference sponsored by the American Orff-Schulwerk Association held in Birmingham last week.
The Orff method depends on the area, Mr. Turk said. In school systems where they don't have enough money to purchase instruments, which can get very expensive, Orff doesn't exist. However, things are much different in this town, which is the home to a handful of talented musicians and artists.
On Thursday, the groups will perform twice. Once at 2 p.m. and then following the PTO meeting which ends at 7 p.m. Clothing is black and white attire, but if the children are to perform outside of the school and in the city somewhere, they dress casually wearing marching t-shirts. &#8220Autumn Leaves,” &#8220Take a little time,” &#8220She'll be coming around the mountain,” and &#8220Oh, give thanks,” written by Turk, are the four selected songs the children will perform.