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Music made memorable for King-Murphy students

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Using humor, theatrics and great music, members of the troupe Inside the Orchestra taught King-Murphy Elementary School students about how orchestra music is not so different from the music they usually hear.

“Orchestra music has the same intensity and energy as hip-hop and rap,” conductor Tom Jensen told the school-wide assembly Feb. 26. Some parts of the music are rough and some are smooth, some are quiet and some are loud, some are happy and some are sad.

Jensen, along with 14 professional musicians playing strings, oboe, French horn, bassoon and percussion, were positioned around the gymnasium, allowing the students to hear individual sounds and how they go together.

The one special member of the ensemble for the day was King-Murphy music teacher Eleanor Babcock, who has played clarinet since she was in sixth grade. She felt she kept up pretty well with the pros.

They played the theme songs from the movie “The Incredibles” and the television show “The Simpsons,” along with classical pieces and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Jensen, who has a background in talk radio and music, taught the students how to conduct the ensemble and brought second-grader Elizabeth Baker to the front of the gym to direct a piece of music.

As she moved the baton faster, the ensemble played faster; as she got slower, so did the music. Jensen said the demonstration teaches students quickly about the relationship between the conductor and musicians.

Elizabeth said after the assembly that she was a bit scared to be in front of the entire school, but it was fun, too.

Throughout the assembly, the musicians explained their instruments, how they work and the part they play in orchestral music.

Inside the Orchestra is a nonprofit organization run by the Junior Symphony Guild. Its mission is to cultivate an appreciation for symphonic and orchestral music in children in the Denver area. Jensen said the program has reached more than 25,000 children since he created the show in 1986.

The group came to King-Murphy with the help of funding from the Center for the Arts Evergreen, the school’s PTA and a private donation.

“My edict,” Jensen said, “is to make (the kids) laugh, make them cry, but don’t bore them. … This is the best gig I’ve ever had in my life.”

Jensen urged the students to learn to play instruments, not just because it’s fun but because learning to play an instrument helps children with other areas of school.

Babcock said she would follow up that advice with her students.

“Hopefully this will get more kids interested in band,” Babcock said. Currently 30 fifth- and sixth-graders play in the school’s band.

She said the assembly gave the students a chance to see how an orchestra works.

“We’re going to be talking about the mood of different types of music,” Babcock said. “I will be playing the rest of Beetoven’s Fifth so they can hear all of it.”

Sixth-grader Conrad Monson enjoyed the assembly.

“It was cool to see them play together and to see an orchestra only a few feet away,” said Conrad, who plays the trumpet.

Fifth-grader Ryker Eagen, who plays clarinet in the school band, said he liked having a chance to hear individual instruments.

“At a big symphony (concert), it’s hard to pick out the individual instruments. Here it was easy to hear each of the parts they played.”