Saturday Spotlight: Speaking through music

by: Sarah Lively, web producer Updated:

CHARLOTTE - Music class at Hidden Valley Elementary School plays a new beat this year, thanks to the teaching style of Christa Shephard.

Eyes and ears were open in Miss Shephard’s kindergarten music class Tuesday morning.

As she sat with her students in a semi-circle on the large classroom rug, Shephard reminded them of the “eye” and “ear” rules. Their eyes were required to stay on her, and students touched their ears while saying “I am a good listener.”

The class was excited that morning because students were three short weeks away from kindergarten graduation.

Before rehearsing their graduation songs the students did warm up exercises, each containing their own unique rhythm and beat.

“Do, do, do as I do. Do as I do it’s my movement song,” Shephard sang.

From clapping hands to stomping feet, each student watched and repeated their teacher’s movements, singing along with her beat. They also used rhythm sticks for warm up exercises.

Shephard, however, said this has not been the case all year.

“Most of my students are (English as a Second Language), and did not know how to say their name when they started at the beginning of the year,” Shephard said. “Most of the time it was me entertaining them, but in February they started speaking.”

She has been working with students on their literacy levels, and Shephard’s goal for the school year is to have 90 percent of her students achieving at a higher literacy level.

The kindergarteners transitioned into rehearsal mode. Shephard led them as they practiced their first song, called “Everything Grows.” As Shephard went through lyrics and motions with the class, she reminded the students she would not be on stage with them when they perform. 

After a couple of practice rounds the students sounded like their on-stage performing already. Shephard stopped the music, clapped her hands and with a big smile told the class how proud she was of them.

“(That was) a big celebration moment when they sang the words,” Shephard said after class. She explained she had been waiting for that moment for a long time.

The talented 23-year-old teacher has a background worth celebration, too. In 2011 the North Carolina A&T graduate performed with her school’s ensemble at the White House for a Black History program. Out of the four selections sang Shephard had three solos. In 2008 she also performed at Carnegie Hall.

This is her first year teaching, and Shephard does not have plans to stop anytime soon. Her ultimate career goal is to teach voice as a college professor.

The kindergarteners will also perform a second song at graduation. This song will be performed to the instrumental version of “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz.

“It went so fast, fast, fast, fast. Let’s celebrate ‘cause it won’t last, last, last, last,” they sang.

If they only knew.