Marion Center Area SD students work together to make music
In the W.A. McCreery Elementary Music Room, fifth-grade students sit on what look like plain, wooden boxes. Others hold smaller, unassuming wooden structures.
These don’t look like traditional musical instruments. But at the direction of their Marion Center Area High School peers, the students begin tapping and pounding rhythms to create a diverse, vibrant sound. The classroom in the rural, western Pennsylvania district in Indiana County sounds more like a stage for a Caribbean band.
The students are playing cajon drums and bongo cajons, which are instruments found in Latin American culture. The opportunity to play real instruments and learn from older peers is all thanks to Marion Center Area High School music teacher Jonathan Schaller.
In 2014, Schaller was awarded a PSEA Innovative Teaching Grant to launch the “let’s play the cajon” program in his district. The program benefits generations of students, providing Schaller’s junior high and high school students with the opportunity to build the cajon drums, create elementary music lesson plans using the instruments, and then get experience teaching their younger peers.