Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet students get song writing lesson
13WIBW.com. Kimberly Donahue. October 27, 2020.

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Fifth graders at Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet School learned how to write songs Tuesday with the help of country musician, Jake Gill.

In breakout songwriting sessions, students crafted songs about mental health during the pandemic, the changing weather and school pride.

The experience is owed to teacher Jennifer Murphy McDaniel, who was nominated for the Country Music Teacher/Classroom Initiative.

“To be able to provide them an opportunity that was out of the norm was pretty cool and we’ve also been using a whole bunch of technology in our classrooms to be able to have visitors and things,” McDaniel said.

“Music is one of the most relational things right now I mean we created a song in less than 15-20 minutes is what we really used to create that song and so that tells us that we can use that to reflect it tells us we can use that to get our thoughts across or how we feel."

In addition to Gill’s virtual appearance, McDaniel also received school supplies for her classroom, a need she said is heightened by the pandemic.

“Especially in this COVID world, we have to have it where students only touch their things and so those supplies allowed me to do that," she said.

“It’s pretty awesome that somebody who doesn’t even really know me personally stepped up and said ‘hey, this teacher needs help this person needs supplies’ is pretty great.”

Gill said the program allows him to give back after recovering from a rare form of cancer in the spring.

“I just decided that I wanted to use my, call it what it is-- my second life my bonus life I wanted to use it to benefit people,” he said.

“Not only do teachers out give with their finances but they out give with their time and their emotions, teachers just give.”

Gill said music can help people process how the pandemic has changed the world.

“This time that we’re in right now this is what we make of it and politics aside everything aside,” he said.

“You’ve got to find a positive avenue not only an outlet but avenue not only for you to grow and a way to emotionally, mentally physically profit from the time that we’re in."

McDaniel said she hopes students can take the lessons they learned from songwriting throughout a unique school year.

“I hope the students really feel like they can relate to one another while also being able to reflect on their feelings,” she said.

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