If Beethoven Did Birthdays

There’s a lot you can do with the song “Happy Birthday.” Just ask the students at Friends Community School after today’s workshop with the DaPonte String Quartet of Damariscotta, Maine.
An internationally touring group, the DaPonte String Quartet connects audiences with the stories of composers and their influences, from the 17th century through contemporary music. Today’s audience included all 237 students at FCS, kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as teachers and curious parents.

Using the melody of “Happy Birthday,” the quartet demonstrated how the song would vary through history in the hands of different composers (for one example, watch the video from today). Sometimes the melody was instantly recognizable, other times it was harder to decode. Students interacted with the musicians, trying to guess which instrument carried the tune, and how.

“They showed that composers can do three things with a piece of music—repetition, contrast, and variation—and they gave concrete examples so the kids really have an understanding,” says Kiersten Whitehead, the K-8th grade music teacher at FCS. The workshop was made possible by a generous anonymous donor. 
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Located in College Park, MD, Friends Community School is a progressive Quaker K-8 day school, founded on the belief that every child is a valued member of our community. We offer a challenging curriculum imbued with strong values of equality, integrity, community, environmental stewardship, simplicity and peaceful conflict resolution, rooted in our Quaker heritage.
Friends Community School
5901 Westchester Park Drive
College Park, Maryland 20740
301-441-2100