The fifth-grade students, holding simple woodwind instruments called recorders, followed Yates through a rendition of “Au Claire de la Lune.”
“I’ll give you three points if it sounds like the song,” Yates said as the sound from the recorders echoed through the classroom.
Yates, 38, is in her first year at Freiler and teaches more than 600 students in general music, band and choir as part of a new program that is hitting the right chord with students after music courses at the 2421 W. Lowell Ave. school took a two-year hiatus.
Yates went to Freiler after two years at South/West Park Elementary and 11 years at Poet Christian, where she taught music until the arts magnet school’s program was cut out of the school district’s budget.
But when Tracy Unified School District administrators gave elementary schools the opportunity to reinstate either music or art classes for the 2012-13 school year, Yates jumped at the chance to bring music back to the classroom, as the school already offered art lessons paid for by parents and fundraisers.
“I really like starting at the younger age and building it up,” Yates said. “Music gives students a chance to explore creativity through another venue. It allows you to express yourself in a different way.”
Yates spent the past summer learning a variety of instruments for her new position — she played the trumpet in school but had to learn the trombone, flute, saxophone, clarinet and percussion so she could lead the sixth-grade and combined seventh-eighth-grade bands.
Freiler Principal Karen Alcorn said music helps teach kids about more than just performance arts.
“Music relates to math skills, science and second-language skills,” Alcorn said. “It draws in kids in different levels of interest and abilities.”
Freiler fifth-grader Michael Perry spent the Feb. 19 music class trying to match the correct finger to the correct hole on his recorder.
“I like it because I’m learning about music, and I didn’t play music before,” Michael said. “It’s cool how it can go different pitches, and my grandma likes hearing when I play it.”
Fifth-grader Brielle Enterline said that one day she wants to play the guitar, but she has to figure out the recorder first. Brielle said she goes home and closes the door to practice.
“It’s hard to learn about music and where your fingers go,” she said. “It’s hard to learn how to read the music.”
Yates said she wants her fifth-grade students to put on a performance for the younger classes and the two bands to play in the districtwide concert in March at West High School.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 835-3030 or email@example.com.