Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 7:32 am | Fair 44º


Crane School Ensemble Sends Out Good Vibes!

Students thumping a happy tune during a syncopated six-campus tour featuring their marimbas and xylophones

Anticipating spring break and a reprieve from daily classwork, local elementary students enjoyed Crane Country Day School’s Vibes! performances last week. The Crane ensemble — 19 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders — played marimbas and xylophones with mallets and catchy syncopated beats during a “concert tour” of Cesar Chavez, Cold Spring, Hope, Monte Vista, Roosevelt and Vieja Valley schools.

Nearly 250 students at Cesar Chavez listened in rapt attention during an outdoor performance at the 1102 E. Yanonali St. campus. Toni Mackie, Vibes! director and Crane music teacher, and drama teacher Eric Haessler introduced the students and the songs. They performed nine African songs, including a welcome song from Zimbabwe; “Tsokashata,” or “Bad Monkey” from South Africa; “Gravity,” “Paint by Numbers,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “Munamato.”

Mackie explained to the enthusiastic audience that the music is based on layers and patterns. One group of instruments begins one pattern, while another starts another pattern, creating a layer of sounds and vibrations. Periodically, one student is given the stage and beats a solo pattern, while the group waits to add its lively sounds, movements and vibrations.

“The syncopated African-style music is one of the best types in the world for developing musical ability in students,” Mackie said. “Concentration, cooperation and listening skills develop as the players focus on their part and hear how it fits into a larger pattern.

“By the time we are ready to perform a new piece, we know every part.”

The enthusiasm was contagious as Cesar Chavez students bounced their feet and swayed their shoulders to the various songs.

Vibes! students pick up their beat during a performance at Cesar Chavez School on the Lower Eastside.
Vibes! students pick up their beat during a performance at Cesar Chavez School on the Lower Eastside. (Dana Fisher photo)

“The sounds remind me of music from Hawaii and the forest,” said fourth-grader Jorge Malfavon, who plays the recorder and guitar, and is studying Beethoven and other classical music at school this year. “I can smell the air and the green grass and I like the sound of the big tubes.”

The Vibes! ensemble is one of three xylophone groups at Crane offered as a unique extracurricular activity. Vibes! is 6 years old, and has offered spring performances to area schools and events for the past four years. Vibes! will also be performing at Cate School, I Madonnari, Ojai Storytelling Festival and Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Click here for more information about Crane Country Day School, or call admission director Debbie Williams at 805.969.7732.

Melissa Marsted is a Noozhawk contributor, author and freelance writer.

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