By Karen Billing
Participation in the music program at R. Roger Rowe School has crescendoed over the last two years and the school’s choir and instrumental groups are being awarded for their artistic achievements.
At the Music in the Parks Festival at Disneyland on June 1, Rowe music groups won first place in every category they entered in their division: First place in orchestra; beginning band; advanced band; and choir. Additionally, the orchestra and advanced band won “Best Overall Elementary School.”
This is the second year in a row that the school has brought home a trophy haul from Disneyland, last year R. Roger Rowe earned four trophies.
“It was a wonderful experience, the excitement from the students was palpable,” said Principal Kim Pinkerton, who was in the audience at Disneyland.
Pinkerton said the school is always reminding students about good audience behavior and it really showed up that day — “I’ve never seen our students so attentive.”
R. Roger Rowe Music Director RC Haus agreed, noting that he was very impressed with how quiet the students were, sitting and listening to other performances.
“As well as they played, what means the most to me was that their behavior was exemplary,” Haus said.
In just his second year at Rowe, Haus has not only brought in the hardware but seen a small music program blossom from just nine students in choir and 12 each in strings and orchestra groups to 130 students in instrumental bands and 60 students in choir.
Haus said he started “aggressively recruiting” students last year and obtained a bumper crop of new musicians. He challenged himself to get 10 boys to learn to play the violin and he got them.
Haus said it’s very rewarding to see a second grader perform on a flute or a trumpet when they had never played a note months before.
“I can see in a tangible way my influence on their lives,” Haus said.
Due to growing interest, next year auditions will be held for students to get into the advanced “Eagle Band,” and Haus said there will likely be enough participants to form an intermediate band.
Haus said he feels very fortunate that the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation and the school have made a commitment to strengthen the arts program. The Foundation supports music with seven music teachers or “coaches,” four for strings, three for band. The Performing Arts Parents Association (PAPA) additionally held an instrument donation drive this year, which has helped introduce students to new instruments.
To participate in band and orchestra, the kids are in rehearsals at 6:45 a.m., two to three times a week. Choir meets once a week before school.
“It amazes me that all the kids come this early,” said Haus.
The early starts also make it a very long day for Haus — he teaches music to students in all of the grades K-6 on the “wheel rotation,” and he teaches guitar and piano music as middle school electives. Haus also helps put on the school musical every year.
“I have a strong philosophy that as a teacher my first responsibility is to help instill a love of music in these kids because if I can do that, for the rest of their lives they will enjoy music,” Haus said. “It’s what makes these long days and early mornings for me totally worth it.”