Updated December 11, 2020 - 12:27 pm
Her hair is green, as are some of the Post-it notes spread out before her.
Ryleigh Casper, 8, arranges the brightly hued squares — six in all, shaded in orange, pink and the aforementioned color — on the table she stands behind.
Each piece of paper comes emblazoned with a hand gesture signifying a specific musical note — one for each color, three total.
Ryleigh reconfigures them all to her liking.
And with that, a melody is born.
“Who wants to be the first brave soul to go through their melody?” asks the music instructor leading the class.
Eventually, Ryleigh takes her place in front of a dozen other youngsters, tapping out her musical creation on a xylophone as everyone else sings along.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon, and the Las Vegas Philharmonic Music Van has decamped to the Discovery Children’s Museum.
“The Music Van program brings musical instruments, musical experiences and our musicians into schools, senior centers and large community spaces to bring the joy of what we do out beyond The Smith Center’s walls to make it more accessible to people,” explains Kevin Eberle-Noel, director of education for the Las Vegas Philharmonic.
Among the programs the van currently fosters is the Midweek Musicale at the children’s museum. A series of 15-minute classes beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesdays, the Musicale aims to be a primer on music education that extends beyond music.
“We taught them three notes and they composed today — all in 15 minutes,” says Eberle-Noel, a former music teacher with a doctorate in the bassoon. “Those are skills that, whether they realize it or not, they will transfer to their science homework, to their math homework, to their reading homework. They’ll be able to comprehend those patterns.
“At its base level, music really is auxiliary to everything that we do,” he continues. “It’s just there all the time, and we’re trying to lay the groundwork for these kids to understand that.”
For Laura Christian, the museum’s director of learning experiences, there’s enhanced value in this kind of hands-on instruction in an era when public school classrooms are closed because of coronavirus concerns.
“For our distance learning students, they have a lot of screen time during the day, so when they come to what they call ‘music class,’ they get to get on their feet, they get to start moving around to the beat and singing,” she says. “I think this is a wonderful blend of informal and formal education. They’re receiving formal instruction during the day, and then through this program, they get to really test out these concepts.”
Open to the public with paid admission to the museum, the Midweek Musicale will run through the end of the year.
For Eberle-Noel, it’s an opportunity to make learning feel like something other than learning.
“Music is usually never work if we’re doing it right,” he says. “And I think we’re doing it right.”