BOZEMAN, MT — It sometimes just takes the voices of kids to brighten the world.
The student choir at Morning Star Elementary School teamed up with their music teacher -- and what became of their project holds a message beyond their old hallways.
Dr. Seuss once said a person is a person, no matter how small.
It took one music teacher and 30 young students at Morning Star to prove that in a way you have to hear to believe.
“To have it come from the mouths of babes is so, so beautiful,” says Chelsea Quiñones, music teacher at Morning Star Elementary School.
Imagine being a kid in third, fourth or fifth grade, now learning through computer screens.
It might not be easy. Same goes for trying to sing in a choir remotely.
“When we couldn’t do learning in person anymore here due to COVID-19, I was trying to find a way to reach out to my choir,” Quiñones says. “Choir is voluntary and the students that are in it are third, fourth and fifth graders. They come before school usually on Tuesdays and they come once a week and we learn songs. We sing them for the school. We sing them for the community.”
For music teachers like Quiñones, a song that was once easy to work on in-person became a different challenge.
“I had parents who were emailing me saying my kid really misses choir. What can we do?” Quiñones says. “I played the song that they had already learned in January. They had learned both parts.”
Eighty-five kids started learning the song “Big World, Small World” by Teresa Jennings months ago, only to have their time cut short.
But after weeks of regular school work, Mrs. Quiñones had an idea.
“I had them all mute their microphones and I played the song and I said sing it from your house. And I had no idea if they were singing it well or not,” Quiñones says. “I just had to imagine that I could hear them.”
Then the kids would send their videos to her.
“As they came in, I was blown away,” Quiñones says.
With a little editing, all she had to do was turn the volume back on.
What she heard, Quiñones says, is not what she expected.
“Man, it sounded fantastic,” Quiñones says. “When we picked the song in January, I was like this will be a good, help-each-other-and-the-world song, not knowing, that this is the time that we would be in.”
And the soloists from before the world changed took center stage once more.
“The messages I got from my staff saying oh, I wasn’t expecting to cry today,” Quiñones says.
Out of 85, 30 kids were able to take part — something their teacher knows they will hold onto as they grow up with COVID behind them.
“I hope that they can look back at this time in their life and be like, I contributed to something really, really uplifting and cool,” Quiñones says. “They can look back in 20 years and say hey, that was me in the video and I can help lift somebody else up.”
Quiñones says it is a powerful message, both to communities that need it and for the importance of music education.
“Music is so important for these kids,” Quiñones says. “Having the chance to move, having the chance to sing, it touches adults. Think about how you are touched when you listen to something. Kids need that.”
“Big World, Small World” by Teresa Jennings (ASCAP) © 2018 Plank Road Publishing, Inc. • All Rights Reserved • Used by permission • www.musick8.com [musick8.com]