Board Hears The Score on District Music Programs

Wallingford-Swarthmore School District
By Katie Crawford

Since 1985, March has been designated Music in Education month by the National Education Association. Eighth grade saxophone player Eric Hadley and his Strath Haven Middle School teacher Henry Pearlberg were on hand to demonstrate to the board how technology supports and facilitates music instruction in the district.

Strath Haven High School student Eric Hadley with Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer. Photo by Katie Crawford

Strath Haven High School student Eric Hadley with Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer. Photo by Katie Crawford

Pearlberg is currently in his 35th year of teaching. He oversees the instruction of nearly 500 students at the middle school and he is the assistant director of the mammoth Strath Haven High School band. He is also the current president of the PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association).

In addition to listening to Hadley hit each note of the chromatic scale perfectly (blowing one wrong note so Pearlberg could demonstrate for the board how he could rerecord himself), board members heard a recording of 7th graders Allie Vaccaro, Cece Olszewski, and Jessica Orr, who, with the use of Garage Band, a small keyboard, and some stellar vocals, created their own original track as part of the Pop Music Composition project. Pearlberg also played 6th graders Atticus Clow-McLaughlin and Harry Hyzer’s beautiful piece, which put Langston Hughes’ jazz poetry to music.

Pearlberg noted the many uses of computer programs and technology that have facilitated music instruction at the middle school, including the opportunity for band members to Skype with and play for real composers.

Pearlberg particularly praised the benefits of Google classroom, which allows students to play an assigned piece for their teacher and send it for assessment. This allows students to perfect a piece incrementally, as opposed to only having the opportunity to play live for a two-minute assessment at school. Twenty iPads and a charging cart also support the program, which were purchased as part of a technology initiative by the school, supported by a grant from the Foundation for Wallingford-Swarthmore Schools.

Technology director Mark Finlayson also spoke to the board about the use of other technology in the district, highlighting “sphero balls,” intriguing looking devices that can be coded so that they roll on a specific path.

Jennifer Gaudioso, appearing by video, spoke of the district goal of improving access to technology like sphero balls for all students. Currently sphero balls are most frequently used as part of gifted instruction. First graders at Swarthmore-Rutledge School mapped out code, using paper and pencil first and then moved to using coding software on the iPad in order to get their sphero ball to travel a specific route.

Third graders at Wallingford Elementary School learned about the influence of adding variables such as a different surface to the exterior of the ball. Teachers at WES and SRS noted the high level of cooperative learning and problem solving that was necessary in order to complete the task, as well as the high degree of student interest evidenced in the video presentation video by the enthusiastic shouts of students.

Dr. Lisa Palmer praised the “mental workout” required of students on the speech and debate teams, having herself attended recent tournaments. Four students from Strath Haven High School will attend the National Speech and Debate competition in Birmingham, Ala., in June: Sarah Myers, Julie Gyouro, Eli Manaker, and Lena Lofgren. Each student won his or her event at the National Speech and Debate Association national qualifier this past weekend. The team as a whole finished second overall, second in debate, and, for the third straight year, first in the Congress Sweepstakes. The team is led by teacher Jeff Kahn.

Musically, too, Panthers showed their prowess, Zoe Peyton Jones, Amy Crouch, Emma Lee, and Cass Durgin were all named to the All State Chorus. Katrina Bernaus was named to the All State Wind ensemble. Andrew Spangler, Matthew Kantner, Abigail McElroy, Emily Cairncross, Alex Jensen, and Arpit Prasad were all named to the All State Concert band.

Team Evergreen, composed of SRS students Amanda Anckaitis, Andrew Deppen, Jillian Surkis, and Matthew Lund, and supervised by 5th grade teacher Linda Gillespie took second place in the elementary school division at this year’s K’NEX challenge, in which 100 schools competed on March 20 at Strath Haven Middle school. The goal was to create a new “green” amusement park ride using K’NEX building components.

Dr. Palmer encouraged community members to mark their calendars for Monday, May 15, for a golf outing at the Springhaven Club. The scramble format tournament, breakfast, and luncheon with open bar will raise funds for the Foundation for Wallingford-Swarthmore Schools. This event is held in lieu of the annual Arts for Smarts auction. Sponsorship and entry information are at

Music Making in the
Wallingford-Swarthmore School District

By Henry Pearlberg

Music in our Schools Month, officially designated by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), is an annual celebration during the month of March that engages music educators, students, parents, and communities in promoting the beliefs that music education is essential to a high quality education.

Music Month has been a very busy one for the musicians of WSSD. Music activities during the month have included: the Strath Haven Middle School Jazz Festival, WSSD String Night, WSSD Jazz Night, SHHS Musicopia, PMEA 7/8 String Fest, PMEA 5/6 Band Fest, PMEA Music Performance Assessment for SHHS Wind Ensemble, and SHMS “Ellington” Jazz Band performance at Bala Cynwyd Middle School Jazz Festival. (PMEA is the Pennsylvania Music Education Association.)

The Wallingford-Swarthmore School District has been named one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” for the past two years by NAMM, the National Association for Music Merchants. The Wallingford-Swarthmore School District community values music and arts education for its children and supports it through tax dollars, fundraising efforts, and volunteering at events.

Henry Pearlberg is a classroom and instrumental music teacher at Strath Haven Middle School and president of the PMEA.

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