Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2001

Some noteworthy lessons

Music teacher Paula Brekken hopes to use her experiences in the classroom

September 27, 2001

By 2 p.m. Friday, Paula Brekken's voice was a little raspy for good reason. A choir director and music teacher for the Eudora schools, Brekken also juggles teaching private voice lessons, directing her church choir and a position on a prestigious professional chorus.

Brekken hopes her outside musical activities, like a summer singing trip to Italy and her position with the Kansas City Chorale, will find their way into the classroom.

But teaching singing and music classes all day, giving voice lessons and practicing for the chorale are taking their toll.

"It takes an incredible amount of energy," Brekken said. "I'm on vocal rest. You've got to really watch it. I've got to get in shape by Sunday."

For two weeks in June, Brekken toured Italy with the Wyoming State Choir, which her father helps direct. In the past she told him she'd been too busy to go, but this year Brekken and her husband went with the choir to famous cities like Venice and Florence and the Tuscany region.

"It's one of the best decisions I ever made," she said.

Brekken and the choir sang in a living room of one of the Medici palaces.

"We sang in this room three times the size of the Eudora gymnasium," Brekken said. "The reverb is like four seconds," she said. "That's Arrowhead Stadium times two."

A scrapbook of her trip will come in handy with Brekken's multicultural music curriculum for her sixth grade students.

"Some of the kids haven't been out of Kansas," she said.

Comprehending Italy's historical significance as the birthplace of important composers and opera can be a challenge for students.

"When they start saying, 'Oh, that's when there were knights and stuff,' then they kind of get it," she said.

Aside from her firsthand experience singing in Italy, Brekken introduces students to other musical cultures that may be foreign to them like East Asian, Indian and Native American music.

While a scrapbook and stories from Italy may bring her experiences into the classroom, Brekken hopes to take the students out of the classroom if she can arrange for choir students to attend a Kansas City Chorale concert or at least sit in on a practice.

The director, Charles Breffey, is known for the high demands he places on the 24-member choir, Brekken said.

"I've never had to practice choir music before," she said. "They don't teach you your notes. It's very professional."

In addition to regularly scheduled practices and performances, Brekken must also put time into recording CDs with the singing group.

Although singing in a highly competitive choir may seem like the most tiring aspect of her activities, Brekken said teaching requires a tremendous amount of effort.

"I have to be the model for them," she said. "You have to have so much energy just to get them to open their mouths a little bit."

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