Uniting through harmony: Martinez celebrates culture and diversity through LPS music workshops

Lincoln Public Schools students are learning that the language of kindness and respect is as easy to understand as do-re-mi.
Daniel Martinez, a Lincoln-based recording artist and Nebraska Arts Council music ambassador, taught students valuable life lessons with his “World Music Tour in Lincoln Public Schools.” Martinez is the school district’s artist-in-residence. This spring, he’s brought his music translation skills to Everett, Sheridan and Beattie elementary schools during his multi-year campaign. 
“The goal is to share inclusion through music, where students will understand the differences of each instrument with the main purpose of making music,” Martinez said. “As humans, we are different in backgrounds, colors, countries, traditions, accents and languages, but we have one same color (blood/red) and that’s the color that matters.”
Beattie fourth grader Micah smiled as he and his classmates worked on a project during Martinez’s second day at school. Martinez and Beattie teachers handed out the rim of a drum and tape to students in the cafeteria. They then created an airtight drum by wrapping long strands of tape all around it.
“It’s a really fun process,” Micah said. “It’s long, but it’s fun.”
Beattie music teacher Bethany Thompson nodded her head in agreement as she watched Martinez lead three sections of fourth grade in the drum-making exercise. She felt Martinez gave students an advanced course in cooperation, teamwork, acceptance and musical literacy.
“Having the hands-on activities for the kids is great,” Thompson said. “He’s a fun guy and he makes it fun for everyone. This is an awesome program. I’m so glad we’re doing this.”
Martinez said music is one of the best unifying forces in the world. The guitarist, originally from Peru, specializes in Latin music, but he and his band “Jarana” cover other song styles such as Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern, Greek, Flamenco, Rumba and Portuguese.
Martinez designed the “World Music Tour in Lincoln Public Schools” in 2018 after realizing music's wide-reaching impact on children.

“Instruments speak the universal language of music with different shapes, sounds, accents and textures,” Martinez said. “We as humans need to speak the same language of love and respect. My goal is to unify our students independently of where we are coming from and be inclusive and respectful using instruments and music as examples of unity.”
Martinez and the LPS Music Department had hoped to launch the tour during the spring semester of the 2019-20 school year, but the coronavirus pandemic halted those plans. The project began in earnest in 2022 with financial help from many civic organizations. 
Thompson said Martinez made a major impression on Beattie students on the first day. He brought a full slate of instruments to school and gave details about each one to the eager audience. He then showed them that instruments make the same types of soulful sounds no matter where they come from.
“I think it helped the kids think a different way about some different things,” Thompson said. “He talked to them about where their heritage is, where their family comes from, and then they got to see an instrument that represents that part of the world. That was awesome.”
Students spent the second day making their drums with partners. They covered the rims with pieces of green, yellow, purple, pink and blue tape before using clear tape to create each side of the instrument. One student would hold the drum while the other taped it, and they would then reverse the process.
Micah said he was looking forward to making rhythms with his drum. He wants to begin learning percussion next year when he joins the fifth-grade band program.
“I just like the beat of it,” Micah said. “It seems like it would be fun to play.”
Martinez walked around the cafeteria and watched students working on their projects. He told them he could sense the positive cooperation that was happening during that morning.
“Excellent job guys,” Martinez said. “Everyone is doing an amazing, amazing job.”
The young musicians finished their drums on the third day and joined the band for a concert on the final day. Hundreds of Beattie students watched them play their drums as Martinez shared his lessons with the whole group.
“That has been the moment when the entire school participates listening to a concert with many unique instruments from around the world, participating at the front playing with me and my band and hearing the main goal of the project, which is the universal language of music and love,” Martinez said.
Martinez said he has heard many compliments from people who have witnessed the power of music take place at LPS.
“Students and teachers have been enjoying the concerts and expressing their sentiments of joy,” Martinez said.

Martinez plans to visit approximately ten LPS schools each year for the next seven years.
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Published: April 22, 2024, Updated: April 22, 2024

Beattie Elementary School students enjoy making drums in the school cafeteria. Daniel Martinez led them through many music-based activities and lessons this spring. Martinez, the LPS artist-in-residence, is teaching students about the unifying force of music through his workshops.