By RUSSELL JONES
PROCTOR — When you think of a school band class, you likely think of something like a marching band. At Proctor Elementary, they are doing much more than traditional band classes.
New music teacher Kate Cusson is bringing her youthful energy and passion for teaching and combining it with a love of music to provide a wide variety of choices for Proctor students.
In addition to Beginner and Intermediate band classes, students can also participate in Chorus and world drumming as well as a hand-bell class. Cusson has 21 students in beginner and intermediate band, 27 students in chorus and 19 students in the hand-bell class.
“I work very closely with the high school music teacher to coordinate with them,” Cusson said. “Everything we do here is preparing these students to become better musicians there.”
Cusson is a lifelong Vermonter, having gone to high school in Vergennes before moving on to get a teaching degree at Castleton University.
“Music gives the kids a way to express themselves, an outlet that gives them different ways to be involved,” Cusson said. “I love seeing the look on someone’s face when they’re learning something new and all of a sudden they understand it.”
The Proctor music department works with Pre-K through sixth grades. The Pre-K through second grades meet twice a week for 30 minutes and the third through sixth grades meet once a week for 45 minutes.
The focus so far is on reading music, but Cusson hopes to have a Ukulele intro for students in the future and the hand-bell class is working on chords and melodies.
“Last week we played the theme from Star Wars,” she said. “I’m working on finding them some meatier music to play with the bells.”
Cusson previously worked for Bridport Central and Shoreham Elementary schools for three years after graduating from Castleton.
“I loved it there and it hurt to have to leave, but my job got repositioned,” the 26-year-old Cusson said. “But now I am full-time at one school, which around here is a music teachers dream come true.”
She went on to add that she has more students now at Proctor than she did at her previous two schools combined.
“There are so many more resources that I can pull from here,” she said. “The staff is also very supportive; they’ve all been so nice.”
In class, Cusson teaches her students to read music as well as how to play instruments.
“It’s not just reading notes, it’s identifying music and patterns,” she said. “They see the patterns and get to find the rhythm.”
Cusson starts them early, letting them color on and draw musical notes in Pre-K and the older kids get handouts of sheet music to follow along with as music is played, helping them find those patterns and rhythms.
Sage Cole’bugay is a fifth grader in Cusson’s hand-bell and band classes. She plays the flute this year, but played the trombone last year.
“I like playing the flute because it has keys and it’s more fun to play,” she said. “I like the hand-bells because the sound it makes is nice and it’s a lot of fun to ring them.”
Cusson said every week gets better and better with the students in her class. She usually expects the first few weeks of school to be mostly getting the students accustomed to the behavior she expects in class. “I have not had any problems with the students here. It’s really impressive the way the fifth and sixth grade students help the third graders,” she said. “I try to keep from pushing students into the danger zone because that can lead to acting out. I try to push them out of their comfort zone, however, because that is where they learn the most.”