Striking a chord

Students perform original song ‘Gee, My Back Hurts’ for school board

The Youngsville Elementary Middle School sixth-grade chorus performs its original song, ‘Gee, My Back Hurts,’ before the Warren County School District school board on Monday.

Sometimes, you say something and it takes on a life of its own.

“Gee, my back hurts really bad.”

That is not such an unusual thing for a person to say, but it may be less common from a sixth-grader.

When gymnast Sydney Weissinger said it in October, it “struck a chord” with one of the people who heard it.

“You know, that sounds like a really funky country song,” Weissinger’s music teacher, Patty Bush said.

On Monday, the Youngsville Elementary Middle School sixth-grade chorus — minus Weissinger, who couldn’t make it — performed “Gee, my back hurts” for the school board.

“Lots of moments go by every day that we totally let go by,” Bush said. “This was a moment that, when I heard the phrase, ‘Gee, my back hurts pretty bad,’ it struck a chord in me. I ran with it and the song was written.”

“We went through the process of writing a country song,” Bush said. “We discussed things such as phrasing, poetry, having a meter with the words, rhyming the words…”

“The students found out in the process that there was such a thing as a rhyming dictionary,” she said. “We batted around different phrases and little chunks of melody.”

They had other things to do in class.

“We worked on this at least two times a week, sometimes, three,” Bush said. “The students were always excited to work on it. They would come to class asking to work on the song. So, we did this while also rehearsing the other songs we performed at the Christmas concert.”

The effort was not all fun and games.

“One of the national standards from the National Association for Music Education is creating/composing and arranging music,” Bush said. “We do this as young as kindergarten when we put rhythm sticks in their hands and ask them to create a simple rhythm with an instrumental background. Each year we add to that using different classroom instruments such as drums, maracas, tambourines, cowbells, triangles, guiros, etc.”

“Composing music is part of the curriculum from the earliest of stages of music education,” she said.

“The students were excited about it from the very beginning,” she said. “I could see the pride in them knowing that they were creating a song.”

“I’m proud of them and I’m glad the opportunity arose to do this,” Bush said. “This is no easy task. They can look back on this and say, ‘Hey, I helped write a song.'”

When school board members asked how many in the class were thinking they might go on to become songwriters, four tentatively raised hands.

“They know they can do this now,” Bush said. “They can be doctors, lawyers, accountants, grocery clerks, bus drivers, or you name it, anything and also a songwriter.”

The journey is not complete.

“The next step they will learn is registering the song with the Library of Congress,” Bush said. “I explained to them the importance of copyrighting something they write to protect it.”

The experience has infused the students with confidence.

When Bush handed out a new piece featuring difficult rhythms and obscure place names in the lyrics, one said, “Well, we wrote a song. We can do this.”