Music is a part of almost everything — weddings, funerals, parties and church services. And it’s also a part of learning. Who didn’t learn their ABCs with a song? It’s maybe an even bigger part of learning at Beaumont Elementary School.
“I’d say every single teacher uses music in their classroom,” says Beaumont kindergarten teacher and popular local performer Mac Comer during lunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe on Market Square. “The way I learned the states in the United States was with that song. Teachers I’ve worked with use it for every single grade level — in math, reading, science. We have this thing called Flowcabulary. It’s rap and it spits out rhymes about science facts. ... As far as I see it, everything you’re trying to say can be put to music.”
Comer is one of the performers in the Beaumont Rocks concert at Relix on Friday, April 12. The concert is made up teachers, including Comer and George Reynolds, current and former students The Pinklets and parents of students, including Sean McCollough and Steph Gunnoe, who will perform with the Lonetones, and Kevin Abernathy.
All of the groups, even the Pinklets (which is made up of Kevin Abernathy’s daughters Lucy and Eliza and Willa McCollough, daughter of Sean McCollough and Steph Gunnoe), are seasoned performers.
Comer has sometimes billed himself as “Your Local Hippie Dude” and has released three albums. While it’s obvious that his music has helped his teaching, Comer says his teaching has helped his music as well.
“Having structure helped me accomplish more. That routine at school provides a consistent environment for my life after 3:15 p.m. Teaching and being involved in the community just shows me that you can do both. It makes me want to work harder.”
He also finds inspiration in his co-workers at the school, particularly local music veteran George Reynolds, who teaches instrumental music at Beaumont.
“He’s like my mentor,” says Comer. “If you ask him a question, before you leave he’s going to make sure you know what he’s talking about. He does wonders with the kids. He’ll let them play with trumpets, xylophones and make canjos (banjos made with cans). He’ll send them back to my class with music sheets. Sometimes I go down a couple of minutes early to get (the kids) just so I can watch him with the kids.”
And there’s also something to learn from being around young kids. Comer switched from teaching first grade to kindergarten this year.
“I’ve learned that with them songs can’t be more than two minutes long!” says Comer with a smile. “I love the imaginations of kindergartners. If you say something about snakes a kid’ll tell you, ‘Oh, I’ve got an anaconda!’ I think maybe it helps keep my imagination fresh, too.”
Comer says he hopes the kids always make him feel young.
He says he’ll eventually record an album of children’s songs, but at the moment he’s writing a stack of songs for a new regular disc, some of which might be performed at the Beaumont show. While a stack of shows scheduled during the upcoming weeks will feature Comer’s full band, the Beaumont gig will just be Comer and bassist/percussionist John Puckett.
“It’ll be the songs in their raw and purest form,” says Comer.
He hopes the parents of his students show up along with some of the kids and his regular non-school fans. But he may never get a better audience than he has during school days.
“When I see the smiles on the kids’ faces it makes me smile, too — and they know somebody cares enough to want to make them smile.”
With: Mac Comer, Kevin Abernathy, The Lonetones, George Reynolds, The Pinklets and One World Circus
When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 12
Where: Relix Variety Theatre, 1208 N. Central St.
Admission: $5 (suggested donation)
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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