With brass instruments shining in the sunlight and drumbeats reverberating across the bus circle, Southern University’s Human Jukebox marching band performed for Spanish Lake Primary School during a surprise assembly Halloween day.
Educators had sought a reward related to the school’s focus on music education after the school earned an A grade in the Louisiana Department of Education’s annual statewide achievement rankings, school Principal Brit Colon said.
“This was just kind of a way to say thanks for all your hard work,” Colon said, of the school’s teachers and students. “That we appreciate all they do in the classroom.”
“We’re an A school, and I think that deserves a reward,” said school physical education teacher Courtney Johnson, the 2009 Southern University graduate who suggested bringing the marching band to the school. “You can’t get too much better than having the Human Jukebox here as a reward.”
Spanish Lake Primary is one of the few schools in Ascension Parish with a full-time music program where all students in kindergarten through fifth-grade receive a music education and learn to play an instrument.
Only G.W. Carver Primary School in Gonzales offers a music program similar to the curriculum at Spanish Lake Primary, said Chad LeBlanc, Spanish Lake Primary School music teacher.
Sorrento Primary and Duplessis Primary schools offer music enrichment for students in the gifted program, said Johnnie Balfantz, Ascension Parish schools spokesman.
At Spanish Lake Primary, students learn to play a variety of age appropriate instruments including the xylophone, recorder and ukulele, Colon said.
Each grade level has a daily hour of enrichment time that is alternated each week between music and physical education, LeBlanc said.
The younger students also focus on singing and LeBlanc, a former middle school band leader, often brings in instruments to introduce to his students.
Even though the students live in south Louisiana where music is everywhere, some of the younger students have never seen an instrument like a saxophone up close, LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said observing a marching band like the Human Jukebox gives students a bigger perspective on how they can involve music in their lives as they reach middle school and beyond.
In January, The National Collegiate Athletic Association listed the Human Jukebox as No. 2 on its online list of “Best Bands in the Land.” The marching band was behind Ohio State University.
On Friday, about 40 members of the Human Jukebox, dressed in blue and yellow track suits, arrived early at Spanish Lake Primary School and performed current songs the children knew and sang along with including Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”
The students laughed in delight as one of the horn players came to the center of the band and began dancing.
“I liked it because I like the songs,” kindergarten student Lucy Geiger said.
“I liked the instruments,” fellow kindergartner Luke Brignac said.
The teachers were just as wowed by the band as the students.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said LeBlanc. “That they would come all the way to Geismar to play for us.”
The event also was an opportunity to introduce the students to Southern University, Johnson said.
Nearly all of her students were familiar with LSU but not many had heard of Southern University, she said.
“This is an opportunity for our students that some may never have in person,” Colon said. “It’s something that’s going to make a lasting, lifelong memory for them.”