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Classically Trained: A musical introduction

CORONA DEL MAR — I remember it like it was yesterday. There I was, a simple young suburbanite pillaging my way through the fourth grade, one of many among the huddled miniature masses headed for the multipurpose room.

It was the same room where I made my glorious onstage debut only months before as the ever-so-important narrator for our epic production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

But that day, it was the room that hosted a presentation that would have a monumental effect on my life.

Resting still on a half-circle of tables were three instruments: a violin, clarinet and trumpet. They were only still, that is, until we uneducated children put our restless hands on them in a frenzy of fiddling with bows, pushing the keys and blowing in mouthpieces. We were altogether unknowing of the correct combinations and techniques to make the instruments sing.


Even in such unawareness, it was great.

On Wednesday afternoon, I saw about 60 kids do the same thing outside the Corona del Mar High School band room at the “Meet the Instruments” demonstration, sponsored by Girl Scout Brownie Troop 1854.

They came, they heard, but they did not quite conquer the instruments — at least not yet.

Organized by Newport Coast Elementary parent Leslie Speidel, the young attendees and their parents were treated to an educational session of CdM musicians and helpers who played snippets highlighting each instrument’s unique timbre.


There was the cello’s grace, the percussion’s steady rhythm and the baritone saxophone’s “sounds-like-a-truck” low note. The bigger and more impressive-looking the instrument — like the tuba, double bass and French horn — the more oohs and aahs.

Soon enough, things got intergalactic as Val Jamora, the music director for CdM Middle and High school, conducted a small band in a short performance of John Williams’ theme from “Star Wars.”

Then the kids dispersed to tables where the older ones were there, ready and waiting, to introduce them to a trombone, flute, trumpet, violin and other instruments.

Jamora, who has about 200 students (and he knows all their names), recalled a similar musical presentation he had in fourth grade. A junior-high music teacher came to speak to his class.

“He just showed us a poster,” Jamora said, amid the cacophony of would-be instrumentalists outside his band room. “I eventually chose to play saxophone because it was the funniest-looking one.”

As far as the introduction-style program like Wednesday’s, “I don’t always do it, but every time I do it, I realize I really need to be!” he exclaimed.

Also exclaiming were the students trying out the percussion instruments, namely the drums and gong, in the band room.

“It’s not a very quiet place!” said Carter Smith, 15.


The patient ninth-grade percussionist helped the kids hit the gong. Again and again.

Depending on the school, Newport-Mesa Unified students start some form of music education around fourth grade and then can learn to read sheet music and play an instrument around seventh grade.

“Music starts off as something fun they do with their friends,” Jamora said. “Then the more they grow with the activity, the more they learn to be expressive ... it becomes something very personal and really deep.”

Some years from now, perhaps it will be that way for Owen Logan, a 7-year-old from Andersen Elementary School. He tried out a few instruments, including the trumpet.

Like all from the brass family, the trumpet requires precise buzzing from the lips, whose sound vibrations are amplified through the instrument.

Owen tried to buzz. Afterward, I asked him how it went. He laughed.

“It was fun and weird!” he declared before scampering off.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at