This article originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.
Singing songs, reading music notes, and playing an instrument are just some of the things that students at the George W. Nebinger School at 601 Carpenter St. are doing on a daily basis in their music program.
“We have an amazing music program at Nebinger,” said seventh-grader Azore Durant. “Since being a student at Nebinger I’ve taken full advantage of the program. I sing and play the violin, piano, and cello. I’ve been singing since I was two-years-old.
“I love to sing because it’s a great way to express my feelings,” she added. “I enjoy singing all different kinds of genres. I’ve grown so much personally and musically since being in my school’s music program.”
For the last five years, the music program at Nebinger has been led by Marc Dulberg. He’s the music teacher for all grades at the K-8 school.
“Every student at Nebinger, except for a couple of kindergartners plays an instrument,” Dulberg said. “Kindergartners and first graders are playing the violins. Second and third graders are playing the recorder. From fourth to seventh grade, students are playing the keyboards and my eighth-grade class are playing the guitars. It’s a lot of work, but I absolutely love it.
“Everything that I’m doing wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the superintendent (William R. Hite), Frank Machos whose in charge of all of the creative stuff in the District, Nathan Wesner, who oversees all music teachers in the District, and the principal (Natalie Catin-St. Louis).
“Principal (Catlin St. Louis) is just amazing; she has been so supportive in everything that I’ve done,” he added. “She lets her staff be professionals. The morale in this building is through the roof. Everyone loves it here. The kids are thriving. We have a very high attendance rate. We have strong music, art, and STEM programs. We’re doing some amazing things at Nebinger and it all starts with great leadership.”
When it comes to the music the students learns in his classes, Dulberg said that the music he chooses is relevant to the students everyday lives.
“I started the school year off by teaching the middle-schoolers the song “Glory” by John Legend and Common,” Dulberg said. “In addition to the students learning the music, we also talked about the lyrics and the meaning behind those lyrics, Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., and the civil rights movement.
“A lot of the music in my classes features African Americans, jazz musicians, or hip-hop music,” he added. “The students also learn some classical staples. It’s all about making the music relevant for the kids. The beauty of my classes is that through music, I can teach them life lessons. I want them to know their history and have a vision for where they’re going.”
Dulberg said that his program, it’s not just about the music itself, but it’s also about preparing his students for the world.
“At Nebinger, everything that we do in this building is a small piece of the puzzle that makes them up as human beings,” Dulberg said. “No one knows where they’re going to end up. We don’t know the paths they’re ultimately going to take, but we’re preparing them for everything.
“I want my students to work hard, dream big, and have aspirations and success,” he added. “It’s never been just about music with me, it’s really about helping these kids fulfill their lives and giving them the future by preparing them for the world today. I just use music as a vehicle to that.”
Sixth-grader Alanna Nicholson, who has been playing the piano since fourth grade, said she started playing the instrument in school.
“Playing the piano is fun,” Alanna said. “It’s not hard, but it can be challenging at times. I definitely seen growth in my skills from when I first started playing. I wasn’t really good at doing chords, but I am now.”
During the Tribune’s Learning Key visit, students in the kindergarten violin class were learning the basics of the violin — finger placement, how to hold the violin, parts of the violin and how to pluck the strings.
“I’m learning how to play the violin in my music class,” said kindergartner Roxanne Spellman. “I’m learning the different parts of the violin and how to hold it. We’re also learning how to pluck the strings. We haven’t played with the bow yet, but I can’t wait until we do.”
One parent who appreciates Dulberg as the school’s music teacher is Amy Hunter. Hunter said she has seen the growth in her son since he began playing the violin.
“My son is in fourth grade right now and he’s been with Mr. D since kindergarten,” Hunter said. “He’s a teacher that goes above and beyond. He used to give violin lessons early in the morning to my son here at the school.
“He would also work with him outside of school hours. He’s just an amazing teacher. He’s always encouraging all of the students and helping them explore different aspects of music.
“My son is so proud of himself,” she added. “He’s able to play “Ode to Joy” at home. It’s amazing to see his growth. I’m so proud of my son and I can’t thank Mr. D enough for everything that he has done with him.”