By Patty Schaller
Music education may be suffering at many public schools these days, but it is alive and thriving at St. Paul’s First Lutheran School in North Hollywood.
Children from preschool through grade 8 receive a comprehensive education at St. Paul’s, according to Principal Rendy Koeppel. Not only are they taught the academics, but they also have classes in drama, music, athletics including league competition (grades 4-8), technology including a computer lab and equipment in each classroom, an 8-week summer camp, and an affordable after-school care program for those who need it.
Karl Bauer teaches St. Paul’s music program. A graduate of Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, Bauer grew up in a musical family and taught music and band in elementary schools for 25 years before coming to St. Paul’s. He uses the Kodaly method for kindergarten and up. The Hungarian method is based on the idea that everyone can sing and incorporates games and moving-to-music for children. The older children learn music theory and history, singing in parts, notes, scales, key and time signatures, and music terminology.
“Anyone who has done this is a pretty good musician,” Bauer says. “We want kids to develop their God-given abilities and use them to praise God.”
Unlike many other school teachers, Bauer teaches in a bright, airy music room all his own, decorated with portraits of classical composers and filled with musical instruments. His philosophy is that every child should be able to sing in tune, on pitch, and enjoy it.
“I would like every child to have the opportunity to perform. I want kids to use their talents for others. We spend a lot of time working on music. I want them to be able to make their own music.”
St. Paul’s students have the opportunity to do this in Canticle Choir for K through grade 3 and Crusader Choir for grades 4-8, performing in church 8 to 12 times a year and in the Fall and Spring Festivals. Each year, the school also puts on a musical for the community. This year’s play has not been decided yet, but past ones have included Peter Pan; You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown; and The Wizard of Oz. The performance takes place at the school April 26 and 27.
“The kids do an outstanding job — very entertaining,” Bauer says.
“Music is crucial. It’s a blessing and a gift. It should have a priority and be maintained. It is vital for children to have musical experience,” Bauer says. “I am a huge believer in a well-rounded education: academics, athletics, art, and music. Here, children get to do all these things.”
Sarah Wendorf and Austin Mindock, both nine and in the fourth grade, and Smitty Baron, 13, a seventh grader, are big fans of both the music program and Mr. Bauer.
“I like to learn how to play instruments,” Sarah, who plays the flute, says enthusiastically.
Austin agrees. “It’s fun. My brother plays, too.”
Smitty likes the fact that music helps for a scholarship to high school. He has played percussion since the fourth grade. He also likes his teacher.
“He’s different. He has new ideas and experiences. Mr. B is pretty cool.”
St. Paul’s First Lutheran School is located at 11330 McCormick St. in North Hollywood. For more information, call (818) 763-2892 or go to stpaulsfirst.org for more information.