Chimes teach students more than music
Dec 04, 2019 10:50AM
By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones
Chimes choir performs four times a year; the group is hoping to expand its repertoire to include retirement homes and maybe even the Dickens Festival. From left to right: Cassandra, Lila, Kevin, Kamran, Emmett.
By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]
When the previous hand chime choir director at Prince of Peace Lutheran School in Taylorsville moved to Florida, Veronica Vilski was quickly fitted for the new part. She already knew piano, the organ and the accordion, having begun piano playing at age 6. Though she’d been in various choirs for years and was currently on duty at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church every Sunday, conducting a chime choir of third to eighth graders was quite another story.
Still, she jumped in with both feet.
“I asked some of the eighth graders to come in and show me how to do it, and they did,” she said. “It took me a while to enjoy it—about four months. I was learning too.”
Vilski, who is also a kindergarten teacher, loves the growth that comes from being in a chime choir.
Getting the kids to concentrate is the hardest part, she said. It’s amazing how much effort it takes.
“At first, I have to whisper the measures and the beat 1-2-3-4,” she said. “‘What beat are we on?’ I ask. Some of the students bob their heads to the beat. Some of them tap their feet. Some of them do this.” She moves her body like a snake.
“If you miss your note you don’t play it,” she tells the children. “You can’t go back and play it again; you have to just keep going.”
“Some kids pick up [the music] really quickly, especially kids who are good at math,” Vilski said. “Playing the chimes is a lot of timing and counting. Once you learn music, it does help you in math as well. Usually, I try to give the melody notes to the more confident or experienced chimers and then kind of the backup ones to those who are new.”
And it can be a challenge for students.
“Songs are hard because of the tempo,” Lila, 11, said. “Sometimes you have to go really fast.”
The chime choir meets once a week. The three choirs have students ranging from grades 3 to 6. With the fairly manageable number of 40 students, Vilski soon sees who gets the grade and who is struggling.
But that’s as it should be. There are no tryouts for the group, just interested children who want to try their hands at something new.
“It takes getting familiar with it, and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Oh, I recognize the song — I did it,’” she said with a smile.
“Friends are good,” Logan, 12, said. “Sometimes they help me count. And sometimes they turn the pages.”
Helping each other out is the name of the game, according to Vilski. Coming to practices helps improvement, and never giving up even when things get difficult appears to be the exception rather than the rule.
“It’s really a team thing,” she said. “It’s a good lesson too. When it’s performance time, you only get one shot. It’s not like ‘sorry, I missed my measure that I’ve been working hard on, can I do it over?’ Performance time is it. You either get it or not. No matter what, it’s done.”
Like life, you practice hard, Vilski said. You perform, and then you assess what happened afterward. You can’t go back.
Rehearsals are a big deal for the Lutheran chime choir. Choir members practice once a week and are expected to keep up the practices along with their regular studies. The parents aren’t off the hook either. They’re expected to participate by coming to the spring and fall performances (for sixth to eighth grades; additional Thanksgiving and Christmas performances are required).
Currently, the chime choir, which is part of the music curriculum at the school, performs for students, teachers and parents four times a year, but they are open to sharing their skills outside the school. Retirement centers and even the Dicken’s Festival are not out of the question for the future, according to Vilski, who admits that sharing her students’ talent would be a good thing for them and for the community.
A new adult hand chime class began three months ago. “You would be surprised at how hard this is to just pay attention for four minutes straight,” Vilski said. “And you’ve got to be ready.”
Practice is on Sundays. Anyone interested in participating, should please contact Vilski at 801-261-3803 or [email protected].