I don’t like to say goodbye/I don’t want today to end/But we will be happy together tomorrow/Together tomorrow again. “Together Tomorrow” (composed by John Forster and Tom Chapin) was one of a handful of songs sung aloud by Washington Open Elementary School students during the school’s Nov. 2 Open Sing, a weekly half hour singalong. On Wednesdays, students gather at their usual meeting spot in the cafeteria to participate in this school tradition that has lasted for about 40 years.
“It’s a great way to start the day and it’s just one of those wonderful things we do here to build community,” says Barbara Berman, principal of Washington Open Elementary School.
Joye Wegener, employed as a wellness coordinator at Washington Open, voluntarily co-leads Open Sing with Christina Campisi, a second grade teacher. Wegener and Campisi, both alumni parents, share that music stimulates the brain and helps students become better learners in areas such as literacy, math and memory.
“We try to choose songs for Open Sing that teach the children about kindness and compassion,” says Wegener, who plays the guitar. “We also want the students to know they’re part of something much bigger than themselves.”
Each week students from a different grade level lead the songs at the front of the cafeteria. On Nov. 2, Jennifer Jenkins and Londa Williamson’s fifth grade classes led the songs.
“We try to choose songs that are appropriate for the grade level coming up front,” Wegener says. “Generally we sing a lot of these songs every week. Sometimes I might stop to teach a song where I sing a line and they sing a line. But usually the children just jump right in. Each week, we also have dozens of parents who take time out of their day to be part of this so they can sing along and be part of the Open Sing experience.”
Wegener has observed students developing their self-confidence through Open Sing and notes that students may appear reserved when they first experience the singalongs.
“I see kinders who don’t know what this is when they first join the school,” she says. “But by the time it’s their turn to come up front to sing, their confidence has grown and they’re super excited.”
Many students cupped their mouths to amplify their voices and shook their bodies with zeal when singing “The Best Day of Your Life” (composed by band members in American Authors). The song was dedicated to the fourth graders leaving on a field trip later in the day. According to Wegener, the fourth graders were participating in a “living history adventure” facilitated by the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association.
“The fourth graders are going on a field trip to stay overnight on an old fashioned ship in the San Francisco Bay,” Wegener says. “There’s one parent working with each crew. The students have been training for months for the crew jobs.”