Teaching, learning opportunites and intangible rewards

Erica BrooksErica Brooks, a senior at UW Oshkosh, is an active Human Services Leadership major with a minor in Music. Along with being employed with five different offices throughout campus. Erica is also heavily involved with campus groups, organizations and events. Erica has participated in the University Alternative Spring Break trip to Guatemala, studied abroad in Kenya and volunteered with Hands on Oshkosh and through the Human Services Organization. Erica is excited to offer her services to the Boys & Girls Club in creating a music program that can continue to grow after she concludes her college education at Oshkosh.

If I had to pick one impact that the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh has made on me personally since beginning my internship with the music program is to not limit yourself on how much an individual, no matter how young or old, can teach you. Last week we had the opportunity, thanks to very gracious donors, to take a group of about 20 girls to the Broadway Musical Mary Poppins at the PAC in Appleton.

This experience made me realize that no matter what age you are or how much weight is on your shoulders that you can and should always take even a little bit of time to simply enjoy the world around you. Yes, having a 12-passenger van full of female teenagers can make for a very entertaining and high-energy road trip. Being able to simply sit back and listen to their stories is really eye opening. What their current lives entail, their future dreams and how they enjoy each others’ company.  It made me look back into my high school days and think about what my dreams where, including so many aspirations, ideas and excitement. However, most of all I enjoyed hearing about their thoughts on the performance compared to my own thoughts.

The time back at the Boys and Girls Club has also been a continual eye opener, not only for me but the newly hired music teacher Alice Evans who just recently moved to the Winnebago area. Alice decided to start a music writing class where the club members can simply just write words, sentences anything they feel like during that time. From there we work on transitioning it into a song. Alice does an astounding job creating a musical line on the piano that matches what the club members are trying to express in their lyrics. Alice and I were ecstatic when two girls came to class one day a couple weeks into semester and had written a whole song and were wondering if Alice could try it on the piano. There is nothing more rewarding to Alice and me at this point in the program then to see the club members incorporating what they have done in class and using it to cope with what they are going through at home or in the community in a positive matter.

Our next adventure is trying to grow our rhythm class, which has been challenging due to limited materials. Hand drums recently arrived and it will be a new challenge for the club members to treat such delicacies with care while at the same time being able to work through what they are struggling with from the inside. We were able to have one class so far with the drums. As always there has to be room for change and experimentation.

Alice and I hope to bring a sense of unity while playing the drums. The club members can encourage each other to play solos while the other members work together to create the continual rhythm and beat. This will be a challenge for the club offers a place where individuals can often feel free of the restrictions and caves they feel in other places. School, where most of the day they are sitting in class, at home, where they are restricted to sitting on the couch or in their rooms — if they have a home in the first place. The Boys and Girls Club offers them a place to release the boiling energy inside of them whether it is through the Zumba class, soccer in the gym or simply having a quiet place to color or write a song. Through the rhythm class we hope the members feel free to express themselves but in a respectable and controlled manner.

I would like to wish good luck to the girls who will be participating in Solo and Ensemble in the next couple weeks at their schools. They have all shown great talent from what I have witnessed at the Boys and Girls Club and look forward to hearing back from them about their experience. Good Luck and do not forget your SMILE!

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