Education

Rock Hill students spend Memorial Day learning about music, war

Students in the 6th-grade chorus at Saluda Trail Middle School stand and salute the American flag during a video featuring Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
Students in the 6th-grade chorus at Saluda Trail Middle School stand and salute the American flag during a video featuring Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” dworthington@heraldonline.com

The students in the sixth-grade chorus at Saluda Trail Middle School were emphatic Monday: they didn’t want to be in school.

They wanted to be outside playing, going to a picnic, riding the rides at Carowinds.

But Memorial Day was a school day in Rock Hill, as students made up time missed because of bad weather.

In Pam Johnson’s class, students listened to music and watched videos, but not on their computer “devices,” which were placed underneath their seats.

The students’ attention was focused on the screen, where Johnson showed music videos featuring jive, scat and dance.

Most importantly, the music made a connection to more than 70 years ago.

Johnson’s lesson for her chorus Monday was the connectivity music played during World War II. She said she wanted her students to understand that Memorial Day was a day to remember those who served their country.

Johnson said she was amazed by the knowledge of her sixth- and eighth-grade students. They knew, for instance, that World War II started in Poland in 1939, and they knew about Dec. 7, 1941.

What most didn’t know was the role music played during that time.

Johnson started with one of the top hits of 1939, Kate Smith’s “God Bless America,” showing her students how songs “can uplift you.” Her students not only heard Smith sing but watched film of her.

Another film showed The Andrews Sisters – LaVerne, Maxene and Patty – with their rendition of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” As this was a music class, Johnson described how the trio got its sound – LaVerne an alto, Maxene a soprano and Patty singing lead as a mezzo-soprano.

Cab Calloway and his band followed with music and Calloway’s scat singing. The Nicholas Brothers took flight with their acrobatic style of tap dancing, called “flash dancing,” to the “Jim Jam Jive.”

The class ended with the students standing as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” was played.

“Music,” Johnson told her class, is “important in every walk of life and every time of life.”

Or as student Sasha Cross said, “You need to appreciate what you have.”

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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