Grades 3 & 4 Find New Ways to Collaborate in Music and Dance

Collaboration was key to bringing to life this year’s Grades 3 & 4 Spring Concert and Dance performance on June 4. The annual Lower School arts celebration was orchestrated to create a joyous, virtual presentation by teachers, parents, musicians, tech support, and editors. It also included a special international message from bandleader and composer Gregorio Uribe in Colombia to our students, who performed his song, “Yo Vengo.”

Head of Lower School Francis Yasharian welcomed families to the concert in a brief live webinar before sharing a link to the prerecorded concert. Lower School Music Director Jennifer Nelson P’12, ’14, ’19 and Dance teacher Courtney Cooke introduced their respective parts of the program.

Musical Performances

Young musicians on the flute, saxophone, violin, trumpet, and clarinet presented what they learned during the Lower School’s Lunchtime Lessons including a French folk song, “Baby Shark,” and “Levi’s Song” for trumpet written by fourth grader Levi M. ’28. Nelson credits the great instrumental music teachers who made this possible.

Jennifer Nelson and composer Gregorio Uribe

Nelson met composer Gregorio Uribe at a Carnegie Hall Musical Explorers workshop. “We sang a song, ‘El Pescador,’ that he taught to the second and third graders on video through that program. I loved his music so much I started to work on one of his original songs, “Yo Vengo,” with the fourth graders,” said Nelson. Earlier in the year Lower School Spanish teacher Sarah Ely and Nelson collaborated on a lesson, using Spanish verbs to say “I come [Yo Vengo]….” Videos of the lessons were used in the concert.

“Singing this song in the concert reminded me how much fun we had singing it at school with Ms. Nelson.”

Fiona I. ’29

The Grade 3 portion ranged from the jazz of Duke Ellington’s “Duke’s Place,” to “Ode to Joy,” and Ray Charles’ “Fifty Nifty United States.” “My favorite song to perform in the concert was ‘Fifty Nifty United States,’” said Fiona I. ’29 “It’s a fun way to learn the 50 states in alphabetical order. Singing this song in the concert reminded me how much fun we had singing it at school with Ms. Nelson.” Between the 3rd and 4th Grade chorus performances the students received another surprise shout out from Asante Amin and Chen Lo of Soul Science Lab, whom Nelson had met at the same Carnegie Hall workshop as Uribe. Soul Science Lab previously visited Poly and taught students their hiphop songs in the Winter Concert.

Nelson explained, “Editor Billy Schultz, and [drummer] Joan Ashley of Alakande! Spread Joy! were able to fuse together an interesting rendition of “Nginani Na [Healer’s Song],” which is a South African call and response song performed by Grade 4 in the concert.

Partnerships with professional musicians enhance our Arts program by introducing students to the beauty and virtuosity that a life dedicated to the arts can bring to the community. Another featured collaboration for the Spring Concert was with Eric Jacobsen and Logan Coale of The Knights, who performed “Dona Nobis Pacem.”

Fourth grader Isabella B. ’28 said, “My favorite song in the concert is called ‘Loch Lomond.’ I really like the beat and the chorus of the song. It is a traditional Scottish song.”

Dance Performances

For the dance portion, third and fourth graders took advantage of their homes, yards, rooftops, and even a dock as venues to express themselves in movement.

“The third grade was invited to create solos based on the dance skill accumulation,” said Cooke. “Accumulation is a pattern that was taught to the students as part of the Theme and Variation unit of study. Fourth grade students created solos based on their personal strengths as a dancer. Our fourth grade also taught weight-sharing movements to their families and loved ones, who joined them in the dance portion of the concert finale.”

“Creating the movements and the flow of the dance and how you move your body was a really fun experience…”

Lillian Z. ’29

“I really enjoyed coming up with the dance,” said Lillian Z. ’29, “because creating the movements and the flow of the dance and how you move your body was a really fun experience and I had never done anything like it before. Some skills I did were accumulation, for example 1, 1 2, 1 2 3, 1 2 3 4, etc., dancing in all levels such as low, medium, and high, and locomotor movements. Also I enjoyed doing it outside.”

Yasharian said that from a preview of the performance, he was amazed at the weight-sharing exercises and watching a student hold a rest in dance so the student would “feel a minute in their body.” Cooke said the entire dance performance was an exercise in “finding new ways to collaborate” and she was so proud of how the students had responded. The students found “unique solutions,” she said, to portray strength.