Tag Archives: Vancouver WA

Concert and Swing Band Hits Many Right Notes

Community Ensemble Hits Many Right Notes from Kaley Perkins on Vimeo.

Bright and early Monday and Wednesday mornings is when Cary Pederson and his merry concert band meet upstairs in Beacock Music’s rehearsal studio to practice, laugh, and be together. Pederson took over the directorship of the band after the stores founder, Dale Beacock was killed in a tragic biking accident on the Oregon Coast. Russ Beacock, Dale’s son, asked Cary to take over when the band started to flounder with interim directors.

Pederson, a professional clarinetist and saxophonist, holds a Master’s degree from Portland State University in performance music. When the younger Beacock approached him, Pederson was just back from a stint in southern California where he tried to break into studio music and found the cost of living to be prohibitive.

While many of his fellow graduates have given up dreams of being professional musicians, Pederson has found a way to make it work. But not without cost. He credits his desire.

Pederson teaches over 50 students a week, directs the Concert and Swing Band and the jazz ensemble at Beacock’s, and keeps his own skills sharp by practicing at least two hours a day. He also volunteers at local high school bands and ensembles augment the band directors’ generalism with his woodwind expertise.

Talking about how he feels when friends tell him he is unbalanced and needs to introduce something else besides music into his life, Pederson responds, “Music is my ‘else’.”

Depression is a widespread condition that afflicts large numbers of us as we age. (Click the link ’10 Facts on Ageing’ toward the bottom of the article for a great slideshow factsheet.)

Studies show that some of the keys to maintaining physical and mental health as we age is to continue to contribute, keep learning, and incorporate creativity in areas that bring joy: it’s called active aging. And in Vancouver, this band is finding success.

For a podcast on Pederson’s thoughts on the plight of public school music educators, click here.

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Cary Pederson Speaks on Unique Pressures on Music Teachers in Public Schools

Every week, Cary Pederson teaches over 50 woodwind students from around the Vancouver area about armbiture, tonality, and phrasing. Pederson is a working musician who performs, teaches, and directs. He notes that others might find him out of balance. “You should do something else,” Pederson says, mimicking what friends might tell him.

“But music is my ‘else,’” concludes Pederson.

In addition to the six days of lessons he teaches to woodwind students of all ages, Pederson directs Beacock Music’s community ensembles, both jazz and concert band. He volunteers with local high school bands and orchestras to provide support to band teachers and expertise for woodwind students. With a Master’s degree in performance music from Portland State University, Pederson is now working on his musical doctorate - but only slowly and in between his other responsibilities. Pederson is a working musician whose passion for music borders on the reverential; but it is his determination to share the soul of music with his students that gives Pederson the light-hearted leadership skills that make his students rave. And practice.

Pederson eventually wants to teach and direct at the university level, but for now, he loves nothing more than sharing his love of music with his “kids.”

Not Just Anyone Uses an Anvil These Days

National park volunteer, (“Pecos”) Bill Evans staffs the blacksmith shop at Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Wash., teaching local history to visitors and demonstrating the  area blacksmith craft as practiced in the early- to mid-1800′s. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

Activating the two-staged grand billow above and to the left of him, national park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans, stokes the fire. Evans is making a lantern peg, and to reshape the bar, it needs to be malleable. According to Evans, temperatures in the Fort’s ovens reach 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans, uses a mallet to shape one end of an iron bar into a spike. Evans will be shaping the other end into a “hook” from which a lantern will hang. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer at Fort Vancouver’s blacksmith shop, Bill Evans, uses a mallet to reshape a piece of iron into a lantern hanger. Evans explains that contemporary iron work is often made in China and shows hammer marks in a bid to appear authentic. True artisans, Evans points out, would take pride in not having their work mar the finished product. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

National park volunteer and blacksmith, Bill Evans shows a finished lantern hanger which he made using the ovens, Champion pliers, tongs, hammers, mallets, and the anvil from Fort Vancouver’s blacksmith’s shop. As volunteers in the only active blacksmith shop in the nation’s national park system, Evans and fellow volunteers make hardware for buildings on the national historic register, including those found at Williamsburg, Virginia. (Photo by Kaley Perkins / Independent Journalist)

A clanging staccato punctuates the gravel-floored workshop as Bill Evans strikes metal mallet to iron bar. Evans, a National Park Service volunteer and blacksmith at Fort Vancouver, scrapes ashes from the glowing metal bar with a screechy wire brush before resuming his rhythm, only to return the cooled rod to the fire a few seconds later. Evans beats the iron bar into submission the old-fashioned way, using fire, tongs, a mallet, and an anvil.

Over the stirring, cracking, clanking, striking, scraping, and billow-pumping that mark his trade, Evans narrates the role the Hudson’s Bay Company played in the settlement of the Pacific Northwest in the early- to mid-1800’s. A retired couple listens from behind a cordon as Evans speaks of Dr. John McLoughlin, and his 20-year tenure as Chief Factor over the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fort.

Under McLoughlin’s leadership, the Hudson’s Bay Company monopolized the  fur trade west of the Rocky Mountains, and it was from here that beaver pelts and other trade goods were sent back to Great Britain. According to the National Park Service, thirty-five ethnic groups had trade dealings with the fort.

From 1825-1849, the fort’s blacksmith shop was responsible for making and repairing beaver traps, trade good axes, buckets, implements, and building hardware to support the company’s operations. The original shop, perched just north of the gentle banks of the Columbia River, provided metal-working services to anchored ships as well.

Great Britain and the expanding American nation disputed ownership over the land north of the Columbia River and south of the 49th parallel. The mutual signing of The Oregon Treaty on August 5, 1946 resolved the dispute, making the 49th parallel the border between the nations.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, one of Britain’s oldest corporations, eventually moved north to Canada where it remains active to this day.

