A group of children in a recording studio, facing Amy Denio, holding an acoustic guitar.

McGilvra Elementary: Poetry and Song 2024

Amy Denio plays guitar while a classroom of children raises their arms.

Welcome to McGilvra Poetry and Song 2024. This web page is the culmination of a poetry and music project with second grade students at McGilvra Elementary School during the spring of 2024. Jack Straw’s project is the culmination of a 2nd grade jazz unit with classroom teachers Ms. Callie Feit and Ms. Melissa Ongman and McGilvra music teacher Elise Wright.  Students studied the history of Jazz, starting in New Orleans and moving through US history, and how it changed based on what people, particularly African Americans, were feeling at the time. The students loved big band swing, and how it cheered people up in the Great Depression, but also enjoyed learning about Trombone Shorty, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Nina Simone.

In March, 2nd graders in Ms. Feit and Ms. Ongman’s classes worked with Jack Straw’s professional writer Vicky Edmonds to write original poems about their feelings, emotions, and what they’re like deep inside. Jack Straw musician Amy Denio then worked with the students to create a new song for each class, inspired by the students’ poems and their musical ideas as the basis for each song.

Amy introduced students to ham-boning, or body percussion, with some fun body percussion patterns she wrote for them and  hand clapping at the beginning, middle, and end of their songs. She also worked with students on “Pass the Scat”:

Go go diddly doe
Dee bop bop – ba
Dee bop bop – ba
Dee bop bop – ba ba diddly do

In April, the students came to Jack Straw to record their songs in the studio with musician Amy Denio and engineers Daniel Guenther and Ayesha Ubayatilaka.

Amy Denio and Ms. Feit’s Class: Let’s Choose a Star


Amy Denio and Ms. Ongman’s Class: Flying Over the World


Gallery: Amy Denio and McGilvra students in the classroom

Gallery: Recording the songs with Amy at Jack Straw

McGilvra Poetry & Song 2024 was produced by McGilvra Elementary School students and Jack Straw Cultural Center with the generous support of Seattle Education Foundation, The Washington State Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Jack Straw artist team included writer Vicky Edmonds, songwriter Amy Denio, audio engineers Daniel Guenther and Ayesha Ubayatilaka, photographer Sherwin Eng, designer Levi Fuller, and Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz. Special thanks to the second graders of McGilvra Elementary and McGilvra staff.

We especially want to thank 2nd grade teachers Callie Feit and Melissa Ongman, music teacher Elise Wright, and principal Jolene Anderson, who helped make this project possible.