BIG CYPRESS — After only four months playing musical instruments, Ahfachkee School students showed what practice and motivation can do as they performed a rousing, pop-inspired spring concert April 30 for family, friends and other students.
The students demonstrated their new-found skills on guitar, bass, ukulele, keyboards and drums on songs from the Beatles, contemporary artists and even a video game.
Music teacher Cesar Taveras joined the staff in January and set out to teach students to play the music they wanted to play. Student centered learning is the 21st century way of teaching, so under audience-friendly K-12 guidelines, Taveras let the students choose the songs they wanted to learn.
“I want them to learn to enjoy playing music and performing,” he said. “My number one goal is to have them enjoy playing other people’s music and then learn to create their own.”
Students from first, fifth, sixth and high school performed in the school’s first ensemble concert with instruments. Taveras, who has been a music teacher for more than 20 years, had them practice every day leading up to the concert.
“Students got to choose their instruments,” said Principal Dorothy Cain. “They are excited because they are playing things they like and hear. You get them playing that music and then you can open their repertoire and introduce them to other areas of music.”
Crystal Garcia chose bass as her instrument, which is the backbone of any rhythm section.
“I saw one of my favorite bands had a cool bass player and I wanted to be just like him,” Crystal said. “You have to keep up with the music; as soon as you stop you lose track of it.”
The theme of the concert was “From 12 bars to 32: A Celebration of Popular Music.” The show opened with Laylah Billie, Jade Billie and Tommie Stockton singing the classic Santana song “Black Magic Woman,” a 12-bar blues song.
“This was the first time I performed with a band,” said Laylah Billie, who has been singing since she was 5 years old. “It was really good and it’s awesome being here.”
First-graders took the stage next and sang Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’ Garden.” Sixth graders sang a couple of newer songs, “Wanted You” by NAV and “The Night Begins to Shine” by B.E.R. The high schoolers followed them for “On Melancholy Hill” by Gorillaz.
“It’s fun and exciting being on stage,” said drummer Nushee Billie.
The stage cleared and Richard Billie sat down at the keyboard and played “Journey,” a song from the video game Destiny 2. He liked the music so took it upon himself to learn it.
“I learned it by ear and I got the music for it,” Richard said. “I like the way it sounds, but I listen to a lot of different types of music.”
The fifth grade, backed by the high school band on instruments, sang the Beatles’ “Let It Be” as many in the audience sang along with them. The show ended with the band performing Metric’s “Black Sheep.”
“I thought it went very well for only four months of practice,” Taveras said. “It was very impressive. They liked what they were playing, which had a lot to do with it. I just make sure they have fun.”