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A Musical Romp Into History


For a serious subject like history, it sure was lots of fun: hand-clapping musical numbers announcing fascinating and famous New Jerseyans.

For an hour Friday morning, the students of a Bloomingdale school sat enthralled on the floor of the auditorium of the Samuel R. Donald School listening to a multipronged program presented by Solid Brass, a brass group that performs at schools throughout the state and at retirement centers.

The ensemble took the children - kindergartners through fourth-graders -on a voyage through New Jersey history, from one of the original 13 colonies inhabited by Leni-Lenape Indians through the Revolutionary War with George Washington crossing the icy Delaware River, to such modern heroes as astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Walter Schirra, to the country’s first organized baseball game in Hoboken.

Interspersed with the narration were photos of Garden State luminaries such as Thomas Edison, Grover Cleveland, Abbot and Costello, and Albert Einstein.

Members of the group demonstrated how to play the trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba, and drums, interspersing lessons with rousing marches, movie themes, and patriotic tunes with characters in state history: Yankee Doodle Dandy for early patriots, Yellow Submarine for submarine inventor John Holland, and Take Me Out to the Ball Game for former Yankees catcher Yogi Berra).

Students were smiling when an ensemble member called about 20 of them to the front to participate in a song with fun noisemakers, including maracas, a small Brazilian drum called a cabasa, a cowbell, a flexitone, a tambourine, sleigh bells, and whistles.

In the background, mimicking and imitating the other performers and their instruments was Douglas Haislip, director of Solid Brass. The ensemble is part of a larger group whose members have performed at Lincoln Center with the Metropolitan Opera, and with the New York City Ballet, the New York City Opera, and Broadway shows. Haislip was responsible for most of the giggles.

The guy was funny, a fourth-grader said after the performance.

On a more serious and uplifting note, an ensemble member closed with this: In the future, perhaps some of you will change history, and we’ll be talking about you.

The program, sponsored by the Bloomingdale PTA and Board of Education, was praised by board member Dennis DiLorenzo.

This is the best [program] so far, the one I enjoyed most, he said. It’s funny and interesting, and I think it was the most effective.

He also praised Jamie Strait, chairman of PTA programming, who was instrumental in arranging for the program to perform at the district.

The kids are having so much fun, they don’t realize how much they’re learning, Strait said.

Principal Whitney Perro said she and Principal Mary Ann Mahometa of the Martha B. Day School selected the program because it touched on what all grade levels are studying about state history.

It culminates an intense study the fourth grade is doing of New Jersey, she said. And it’s an opportunity for the children to see how the instruments sound together.

To Stephanie Duncan, a fourth-grade teacher, the program dovetailed with the curriculum perfectly.

It was great, a review of everything we are doing in class, she said. They had a great time. It was a nice blend of education, fun, information, and music.

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