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East Valley Focus

SUN VALLEY : Music Teacher's Impact on Kids Is Noteworthy

September 24, 1993|SUSAN BYRNES

Veteran music teacher Marilyn Murata believes every child should learn to sing.

"Music brings all other subjects together," said Murata, who has been teaching music in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 15 years. "If you can't sing, you can learn to sing."

Murata, who is 43 and teaches at Vinedale Elementary School in Sun Valley, is one of only a handful of music teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District who stay at the same school every day. Districtwide restructuring about 15 years ago cut the elementary music program, which had supplied a full-time music teacher to every elementary school. About 75% of elementary schools now receive a weekly visit from a traveling music teacher, said Dustin Donald, performing arts director for the district.

Learning from Murata, who has been blind since shortly after birth, however, exposes students to more than just music. Logistics are a little different in her class, where she uses a Braille seating chart to identify students and requires that students call out her name instead of raising their hands if they need her attention.

But the singing, clapping and stomping to favorites such as "If You're Happy and You Know It" and "Grand Ole Flag" are all the same.

"We just never stop singing," said 8-year-old Jose Avalos. "She always sings songs."

Lucas Paynter, a sixth-grader, said some kids try to take advantage of Murata because she's blind--usually unsuccessfully.

"Sometimes I feel sorry for her because she can't see," said Lucas. "And sometimes I wonder what it's like to be in her shoes."

"The only thing wrong with me is that my eyes don't work," Murata said. "People think that if you can't see, you can't do anything else. I'm educating children to deal with other people. The earlier they are exposed to it the better."

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