Song of Houston at Pat Neff Elementary School

Jinett Martinez is a second-grade teacher at Neff Elementary School, in the Sharpstown district, and is working with HGOco as part of a year-long school-wide Song of Houston collaboration. The project involves every student and staff member, some parents and community members as well.

Everyone is learning how to conduct oral history interviews and from those interviews, each class is creating an artistic project. The second grade students and teachers are working, under the auspices of HGOco’s Song of Houston, with FotoFest’s Literacy Through Photography (LTP) program.

Here’s how Ms. Martinez described the work that they’ve already been doing as part of the LTP curriculum:

My students are excited to be writing about their life stories as part of our year-long collaboration! Thus far, my bilingual second-grade class has written about their seven or eight years of their lives in English.

From these writings they created a timeline from when they were born till now, highlighting the important events of their lives. They presented their timelines to the class.

Donna’s Timeline

I was born in August 2001 at Bentaub Hospital.
2002 I learned to walk and stopped using pampers.
2003 I ate by myself.

Jose’s Timeline

2000 I was in my mom's tummy.
2001 I was born.
2002 My first Halloween.
2003 I learned to talk in Spanish.

They did another writing project in class dreaming about what they would like to be when they grow up. They read their stories in front of the class as an oral presentation in English. They also took their individual pictures in Mrs. Stowes’ computer lab.

Here’s some of the great work that they’ve done:

My Dream

My name is Domingo.
I am eight years old.
I am a second grader at Neff Elementary.
My favorite subjects are math and science.
I want to go to Sharpstown Middle School to learn music and arquitect.
I want to go to Bellaire High School to do sports.
Then I want to go to college to do Art and math.
I want to be a teacher to teach math and art.

My Dream

My name is Ignacio.
My favorite class is P.E. or physical education.
I also like to read and learn a lot.
I want to go to Pin Oaks for languages.
Then I want to go to the Visual Arts High School.
Finally I want to go to University of Houston to be a cartoon artist.

We are very fortunate to be part of this project are looking forward to the middle and final outcome on May 15, 2009 when all of our students’ creative projects will be displayed or performed at Hooray for Neff day!

High School Voice Studio

Ryan Cole, a student at HSPVA and a member of the High School Voice Studio (HSVS) wrote a blog about his experience in the studio.

I have experienced so much more than I ever could have imagined in the High School Voice Studio. From the audition at the end of the school year last year to preparing for college auditions now, the journey has been better than I expected.

Receiving assistance while preparing for college is one of the best, and least advertised, parts of the studio. As a high school senior, I spend a lot of time looking at colleges and wondering how to make the right decisions. The HSVS leaders have given me tremendous guidance and shown me what to look for in a school.

As a member of the studio, I also receive a year of weekly voice lessons- all for free! I have made many improvements in a short period of time that simply weren't possible without having a teacher's guidance on a regular basis. My teacher, Dr. Tracy Satterfield, has not only helped fix my vocal issues, but also helped me be aware of when an issue is present and the difference I feel after I correct it. She has also given me priceless assistance with selection of repertoire for auditions and recitals. Finding a song that's age-appropriate and right for a singer’s voice is very challenging if you don't know what you're doing. To be exposed to that level of expertise in high school will only help build my vocal career on a solid foundation.

Another great part of the program is the opportunity to see every mainstage opera at HGO. I first came to a rehearsal of Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci, and I loved being able to see a real rehearsal of an opera. It was amazing to see how combining orchestra, soloists, adult chorus, and children’s chorus can be quite a challenge. I also get to see the final dress rehearsal of each show, where the problems from the previous rehearsal are nonexistent.

I have also experienced some life changing master classes in the High School Voice Studio. I had the honor of singing for Dr. Stephen King of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. He spoke about learning new music and a wonderful concept of practicing: enjoy the journey and don't be obsessed about the destination. His attention to detail and language has forever changed my perspective on language and diction. The last master class I attended was taught by the world-renowned Ana María Martínez. She has a contagious passion for the art of singing. She told a story about projection of the voice that really touched me. She said that you must not force your voice to be louder but allow it to go beyond the back of the house. When she is on stage, she is singing to the people in the very back who may not be able to afford better seats or seats to any other opera the rest of the season. She sings to the people who really sacrifice to be there. She sings to the people who have a true love for opera. She sings to the people who are having a hard day, week, or even life. She believes that singing is not only a craft, but a service to all the people who can benefit from forgetting about there worries for as long the curtain is up.

Now I have begun preparing for my college auditions and the HSVS recital in January. I am so excited to be able to sing on the recital with a new and improved technique, sound, and concept of singing. Ms. Martínez helped us all realize that we don’t just sing on stage, we take people out of their world and into the story. She is the kind of performer I strive to be.

Auditions for next year's HSVS will be posted online in February. Auditions are open to Juniors in High School who are interested in pursuing a degree in music.