Lee Warner, a longtime funk and jazz drummer, jammed his heart out as his protégé, Jose Martinez, 14, watched in amazement.
“I think the music is really good,” he said. “They’re listening to each other. I’m trying to observe, trying to recognize any of (the songs).”
Many of the tunes the older players belted out were from years past, but after a short performance during the one-hour workshop, they spent the rest of the hour teaching the children how to play songs from the student workbooks.
The idea for the school’s first workshop came from Warner and teacher Judy Lindquist, who also instructs band, choir and other classes. Jazz class is taught after lunch to those who volunteer for the lessons, she said. Maytan Music Center in Sparks donated the money to pay for the workshop, Warner said.
“Lee has volunteered for many years playing for our drum class.” Lindquist said. “I thought it might be better to have a regular big band come out and play the same type of music. They’re definitely going to improve after this workshop.
“This was huge for these kids,” she said.
Music teaches the students “so many things they don’t learn in other classes,” Lindquist said. “This is the sport for the intellectuals. What I have here are the top academics in the school.”
Lindquist said she believes the music gives the students challenges and tasks that they don’t get elsewhere, aiding them in math, science and other classes.
“We’ll do it again next year,” she said.
As the small classroom filled with saxophones, trumpets, drums, clarinets, trombones, a piano and many music books and stands, the music bounced through the air, starting with “One, two, one-two-three-four…”
Every once in a while, as an adult player would point to a page and a musical note, a student would become frustrated.
“Never say you can’t! I want to hear a trumpet!” the adult would say cheerfully.
Kevin Carroll, the school principal, stepped into the noisy classroom to watch for a few minutes.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s community people coming to help out children. It’s amazing.”
Children were given the chance to listen to themselves play a tune they’ve practiced and then listen as the adults picked up the beat at the instruction of the teacher.
“You could hear the maturity in the speed, sound, intensity and articulations,” she instructed. “And they don’t play together all the time. They listen to each other all the time. It adds energy to the music.”
Warner said playing a musical instrument has many benefits for children.
“When you play a musical instrument, it revives the brain for a higher cognitive functioning,” he said. “It’s a very fun, social thing. It’s a skill people can utilize their whole lives.”
“This is the best way to get kids motivated,” said CJ Birch, who played the trombone and retired as the band director at Carson High School. He continues to play for enjoyment, he said.
Rick Metz, a professional musician who plays the saxophone, has played from the age of 12.
“Working with kids, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “You can show them where they can get to and still have fun doing it. It’s so good to give back to kids. It’s a lot of fun.”