Program music to Bethel students

Posted: Friday, October 20, 2000

BETHEL (AP) -- It's not exactly the New York Philharmonic.

In fact, the honks and squeals that fill the halls of Kilbuk Elementary School every morning sound more like a Kleenex commercial than a band class.

But it's music to the ears of parents and educators who have seen the music program eliminated by budget cuts for the last four years.

''Parents are pretty happy to finally see this,'' said Kilbuk secretary Michael Brown. ''It's nice for us, too. The kids are learning and just getting started, but you know they're having fun.''

But the most pleased might be Toby Lambert, the music teacher at Bethel Regional High School. Newly arrived from Ohio, Lambert was disappointed that there was no feeder program for young musicians. So he began volunteering his time to bring music back to Kilbuk.

''The hope is when they enter high school in the seventh grade, they'll already have some background and can play challenging music,'' said Lambert, who plays several instruments, including tuba, piano and harp.

Four days a week, an hour before school starts, children with instruments bigger than they are gather in a borrowed classroom to practice finger movements, listening exercises and to get down. Monday is for percussion instruments, Tuesday is for woodwinds and Wednesday is for brass. On Thursdays, about 25 students gather for full band practice.

''This is my favorite class,'' said Alex Nichols, 11, playing the clarinet for the first time in his life. ''I always wanted to play an instrument, but I never got the chance to.''

Trombone player Alfred Michael, 12, said the class is a big improvement from his last music class at a nearby village, where the students didn't have instruments for weeks.

''Mr. Lambert is a great music teacher because the other music teacher didn't get us instruments in the second week,'' Michael said, after tooting out an arrangement of notes.

At 27 years old, Lambert teaches with a huge smile and seems like a big, goofy kid himself. Though young, he began teaching elementary students while in college, and already has 10 years of educational experience.

''I'm hoping to bring music education to a level where it should be for this state,'' he said.

A lofty goal, considering the standards Lambert left behind. Ohio has the second largest music association in the country, the second largest music theatre in the country and houses the famous Ohio State marching band.

But Lambert has the credentials. He revived a failing music program at an elementary school in Columbia Station, a farm town outside Cleveland. And last year, he was the force behind the Ohio Music Education Association's convention, which drew 10,000 people and went off without a hitch.

But despite his accomplishments, he's quick to point out that his goals aren't self-motivated.

''The kids are the most important thing in my life,'' he said. ''I've seen success go to band directors' heads, and even though they may have great programs, they forget about the kids. I'm here to teach the music and organize it, but not take the glory. The kids are the ones that are working.''

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