HUMBLE, Texas – Park Lakes Elementary School teacher Stephanie Tiner is using music to teach students important qualities like discipline, respect, and understanding—lessons that can be a foundation for deeper conversations about good character.

Tiner secured a $3,700 grant from the Humble Independent School District Education Foundation this school year to purchase drums, bongos, maracas, and numerous other percussion instruments she plans to use to introduce students to “D.R.U.M.”

The acronym stands for Discipline, Respect, and Unity through Music, and it’s the title of a book authored by veteran Humble music teacher Jim Solomon about the power of music to bring people together, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Tiner told the news site that Park Lakes serves a large population of bilingual students, some with limited English, and her music class brings those students together with their traditional classmates.

Unlike schools that keep students segregated by their English abilities, Park Lakes blends the students in non-core classes to help them work together and learn about their racial differences and language barriers.

“I really wanted to try and figure out a way to use music to really tackle those issues that I kind of feel our country is even having a hard time with,” Tiner told the Chronicle. “Getting along with people who don’t look like you or sound like you through music is a wonderful way of doing that.”

Tiner said that although she just recently received the new instruments, they’ve helped to engage students in a collaborative effort to carry a rhythm and to learn to share the various drums, bongos, and lummi sticks on a rotating basis.

“It would help them to have to work together, to have to listen, to be disciplined, to treat each other with respect,” she said. “When you try to create music with people you are not listening to or that you don’t get along with, it’s noise, and I tell them all the time, ‘This isn’t noise class—this is music class.’”

And students have responded well to infusing lessons on character with the music.

“Having a more character education driven classroom in general around this has made a big difference,” Tiner said. “They are constantly trying to work together to earn points to move onto the next step.”

Tiner’s music-driven character lessons are an excellent way to engaging students in more in-depth conversations about the virtues of good character.

The experience of cultivating habits of respect, attentiveness, and humility in schools through music and other subjects should lead to deeper conversations about why we should show respect and listen attentively when it's easier to insist on our own perspective and disregard others' opinions and feelings. Incorporating character virtues into music classes (example here) will make the character lessons explicit.

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