At Mount Nittany Elementary, students literally sing the praises of their school.
Whenever all-school gatherings are held, they start with a group rendition of “Mount Nittany Elementary,” a jaunty, catchy ditty courtesy of music teacher Lisa Bevan.
Bevan wrote the school song, continuing a personal tradition. Previously, she wrote songs for Panorama Village and Boalsburg elementary schools, sister schools that were the predecessors to Mount Nittany. At Mount Nittany’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2010, students sang both tunes.
Speaking at the ceremony, then-Principal Jean Vadella suggested that Bevan should compose a new song for the merged schools.
“It was funny because I had already begun writing,” Bevan recalled.
Out of an interest in jazz, she wrote the song in a blues style, drawing inspiration from a blues piece she uses for fifth grade instrumentalists to learn improvisation.
“Musically, it was challenging to write for students ages 5 through 11,” she wrote. “Their vocal range and ability vary. Additionally, I wanted this song to be sung by faculty/staff. This song, for the first time, had to accommodate everyone.”
For her lyrics, she asked her students about what they felt made their school great. Teachers and friends were common threads, and many expressed how excited they were about two schools coming together.
After consulting her muses, Bevan crafted three verses. The first celebrated being one school, and the other two focused on teachers/adults and then students. No longer do Mount Nittany’s students sing the first verse; time has rendered it irrelevant. But they still belt out the remaining lyrics with gusto, including a “call and response” section.
“I must say that I’m overwhelmed every time I hear everyone sing,” Bevan wrote. “I always loved hearing our Panorama and Boalsburg songs, but there is something special about having the sound of students K through 5 singing in unison along with our faculty and staff.”In her 26th year with the district, Bevan said her passion for music and performing fuels her teaching.“General music allows me to have an 'interactive performance' every 40 minutes, but the students take this to a whole new level,” she said. “I have the privilege of working with students over a span of six years. I get to know them well and provide important first experiences.”These include helping them find their singing voice and learning to make correct sounds on a band instrument, she said, noting they learn a new language in the process.“I have the opportunity to get students excited about being musical, expressing themselves in a completely different way than any other school experience,” she said.Because of her composition, they also can express their school spirit in noteworthy fashion.“I am proud to teach music in SCASD,” Bevan said, “and I am thrilled to have written a song that my students and colleagues are happy to sing!”
By Chris Rosenblum
Video by Nabil K. Mark