By Sally Absher

March has been officially designated by the National Association for Music Education for the observance of Music in Our Schools Month, the time of the year when music education becomes the focus of schools across the nation.

Last Tuesday evening, over 165 preschool and elementary Tate’s School students performed an international music program called “Tate’s Touches the World,” featuring songs in eight languages.

The program, based on the cultural heritage of the school’s student body, was inspired by the school’s founder Lou L. Tate. “After returning from a cultural exchange to Cuba, I wanted to explore the cultural diversity present at our school. So, we designed a cross-curricular study program to teach our students about different cultures and give them a more global perspective. I was pleased to discover we had 26 countries represented this year,” said Lou L. Tate.

The program was the culmination of more than ten weeks of study for the students, involving every teacher at Tate’s. Each age level researched the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of their classmates and studied the countries in an age appropriate way. For example, students in the third grade created posters for each country, fourth graders developed a travel brochure, and fifth grade students created a promotional iMovie based on their travel brochure.

“The study of global lifestyles, mortality rates, and literacy rates was a bit of an eye opener for the students. I think they have a new appreciation for all the opportunities that Americans take for granted,” said Misty Anderson, technology instructor at Tate’s.

Special guests and relatives from the 26 countries shared cultural knowledge in a variety of ways, including Indian dance lessons and authentic global foods. “By teaching the importance of understanding other cultures, students learn to communicate more effectively and appreciate their own unique role in America today,” said Principal Kaye Simmons.

The musical production featured several guest performances, including Simmons, singing a solo during the finale of “America the Beautiful,” and Mr. Joe Tate, husband of Lou L. Tate, playing the coronet during the finale. Simmons sang in the UT College Choir, and Mr. Tate is a former Principal at Cedar Bluff and Ball Camp Schools. He used to teach students instrumental music and is a strong supporter of music education.

Mrs. Cindy Kim, parent of Tate’s students and a celebrated professional flutist, performed “Arirang,” one of the oldest known folk songs from South Korea, and “Sakura,” a Japanese song, with the students. “Music crosses all language barriers. I am fortunate to have my children at Tate’s where they teach children to appreciate cultural diversity and the performing arts,” Kim said.

Research studies have shown that music students achieve higher test scores and use both sides of their brains more frequently than non-music students. Beginning with transitional kindergarten, students at Tate’s are taught to play instruments, read music and to understand phrasing, rhythm, harmony and tempo.

Judy Wilson, Music Director at Tate’s School for the past 26 years, adds “Music is an integral part of how we challenge each student. I couldn’t be more proud of our students singing the eight languages represented here tonight.”

At the close of the program, fifth grade student Kristin Menna read the Statue of Liberty Poem. It is especially poignant to Kristin’s family because her great-grandfather, an engineer, immigrated to America through Ellis Island and was instrumental in the placement of the Statue of Liberty.