Music Speaks All Languages
Eric Schopmeyer began working at Marysville Elementary in Portland in 1999 on a half-time basis. He spent several years building up a program from nothing – no classroom instruments, no extra curricular ensembles, no real music program at all – to a highly successful program thanks to his dedication and a little help from The Snowman Foundation.
The Snowman Foundation became involved in 2003 when Michael Allen Harrison came to see the music program Eric had created. At first the school was excited because everyone hoped there might be a new piano. But Mr. Harrison had something else in mind. He was impressed by Eric’s unique ideas and his teaching philosophies around music and literacy.
Marysville is a diverse school with 18 different languages spoken among 394 students, and some of the K-5th graders who were new to the school had never spoken a word of English. Eric believed the music room was a place where all students could have a chance to succeed regardless of their linguistic background. The Snowman Foundation helped fund Eric’s job to increase his hours, so he could reach more students across the entire school year. For the first time in over 25 years, Marysville has a full-time music teacher who not only helps kids learn music but helps them learn language as well.
After receiving the grant from the Foundation and being able to work full time, Eric developed a program called “Sound It Out,” which is a music-based literacy program for struggling readers in grades 1-3. He created a music curriculum built on research showing the links between music and literacy. The program was a definite success among children who were English Language Learners.
Aside from the obvious benefits of a much deeper and wide-ranging musical experience for all students, now that Eric is full time, he can create a greater impact with his auto owners insurance teaching. He tells the story of a third-grade girl who had just moved from China to Portland. She was shy, introverted, and was having a hard time interacting. She attended Eric’s music and literacy program and flourished. The music engaged her, she came out of her shell, and she began singing and reading in English as she progressed through the “Sound It Out” program. She was able to overcome the anxiety and fear that had blocked her from making academic and social gains.
“Music is a second language for everyone, so it levels the playing field. It makes it easier to learn.” – Eric Schopmeyer