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Learning an instrument can help students learning English

Teacher Mike Horsford said learning to read music has helped some students who are also learning to read and speak English.

AURORA, Colo. — To Aurora Academy Charter School teacher Mike Horsford, playing together means learning together.

"Certain activities, music included, build up structures in your brain in a different way than any other kind of mental activity," Horsford said.

Horsford said learning to read music has helped some students who are also learning to read and speak English at Aurora Academy, a K-8 school.

"I feel like music is kind of like an equalizer for them where they may be struggling to understand content in other subjects," Horsford said. "Here, we're all learning a new language all at the same time and we're all starting from square one together."

Daniel Arroniz started at Aurora Academy in kindergarten.

"I was born here, but my parents are from Mexico," Daniel, a seventh grade student, said.

Fatim Diouvate is from Guinea in West Africa.

"My first language is Maninka," Fatim, an eighth grade student, said.

They both said music helped them learn English when they were younger.

"I understood the music's language," Daniel said. "Since I understand the music's language, I thought, why not push yourself to learn another language?"

Fatim said she started understanding the note symbols, which helped her understand the alphabet.

"When I had to learn the note names, I had to learn what letter the note was and piece those together. Some music pieces, they make words," Fatim said.

Horsford thinks the dynamics of learning and playing music were key.

"Music is definitely a verbal thing, you know, if you think about that, and you're doing the same skills while you're reading music as you are when you're reading and speaking words," Horsford said.

But students can only learn together if they can play together.

"We do have students at our school that would struggle with providing an instrument for themselves, definitely," Horsford said.

9NEWS partners with the nonprofit Bringing Music to Life. Each year, Bringing Music to Life asks people to donate used musical instruments to help struggling school programs across the state. Horsford said Bringing Music to Life has supplied his program with a variety of instruments valued at more than $500 each.

"I think it's amazing because if they wouldn't have donated, I would probably not been able to play the trombone," Daniel said.

Bringing Music to Life provides instruments after they have been restored and refurbished by the Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology, a partner in the drive.

"Oh, it's amazing," Fatim said. "The last flute I had [before receiving a donation] was the pads were all jammed, the keys wouldn't press down. It was a lot."

Horsford said the donations are instrumental for his program and students to succeed.

"Every student that wishes to be in the band is able to be in the band and they're able to be supplied with an instrument if they need one," Horsford said.

He said students have a need to explore music and some have a need to learn the language. A need, Horsford said, that is fulfilled by someone donating their old musical instrument to Bringing Music to Life.

"They're helping out other people who need it and instead of some people who just throw it away 'cause they don't use it, they're giving it to those who need it," Fatim said.

If you want to find out where you can donate a used musical instrument or funding to have instruments repaired, visit BringMusic.org.

"It could mean very little to an individual who's not playing that instrument at all and it could mean the world to a student," Horsford said. "It could change their life."

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