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Parent’s musical talents bring holiday spirit to school

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the music we learned aschildren, and Nick Davis knows that.

It was for that reason he decided in 1996 to ask if he couldteach music to children at Mamie Martin Elementary every Fridayduring the holiday season. His efforts give students the chance tolearn the songs of the season and to put them on in a Christmasprogram for their families and friends.

“To see some of these children sing Christmas songs they mightnot have learned is heartwarming,” said Davis, who recalled arecent incident when he played the piano during the lunch period.”One of the children turned to their teacher and said, ‘That justfills my heart with joy.’ That gives me a real ‘Thank you, Lord’sense of accomplishment that I could do that.”

Davis was awarded Parent of the Year for the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict as a result of his musical endeavors. He said he doesn’tdo the job for the accolades at all; he does it for thechildren.

His daughter Hannah, 7, is a student at Mamie Martin this year,and son Trevor, 9, previously attended the school.

“They didn’t have a music teacher at Martin, and I wanted themto have the same experience I had as a child, so I volunteered toteach the children so they could have a Christmas concert,” hesaid. “Mrs. (Danita) Hobbs, the principal, was really nice andhelped me set things up.”

Because there are no facilities large enough to hold the between900 and 1,000 children under Davis’ tutelage, they practice in theMamie Martin cafeteria in groups of around 300. He said while thatmay seem like a lot of children to manage, he relies on theteachers to keep a watchful eye on them, and the fact that musicdoes seem to keep them in check.

“They’re very well-mannered, which seems strange when you’ve got300-something kids in there,” Davis said.

Davis said the students get so much out of singing because theyknow adults are enjoying it with them.

“It’s not like schoolwork, it’s on a whole different plane,because music appeals to the creative part of the child,” hesaid.

They sing Christmas classics like “Silent Night,” but also gettheir exercise doing the motions to songs such as “Up on theHousetop.” Davis said seeing them getting into the Christmas spiritis a gift that keeps on giving.

“It’s great to be able to share Christmas with a child. That’swhat Christmas is about,” he said. “We get to do that with the kidsat Martin. And from a selfish point of view it’s great for me. Iprobably get more out of it than they do.”

He said part of the joy of doing the job is when there arechildren for whom Christmas is not able to be a big event becauseof situations at home.

“Teaching them these songs is a lasting thing,” he said. “For meit’s just the reaching out and being able to work with thesechildren, because many of them are in bad situations at home. Thisgives them a little bit of the Christmas spirit.”

And Davis said the efforts pay off year round, as the childrenhe teaches never seem to forget his face.

“When I’m in town, children will run up and hug me, and parentsare looking at me like, ‘Who is this crazy guy?'” he said,laughing.

The actual performance will be given in three parts atBrookhaven Elementary School on Dec. 18, with performances at 9a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 1 p.m. Davis said the children will be busedfrom Mamie Martin to BES because there is more room on its stagefor the large number of performers.

Davis said students will be decked out in matching T-shirts,which is a first this year.

“They’ll all wear the same T-shirt. It says ‘Have a very merryMartin Christmas,'” he said. “We’re holding the shirts and we’llput one on each child on the day of the concert.”

Davis said he expects the auditorium to be filled with parentsand grandparents, but that the community is invited to share in thefun on Dec. 18.

Although daughter Hannah is moving on from Martin in May, Davissaid he still wants to keep the tradition going.

“I won’t have a child there anymore once Hannah’s not there,” hesaid. “But I’d like to keep doing this, if they’d let me.”