A primary focus for the Judson Education Foundation is to give teaching grants to innovative educators in the district. One who immediately stood out was Charles Ford, a music teacher at Park Village Blended Learning Academy in Judson ISD. He recently received his second grant from the foundation because of the vision he has for his students.

“During his interview, he spoke about how music inspires students in a multitude of different ways. Not just in his classroom, but how the music can affect the students at home, and when they’re participating in sports activities,” said Lexie Greathouse, Executive Director of the Judson Education Foundation. “These things that Mr. Ford is doing for his students are exactly what the foundation looks for.”

Rather than choosing to create a ensemble with instruments familiar to most Texas students, Ford chose the Zimbabwean marimba.

“It’s basically like a xylophone on steroids,” Ford said.

With this vision in mind, the ensemble is composed of different sizes of marimbas and different types—altos, sopranos, bass and tenors—playing together to the timing of a drum set. The result is lively and engaging music that makes the listener want to move their feet.

“For an elementary school the band is a huge deal. For a fifth grader, a fourth grader, a third grader to start learning how to not just play an instrument but be part of an ensemble, a whole organism. That’s when the magic kind of starts happening,” Ford said.

Zimbabwean marimbas are expensive at $2,500 each and take six to eight months to manufacture by hand. Before the grant came through Ford said he was constantly fundraising, selling to parents and door-to-door. The wide variety of items ranged from cookies to popcorn to ‘smencils’ [smelly pencils]. But the nonstop hunt for money ceased when the grant came through. His 10-year project of finding funds to create the band turned into a three-year project.

Now, Ford can focus on seeing his vision come to life. Over the past year, the ensemble has performed in many places around the community including downtown San Antonio at the Rock and Roll Marathon, at local high schools and shopping malls.

Admittance into Mr. Ford’s ensemble begins as young as pre-kindergarteners. Standing on small risers is necessary for some to reach the instruments. And while learning to play music, they’re also putting letter recognition into use. It’s important that everyone who wants to play, gets to play. Everyone gets a turn. That ethos is baked into Ford’s vision.

It also applies when he is tutoring fifth grade math students after school four days a week. The concept of fractions in music he can translate to mathematics and just about any other area of life.

Susaye Scott, Principal at Park Village Blended Learning Academy emphasizes this point.

“He’s been able to take what he knows about music and bring in the real world experiences they’ve had in his room,” she said. “I am grateful that he is working with those students every day.”

For Ford, this closes the circle of his mission in life.

“When I think about education, I first remember and reflect on the teachers who made a huge impact on me when I was a little boy,” he said. “And that’s what I want to be for other children now.”

The above story was produced by Community Impact's Storytelling Multi-Platform Journalist Victoria Schaefer with information solely provided by the local business as part of their "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team. Our integrity promise to our readers is to clearly identify all CI Storytelling posts so they are separate from the content decided upon, researched and written by our journalism department.