Signature Music School

Orchestra at Burnett Center


Bandoleros Concert!

The music and ELL dept. had the privilege of taking 34 students to the Lied Center for The Last Bandoleros concert for Friday night. It was a joy to watch our kids be kids. Here are some highlights:

1. The Lied Center staff and patrons thanked us for bringing our Eisenhower students. They enjoyed watching them dance and having a good time.

2. The band is a Tex-Mex band. When they started a song with a Spanish guitar solo, I truly learned what culturally relevant is. Our Hispanic kids faces lit up. They started moving to the music. Henry turned to me and said, "this is my music."

3. After the show, we were using restrooms and getting water before we left. I am in the bathroom and I hear high pitched screaming coming from the lobby. The band came out to sign autographs. Our kids were already posing for pictures.

I want to thank Jeff Bledsoe, Susie Tilghman, Mary Casey, Vikkie Metzger, and Chelsea Neumann. Also a shout out to Scott Schwarz for his encouragement to do this field trip and supporting our students.

The Last Bandoleros Bandoleros Fans Autographs

Check here for the groovy sounds of our Modern Band!

On Sept. 27, E-Clectic 2018 from Signature Music School @Eisenhower performed for the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) and Young Audiences Arts for Learning (YA) conference at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a huge success. Not only did they represent Topeka 501, they were also the face for Little Kids Rock (LKR). Signature Music uses the LKR Music As A Second Language approach with grades Pre K-8.

All Participate

Playing Guitar
Playing Drum
Singing Music

By Linda Ditch, Special to The Capital-Journal

Posted Sep 9, 2018 at 2:14 PMUpdated Sep 11, 2018 at 9:54 PM

On a recent evening, band members gathered for a rehearsal. They had a gig coming up in Kansas City, and they knew the music needed work.

Fred Davis relaxed next to the drum kit while the others got ready. Alexis De La Cruz on bass guitar and Monya Dean on lead guitar started tuning up. Jaqui Ortega and Janette Lopez-Sanchez got the microphones ready, and Morgan Dean grabbed his trombone.

After going over some performance notes, the band began to practice "Kansas City," the classic rhythm and blues song made famous by Fats Domino.

While it may have seemed like any other band preparing for a performance, this was E-Clectic, the after-school modern band at Eisenhower Middle School. The band has a reputation for playing well, and just a few bars into the song, it became clear the praise was well-deserved.

Davis, Ortega, Lopez-Sanchez, Morgan Dean and Genesis Cuevas (who wasn't there that evening) still participate in the band although they have moved on to high school.

The success of E-Clectic is an indicator of the work being done by the Ross Elementary and Eisenhower Middle School pre-K through eighth grade Signature Music School campus in Topeka Unified School District 501. Unlike a charter school, students don't apply to attend. These are the regular neighborhood schools for the nearly 1,200 students in the southeast Topeka area. The goal is to get students college- and career-ready through music.

"On our campus, students are going to get a musical experience through education," said Eisenhower principal Leosha Giardina. "A musical experience beyond playing an instrument."

Ross principal Melissa Blevins said being a signature school allows the campus to receive grant money and additional opportunities for music integration in the classroom.

"Students are introduced to a variety of musical instruments and enrichment experiences like special assemblies with outside musicians and field trips," Blevins said.

The schools have a mission of seeing students excel academically, socially and emotionally.

Stacy Neumann is the signature music coordinator for both schools. Her job is to write lesson plans that incorporate music into the core education classes, such as math, history and science. For example, a class may study the effects of music on evolution. She also oversees E-Clectic.

All pre-K through eighth-grade students learn to play an instrument. They begin in pre-K through first grade with the ukulele, then move on to the piano in second grade. By third grade, they are introduced to a variety of instruments - recorder, violin, pBuzz and world drums. By fourth grade, they should have a good idea of what they want to play moving forward.

Neumann said the schools want the students to walk away with skills that are marketable, including what are known as "soft skills" - shaking hands, getting along, collaborating, dealing with positive criticism, learning how to work in a group and being self-motivated.

"We'll have a student who can change the oil in a car, but they don't know how to make eye contact," Giardina said. "That is an important skill if you're going to be a successful."

Neumann said teachers sometimes feel the need to be so in control of what students do that they don't trust them to do what they need to on their own.

"We tell students what to do all the time without letting them work it out for themselves," she said. "We want these young men and women to be leaders in our society, to go on to whatever continuing education they choose. And we want them to come back, to bring their skills back to the community."

As students walk through the hallways of both schools, college banners catch the eye, giving them a clear idea of what is expected for their futures. There are also music posters and inspirational quotes.

A special hallway between both schools is known as "The Bridge." Named for a transition section in music, the hallway signifies the crossing of students from elementary to middle school in their academic journey. A ceremony is held here each year for the fifth-graders as they move up to the next level. Eighth-graders have their own ceremony in which they cross through a doorway into the outside world.

Blevins, Giardina and Neumann acknowledged their schools get a poor reputation. Neumann told a story of an elementary student who fell asleep in class. His teacher let him sleep for about 45 minutes, then woke him up and asked him what was going on. The child broke down, explaining he was responsible for getting not only himself, but also his brothers and sister to school, and he didn't know what time the bus came each morning.

"We don't have bad kids," Neumann said. "They sometimes just need a push in the right direction. We sell our kids short on this side of town."

Linda Ditch is a freelance writer in Topeka. She can be reached at [email protected].

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