July 08--The sweet sounds of children singing -- and the otherwise metallic noise that can occur when a child picks up an instrument for the first time -- emanate from the West Texas Music Academy in the shopping center off East Eighth Street.
This summer, the exploration continues for the music school that's been open for three years. Kathy Lollar, who taught music for 30 years in Ector County Independent School District, opened the school with her husband three years ago just after her retirement from teaching in Odessa's public schools. Her husband Steve is a singer and manages the business side, while Kathy heads up teaching.
"My whole working career life, it all centers around music: To be able to offer something to our community over and above music education in public schools," Lollar said.
Lollar said they're in the process of securing nonprofit status within the next few months. She is hoping the community will help with scholarships for children to receive music education through camps or lessons.
And what better place to put down roots: The Permian Basin is famous around Texas for producing a high level of musicians, orchestras and choirs.
"We have a huge legacy of great music. We're kind of hidden in the desert. You either play football or soccer or play music," Lollar joked.
For little Allison Barnes, 8, the variety of music lessons from Lollar at West Texas Music Academy has turned her away from her reticence.
"It's taken her out of her shell," her mom Amy Barnes said. She's a fourth-grade teacher at Reagan Elementary School, where Allison even volunteered to play piano for her second-grade class.
"We love Kathy and Steve. They have been a great influence in her life and made her more responsible. She loves sharing music with her friends. I can't brag enough about it," Barnes said. She also brings her 2-year-old son to the kinder music play-dates where toddlers learn more about rhythm, instruments and colors, to name a few.
"We haven't gone for several months but he still sings the songs. It's had a big impact on them," Barnes said.
Also involved at West Texas Music Academy is one of several musical couples residing in the Permian Basin: Michelle and Dan Keast. Dan is a music professor and band director at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and Michelle is the music teacher for kindergarten through sixth-grade at Milam Elementary School. The pair is trained in the world drumming curriculum and will put on the camp for children July 29 through Aug. 1.
Michelle teaches the world drumming lesson at Milam and this year it will focus on the music of Ghana and the Caribbean.
"It's a great opportunity to experience music from other cultures," Michelle said.
Beyond the steady stream of summer camps, Lollar teaches one-on-one lessons and offers group classes from guitar to voice to piano to harp. The academy provides the instruments and if a child has no experience, a camp is a great place to start.
"Enrollment has been increasing every year, which is a good thing, but we really count our blessings in smiles and hugs in the happy kids who come through those doors," Lollar said.
WEST TEXAS MUSIC ACADEMY Summer camps
--Drum circle play-date: A certified facilitator from Stillwater, Okla., Robbin Buford will teach three sessions on July 12: Babies and toddlers 10 to 11 a.m., ages 4 to 6 from 2 to 3:30 p.m., ages 7 and up from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
--Kinder music play-date: Kindergarten age students are invited to explore music on July 18 during two sessions, 18 months to 5 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 7 p.m.
--Evening music camp: Learn about music around the world and eat pizza too on July 19 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
--Rockstar day camp: If the movie "School of Rock" got your children asking to download AC/DC, sign up for the day camp from 10 to 2 p.m. July 26 for ages 6 to 12. Campers will learn guitar, drums, singing, stage presences and more. Paul Sanchez will teach guitar and Aaron Gonzales will teach drums.
--World drumming camp: Explore the sounds and instruments from all over the world through crafts, dancing, games and drumming. The camp from 9 a.m. to noon, July 29 through Aug. 1 is for ages 6 to 12 is taught by UTPB professor Dan Keast and Milam music teacher Michelle Keast.
--Munchkin music: Occupy the interest of 3- to 5-year-olds from 10 a.m. to noon, Aug. 5 through Aug. 7 with an introduction to music for young ones.
WEST TEXAS MUSIC ACADEMY Summer classes
They offer private lessons in piano, voice, guitar, drums French horn and harp. Piano classes are every Thursday afternoon; guitar classes on Tuesday afternoons.
--Dance classes: Ages 7 to 9 on Wednesdays from 2 to 2:45 p.m.; ages 4 to 6 on Wednesdays from 3 to 3:45 p.m.; Mommy and Me Movement class ages 3 to 5 on Mondays from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m.
--Baby signs: Ages 18 months to 5 on Mondays from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. and 6 to 6:45 p.m.; ages six months to 2.5 years old on Wednesday from 5 to 5:45 p.m.; Thursdays 5 to 5:45 p.m.
--Music for special needs children: Weekly classes on Thursdays from 2 to 2:45 p.m., 6:15 to 7 p.m.
West Texas Music Academy is now enrolling children for the fall semester of vocal ensembles as well.
Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale camp
The next camp for young musicians starts today and runs through July 18 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Midland-Odessa Symphony Hall, 100 Laforce Blvd.
The June camp went off fabulously, said Jeannette Kolokoff, the executive director at MOSC.
"You can't believe all the material (Emily Baker) covers in that amount of time," she said.
Baker, who has taught in ECISD schools, is the Voices of the Permian Basin youth choir director and is teaching the camp to the 20 children in third- through seventh-grade who are participating. Students will learn more about music through playing, writing music, using Orff instruments (percussive rhythm), singing and even folk dancing.
--Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781.
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