Take a bow, grasshoppers

Pine Island fourth-graders who earned black belt recorder status

It’s spring in Amanda Hite’s fourth-grade music classes at Pine Island Elementary, and that means the awarding of the colored “belts” in recorder karate to the nearly 130 students who took up the wind instrument in January.

In Comstock Park, learning the recorder involves large group instruction, small group peer practice and individual “tooter tutors” who help each other one-to-one. Students also are encouraged to practice outside of school.

“I’ve been practicing a whole bunch,” said Karis Wright, a recorder black belt who also plays ukulele.

Fourth-graders, from left, Colin Lehan, Karis Wright and Jovanny Villafana are recorder black belts

“I think the key strategy is reflexes,” said Colin Lehan, also a black belt. “And concentration is a big one. If you’re playing and you look up at something then try to find your place again, ugh.”

Sensei Hite said recorder karate is an incentive for students to practice and master various levels of difficulty. Students will continue on recorders until the fifth-grade show in December.

“I have a sister who is technically a twin, and she is better than me at some stuff,” said recorder black belt Jovanny Villafana. “I think I’ve finally got something that I’m better at than her.”

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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