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West Seneca music teacher performs daily mini concert to start students off on a high note

Katie Clark is sharing her love for music with the students at Winchester Potters Elementary School the second they walk through the door.

WEST SENECA, N.Y. — A music teacher at Winchester Potters Elementary School is sharing a song and a smile with students as they walk through the door.

Katie Clark has started a morning ritual — a daily performance in the hallway before school. She plays her ukulele or violin for just seven or eight minutes before the morning bell sounds, but she hopes the impact is long-lasting.

"I feel like right now, teaching and learning are so rigorous. We're working to catch every one up to pre-pandemic levels, where they may have been, and I think I have a unique skill set to put the kids in the right mindset," said Clark. "If they walk in hearing something positive, hearing something encouraging, I hope they take that into the classroom."

Clark played her instruments for the students here and there in the past, but the hallway "mini concerts" started picking up around the holidays. 

Clark and a couple of other music teachers first set up in the hallway back in December to play Christmas tunes and spread a little holiday cheer, but once she saw just how popular the morning music was with the kids, she knew she had to keep it going.

What started as the occasional song has now turned into a daily performance headlined by this one-woman show.

"I should get a tambourine," laughs Clark. 

Principal Robyn Brady says Clark's talent and passion shine through with each and every note.

"I've gone into her classroom, and she will go from instrument to instrument and be able to show the kids so quickly how to use the instrument. She is so incredibly patient and kind with the kids, so they feel the confidence that they can play the instrument too," said Brady.

Clark has been teaching at Winchester Potters Elementary School for 15 years, but her appreciation for all things musical goes back way further than that.

"I've been singing since I could talk. I've been playing the piano since maybe I was 3-years-old, but I really started in fourth grade. Fourth grade orchestra with Mr. Reed, and I started on the violin," said Clark.

Musical talent is in her DNA. Clark's father was her music teacher growing up, and he used to play instruments for his students. Her brother is a music teacher now too.

Clark is in multiple bands, and her love for music stretches from the hallway to the classroom and the stage to social media. But perhaps one of her most captive audiences is right there in the school hallway. 

"Most of them, it catches them off guard. They'll stop, and they will listen to the whole song. I find myself having to cut the song short so there aren't 30 kids standing there on the stairway because they have to get to class," said Clark.

"We'll have to start shooing the kids off to breakfast because they'll just stop, and they just stare at her. They're smiling, and it is so cute," said Brady.

Clark sometimes takes requests, and other times, she just chooses a song or two that she thinks will put the kids in a good mood as they head off to class.

"In the mid-winter slump, I will just do something really upbeat as they are coming in and dragging their feet," said Clark. "It sets my day off in a positive way as well, and I get some practice out of it too."

The students often give her compliments on her outfit and playing, but once, she got a little something extra.

"There was a student who came up with a quarter one day and just put it right on my foot," laughed Clark. "We do get a lot of smiles and a lot of sing-a-longs. I hope it really just sets them off on the right foot."

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