BRAVO! – An Ever-Growing Program for Music in the Schools

Judy Vander, Ojai Music Festival Education Committee Member writes about the diverse programs offered as part of BRAVO! – including its new residency ‘Ojai Creates Opera’.

The breadth and variety of the Ojai Music Festival’s BRAVO! music education program has garnered wide acclaim from educators, parents and students for its continued resolve to offer  free programs in the Ojai Valley public school system.

One of the Festival’s newest programs for the very youngest is Education Through Music (ETM), which serves students, kindergarten through first grade, in the Ojai Unified School District. This innovative way of teaching and learning music reaches the child through play, song, language, and movement. ETM has been so successful that there are now ongoing tutorial sessions to give ETM training to classroom teachers, funded by the Ojai Rotary Club.

Music Van, a program for third graders under the tutelage of Lynne Doherty and an army of volunteers including the Ojai Festivals Women’s Committee, demonstrates a variety of instruments from all the sections of the orchestra. Every student then has the opportunity to individually play on the instruments. This first hands-on experience serves to encourage and motivate them to participate in the instrumental programs offered in junior high and high school.

New to this year is an opera/music composition program called Ojai Creates Opera, where mezzo-soprano Rebecca Comerford and accompanist Jennifer Radisch will work with fourth, fifth and sixth grade students to explore this musical form and create their own classroom opera.

An ongoing tradition, the annual Imagine Concert for the fourth through sixth graders shows the exciting musical opportunities that are available at Matilija Junior High School and Nordhoff High School. Student musical groups from these schools—both vocal and instrumental—as well as professionals perform and set an inspiring example for the elementary student audience.

Andy Radford, bassoonist and overall coordinator of BRAVO! presents his amazing Adopt-a-Musician workshop, which includes focused listening: learning to recognize instruments and musical patterns.  Andy shows how music underscores and enhances the emotional and expressive aspects of movies. Students do their own experiments, including matching music to movie scenes.

Last, but by no means least, three outstanding musicians—Julie Tumamait, Judy Piazza, and John Zeretzke—teach different strands of world music. Julie Tumamait, a member of the Chumash tribe, teaches both Chumash songs and Chumash culture to the students. Judy Piazza, who has studied songs and drum music around the world, teaches these songs and rhythmic patterns, along with their related history and geography. John Zeretzke, a master performer of world instruments and a composer, fascinates students with his performances on many world instruments and his lectures on their development. He has created a Flutes Across the World program, in which students decorate two flutes: one for themselves, and one for students in a third world country. Students learn to play flute songs of the foreign country where their flutes will go, and the flutes are personally delivered by John.  A precious set of connections is made—music, art, and human.  John has received a United Nations award for this work.

BRAVO!’s extensive scope is made possible by the support of many contributors including, the Ojai Music Festivals Women’s Committee, the California Arts Council, Private Bank of Wells Fargo, and a host of other foundations.  A huge part of this success is also in part due to the Ojai community for embracing the importance of music in the schools, from the administration, teachers, and of course, the eager students! Long live music!