Francisca Benitez

A group of students from EOU has been leading a community music class for residents at La Grande’s Tamarack Court Apartments on Wednesdays. Tamarack is housing for elderly and disabled residents run by the Oregon Housing Authority.

The class consists of the students playing instruments for the residents, leading them in singing songs of their request, and musical activities using instruments like tambourines and shakers.

April 17 was the third class led by the students. About 15 residents attended and six students led the class. The event is part of a class at EOU that is required for music majors. EOU students brought guitars, an upright bass and a trombone, which the residents were especially impressed with. They sang songs including John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and the Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire.”

Kate Gekeler, resident services coordinator, said the class has been a big hit with the residents.

“It’s awesome. They love it,” she said, noting there have been more people attending each week. “It has been really cool to watch the progression.”

The class had music games as well as songs. One involved going around the room and introducing each person to a rhythm. Another included a “magic drum” where one person played a drum pattern and everyone else repeated it — call and response style — using their tambourines and shakers. Some residents were content to watch the activities and listen to the music while others sang along enthusiastically. Many requested songs for the next class.

Sonya Adams is one of the students who led the class.

“I was a little nervous about it at first because I’m not a huge social person,” she said. “The first class went really well. Things just fell into place and I left in a really good mood. Ever since then it keeps getting better. I’ve gotten more comfortable with it and I think (the residents) really like singing and stuff. They don’t get a lot of opportunities to do it otherwise.”

See complete story in Monday's Observer