“We’ve got a really diverse school with children from all over the world, from countries like Russia, India, Pakistan, and all over Europe,” says Miakje Kamstra, principal of Braly Elementary School. “Our school represents 26 different language backgrounds. I believe music brings cultures together.”
So it makes sense that Braly’s kindergarten students would sing “It’s a Small World” during the school’s Soaring Eagles’ Night of Song on April 24. The melodic voices of the children reminded everyone present that music education is an important part of a child’s development.
“We started this PTA-sponsored music program four years ago when our music program was cut,” Kamstra says. “I discovered the hidden talents of Ms. Nalini, who was a third grade teacher at the time. I asked her to drum with the kids. The drumming blossomed and grew into the music program we have here.”
Nalini Marie, known to her students as Ms. Nalini, has been a part of the Santa Clara Unified School District for seven years as a teacher, and she has been a substitute teacher since 1996. Marie has been with Braly Elementary School, an SCUSD school based in Sunnyvale, for four years.
“I do devotional chanting and spiritual music outside the school,” Marie says. “I like ‘feel good’ music. I look for songs for the children that I want to sing.”
The kindergarteners have been practicing for the concert since the beginning of the school year. In addition to singing “It’s a Small World,” the children also performed other pieces, including “I Am the Light of My Soul,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “This Pretty Planet,” and “Animal Boogie.” They jingled hand bells to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Visit the Moon.”
“Music is about coming together as a community,” Marie says. “It builds a spiritual consciousness that no one can put a name on. It creates a feeling you can’t explain. I have students who write songs. Music allows people to have the freedom to be creative.”
Mehmet Aslan, a father of one of the kindergartener performers and two other children at the school, agrees with Marie.
“Our two boys have performed in years past,” Aslan says. “We love music a lot and we find that music helps our children with creative thinking. So music has a presence in our house.”
Emily Aslan, 6, is a student in Mrs. Baker’s kindergarten class. She enjoyed singing to the audience.
“I like singing ‘It’s a Small World,” she says. “I play the song on the piano at home.”