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March 2, 2004 > MFMII Keeps Music in the Heart of America

MFMII Keeps Music in the Heart of America

by Praveena Raman

A chance encounter in the 1980s led an East Bay parent to be trained by the Los Altos organization, Music for Minors. Inspired by the training, Carol Zilli, a teacher at Schilling Elementary School in Newark founded Music for Minors II and began spreading the joy of music at her school.

It all started at Hacienda Elementary School in Niles, Fremont. Carol who was volunteering in her son Mario's class heard one of his classmates share a song that she had learned from a friend in Los Altos. She loved the song, and upon further enquiry, found out that the child's friend had in turn learned it through a docent visiting her class. One thing led to another, and Carol soon found herself being trained as a docent in music through the Los Altos non-profit organization Music for Minors (MFM). MFM had been formed by parents in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in 1970 to provide music education in the schools, a program that had been the victim of budget cuts. The training of the music docents was done by credentialed teachers at Foothill College and was an accredited course.

Once trained, Deana Stock, the Executive Director of Music for Minors at Los Altos encouraged Carol to start another MFM program in the Tri-City area. Armed with the By-Laws from MFM and the promise of help from Deana Stock, Carol set about doing all the ground work to establish Music For Minors II (MFMII).

It took about 3 years from 1987 through 1990 for MFM II to be established as a non-profit organization. During this time Carol recruited more parents among them Kathy Jensen, Sharon Harbeck and Wendy Clark as docents for both Newark and Fremont. Wendy Clark who is still a docent at Hirsch Elementary School reminisces, "We joined before the training program was established and had to go to Los Altos to get trained at Foothill College but it was all worthwhile."

As a first step towards establishing the program, Carol with the help of Deana approached Ohlone College to have the training approved as an accredited course. For this the course and the curriculum needed to be approved by the College. The person most instrumental in getting it approved at Ohlone was Dr.Gary Soren Smith. "He was wonderful..." says Carol, "he believed in us and in the program. He was the key in getting it approved."

With the approval of the training program for docents and seed money supplied by FUSD, Carol, together with help from some of the founding parents started planning for resources and a resource center built to aid the trained docents in teaching the curriculum. With that in mind Carol Zilli applied for a grant to the CandleLighters organization, which raises funds for local non-profit organizations with their Haunted House in the Fremont Hub during Halloween. "The CandleLighters awarded us $6000 for the resources in 1988," says Carol, "I don't know what we would have done without their support. They have been generous and since then have awarded us at least 3 more grants." Together with community volunteers, Winstead Construction in Niles and Hulbert Lumber in Newark the MFM II Resource center was built at Niles Elementary School.

Armed with the grant from CandleLighters, the founders filled the resource center with resource materials for the MFM II program. In 1989 MFM II was awarded their non-profit status and Carol Zilli was named the Executive Director.

The first MFM II training program for docents took place through Ohlone College but not on their campus. The first classes were held at Callison Day Home; 30 people were trained in that 3-month session. After a few years of nomadic existence the training classes for the docents are now held at the Ohlone College Newark campus. The 54-hour accredited training program takes place from September through November each year and is taught by credentialed music instructors. Docents learn effective methods of teaching children music by teaching practice lessons, observing other experienced docents and wide exposure to available music education materials. Docents pay for the three-unit course but receive materials at no cost.

Docent and board member Mamata Deshpande says "The training program helped me because it built up my confidence to teach music in this country even though I had no background in Western music. I enjoy being a docent as the children and the teachers love the program and give me support. I also enjoy working with Carol and the other board members."

Docents training is supported with continuing education workshops given by professional performers like Red Grammer, Charlotte Diamond, David Mandell and Doug Orkin. These workshops are also open to teachers and community members in the Tri-City area. "It was after a Red Grammer workshop for teachers that I was inspired to join the MFM II program" says Susan Schwartz, past MFM II docent and Docent training Coordinator. "I already had taught music at the Yamaha Music School, the Young's Music School and at Co-Stars when I joined MFM II. I loved being in my son's school [Ardenwood Elementary] and teaching music in the classroom. Being in the program gave me a lot of experience." Susan currently teaches third grade at Milani Elementary School in Newark. Like Susan many other docents have gone on to get their California Teaching Credential and become teachers.

It was slightly different in Carol Zilli's case. She was a credentialed High School teacher in Hayward and, after being a docent for MFM II, decided to get her credentials through to teach music. In 1994 Carol Zilli started teaching music at Schilling Elementary School in Newark. As a volunteer she also directs an after school choir and teaches students the basics of set design, script writing and performing in a musical theatre.

MFM II docents teach half hour music lessons to students in the elementary schools. In schools where there are music teachers, docents supplement and aid the credentialed teacher and in schools where there are no music teachers, they help to fill a void. The students besides being exposed to music also get a chance to perform in the annual showcase at the Smith Center at Ohlone College. "The showcase gives children the opportunity to perform on a professional stage. For some this might be the only chance they get to be on stage," says Carol. The showcase has also invited many other community organizations to join in the performance. When Kids on Broadway (now known as Star Struck Musical Theatre) was first formed by Lori Stokes, Carol invited the group to perform a piece in the MFM II showcase giving the fledgling group some exposure.

Lori Stokes had also been one of the early MFM II docents and started the MFM II program at Mission San Jose Elementary School. Besides performing, the students also have a chance to attend concerts by Charlotte Diamond and Red Grammer arranged by MFM II. A very popular workshop that is brought to the schools is 'Peter and the Wolf' by Judy Gregory.

MFM II program has blossomed over the years and can be found in Newark schools as well as Fremont and Castro Valley. For five years from 1991 until 1996 the program also served schools in Milpitas. The program has been in public and private schools. "I love it," says Birgit Andersen, President of MFM II. "It is a great group of people to work with. We always laugh and enjoy ourselves. I love being the President of this organization. We have family oriented concertsand great workshops where the community can also participate. The training for the young kids is also wonderful." Wendy Clark, one of the original docents, agrees. "This program is really valuable because every child can feel good about themselves after they perform and sing in a group. No one is left out."

The docents, board members and the students are getting ready for their 2004 showcase. The showcase will be held on Friday March 19th at the Smith Center at Ohlone College at 7:00 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $5 and are available by calling (510) 733-1189. For more information about the program or for information on how to become a docent visit www.muiscforminors2.org, or email czilli@aol.com or call (510) 733-1189. Information requests can also be faxed to (510) 713-9879 or sent in writing to Music for Minors II, 37141 Second Street, Fremont, CA -94536.

Why Do We Teach Music?

Music is Science,
Music is Mathematical
Music is Foreign Language
Music is History
Music Develops Insight and Demands Research
Music is Physical Education
Music is All These Things - but most of all, Music is ART.

THIS IS WHY WE TEACH MUSIC!

Not because we expect you to major in music...
Not because we expect you to play or sing music all your life...
Mot only so you can relax or just have fun...
BUT ...so you will be human.
...So you will recognize beauty.
...So you will be sensitive.
...So you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world.
...So you will have something to retain for enrichment.
...So you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness
...In short more LIFE!
Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live?

THAT IS WHY WE TEACH MUSIC!

- Kathryn B. Hull.

 
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