Venturing into the K-3 world of music with Kevin Schweigert
BY GARRETT HARR
Outlook staff writer
Kevin Schweigert is the closest the city of Laurel will ever get to streets of Broadway. Sometimes at the Alberta Theatre, sometimes elsewhere a resident may be able to catch a show, a traveling production of ‘Wicked’ or ‘Rent,’ but not always.
Laurel’s K-3 students at Graff, West, and South get to experience the professional broadway musical craftsmen and showmanship of their teacher Mr. Schweigert everyday.
He has taught general music in Laurel to K-2 for the last 10 years and then added K-3 three years ago. His teaching style and curriculum in his classes are very structured, serious and advanced, using everything he learned while attaining his BSAD in music education from MSU Billings.
He is currently working on his masters during the summers at U of M in Art and Integration. His classes are built on arts and core subjects fused together in a lesson plan, like math and building numbers in music.
Until he finishes his masters he can be seen at the NOVA center for the performing arts in Billings where he runs the Venture Improv group. Similar to the television show “Whose Line Is It Anyways?” The audience participates and sometimes gives the performers places or people to portray on the stage in improvised acts and games. The first Saturday of every month everyone is invited to participate.
Schweigert does an intense boot-camp workout every morning and has lost over 75 pounds in the process; he loves hiking and cooking and performing vocals in shows He also teaches singing on the side. He was a Broadway kid his whole life with a theatre background, except he participated in sports too and was in the boys choir. He has a touch of everything to bring to the classroom, as does every child, he believes.
“They are new to everything,” Schweigert said. “To see the kids learn something for the first time and create music for the first time is just amazing.”
He starts his youngest students with un-pitched percussion, lining up certain songs to certain sounds to certain instruments. The kids attach sounds of animals, like ducks, to instruments like rhythm sticks. A cow-bell naturally leads to a cow, a hen to a tambourine and so on. They use high and low-pitched percussions on really small xylophones.
“They are new to everything,” he said. “They have no bad habits yet. It is just so exciting to watch someone do something for the first time.”
In second grade the kids get to make their own drums at the end of the year using fruit and vegetable cans and balloons to go over them, and they get to personalize the drums any way they want to.
“It’s very important at such a young age to build an understanding of the art form and music.” Schweigert said. “give the kids opportunities and different instruments to explore all the elements.”
His students learn word patterns and read to see that reading does have a natural rhythm to use, and incorporate that with inflection.
Schweigert’s students know musical notes, the 8th note, dotted half notes and half dotted notes; those are all very important fundamentals to actually understanding music.
He says he loves his job and he loves what he teaches, “I make sure it has validity; it can actually help, giving them skills and basic concepts they can use outside of music.”
Schweigert believes all the joy the kids have making music in class isn’t at all one-sided.
“It is the perfect job for the performer,” he states. “I get to do 29 performances every week for each class.” Schweigert remains cheerful and brims with energy and gives his young students the best and most useful information he can in those formative early years.
“The only differences in the grades I teach is that in first grade, they either like it or they don’t like something. In second, they can actually talk to me and give me concrete reasons why they don’t like something. Then in third. they can actually explain the why of the things they don’t like,” he explained.