Denver Kids Awesomely Get Jazz Education In School Over Cafeteria Lunch

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cafeteriaThe memory of my elementary school cafeteria goes something like this: Get trampled trying to make it to my seat, wolf down the contents of my lunchbox under fluorescent lights in the tiny slice of time allotted for eating, try to chat with friends over the yelling and scooting and food-trading, scramble out the door to an even more chaotic recess. I’m amazed I didn’t have digestive problems.

However, some modern cafeterias are taking on a much more Zen-like approach. From

Every so often, though, students at Alice Terry Elementary School, southwest of Denver, are asked not to make any noise. When the music teacher told students here they’d occasionally have a “silent” lunch break, this was kindergartner Alyssa Norquette’s reaction: “Why do we need a silent lunch? Is it because we’re too loud or something?”

That is the reason there’s a growing movement nationally to have silent lunches. But that’s not music teacher Ami Hall’s reason. She knew students here didn’t have a lot of exposure to live instruments, so she started asking musicians to come in at lunch.

“When you give the kids a chance to hear something that is outside of their range, it allows them to be curious, and if they’re curious, they’re better learners in every subject,” she says. Students soon were hearing a shiny gold saxophone played by Harold Rapp, a local musician. The kids were entranced. As Hall had theorized, being quiet at lunch allowed them to think about what they were hearing.

I vividly remember attending an intimate high school assembly in which a steel drum band played for an hour. It was invigorating to hear such exotic music in the middle of a regular school day, like a much-needed punctuation mark in a long sentence. I don’t remember what class I had after the assembly, but I do remember feeling extremely refreshed and ready to learn.

I don’t think it’s something we actively think about, but we need a variety of sounds in the same way we need a variety of sights, tastes and textures throughout the day to feel alert and engaged with life. That’s why this whole dinner theatre-esque school cafeteria idea is so ingenious. Not only does it bring down the overall decibel level from dangerous to acceptable, but it’s exposing kids to live music and bringing a feeling of calmness to (what’s supposed to be) break time for children during the school day. Oh, and it’s employing starving musicians, too!

Can we please do this everywhere?

(photo: hxdbzxy/Shutterstock)