Clarinet? Viola? French Horn? Vocal Music?
So Many Choices for Kinawa Beginners

As Okemos students transition into middle school, they choose from a variety of strings, band, choir and music exploration classes. Holly Thornton, band teacher at Kinawa 5-6, says, “Our primary goal is to give students the confidence to learn, create and grow in our community. We aim to set students up for success by playing instruments, reading music independently, and cultivating listening and problem solving skills.”  

Jasmine Blythe, Kinawa orchestra teacher, agrees and says that the aim of the strings program is to “foster welcoming, inclusive, and musical relationships through string instruments.”  And, Elizabeth Reed, Kinawa choir teacher, adds that the goal of the fifth and sixth grade vocal and choir classes is “to build young voices and learn how to sing together as an ensemble.”  Reed says she is especially proud of how the students work hard and learn to sing together.

Okemos Music Patrons supports choir, band and orchestra programs at Kinawa and Chippewa with funds for instrument repairs, bringing in outside coaches, piano accompanists, purchasing music scores, transportation for field trips and so much more.  

Karaoke, Anyone? How About Band Olympics?
Favorite Classroom Activities at Kinawa:

6th Grade Percussion

At Kinawa, favorite music class activities include Karaoke Days in choir, and Friday Fundays in orchestra where students volunteer to perform anything they want for the class.  Thornton says, “students really enjoy fun review activities including the Band Olympics, a “don’t break the chain” rhythm game, and regular opportunities for students to conduct or lead the class in warm-ups.  Concerts are also one of the most special parts of band!”

Through the pandemic, Okemos students continued music classes with special software– Blythe points out that orchestra students learned how to play their instruments last year entirely over Zoom. “Fifth and sixth grade orchestra students continue to inspire me with their perseverance, dedication, and joyful and growth-mindset attitudes to learning as a team,” she says. 

Kinawa students grow from learning the basics of their instrument to performing polished pieces in concerts.  “I am most proud of the incredible progress shown by our beginners from the first squeaks and squawks to the beautiful, characteristic sounds they can create by the end of the year,” says Thornton. 

Spreading their Wings at Chippewa

After building a strong musical foundation at Kinawa, Okemos students are ready to transition to Chippewa band, orchestra and choir classes–extending their musical growth and instrumental instruction, and preparing them for advanced ensemble playing at Okemos High School. They are taught by highly experienced teachers: Kevin Culling directs the bands, Jean Lee directs the orchestras, and Claire Bellamy directs the choirs.   

8th Grade Jazz Band

“Chippewa band students have many additional music performance options beyond the class day,” says Chippewa band director Kevin Culling, “Our students participate in their first Solo and Ensemble festivals, Band and Orchestra Festival as well as Honors Bands. Both the 7th and 8th grade band students have the opportunity to play in an after school jazz band. Our jazz bands have been featured at the OMP Spaghetti Dinner for decades!”

2022 MSBOA All-State Honors Orchestra

Students also have opportunities to audition for prestigious statewide level ensembles like the MSBOA All-State Honors Ensembles.  Each year, several Chippewa choir, band and orchestra students earn the honor of performing with selected students from across the state and have the opportunity to learn from well-respected musicians and conductors. The Chippewa choirs, for example, performed and received the highest rating at the Music in the Parks festival in 2015. Each Chippewa group also performs many concerts each year for the Okemos community. 

Want to hear music from these wonderful Kinawa and Chippewa concerts and keep programs like these going strong?  Watch a selection of past concerts below.

Donate now to the OMP Virtual Spaghetti Dinner 2022!  Help OMP support musical excellence in Okemos today!

Middle School Concerts

Donate now to the OMP Virtual Spaghetti Dinner 2022!  Help OMP support musical excellence in Okemos today!

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