By Nichole Smith
Mrs. Gina Mobley has been the Lower School music teacher since 2015. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education with an emphasis in piano and voice from Mid-America Christian University and a master’s degree in teaching from National University. She is currently working on her Orff certification, a musical approach that incorporates the xylophones and other instruments that resemble child’s play. “I think the Orff strategy of students playing, creating, and analyzing what they’ve done, and then redoing it all over again is a great process for students.”
Mrs. Mobley has been playing the piano since she was five years old. Her parents had a piano in the garage, and they said, “If you will keep playing, we’ll get one that’s good enough to go in the house.” She went on to practice in the garage her first year of playing, and after that first year, her parents kept their promise and bought her a piano, which she kept for many years even into her adult life.
One of the greatest benefits of learning to play a musical instrument, she feels, is the discipline it teaches. “Reading music is like reading a foreign language,” she said. “It just happens to be a worldwide language. It takes some definite attention to the details of it, and it takes time to master it.”
Not only does music teach discipline, but it also helps strengthen an individual’s emotional intelligence. “When I was a kid, music was my outlet,” Mrs. Mobley said. “If I was angry, I went to the piano and played. When I was happy, I went to the piano and played. I wasn’t great with words, so music was the expression of my emotion. If I can give that to a kid who struggles with letting out their emotion, that would be a wonderful gift.”
Playing an instrument also helps students develop teamwork. “To play in our Orff groups and know that I’m playing this part and if I stay with my part and you play your part, we are great together. It’s a type of teamwork that’s not athletic. When you’re playing the piano, you’re the accompanist—you’re not the center of attention. You’re completely there for the soloist. Whether it be a trumpet solo or a vocal solo or a choir that’s singing, you’re the support.”
Students in the Lower School have the unique opportunity to take music class two days per week. Mrs. Mobley uses that time not only to expose them to music, but also to expose them to other cultures. This year, she asked parents to send in music from the culture in which they grew up. About 20 parents responded, and throughout the year, she incorporates these songs into her classes. Recently, she had students sing “El Zapatero,” a Spanish song about a cobbler from Puerto Rico. Some of the students helped her with her pronunciation, so everyone was learning something new.
One of the great benefits of Lower School music is the after-school choir that students are eligible to join starting in the second grade. The choir is able to perform at various events on campus. This year, they performed at Diversity Fest with the combined choir (all three divisions) and will perform on their own at Night for the Cure coming up in April. They also have the opportunity to perform off campus at the Town of Montverde’s annual Montverde Day, and in December, they performed at Crane’s View Lodge, an assisted living facility in Clermont. “I like doing programs beyond our school campus,” said Mrs. Mobley, “because it shows our community what we’re doing here at Montverde Academy Lower School.”
Four 4th– and 5th-graders from the choir were selected to represent Montverde Academy at the all-county choir concert with Lake and Sumter Counties: Maheeba Minhas (grade 4), Callan Matthews (grade 4), Isabell Wojnowski (grade 4), and Kendall Nailos (grade 5). “When advanced students are able to perform with other kids in the community who are at the same level,” said Mrs. Mobley, “it’s fun for them, it raises their level of confidence, and it gives them a great experience as they to move on to middle school.”
Another great benefit of Lower School music is that students have the opportunity in the 2nd and 3rd grade to take strings with Mr. Andres Villa, MVA’s Director of Strings who holds a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music in violin and viola performance from Florida International University. Mr. Villa said, “I like teaching violin to the 2nd and 3rd graders because it gives me an opportunity to introduce the beauty and magic of music, as well as build a strong foundation early on. The best part is when they get excited and proud of themselves for learning a new note or concept.”
One of Mrs. Mobley’s primary goals for the music program is for students to love music once they leave the Lower School. “If you’re a musician, you’re truly a musician for life. You can play the piano, violin, or trumpet for the rest of your life. We want to create those musicians for life if we can, but it was John Feierabend who said, in essence, you just want your kids to be able to grow up and sing to their own children, dance at their own wedding, and be patrons of the arts.”