FEF Grants Are Music to Teachers' Ears

Nov 08, 2017

What has four strings, is easy to store and provides loads of musical fun? The ukulele!

The Frisco Education Foundation made four more campuses strum for joy as their music teachers learned their request for a grant to fund a ukulele program to supplement their curriculum was approved. Teachers’ smiles lit up the room as the “Grants for Great Ideas!" awards team entered classrooms with balloons and fanfare to make the announcements.

“We had grant applications for some wonderful projects in the District such as makerspace supplies, robotics and art projects, but it was unusual to have four different schools request funds for ukulele programs,” observed Allison Miller, director of the Frisco Education Foundation. “Our goal is to provide funds for innovative ideas in the classroom. A supplemental ukulele program fits that description. The ukulele has proven to be a great tool for helping students learn to play a simple instrument and develop a love for music.”

In all, more than 40 educators at 33 campuses received grants to fund a variety of curriculum enhancements encompassing all levels and areas of education. The grants given out through the Foundation’s “Grants for Great Ideas!” program totaled $107,000. This project of the Foundation targets ways to meet needs of the Frisco ISD educators that may not be funded by the campus or District budget.

"It is so rewarding to see the teachers' responses to learning their application has been accepted. It is wonderful to know that the grants will be used to expand curriculum and directly impact students," said Terri West, program specialist for Frisco Education Foundation. 

Receiving funding for these supplemental instruments were elementary music teachers Shannon Strader of Mooneyham, Janis Dahl of Smith, Katherine Gassensmith of Boals and Laura Rohman of Purefoy. 

The ukulele, which has its roots in Portugal, is most commonly known as a signature instrument in Hawaiian music. It has seen an increase in popularity in the last several years. Artists who embrace the instrument include Bruno Mars, Zooey Deschanel and Eddie Vedder.

“The ukulele has become a new, popular way for our elementary teachers to supplement our curriculum,” said Preston Hazzard, assistant director of Fine Arts. “We have several music teachers who began using the ukulele a few years ago and more are interested. We offered training in August for teachers who want to use it in class or with after-school clubs.”

The ukulele is considered supplemental because not all campuses have chosen to add it to their music programs. All FISD music teachers teach vocal music and the recorder is still part of the traditional elementary music curriculum. But some teachers using grant money from Frisco Education Foundation or through their local PTA have supplemented with other instruments such as drums or Orff instrument ensembles. Orff ensembles include the xylophone, timpani, glockenspiels, marimbas and metallophones.

Laura Rohman of Purefoy, who is a self-taught ukulele player, requested funds to purchase 35 ukuleles, which she will use with her fifth grade music class. She said she likes the concept of ukulele for elementary students because it is a simple four-string instrument.

“It has several chords that only use one or two fingers. This makes it successful for most students. It is also an instrument that students might want to continue playing in the future,” she said.

Please visit the Frisco Education Foundation website to learn more about opportunities to support students and teachers through donations that go toward scholarships for students and grants for FISD educators.

See all the 2017-2018 grant winners here.


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