Eighth Grade Band Receives First-Person Account of Ukrainian Struggle
King Philip Regional Middle School’s Grade 8 band had an impactful experience while preparing to perform two pieces for the school’s annual winter concert, which was held on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
The first piece “Moscow, 1941” was originally composed in 2006 and tells the story of the Red Army successfully defending Moscow against the German invasion in the Second World War. The second piece “Kyiv, 2022” features the Ukrainian National Anthem and the powerful song “Prayer for Ukraine” which is emotionally connected to the theme of humanity.
As students were learning these two songs, it was KP Middle School music teacher Charles Sherwin’s goal to give the band students an experience that would make the music creation process more authentic and meaningful for them. He invited former King Philip exchange student Alex Yeremenko to speak with eighth-grade band members during a Google Meet call on Thursday, Nov. 17.
Yeremenko is a former King Philip Regional High School exchange student who lived with the Kinney family in Norfolk during his freshmen year at KP in the late 1990s. Yeremenko’s home country is Ukraine and he was living there when Russia invaded in February 2022. For the safety of his family, he relocated his family to Germany where he is now doing additional studies in Nurnberg.
During the call, students had the opportunity to ask Yeremenko about Ukraine and being an exchange student. He spoke about how being an exchange student wasn’t scary but different and how he loved learning English and French at King Philip. He also spoke about his Ukrainian family and how his mother was a music teacher so he grew up playing the trumpet.
“It was a great experience for our students to speak with Mr. Yeremenko as they had the opportunity to engage in over an hour of rich conversation and had a cultural learning adventure,” Sherwin said.
One of Yeremenko’s favorite teachers at King Philip, Paul Lemieux, who is now retired, also joined the call.
Following their discussion, Yeremenko went on to send the band the songs “Chevrona Kalina” and “Hey Sokoly” so that the students could get some additional exposure to Ukrainian culture while they learned to perform the song “Kyiv, 2022.”