Many children learn how to play musical instruments in school, but most don't learn the marimba. Teacher Mary Donohoe has been teaching the instrument from Zimbabwe to students at Moscow Charter School since 2009. "There were four or five kids who would come in after school," says Donohoe. "More kids showed up and it grew from there. We now have two sections - the Cubs, who are usually younger and newer to the program, and the Lions, who are older and more advanced." The marimba players enjoy learning the music and instruments and friendships grow. "They’ve formed a close-knit community with each other," says Donohoe. "They've developed deep and trusting friendships."
Donohoe has found children connect with the marimbas for different reasons. "The experience gives them great confidence in their ability to learn music by ear," she says. "They also love to master syncopated patterns which are exciting to hear and play." As the children develop musically, they're often encouraged by their teacher to challenge themselves. "We have several kids who are beginning to compose for marimba," explains Donohoe. “One of our kids has accomplished at least five compositions. They're absolutely remarkable in their resemblance to the classic sound and style."
"I like feeling the rhythm of what I am playing and the nice tone it produces," Zachary says.
The young marimba composer she’s referring to is eighth grader Zachary Dyre. Zachary began learning the marimba as a first grader at Moscow Charter School. "I like feeling the rhythm of what I am playing and the nice tone it produces," Zachary says. “I like composing my own pieces because I come up with rhythms in class all the time and I can then put those rhythms into notes and then a song.”
One of the highlights for the children and their teacher happened last summer when the group attended the Zimbabwe Music Festival in Monmouth, Oregon. "Our kids were the youngest performers at the festival and the audience loved them - especially the Zimbabweans," says Donohoe. The group spent time in workshops learning music and dance from Zimbabwe and added another tune to their repertoire. “It was a fun experience to be at Zimfest,” says Zachary.
For teacher Mary Donohoe, working with the kids has always been about more than just the music. “It has been a great privilege and joy to work with these students and to be a part of their growth and development as musicians and as citizens,” she says. “They are wondrous and remarkable human beings.”♦