In Keystone Heights Elementary, Students Are Making Music at School $1,000 Grant Will Give Boost to Clay County Program

Article excerpt

Having fun for Tysee Williams is playing her clarinet. Tysee is one of 61 Keystone Heights Elementary School fifth-grade band members. In fact, the school is the only elementary school in the county with a band.

"I think it's just fun. I just like it. I have no idea why, it's just fun doing," Tysee says of her participation in the band program, which also includes 36 students in the sixth grade.

The band program, under the direction of Ramona Peronto, began 11 years ago. She said that until the program received a grant recently, it operated by "floating on air."

But thanks to a $1,000 grant from the Jacksonville Symphony Association and $500 from the Clay County Education Foundation, instruments to enhance multi-cultural study and sheet music will soon become part of the program.

"We're just so excited to have additional funds to expand the students' cultural development. And before, the only sheet music we had was either arranged by [Peronto] or we had to borrow them," said co-grade leader Elaine Thornton.

Besides being used by band students, the instruments, including congas, will be incorporated into the entire school's music program. Peronto says she is especially looking forward to getting the sheet music for the band, which will feature Bach through modern-day pieces.

Band practice is held before school two mornings a week. Peronto arrives around 7:30 those mornings, over an hour before the regular starting time. And it is not unusual for her to find band students already at the school waiting for her to open the gates. The students also practice once or twice a week during their music period. And Peronto has no complaints about keeping such early-morning hours.

"It's worth it when I see the joy they get out of that instrument," she said.

But for Tysee to become proficient with her clarinet, it takes a lot of dedication outside of school.

"I practice all night, every night," the 11-year-old said.

Edward Rysak, 10, said he never had any doubt the trumpet would be his instrument of choice.

"I really had a fascination for it when I was young. I wanted a challenge," Edward said. "I'm going to try to stay with it in high school and might start a short career as a jazz player when I get older. …