The Viewfinder: Teacher spreads love of music to new generations
NATCHEZ — When Abby Brown decided to look for a program to challenge her son creatively, she simply went to the memory bank.
Brown, a Natchez native, grew up and grew musically under the careful coaching of Kathleen Mackey King for 12 years.
It was only logical that her son, Tristan Fondren, would do the same.
Fondren, 5, has been taking music lessons from King for more than two years now, and Brown is enjoying the lessons all over again, this time with older ears and new motivations.
“She teaches leadership skills, like being able to listen while one person is saying something,” Brown said. “This is just a good life-skills class on top of music.”
Brown and Fondren aren’t the only family pair in King’s Children’s Prep Music Studio though.
At least four children in the summer camp last week had parents who also studied under King.
King moved to Natchez 25 years ago and has been teaching music to children in the community since she arrived.
She now teaches music year-round on the second floor of the Natchez Senior Center after originally having temporary studios set up at Trinity Episcopal Day School, Westminster Presbyterian Church and her house.
Last week’s Children’s Prep Music Studio summer camp offered lessons for children ages 3 to 10, an age King describes as the most important for a child’s creative development.
“For kids in this age range, my first goal is to teach them the enjoyment of music,” King said.
For King, teaching children the intricacies and beauty of music is not a job, it is her calling.
“This is my passion,” King said. “Music literacy, knowing how to read music, is really a lost art.”
Through various lessons taught at different stations King has set up across the studio, she has found the best ways for children to learn the ins and outs of music, she said.
“They are learning all the elements of music in a fun way,” King said.
While her lessons have changed since Brown was one of her students, King said that today’s lessons are based on that same notion that music can be fun.
“I develop the curriculum based on the needs of the kids,” King said. “There might be more props and gadgetry today, but the lessons learned are the same.”
King, who also teaches a music appreciation class at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, teaches instruments and will soon add a voice class.
“I always like for the children to go on an study an instrument,” King said. “But some of them want to sing. And I want those singers to be musically literate as well as all my instrumentalists.”
King said while time has passed since her first lessons in Natchez, her love of music remains as strong as ever, and she truly enjoys spreading that love to her next generation of pupils.
“That is my greatest gift to them,” King said. “And my greatest reward as an educator.”