Winds blow through KFMS

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2005

When she’s making music with her fellow King’s Fork Middle band members, sixth-grader Meredith Thompson is but a flute-playing face in a large crowd.

But during a demonstration by the visiting Imani Winds group on Wednesday afternoon, Meredith got a shot at center stage.

She was one of several school musicians picked to participate in an instructional lesson put on by the five-person, New York City-based ensemble. The band’s visit was sponsored by the Virginia Arts Festival.


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Flutist Valerie Coleman, a faculty member at the Julliard School of Music, gave Meredith a special lesson.

&uot;Sound, art and rhythm are the key factors in creating beautiful sounds on your instrument,&uot; Coleman said. &uot;You have rhythm in your soul and in your body.&uot;

Meredith admitted to being a little nervous at first.

&uot;I’d never played the flute in front of everyone before,&uot; she said. &uot;I don’t like to play in front of people. (Coleman) explained and did it herself so I could see what she wanted, and it was easier than I thought. I forgot about the audience.&uot;

A member of the Grammy-nominated Absolute Ensemble, Monica Ellis helped sixth-grader Dwight Jefferson with his saxophone skills.

&uot;You want to adjust your instrument to you, not the other way around,&uot; said Ellis, a bassoonist and Pittsburgh native. &uot;It seems like a lot to learn, but if you remember the movements, you can apply them.&uot;

Some such movements come from within, Dwight said.

&uot;I learned to play with a straight breath,&uot; he said. &uot;I used to breathe in and out between notes, but a straight breath sounds better. It won’t be hard if I just keep practicing.&uot;

Imani (which means &uot;faith&uot; in Swahili) started the morning with a concert in the school auditorium for hundreds of young musicians from all four middle schools.

&uot;That was good,&uot; said sixth-grade clarinetist J.T. Jones. &uot;Everybody was into it. I want to be good like them.&uot;

Ellis hopes that more and more youngsters share the same ambition.

&uot;Residency concerts are a big part of what we do,&uot; she said. &uot;Wherever we go, we always play somewhere in the community, in schools, nursing homes and other places.

&uot;We work with band teachers and specialize our program to meet their needs. If a teacher asks us to work on solos, we do that. If they want us to work with the band in sections, that’s fine.&uot;

Performing arts are often among the first programs cut because of budget constraints, Ellis said.

&uot;We realize the importance of the band, and I think some schools are learning that you can’t cut arts programs because so much carries over,&uot; she said. &uot;The discipline and courage that these kids show in getting up and playing, and sticking with the instrument and learning its technical aspects carry over into the classroom.

&uot;The same dedication can help them when they’re learning math.

&uot;Even if they don’t stick with music, this can still make them better human beings.&uot;