Posted: Feb 7, 2011 at 1:00 PM [Feb 7, 2011]
Music education plays a vital role in student success in school and in life. A strong commitment to music education is something that makes the Chelsea School District shine and enriches the students and everyone involved.
“At Chelsea High over 300 students, about one-third of the total enrollment, are involved in our orchestra, band and choir programs,” says Jed Fritzemeier, orchestra director. “This is a very high ratio among public schools.” The district’s program is a reflection of the community in which we reside. Chelsea has a strong foundation in the arts, with facilities, programs and talent typical of much larger communities.
Learning to play music fosters higher thinking and greater achievement. Music requires an incredible amount of coordination–-much like being an athlete. Musicians must use fine and gross motor skills in order to play an instrument. Singers and wind players learn breath control and must be in good shape to play. The rigors of performing require mental and physical stamina and strength.
And as with any team, performing together fosters cooperation. No one is independent of the whole, and each has a unique part and sound. Through music, students reach beyond their comfort zone and learn much about themselves and each other. They spend a lot of time together learning to get along and building life skills.
The Chelsea House Orchestra (CHO) is a great example of music education at its best. CHO is an extra-curricular high school club led by Fritzemeier and comprised of 28 of Chelsea High’s most committed musicians from the public school’s band, orchestra and choir programs. CHO involves students from ninth to 12th grade who perform a high-energy version of Celtic music with a “kick” for audiences here in their hometown and beyond.
So much of our culture is absorbed in music and has been for centuries. The majority of CHO’s music is derived from traditional Celtic fiddle songs. However, other folk music sources are used to provide students with an eclectic musical experience featuring strings, winds, percussion and other less common instruments with a folk connection.
“The Chelsea House Orchestra provides our young musicians with a real-world experience,” says Fritzemeier. “This is a rare opportunity for them to apply what they learn in the classroom in a meaningful way.” Fritzemeier started CHO in 1996 with 10 students. Within three years, the group was performing at Celtic festivals and highland games throughout the region from Alma, Michigan to Edinboro, Pennsylvania. For the first time last summer they were invited to play at the Annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, North Carolina, where the largest gathering of the Clans in the U.S. celebrate their Scottish heritage.
The Chelsea House Orchestra performs at many local venues, including the first Ignite! Chelsea event in the McKinley Clock Tower Gazebo late last summer. Photo by Joel Craig
Even though they are well-known throughout the Midwest, the group has a strong community focus. They performed at Jackson Cascades Park, the Grass Lake Traffic Jam’In, the Chelsea Sounds and Sights Festival Weekend, and Ignite! Chelsea last summer (see photo at right). This past fall CHO was featured at the WJR stage during an MSU home football game as well as provided entertainment for the Chelsea Senior Center annual dinner. Money raised from performing helps offset club costs for upgrading sound equipment and producing a biennial CD. The group also performs free of charge at some community events. They even donated a performance for the auction in support of the Chelsea Center for the Arts, where some of the students take private music lessons.
“CHO performers appear to be having so much fun while they are making music because music IS fun, but there’s a lot of rehearsal time and hard work, too.” says Joel Craig, president of the CHO Board and parent of two members. Few people realize just how hard the students practice. All of the music is memorized, some pieces are choreographed and they do their own packing, unpacking and stage and sound set-up for each performance.
Performing tends to foster close relationships among the musicians and with their music teachers, creating many fond memories of making music with a group. It is difficult to find such opportunities to play together with people of like interest after graduation. That is why many alumni return to perform again at special concerts such at the annual hometown show.
Come celebrate and support the positive aspects of music education at Chelsea House Orchestra’s annual Hometown Concert on Saturday, February 12 at 7:00 PM at the Washington Street Education Center auditorium. The Beach Middle School Fiddle Club will open the show. Beginning Monday, January 17, tickets will be on sale at the Chelsea Pharmacy and through firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are only $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Seating is general admission.
For a full calendar of events, to listen to music or to purchase CDs please visit http://chelseahouseorchestra.org