By TAMMI NAUDUS
Last week Southington High School opened up its doors for two nights to to welcome in some aspiring musicians. The guests were students from all of the surrounding elementary schools in the district. The event was called an Instrument Petting Zoo.
An instrument petting zoo has nothing to do with animals. It is an event hosted by the high school music department. Members of the high school band, area music faculty, and college students who are studying music act as the instructors for the evening.
They set up in stations throughout the school cafeteria. Each station includes different instruments for the elementary students to try out in a hands-on environment.
The students are encouraged to pick up and play the instruments that they think they might be interested in learning to play.
“I think that it’s a really good event for the kids, because they find out more of what they are interested in rather than coming in for just one thing. My son has tried the violin, he played the saxophone, and the drums tonight. He did a great job on the drums, which he is leaning more towards learning.” Said Stacy Albert about her son.
Because the event is hands on, the students experience some of the challenges involved in choosing the right instrument for them.
Norah Doran, a fourth grader at Flanders is interested primarily in the string instruments. “I am going to try the violin, the viola, and the cello. I just did the cello, it’s a little harder than I thought cause I have to push down hard to get the right sound. Plus, I noticed I have to make sure keep my hair out of the way.”
Some of the students had a pretty good idea what they wanted to choose. After trying the saxophone and the trumpet, Alex LeClair, fourth grader at Flanders, had his thoughts. “I think I like the trombone the best, because I think it’s different from any other brass instrument.”
The Southington High school band students enjoyed the event as well.
“It’s a blast from the past for me. It really comes back to why you wanted to learn music in the first place,” said alto sax player Mike Freeman, a junior at Southington High. “It was fun and enjoyable. You see all of these kids trying very hard to succeed at something that it is their first time trying. It pushes me to want to be better as a player.” “For us, it’s just two hours out of our own time, but I still remember when I was a fourth grader doing my instrument petting zoo. I tried out so many instruments that night before I had my “Dreamweaver moment” after playing the saxophone. I love it.” Recalls junior, Mike Allen.
“I have been involved in this event multiple times, so I am used to working with the kids. I also give my own music lessons.” Explains a senior and percussionist Alex Smith, “All of the kids always want to hit the drums. Most want to just try, but there are those few who are genuinely really excited. It’s really inspiring to see kids that push hard for something that I have been involved in for years in school.”