Boys & Girls Club uses new music class to help kids de-stress and connect |

Boys & Girls Club uses new music class to help kids de-stress and connect

A new music program was launched this summer at the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs with plans to offer more classes during the club’s afterschool program this fall. Teachers are hoping music will keep the kids connected and communicating in a world that’s been plagued by stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frances Hohl

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s the last music class of the summer at the Boys & Girls Club in Steamboat Springs. Kids are knocking out beats on colorful buckets while someone taps out a melody on a keyboard.

But even before they pick up whatever instrument teacher Erick Ocampo Machado brings, they’re talking about the highs and lows they have experienced that week.

One kid is bummed — the NFL’s preseason is canceled — while others hate to see summer end. But surprisingly a lot of the highs the kids were experiencing this week involved the thought of going back to school.

“What’s weird is you guys were not happy about going back to school last year,” laughed Meghan Barrett, teen director of the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs.

The class, made up mostly of middle school students, made it clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unusual effect — it’s making students realize they’ve taken school, and seeing their friends, for granted.

Still, the Boys & Girls Club has made an effort to make sure their students are still connecting through music.

The new music program was launched this summer through Northwest Colorado Health, as part of their youth resiliency program.

“We’re using music to help kids understand how to deal with their feelings, how to express their feelings, and then, how to connect with each other,” said Katy Thiel, director of youth resiliency for Northwest Colorado Health, a community agency that provides health services for all ages.

For 11-year-old Marc Rodriguez, it meant finding a new creative outlet: drums.

“I went to buy electric drums for my house, and I just kept playing the beats Erick plays for us. It’s really fun,” said Marc from behind his face mask.

Now, Marc drums while his dad plays guitar as they rock out with classic rock and, of course, Marc’s favorite, Metallica.

Machado, who serves as the kids’ music mentor, will be bringing back his music classes during the school year, with hopes of teaching three times a week during the club’s afterschool programs.

“Music is the universal language,” Machado explained. “You know, maybe I don’t like you, but through music, we can connect in another way.”

He also said music is a great way for kids and adults to deal with the stress caused by a changing world.

“To me, this is an opportunity, a blessing, to help my community get better,” Machado added.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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