Atascadero fifth-graders feel SLO Wind

Fifth-grade classes from Atascadero schools learned about the instruments of the SLO Wind Orchestra on Friday, Oct. 26. The educational experience has become an annual event thanks to donors. (Photos by Camas Frank)

CUESTA COLLEGE — Fifth-grade classes from all of the Atascadero Unified School District poured onto yellow busses and headed down the Cuesta Grade on Friday, Oct. 26 to attend a concert at the Cuesta College Performing Arts Center.

While children might be stereotypically expected to think of classical music and orchestral performances as boring, enthusiasm and smiles only grew after SLO Winds Orchestra conductor Jennifer Martin asked for a show of hands by anyone from Atascadero, and explained that herself and several members of the ensemble were their neighbors.

Breaking down each type of instrument by ability and individual pieces the students might recognize, and playing full themes from various film and video game titles, Martin explained that these instruments have long accompanied the visual arts.

While letting the kids see which instruments were responsible for certain auditory effects  behind the scenes of the Halo 3 video game theme, or iconic musical cues from Star Wars, she also recounted some history, including a famous instance in which a 200 strong British orchestra was forced to swim for shore of the River Thames whilst dodging stray fireworks.

Encouraging the children not already in a band program or players of an instrument already, she added, “You see us up here with members of our group that are still in High School and a few in their 70s,” she said, “music is something that you learn that you can take with you through your whole life. It can make you feel better when you’re sad, or if you’re angry, take it out with some loud angry music. And unlike if you're playing sports [Martin explained she was partial to basketball] after a while your body won’t keep up with what you want it to do, but you can always play music.”

The third year the event has been organized, SLO Wind musicians volunteered their day for a performance in the morning with San Luis Obispo students and again for Atascadero at 11 a.m., getting the kids there was more of a logistical issue as field trips and bus use isn’t free. Ann Berry-Gallegos, marketing and development director for one of the event donors, Center for Family Strengthening, organized fundraising for the event with private donors and contributions from Kiwanis Club of Atascadero, Atascadero Quota, Optimist Club of Atascadero, Atascadero Performing Arts Center Committee, and the Santa Lucia Knights of Columbus contributing in this and previous years.
“The club is about community involvement and youth education is a big part of building a community,” said Don Idler, in his role as president of the Atascadero Rotary Club, “and to be honest I got quite an education as well. I don’t remember anything like this when I was in school.”

Berry-Gallegos added that fifth grade was picked for the event as this is the year children pick an instrument in the district’s music programs.

After the main event, some musicians demonstrated their instruments on the steps of the performing arts center, up close for students who might want to try one themselves soon.

For more information on SLO Winds, go to slowinds.com

Fifth-grade classes from Atascadero schools learned about the instruments of the SLO Wind Orchestra on Friday, Oct. 26. The educational experience has become an annual event thanks to donors. (Photos by Camas Frank)


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