Mendota students extend learning through residency
Mendota students extend learning through music residency
Posted on 01/13/2016
Charlie Maguire at Mendota
Photo credit: Abby Breyer

For two weeks in December, students at Mendota Elementary School immersed themselves in the songwriting process under the guidance of local singer and songwriter Charlie Maguire.

Maguire, who has spent more than 40 years composing, performing and recording music, worked with classes in all grades to educate them on the songwriting process. While his time spent with kindergarten classes was focused on performance, students in first through fourth grade composed original songs with Charlie’s assistance. The songs, which grew in sophistication with the older students, each focused on Mendota’s all-school theme of water.

“When I come into a school, I ask the classroom teachers to pick a topic they want reinforced with the children. If they’re learning about the Great Lakes, then that’s what I want to write with them,” Maguire said. “I use songwriting to reinforce learning. Children feel confident offering ideas because they already know something about the topic.”

During his visits to school, Maguire prefers to spend the first week writing and fine-tuning the song with the students. Through a five-step process, Maguire said he and the students are able to have the song written in one or two sessions.

Identifying a focus for the song, introducing students to different types of songs (i.e. ballads), and working in manageable segments are some important keys to the process. Once the students have an idea of how the song could sound, they then provide the content.

Charlie Maguire
 Photo courtesy of COMPAS

“When you hear that applause at the end of a session, you know they feel like they’ve done a good job. The kids applaud themselves. They’re proud and they’re saying ‘We did it! We think this is great,’” said Maguire.

After the song is written, the focus shifts to performance throughout the second week. The residency culminates in a concert, like the one held at Mendota on December 10, where all students perform their songs accompanied by Maguire.

In addition to songwriting and performing, Maguire also introduces students to musical history by demonstrating older folk instruments like the jaw harp and spoons.

“Charlie’s love of music is evident as he shares his life experiences with students,” said Mendota music teacher Mark Scroggins. “My students continue to talk fondly of the time they spent writing music with Charlie. He showed the students that working to get better at something you love can be very rewarding.”

Maguire’s music residency was made possible by the Mendota PTA and COMPAS (Community Programs in the Arts), which is among the oldest organizations in the United States connecting working artists and schools.