Arizona Arts in Schools

Music First Welcome Video!


Music First provides early childhood music education classes for grades K-2 in schools whose economic reality have made it impossible to afford a general music teacher at those grade levels. Our purpose is two-fold: first, to ensure that the most vulnerable children in our community have access to high quality music education and its well-documented ancillary benefits, and second, to help lay the groundwork for our partner schools to hire a certified music teacher whenever possible.

Through songs from a variety of traditions, movement, and introductory instrument-playing, children in Music First classes master the basics of music making: pitch, note recognition, rhythm, and singing. The curriculum has recently been revised and refined by Dr. Sylvia Munsen and Ms. Gloria Day–who have a cumulative 50 years of experience as music educations professors and certified school music instructors–for a re-launch in Fall 2018 as the program looks to expand throughout Southern Arizona and beyond. As always, the Music First curriculum and the master music instructors who deliver it will continue to seek and incorporate connecting points between each school’s core curriculum and the Music First songs used to fulfill the program’s learning objectives.

 Elevator Pitch

 Elevator Pitch

 Elevator Pitch


Music First introduces the fundamentals of music-making

through multi-cultural song, percussion instruments,

and listening to and describing musical performances.

 Elevator Pitch



Music First is designed to build and strengthen its students’ musical foundations and ready them for participation in further vocal and/or instrumental study by the 3rd Grade.

Music First in the Classroom:

  • A Music First instructor visits the classroom(s) once per week
  • The instructor leads activities while the school’s certified teacher participates and assists with classroom management
  • Music First provides the Arts Standards-based curriculum and adapts it for the school’s cultural and curricular context
  • Teacher Training prepares a certified teacher at the school to eventually take over the program
  • Music First assists with organizing school performances if desired

Music First Students Learn:

  • To sing and play instruments alone and with others
  • To echo singing patterns with healthy vocal production
  • To play a variety of percussion instruments and understand pulse, dynamics, and essential rhythms
  • Improved coordination, note-reading, and kinesthetic awareness
  • To listen to, describe, and evaluate music and musical performances
  • To appreciate music from diverse cultures, traditions, and languages
  • To make connections between music and other arts and core disciplines



Music First was originally developed in 2010 by musician-linguist Kerstin Meyers as a starter program for Lead Guitar. Then-Bloom Elementary School Principal and current Lead Guitar Board Member Diane Quevedo saw the positive impact that Lead Guitar had on her 3-5th grade students, but lamented the fact that her K-2nd grade kids didn’t have music of any kind. Furthermore, a great disparity of progress in 3rd grade instrumental music classes between students that had music at home and those who didn’t became stark. Diane, Kerstin, and Lead Guitar Founder and Executive Director Brad Richter were inspired by these circumstances to develop a program that would provide a well-rounded introduction to music and prepare students for serious instrumental music study by 3rd grade. Kerstin designed a curriculum that served not only Bloom Elementary, but also Wright and Whitmore elementary schools, as well as Nosotros Academy and Ocotillo Early Learning Center. With the wide-ranging expertise of career educators Dr. Sylvia Munsen and Ms. Gloria Day on board, Arizona Arts in Schools reviewed, updated, and re-launched the Music First curriculum in 2018 in collaboration with Music Education Professor Matt Williams giving the curriculum its first test-run. Music First shares the joy of music-making with thousands of children in our community who would otherwise have no access.



Tucson Unified School District

Grijalva Elementary School

Manzo Elementary School


Music First


Rebecca McKee

Rebecca McKee

Music First Instructor

Rebecca McKee, a native of Springfield, Missouri, joins the Music First team with a wealth of K-12 education and music performance experience as well as a love of fostering musical discovery. She received a Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and a Master of Music in Viola performance from the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). Her principal teachers include Raymond Page, Lillian Fuchs, and William Lincer. Rebecca has been a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s viola section since 1989. Rebecca also performs with The Marelle and The Southwest string quartets as well as True Concord.

Rebecca is an active advocate for early childhood music education in Tucson and a registered Suzuki violin/viola instructor with a large private studio. She is also a Music Together teacher — an internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program. She has worked with the Tucson Unified School District as an Arts Integration Specialist, Orchestra director, Lead Guitar instructor, and general music prek-8th grade. This past summer Rebecca was added to the faculty of The Rocky Ridge Music Center in Estes Park, Colorado as a violin/viola instructor for their Junior Artist Seminar and Junior Music Program.

Dr. Sylvia Munsen

Dr. Sylvia Munsen

Music First curriculum co-writer and teacher trainer

Dr. Sylvia Munsen is Professor Emeritus and was an Assistant Professor in the Fred Fox School of Music during music education searches for tenure-track faculty. Currently she conducts two choirs and teaches an early childhood class for Tucson Girls Chorus. In November 2017, she established a music education program for the Early Learning Center at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. Sylvia was instrumental in establishing the University of Arizona International Student Teaching Program for the College of Education; in Spring 2018, she will serve as the supervisor for five student teachers in Norway and three in China.

Munsen served as the first Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair of Elementary Arts Education in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Utah State University. She also served as Artistic Director & Conductor of the Cache Children’s Choir program in northern Utah. Her career spans 45 years teaching early childhood classes, elementary general music, and undergraduate and graduate courses in higher education. In addition, she founded and conducted children’s choirs in every community where she lived and created apprenticeship programs for university students to obtain pre-student teaching experience with the choirs.

