Learning about the world, one song at a timeApr 30, 2022 10:43AM ● By Jet Burnham
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
A South African hit song has made its way around the world to become a favorite of the sixth graders at Ridge View Elementary.
The 130 sixth-graders performed “Jerusalema,” a song written by South African DJ Master KG featuring vocalist Nomcebo. The song and its accompanying line dance gained popularity through TikTok and YouTube viral videos. Now people around the world are unified by their love of dancing to the song.
The “Jerusalema” performance was the finale of the sixth graders’ performance of “Music…the Universal Language.” The show featured songs from South Africa, West Africa, India, Iceland, China and Brazil. Students learned the songs and dances. They also learned to play the songs on a variety of musical instruments.
The program was written by Ridge View Music Specialist Kristen Helton to support what the students have been learning about countries and cultures of the world as part of their grade level standards. In addition to learning the lyrics and meanings of the songs, students also learned about the holidays when they are sung, such as Chinese New Year and India’s Diwali Festival.
“The new songs that we learned, we also learned about the culture that went along with it,” said sixth-grader Cooper Edgeworth.
Students were encouraged to dress in clothing to either represent a country from their heritage or their favorite country.
As the Beverly Taylor Music Specialist, Helton’s job is to integrate music activities with academics. Her lessons reinforce what students are learning in class. Additionally, Helton said, the educational benefits for students involved in music education is well-documented.
She also believes music has another important benefit of bringing people together. She said this has been especially true after the social separation many have experienced the past two years, when students were unable to perform live for their parents and peers.
“It just bonds us together in a celebration,” she said. “I don't know if there's anything else that can do it like music. It’s so unique in that way.”
When the sixth-graders performed “Samba Lelê,” a Brazilian children’s folk song, as part of their program, many Latino students recognized the style of music and language. Ridge View Elementary has had an influx of refugees this year, many from South American countries. Helton said music has been the universal language for these students. Because playing an instrument doesn’t require English skills, they’ve been able to easily integrate into music class.
Helton creates a musical performance for each grade to perform each year. In October, third graders performed a Halloween musical. The fifth graders performed “The Elves’ Impersonator” in December. Fourth graders celebrated Utah history with “Utah…This is the Place!” The second graders will perform their play about bugs at the end of May.
Principal Meredith Doleac said music is an important part of the school culture.
“We really believe that music is a great way for students to express and celebrate,” she said. She added that music class is the favorite part of the day for many kids.
Kelly Lowe is impressed with Helton and said her children, a second and a sixth grader, love music class.
“She gets the kids into it,” she said.