Music Therapy students from Red Wing High School will present their winter concert at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8. in Hovda Hall at the school.

Under the direction of Esther Gullixson, 20 students will sing songs about stars and the lights of the season and play drums, q-chords and jingle bells. Students began working on concert material in September.

Gullixson has been the music therapist for the Red Wing School district for 30 years.

"Music therapy benefits our students with special needs by assisting in the development of social, communication and motor skills and most importantly in the enhancement of self-worth and self-esteem," she said.

Music is rewarding, enjoyable and accessible for people in all walks of life. One of the

amazing things about music is how simple it is to make music and how utterly sophisticated as well, she said. For example, students play percussion instruments such as the conga drum and maraca, and with accompaniment, they are making beautiful music together in a most accessible way. On the other end of the spectrum, musicians can work a lifetime to master their chosen instrument.

The students learn the music by rote, memorizing the lyrics and learning about using their voices to sing. This year they are singing a song in Spanish and another in Latin.

"As we near the concert date, the students are learning about preparing for a concert, about team work and relying on each other, and on the day of the concert will experience performing in front of a great many people," Gullixson said. "Family and friends come to the high school to attend the concert and also many high school classes come to support the music therapy students."

This year, eight students from choral director Scott Perau's choir will join music therapy students for the song "Candle of Peace." The music therapy students will play choir chimes to accompany Perau's choir students.

Also in the program, David Melbye, Red Wing area music therapist, is playing

Native American flute, guitar and singing with the students. Gretchen Anderson will accompany the choir on piano. Julie Schreifels is the unflappable stage manager.

The concert is free and open to the public.