While volunteering at Stevenson Elementary, Jamie Kennett used a Friends of the Arts grant to buy ukuleles for a class of students who had emotional and behavioral disorders.

Learning the ukulele not only gave the students a new musical skill, but also imparted essential life skills, such as patience and perseverance.

The Geneseo native is set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in music education. She talked about her project and future plans in an interview conducted in April.

Why are you becoming a music education teacher?

When I first started out I knew that I really loved music and I loved working with kids. Music education just seemed to fit everything I loved. As I have continued through the program and actually begun working in classrooms and with large groups of students I’ve really discovered just how essential music is to developing a kid who can just handle the world and be successful in what they do in every aspect. To me it’s grown to more of using music to teach them to be better people and not just about, you know, where I am teaching them band or I’m teaching general music.

Tell me a little about the project for which you received your Friends of the Arts grant and how you used that grant.

My professor, Dr. Kim McCord, told me about the grant. And I had volunteered last year and the year before to work with a group of students in a self-contained classroom who had behavioral disorders. Those students had gone through a couple of different instruments in their general music classroom. They had done recorders, which they liked for a while and then at times didn’t want to do so much anymore. And then they did drums, which they really liked. But the other teachers weren’t thrilled about the noise, so they had to stop the drumming. Dr. McCord thought it might be a cool thing to do, would be to apply for ukuleles since I was in her class and in that class we were using ukuleles to work with a separate group of kids at another school. So I applied for the grant to get the ukuleles for the boys to give them something to work on. With behavior disorders it can be difficult to focus on something or, if you are having a bad day, to turn that around. And so to work on an instrument, to work on something that interests you, or them, really gives them a great opportunity to not only learn music but to work on skills that they are working on developing every day.

Is there anything you are working on now that you would like to tell us about?

Currently, I’m just student teaching. I still live in Bloomington but I commute to Champaign every day. Currently, I’m at Robeson Elementary, which is a little more of a lower income school. I work with kids from a lot of different backgrounds, with a wide range of talents and needs.

Friends of the Arts small logoWhy do you think these Friends of the Arts grants are important?

I think, at least for me, it was important because it gave me an opportunity that I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else. Where else would I have been able to come up with a couple hundred dollars to get ukuleles for boys who could really use it? So I think the Friends of the Arts grants are important just because they make things happen that are really special and that otherwise might not be able to occur.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I would love a job teaching either general music or band, either one of my focus areas. But just hopefully finding a school somewhere my talents would be best put and where I would just be able to help kids learn music and learn how to be better kids.

One thought on “Q-and-A with Jamie Kennett: Music ed major used ukuleles to teach children with behavior problems

  1. Jamie, what a treasure you will be for any school district in whatever field you choose, whether music or special education. Congratulations to you and to your students!