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Class and Staff Feature - Matthew Allen

Matthew Allen is one of 20 Music Immersion Experience Resident Artists at Roosevelt Elementary School, and is responsible for teaching kindergarten general music, 1st and 2nd grade violin, and the following electives: 2/3 Piano, 2/3 and 4/5 Composition Through Orff Percussion, and the 2-5 grade Creative Ability Development class. Mr. Allen was born in L.A. but grew up in the Inland Empire. He spent a brief time playing trumpet, but then quickly switched to percussion. He studied audio recording at Citrus College, earned his Bachelor’s Degree in music from Cal State Fullerton, and then a Master’s Degree in music composition from Cal Arts. He is level I Orff and level I Kodaly trained and plans to continue on to become fully certified as an Orff and Kodaly instructor.

Mr. Allen works with 4 other Resident artists to create curriculum for the transitional and traditional kindergarten music classes. In general, they receive daily lessons that will develop the fundamental musical foundation of matching pitch, keeping a steady pulse, basic rhythms, and learning to use their “singing voice” to sing a vast repertoire of music.

First graders in Mr. Allen’s class (one of 6 1st grade violin classes) are introduced to the “Paper Orchestra” where they create a cardboard violin, learn to take care of it, and the parts of the instruments through songs. They will perform these songs together with their peers at the upcoming Winter Concert (see Events for more info) in order to “graduate” from the Paper Orchestra and receive the real thing to continue learning on. The Paper Orchestra was developed in Valenzuela by Jose Abreu and his El Sistema program and has proven to inspire young students, getting them excited about learning the violin and music in general. 2nd graders are now in year two of playing the violin and are continuing to develop their skills using a combination of the Suzuki method, Shirley Givens’ Violinland (Kodaly based), and modern method books.

Mr. Allen created his Composition Through Orff Percussion elective classes for 2nd-5th graders. Students in this class are learning how to play 3 part songs and identify the parts by their musical titles: melody, ostinato, and bourdun/drone. Once they can successfully play in 3 parts together they will begin to create their own ostinatos, bourdun and melodies ultimately learning how to create full scale songs.

In his piano elective, the students learn on a Yamaha keyboard lab, developing finger dexterity, fluency in music reading, and hand-to-hand coordination.

The Creative Ability Development Series is a method of teaching improvisation developed by Alice Kanack from Rochester New York ( In Mr. Allen’s CAD class that he co-teaches with Ted Taforo, they create a safe place for students to have fun exploring instruments, sound, and music theory through games and other structured improvisation activities that develop the students’ musical skills and creative thinking ability using Kanack’s method.

In regard to his philosophical goals as a music teacher, Mr. Allen said, “I hope that the Roosevelt students are able to develop a deep emotional understanding of themselves and are better equipped to relate and understand the world around them because they have had a creative way to express themselves from a young age. I think there is something magical that happens in a community that holds hands and sings together and would love to see a deep sense of community here at Roosevelt.”

Mr. Allen says his favorite part about teaching at Roosevelt is “when you watch a student have a break through seeing the look of their face makes all the struggles worth while. The MIE coworkers, I never worked with a more amazing group of people that keep me motivated to be a better teacher and still have so much fun. Everyday I come to work I’m happy and love the environment.”

When not teaching music at Roosevelt Elementary, Mr. Allen likes to hang out at coffee shops, play guitar and sing folk songs, surf in the California ocean, or learning to scuba dive.

The Music Immersion Experience Program is unique to Roosevelt Elementary School where all students at the school are receiving comprehensive music instruction every single day. The program is fully supported by the San Gabriel Unified School District. See About MIE for more information.

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