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If These Walls Could Talk, They Would Sing

Posted By Jaime Surdynski, Friday, February 10, 2017

Can you imagine the stories held deep within the walls of The Avery Coonley School? How would those walls regale you after nearly a century of standing tall? If you listen closely, can you hear each brick mimic a treasured giggle from one of the many generations of students skipping from class to class?  Can you fathom, for even a moment, how many melodies linger in the air, forever preserved by this building?  If these walls could talk, they would most certainly sing.

Music is a staple at ACS. This is true not merely because science has proven that students involved in music and the arts score better academically, but because music is woven into the very tapestry that is The Avery Coonley School. Before the first bell is rung – a musical tradition all its own – students are in the building singing and playing.  And it’s not just a handful of children, but a plethora!  With more than half of Middle School students in choir and a sizable orchestra ranging from beginning to advanced, there is no shortage of sound before school.

This can perhaps be seen most clearly on Friday mornings when, after a week of experimenting, writing, reading, calculating, running, and self-expressing, a beautiful occurrence begins. Cars full of excited children pull up at the circle entrance, kids scamper up the ramp, through the building and, just before hitting the Cloister, take a left toward the music room.  There, with no regard to group or class, students mingle, share inside jokes – though it is hard to have an inside joke with a 60-piece choir – chat about upcoming events, and genuinely connect with one another in ways that many other schools simply cannot provide.  When the warm-up starts, without saying a word, these young minds work together to sing.  And for 30 minutes, they laugh and harmonize, singing worldly refrains, and fill the music room and surrounding walls with melodies from near and far.

But the music doesn’t stop there.  After early morning serenades, students bustle off to classes where they are frequently greeted with welcome tunes. Avery Coonley classrooms are far from quiet. Music is used as an instructional tool in the early grades and as a vehicle to learn French; the science walls could rap like Eminem about mitosis and the literacy walls might sing lilting strains of adolescent poetry. Each Group’s walls have a set of songs near and dear to them, permanently imbedded, some overflowing with circus themes, others with Native American chants. Select walls reverberate melodies without lyrics at all, such as Third Group’s, which resonate with the Japanese hymn Sakura. Kids play sports while music blasts from the speakers, giving their running feet a pulse or ramping up enthusiasm. Though the gym walls may be newer, they too hold memories of championship chants, encouraging words from teammates, and honored National Anthems. 

Perhaps the most musical of all the walls are those in the Performing Arts Center. They house the booming sound of a brass choir, the decadent ringing of chimes, and the hums of songs sung in reverence. These walls provide the backdrop for the Thanksgiving Program and undoubtedly know each verse of “For the Beauty of the Earth” by heart, but they have the Hallelujah descant rooted into their very foundation.  The PAC is home to the opening ceremony for World’s Fair, Heritage Festival, Shakespeare Fest, the Variety Show, and countless more celebrations.  Courageous Seventh Group students have their debut guitar performances on the stage in winter, and spring is marked with commencement songs as graduates become alumni. 

From the walls of the EC building echoing with the ABC’s to the majestic walls of the PAC, there are secrets only a historic building like this would know.  There are melodic memories encapsulated here as richly diverse and beautifully simple as every child that graces the halls of ACS.  In a school that cherishes music as much as we do, it is no surprise that if the Avery Coonley walls could talk, they would sing!

~ Jaime Surdynski
ACS Music Teacher 

Tags:  Fine Arts  Music 

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