Paynesville Press - February 23, 2005

Community Perspective

March is Music In Our Schools Month

By Cheryl Bungum, Charlene Strand, and Jeanne Virant

The Paynesville Area Schools will be celebrating Music In Our Schools Month during March.  This special month began as a statewide celebration in 1973 and has grown over the decades to encompass a day, then a week and, in 1985, became a month-long celebration of music in our schools.

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

This year's theme is: Music - The Heart of Education.

As an introduction to Music In Our Schools Month, we would like to share some of our musical experiences and our views on its value in education. The music department at the Paynesville Public Schools consists of Cheryl Bungum, vocal music teacher and choir director; Charlene Strand, elementary music teacher; Ken Vork, band director; and Jeanne Virant, sixth grade music teacher.

Aristotle once said, "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things but their inward significance." We believe that the mixture of creativity, discipline, and communication that music classes demand of students helps them succeed in school, in society, and throughout life.

Charlene Strand is the general music teacher at Paynesville Area Elementary School. She teaches students in kindergarten through fourth grade and directs a volunteer elementary choir called the Prelude Singers, consisting of fourth and fifth grade students.

"Music - The Heart of Education" was truly Mrs. Strand's life theme, as she grew up in a small rural town and experienced the opportunity to be in every musical class that was offered. "I started with piano lessons when I was four-years-old with Sister Salutaris. In fifth grade, I began playing the tenor saxophone. A monumental moment came in sixth grade when I attended a vocal music contest and received encouraging comments from the adjudicator. From then on, with my parents' positive support and sometimes a firm hand to push me along, music became the heart and passion of my education."

"Were there times when I didn't want to practice? Yes, just ask my mom! Were there times when I wanted to do something else or became a bit lackadaisical and didn't feel the need to work harder? Yes, but again my parents were there to coax me along and guide me in making the right decisions."

"I remember pondering which avenue to take when applying for college and deciding on a field of study. I also distinctly recall my parents talking to me about my strengths, accomplishments, and passion. As I look at my career, I can't imagine where I would be without that firm hand to guide me. My parents were in the audience every time I performed, giving me praise and support."

"The passion I have developed for teaching music is directly related to those earlier experiences. As I teach and direct, it is a joy to see the same praise and support given to the students performing in front of me. Thank you to all parents, mine included, for the valuable gifts they share with their children."

Cheryl Bungum is the vocal music teacher and choir director for grades five through 12 in the Paynesville Area Schools.

"Music became the heart of my education very early in life. My elementary music teacher, Mrs. Marble, taught us a lot during music class. I vividly recall doing a musical in which the songs taught us a variety of facts about space and the planets. Some of those melodies and facts still come to mind occasionally - over thirty years later."

"Music is a powerful medium for education. In second grade I began piano lessons, then in fifth grade began clarinet, and in high school I overfilled my schedule and did an  independent study in order to fit both band and choir into my day. Each of my musical experiences, however, enriched my life and helped me to develop academic and personal skills that have served me well throughout my life and in all walks of my life."

"My parents offered consistent support and encouragement for all of my endeavors. My mother has always claimed that none of my musical talent came from her, but that she contributed to my musical education by encouraging me to practice. This combination of high expectations and encouragement from my parents is what moved me beyond the times of struggle when things were difficult to the glow of achievement when all of the hard work paid off."

"I did not intend to go into music when I left high school; music was something I wanted to continue to love by not making it a job. I am so thankful that I changed my mind, however, for it is truly rewarding to see students grow when music becomes the heart of their education. That love of music can last a lifetime!"

Jeanne Virant has worked with the sixth grade general music classes for over eight years.

"In my life, music first turned up when the adults pointed out that it was unusual to play back songs on the piano that I heard on the radio by ear. My mother put me into piano lessons in second grade, but it didn't take. Though the teacher was a nice lady, she had no teaching experience and it caused tears and demotivation."

"When I turned 13, an opening with a great teacher, Mrs. Solveig Gerstencorn in Milaca, allowed me to start piano properly. She was MMTA certified and had experience putting students into theory and keyboard exams as well as contest. I never questioned her authority or skill, and she remains one of the most respected educators of my life, including college professors."

"Piano gave me skills in note reading and expression of music in many parts. It provides the foundation for serious music experience. It seemed to me everything came easy compared to what the piano required. Most instruments and singing require keeping track of one musical line while piano can have several going at once, especially Bach fugues."

"Piano also set the practice ethic into my mind as a skill for life. Taking a half hour or hour to practice daily doesn't seem like a big deal. This mindset transfers to other life projects worthy of time such as exercising or studying a new skill."

"My musical journey has allowed participation in many church services, musicals, choirs, and classroom instruction. I have also been able to teach piano over 20 years and that job remains one of my heartfelt favorites. To be a part of a student's success on the piano or any music project satisfies me."

"I credit my mother with finding that great teacher. My dad took the job of asking for favorite tunes and dishing out compliments. But the real work was done through a certified teacher with a passion for teaching."

Bungum, Strand, and Virant teach music in the Paynesville Public Schools.

Would you like to participate as a Community Perspective writer? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 to get scheduled as a writer or e-mail him at

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