Williams in tune to Music Expressions

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2003

As a youngster, Art Williams was fascinated by the possibilities of puppets and he was equally taken with Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood.

He began to create his own puppets and stage his own shows. Soon Williams became a regular guest on the popular Montgomery children's television program, &uot;Young World.&uot;

Over the years, the talented youngster developed his skills in music, art and puppetry in hopes of some day making one of those disciplines his life's work.

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Williams graduated from Troy State University with a degree in music and created a character-building video series for children while teaching at the university.

However, an opportunity came knocking. And he stepped away from teaching to devote all of his time and talents to a project which has the potential to enrich children's lives with music and, in time, impart those same great gifts to future generations.

Expressions Music Curriculum is the brainchild of Robert W. Smith, former director of bands at Troy State University. Smith is one of the most popular and prolific composers of concert band and orchestral literature in America today.

&uot;Robert had the idea of a new way to teach children music in school,&uot; Williams said. &uot;He presented the idea to Warner Brothers Publishing and they liked his innovative approach and the idea that music classes need a textbook.&uot;

Warner Brothers Publishing assembled a team of outstanding music teachers from across the country to write the music component of the curriculum.

Because Smith was teaching in the TSU music department when Williams was there, he knew him well and was

familiar with William's children's television program.

So, Smith recommended to Warner Brothers that Williams create a set of puppet characters for the program and also write and host a program that would be incorporated into VHS and DVD tapes to supplement the Expressions Music Curriculum.

&uot;The curriculum has been three years in development and it will be released this year and will be available for schools all across the nation to use in the fall,&uot; Williams said. &uot;There are plans to translate the curriculum into several


The curriculum is designed for grades K through 5 and there will be 10 videos per grade level. Williams' challenge was to create 65 scripts for the videos in which he will be the host. Production of the videos will begin next month in Orlando.

The setting for the videos will be Mr. Art's Music Room.

The six noted authors working on the project worked with Williams so that he would know which teaching concept was to be introduced in each video.

Several prominent musicians will be introduced on the videos, but the puppet characters will be the regulars at Mr. Art's Music Room.

Williams created seven puppets especially for this project.

&uot;A new character or characters will be introduced at each grade level,&uot; Williams said. &uot;It will be similar to building a community of characters.&uot;

The program mascot is Maestro Penguin and he spends all year with Williams. Maestro's positive attitude and constant encouragement are assets as young students strive to make music.

First graders will be introduced to Cadenza, a prissy cat, that loves to sing while everyone else listens, and Largo the Snail, that is shy and unsure of himself.

&uot;The children will learn, through Cadenza's experiences, that it is more fun when everyone can participate rather than one cat being the star,&uot; Williams said. &uot;They will watch as Largo's confidence grows in his musical ability and as he realizes that everyone can make music.&uot;

In the second grade, Octavia the Octopuses from the Caribbean will come on board. Octavia can play eight instruments at the same time. She is a maternal figure that helps students learn to make music, no matter what their experience or ability.

Gusto the Bulldog comes barking into the third grade.

&uot;Gusto is rough and tough and he doesn't like any kind of music,&uot; Williams said. &uot;The student who doesn't think it's cool to like music can identify with Gusto, but, hopefully, learn, as Gusto learns, that music is cool.&uot;

Fourth graders should fall in love with K.B. (Keyboard) the Zebra , Williams said.

&uot;K. B. only speaks in musical tones and the stripes around his neck become piano keys. K.B. creates a wide range of emotions through his musical tones.&uot;

When students reach fifth grade, they often think they are cool, so Bebop the jazz cat becomes a regular in Mr. Art's Music Room.

&uot;Bebop is one cool cat and he loves to play jazz and students will gain much musical experience by knowing him,&uot; Williams said.

Expressions Music Curriculum is the first attempt to publish a curriculum just to teach music.

&uot;The Expressions Music Curriculum is a comprehensive music program that encompasses kindergarten through twelfth grade,&uot; Williams said. &uot;It's the only music curriculum to be both National Standards-based and literacy-driven.

Music Expression brings the real world to the music classroom. The recordings surround the students with the quality of sound they hear in their world. The arrangements use real instruments and outstanding performers to invite, engage and motivate students to make music.&uot;

Williams said the elementary curriculum can branch off into different areas, including jazz, orchestra, choral, piano and guitar.

&uot;This is a cutting-edge curriculum that has the ability to change the face of music education across the country,&uot; Williams said. &uot;Producing the DVDs will take several months and I'll be doing promotional appearances across the county. The curriculum will have to be adopted at the state level to make it on the list to be used by individual schools. But, I believe it will be well received and that it will become the leading way for children to learn music in schools.&uot;

Williams said it is exciting to see the potential of Expressions Music Curriculum.

&uot;When schools are having to make cutbacks, music is often the first thing to go,&uot; he said. &uot;But, we are gong to make sure that educators and administrators have a good teaching tool in their hands to insure the best music education possible for the students.&uot;