Mrs. James teaches Mrs. Paddack's 5th grade class.
LUCERNE VALLEY – Of the several new enrichment classes at Lucerne Valley Elementary School, the music program is designed to spread the joy of music to students for now and the rest of their lives.
Music teacher Mrs. Amy James, who has been overseeing the Middle High School music program since 2018, now spends part of her time at the Elementary School and the remainder at the Middle High School. “I am with 5th and 6th grades at LVES in the morning, then I spend 4th-6th period with my middle/high school programs.”
Like the school’s physical education, art and STEM enrichment classes, Mrs. James tailors her instruction to better suit each age group she is teaching. Recently she explained the different orchestra and band instruments — along with vocal ranges — to Mrs. Paddack’s 5th grade class.
Using videos to help demonstrate the principles, she explained that low pitches consist of slow vibrations while high pitches have faster ones. She played a video of a man playing a xylophone to show the sound of lower pitches compared to higher ones. Next, she talked about the different vocal ranges. Sopranos are high. Alto is upper-middle. Tenor is lower-middle, and bass is low. To bring the message home, she led the students in a song in which arms were raised up during the high notes, and down when lower notes were sung.
“You don’t get to choose,” said Ms. James, who sings soprano, “your voice chooses for you.”
Just like vocal ranges, an instrument falls into one of several pitch ranges. Trumpet and violin are soprano. Alto instruments include the alto saxophone, french horn and viola. Tenor instruments include the tenor saxophone, trombone, euphonium, and cello. Bass instruments are the bass clarinet, baritone sax, tuba and double bass. Because of their weight, “most tuba cases have wheels on them.” The double bass (called upright bass in jazz), “is so tall, it’s taller than me and I’m 5’8”.
Students get involved in learning about pitch with a song "Tenor Bass."
Each week throughout the remainder of the school year, Mrs. James, an orchestral tuba player, will bring a different musical instrument for students to see and hear. Soon, she will bring a flute, clarinet, trumpet and viola, respectively, to class.
Mrs. James grew up in Castaic, just north of Santa Clarita, where she was fortunate enough to have music classes starting from kindergarten.
“I was extremely involved in band and choir throughout middle and high school. I majored in music education at CSUN. I then taught band and piano in San Bernardino for two years before applying here. I honestly didn't know Lucerne Valley existed until I filled out the application.”
She’s very glad she made the move.
“I really love working here,” she says. “The students and staff are fantastic and I love that I get to teach so many different classes. Plus the fact that I have the chance to get to know so many of my students so well, especially at the middle/high school, is so special.”
The rewards are even greater with the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, she adds. “The programs took a massive hit after distance learning, but we are getting back on our feet and growing again!”