A group of elementary students at Franklin Academy didn’t need sheet music or a conductor. They improvised their own musical arrangement on Friday as they beat drums, buckets and garbage cans and used kitchen utensils to bang pots and pans.
The scene was exactly what Franklin Academy ninth-grader Jonathan Wertz had in mind during the four months he spent planning and creating a musical garden at his school.
Jonathan, 14, made the garden, which will be used by elementary school students during recess and music lessons, for his Eagle Scout project. Eagle Scout is the highest rank within Boy Scouts of America.
The teen wanted to do something that would help his charter school, which has three separate campuses for elementary, middle and high school students in Wake Forest. He also wanted to do something he’d never heard of a scout doing as an Eagle project.
“I’ve seen benches, I’ve seen shelters, but I’ve never seen a musical garden,” Jonathan said.
He asked school administrators about projects they wanted to complete but hadn’t been able to finish. When the idea of a music garden came up, he jumped at the chance.
Jonathan had fun at a music garden at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham and thought he could use his experience to make his own version.
The new garden includes a collection of pots and pans attached to a wall, called The Musical Wall.
With the help of his dad and some fellow scouts, Jonathan also built a shelter to cover a collection of percussion instruments. The shelter was big enough to require a building permit and inspection from the town of Wake Forest.
Hanging chimes, a large xylophone and two rainmakers round out the garden’s instruments, which came from thrift stores and flea markets.
Jonathan made some of them himself, including the xylophone and chimes, which he created by cutting metal pipes.
Franklin Academy Parent Support, which is much like a PTA organization that supports extracurricular programs and special projects at the school, paid $1,140 toward the project’s cost, which was about $1,300.
Jonathan also got some family help – his grandparents donated about $150.
He spent more than 200 hours on the project between September and January. It took about three weekends to complete.
Now the garden is ready for the sweet sounds of music. The school hosted a ribbon-cutting on Friday.
While the garden will primarily serve students in kindergarten through second grade, the community is also allowed to join in the music-making fun.
When the weather gets better, Franklin Academy music instructor Michelle Warshany will use the space for lessons.
Warshany said the garden is an extra resource for a subject that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
“Arts education is so important and is put to the wayside,” she said. “Any sort of musical experience for kids really benefits them, developing them as a whole person.”