After having been deserted, the fort fell into disrepair and was destroyed by fire in 1866. Though no blueprints of the original post remain, Evans reported that re-builders were able to locate the anvil stump and determined that the oven would have been positioned a quarter-turn away. Today, Fort Vancouver National Park is one of 401 sites included as part of the National Park Service.

Fort Vancouver is host to the only working blacksmith shop in the U.S. National Park Service system. Its volunteers fashion hardware for the historic buildings on the park service registry, including those for Williamsburg, Virginia.


Window Shopping in Old Town Vancouver

Poverty is Bad for Learning, but Not All Hope Is Lost

Fifty-some students from Mrs. Brewer’s and Mr. Daniels’ fifth grade classes stuffed into one half of the portable classroom outside Fircrest Elementary School last May. They sat grouped together on chairs and on the floor, chattering noisily as eleven year olds are known to do. Jennifer Horowitz had just handed out job assignment for the following week’s BizTown simulation, and the kids were excited to find out what their jobs would be . “This is going to be a challenge, but I have faith in you,” Horowitz edified, shoving as much preparation and encouragement as she could into her remaining minutes with the students.

Jennifer Horowitz, parent volunteer, teaches financial literacy to 5th grade Crestline Elementary students who were displaced by a school fire which devastated their building. Evergreen School District spread the students among five different elementary schools. Students in Nancy Brewer’s fifth grade class, whom Horowitz is addressing in the picture above, landed at Fircrest Elementary School. (Photo by Kaley Perkins)

Five years ago Horowitz introduced Junior Achievement’s BizTown into the Illahee Elementary School. When a school fire destroyed the Crestline Elementary School, one of Evergreen School District’s poorest schools, in February of 2013, Horowitz and substitute teacher Stephanie Braden, secured sponsorship from the local business community to bring the program to the displaced fifth graders.

While Horowitz’s tone was upbeat with the kids, it was grave in a whispered comment as she briefly stopped to observe the class. “I underestimated the difference between the two schools,” Horowitz confessed. “The kids are struggling with the content. I have parents volunteering and then dropping out, and I am scrambling to get enough people to the event to make it a success,” Horowitz said before rejoining the students.

The percentage of students on the school’s federal lunch program at Crestline is 78.9 percent. At Illahee, where parents volunteer eagerly to spend the day with their kids, the rate is 22 percent. Same district, different sides of town.

Chart represents correlation between percentage of students on free and reduced lunch program (blue bar chart) and standardized test scores (red line represents end of course math; green line represents reading scores) for Clark and Cowlitz county school districts. Scores are for 2012 tenth grade HSPE scores.
(Copyright ©2013 by Kaley Perkins)
Sources accessed August 1, 2013:

Since 1946, meeting the nutritional needs of the nation’s students has been part of the federal budget. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is the latest iteration of school nutritional legislation. Directly pegged to the federal poverty levels as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services, eligibility for school nutrition programs is an obvious indicator of the percentage of children living in poverty. The chart above shows that, at least in Clark and Cowlitz counties, the higher the percentage of children living in poverty, the lower the test scores on state standardized tests.

Free and Reduced Lunch Eligibility Requirements by Kaley Perkins Baker

Much is written about poverty and the poverty mindset. One thing everyone agrees on is that poverty has far-reaching consequences. One of the goals of public education is to help intervene with the cycle of poverty by providing a strong, basic education to all children. But food and a classroom may not be enough to battle the often generational effects of poverty.

“The biggest obstacle we face (in education) is poverty,” said Jo Perkins, 22 year veteran special education teacher in Longview, Washington. (Perkins is the author’s sister and President of the teacher’s union). “It isn’t always that parents don’t care,” she said explaining why she has a low record of parents’ attendance at student conferences. “It’s that they don’t have gas money or can’t take time off from work,” Perkins said, adding, “Sometimes they are self-conscious about how they dress, and that can keep them from coming in.”

View Clark & Cowlitz School Districts (Numbers from 2011) in a larger map

Family life, according to Perkins, is a strong indicator of school success. “We have a group of students who come from the country and tend to come from larger families. The families are generally intact,” Perkins continued. “There are a lot of kids, so by the time the little guys are in school, they’ve already picked up a lot of life from their older brothers and sisters. They play outside and they have a strong community. It makes a difference in their ability to learn,” she said.

John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist, director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, and an avid student of the genetics of psychiatric disorders. Medina is fluent in the neurobiology of the brain and how it learns. In his book, Brain Rules, Medina writes: “One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home.” He recounts a story of his mother who was a fourth grade teacher. As an ace student’s family life fell apart, so did the girl’s performance at school. Medina quotes his mom’s first ever use of profanity: “The ability of Kelly to do well in my class has nothing to do with my class!” (Profanity omitted.)

Medina spells out universal learning rules that, if followed, can lead to great gains in learning. Unfortunately, those gains can be reversed from stress - the kind of stress that often accompanies poverty. Medina writes, “Stress hormones can disconnect neural networks, the webbing of brain cells that act like a safety deposit vault, storing your most precious memories.”

Not a fan of the traditional classroom, (“If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.”) Medina’s brain-based solutions would take educational reform to a whole new level. He suggests starting education with the parents. Medina advocates robust intervention classes: parenting, marital counseling, and job counseling.

The good news, according to Medina’s Brain Rules, is that the brain has what neuroscientists term plasticity. It is not the fixed organ we used to believe it to be. When treated well, the brain can essentially rewire itself to health.

(Pages cited from Medina’s book: 5, 179, 183)