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A primary chorus line

More than 100 parents and siblings peered through windows, crammed into a restaurant room or listened from a nearby hallway as children from Valley View Elementary School sang in the school’s inaugural primary chorus performance Tuesday.

About 70 children wearing red shirts, Santa Claus hats and reindeer antlers sang popular holiday tunes at La Cabanita restaurant for the Rotary Club of Crescenta Valley while bouncing and twisting to choreography from teacher Lisa Jenks, who teaches second grade in addition to her role as chorus instructor for first- through third-graders.

While most elementary schools in the Glendale Unified School District have choral programs for upper-level students, in fourth through sixth grade, only a few schools have choral programs for primary students, which are valuable, said Joan Shoff, the district’s visual and performing arts coordinator.

“If we get the children interested in music training early on, then they’re going to be more interested in doing it later,” Shoff said.

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Valley View’s choral program has been a success, with 75 of the school’s less than 200 primary students participating, Jenks said, and it is especially unique because it incorporates students from special-education classes.

Four special-education students participate in the after-school activity, although only three joined in on Tuesday’s performance, Jenks said.

“It makes everybody equals,” said special-education teacher Celeste Maeshiro, who sometimes assists Jenks. “Everybody that likes music can excel. And this is where they build friendships and bonds.”

The students’ performance included a variety of dance moves and claps while the group sang Christmas and Hanukkah songs.

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“I like Christmas songs, but mostly ‘Jingle Bells,’” 9-year-old Paige Wright said.

But performing in front of a crowd wasn’t easy, said 8-year-old Amanda de Vos.

“Sometimes my throat gets a little tired,” Amanda said. “But it’s still fun to know that people are enjoying it and all that hard work is paying off.”

The after-school program and singing performances were a special opportunity for the younger students, Paige said.

“I think it’s good because the first-graders get to be in it,” she said. “And they get a chance to sing with their whole grade and with older kids.”

The new program allowed Greg Bakalyan’s 8-year-old daughter, Talin, a chance to find a new, enjoyable extracurricular activity after she tried ballet but didn’t enjoy it, he said.

“I think the younger age, the better,” he said. “They start school young anyway.”


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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