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Music From Muleskins--and Just About Everything Else

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Marc S. Diamond, a former wood-shop teacher and now a music educator in Bethany, Conn., has come up with 168 ways to switch his elementary-school classes on to music.

With wood, plastic, scrap metal, macrame rope, plastic tablecloths, muleskins, large oak soy-sauce barrels from Chinatown, bright green utility buckets from McDonald's and Burger King, and assorted nuts and bolts, Mr. Diamond has made his students 48 glockenspiels, 30 keyboards, 30 guitars, 30 conga drums, and 30 tenor drums.

In addition, the music teacher said he has created a patented system that enables his students to play the non-electric, non-battery-operated keyboards and solid-wood guitars so that only they can hear the sounds they create--through earphones.

"The workspace for art is the paper you're working on," says Mr.6Diamond. "For music, your workspace is the room you're in. So I have students play into headphones because I can't have a room for everybody."

The system, he says, enables him to individualize instruction in a group setting and helps him motivate the students to advance enough on the homemade instruments so that they can try their hands at "real" instruments.

For example, when his Bethany Community School students master chords on the homemade guitars, they are given picks to play "real" guitars. And students who learn to play tunes on the makeshift keyboards are given wooden mallets to play the same tunes on glockenspiels.

"I work very hard at trying to motivate the students to learn whatever it is I'm trying to teach," Mr. Diamond says. "I find myself very often going back to the first question: What am I trying to teach and what would be the easiest way to teach it, regardless of what I have in my room or what materials I have?"

"In doing that," he continues, "you find that sometimes you don't have the right materials. And so I make them."

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