Munsen was the Founder & Conductor of the Ames Children’s Choirs (ACC) program in Ames, Iowa, for 16 years (1995-2011). The ACC Concert Choir toured throughout the U.S. and conducted special tours to Canada, the Czech Republic, and Norway. The Concert Choir was selected to perform for two ACDA-North Central Conferences, national conferences for Orff-Schulwerk and Kodály, and festivals in Canada and the Czech Republic. Active as a clinician from state to regional to national and international venues, Sylvia has conducted more than 45 festival and honor choirs including all-state choirs, festival choirs at Carnegie Hall and in Brazil, and master classes in China. She has published choral arrangements through Kjos and Santa Barbara. In addition to studies in Dalcroze Eurhythmics, she is a masters-level Orff-Schulwerk specialist and a certified Kodály specialist. She holds degrees from St. Olaf College, where she sang in the St. Olaf Choir, and the University of Illinois. Sylvia sang in and arranged music for the trio, The Chenilles, which performed for four years on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. In 2012 she received the prestigious Medal of St. Olav from His Majesty Harald V, King of Norway, for her work in education creating and developing the International Student Teaching Program in the Kvinnherad District and for her work with music, all of which promoted collaborations between Norway and America; she was received by the King at the Royal Palace in Oslo in 2013.

Gloria Day

Gloria Day

Music First curriculum co-author and teacher trainer

Gloria Day received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education from the University of Arizona and has two levels of Orff Certification. She has served as president of the Arizona Music Education Association board, adjudicated for regional festivals and was guest conductor for Mesa School District honor choir, Arizona Elementary All-State choir, and AzACDA Cantaramos. Ms. Day has received numerous awards for her work in music education, including Arizona Music Educator of the Year in 2003 and a Top Ten Educator in Arizona in 1988-89.

After retiring from the Marana School District, where she taught general music, band, and choir for 30 years, Ms. Day continues her musical career through many community groups. She directs the children’s choir at Northminster Presbyterian Church, sings in the adult choir, and has been a member of the Tucson Symphony Chorus for over 10 years. Ms. Day also plays flute in Sonora Winds, a community wind ensemble. Currently, she is directing the Downtown Engagement Choir for the Tucson Girls Chorus Satellite program. Ms. Day has also served the next generations of teachers through service as a cooperating teacher for numerous student teachers from the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, as well as her work as a clinician for workshops with Orff, McGraw Hill, and choral and district workshops and festivals.

Dr. Matthew Williams

Dr. Matthew Williams

Music First instructor

Dr. Matthew Williams is an assistant professor of music education at the University of Arizona.  He helped pilot the newly updated curriculum as a Music First instructor during the 2018-19 academic year.

Dr. Williams teaches courses in undergraduate and graduate music education and advises graduate theses and dissertations. Prior to arriving at the University of Arizona, Dr. Williams taught instrumental music education at the University of Delaware.

Dr. Williams’s research interests include music preference, preservice music teacher preparation, and music perception and cognition. He has presented sessions and research at state and national conferences including the National Association for Music Education National Conference, the Society for Music Teacher Education Symposium, and the Desert Skies Symposium on Research in Music Education. His work has been published in UPDATE: Applications of Research in Music Education, Journal of Band Research, Research Perspectives in Music EducationFlorida Music Director, and Bluegrass Music News.

A native of Union, Kentucky, Dr. Williams previously taught band, music theory, music appreciation, and other classes in Kentucky. He holds a B.M. in horn performance and B.M.M.E. degree from the University of Kentucky, M.M. degree in music education from Boston University, an M.M. degree in wind conducting from the University of Louisville, and a Ph.D. in music education from Florida State University.




The students loved having the program and Dr. Theresa Levy return again this year! Music First really allows for exposure to a diverse variety of music promoting a healthy well-rounded learning environment that supports the growth of the whole child.

Lianna Castillo

Instructional Coach, Ocotillo Early Learning Center

Arizona Arts in Schools programming is provided at no charge for schools at which 80% or more of students qualify for Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL).

Schools with between 0 and 79% of students qualifying for FRPL pay a small fee along a sliding scale.

The remaining cost of an Arizona Arts in Schools program is paid for through individual and corporate charitable donations, family foundations, and granting organizations.

Please help bring Arizona Arts in Schools to even more deserving youth by donating today!

3 Ways to Give

As the children are learning these new songs, the music is following them into their social groups and their personal lives. When I walk through the hallways and hear them singing the songs they’ve learned in Music First and sharing that joy of music, I know that the program is working and it’s changing kids’ lives.

Paul Ohm

Principal, Ocotillo Early Learning Center

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Write a check

Please make it payable to “Arizona Arts in Schools – UA Foundation” and deliver to:

University of Arizona – Arizona Arts in Schools
Attn: Holly Holmes
University Services Building
888 N Euclid Ave, Rm 203
Tucson, AZ 85721

Give by Phone

Call the College of Fine Arts at 520-621-9057 to pay by Credit Card

Your gift through UA Foundation on behalf of Arizona Arts in Schools qualifies as a tax-deductible donation.

Please indicate whether you would like your gift to benefit Arizona Arts in Schools generally, or a specific program (UpBeat, Step Up, or Music First).

Thank you very much for your support!

Note: For donations to Lead Guitar, please visit the Lead Guitar website.