A student at West Leesville Elementary School is heading to a statewide competition with her project about the Beatles.

A student at West Leesville Elementary School is heading to a statewide competition with her project about the Beatles.

Isabella Cortez, fourth grade, made the Fab Four the subject of her sociology project, which has already won school, parish, and regional competitions. She will compete at the state level March 3 at the Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

Cortez became interested in the Beatles when she and her brother, Jayden, 12, were playing the Xbox game “Rock Band,” which features some of their songs. Later, she got to do a project for her social studies class, and she could pick a category and topic.

“I chose sociology, so I could learn more about the way the Beatles affected pop culture, animation, style, and how they are still relevant today,” she said.

At the competitions, students are given four minutes, maximum, to give their presentation to judges. “Four minutes can seem like a long time,” said Cortez. “I got used to public speaking because we went over it a lot at home.”

Through the research she conducted for this project, Cortez liked learning about how the Beatles are still relevant today. She also enjoyed getting some of her Beatles memorabilia for Christmas, she said.

Cortez has a wide array of Beatles gear, such as a Lego-built yellow submarine that she constructed herself. She removed the top of it to reveal the band members sitting inside.

 

Learned at lecture

Cortez was there the day that Beatles scholar Aaron Krerowics gave a lecture at the Vernon Parish Public Library last month.

Krerowics analyzed the album covers too. “The 60s began in black-and-white, and ended in color,” he said at his January lecture. Their first album, “Meet the Beatles,” featured a stark black-and-white photograph of the band. They progressed eventually to the vividly colorful “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” in June 1967, and “Yellow Submarine” in January 1969.

Sgt. Pepper is one of Cortez’s favorites.

“I really liked it because the songs were big and crazy,” she said.

Like Krerowics, Cortez noted how the Beatles’ album covers changed dramatically through their 10 years together.

“I like how the Sergeant Pepper’s album cover shows lots of cool people, and the Beatles are there in black-and-white, as they were when they first began as a band,” said Cortez.

Some of those “cool people” joining the Beatles on the cover are Bob Dylan, Edgar Allan Poe, Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, and Shirley Temple.

This album cover was designed by pop artists Peter Blak and Jann Haworth from an ink drawing by Paul McCartney. The front of the LP included a colorful collage featuring the Beatles in costume as the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, standing with a group of life-sized cardboard cut-outs of famous (and not-so-famous) people.

Each of the Beatles sported a heavy mustache. The mustaches reflected the growing influence of hippie style trends. Right next to the Beatles are wax sculptures of the band-members in their suits and mop-top haircuts from the Beatlemania era.

Her other favorite album is “Abbey Road.” She would like to take a trip to visit England and see the actual Abbey Road and sign, she said.

Following the Beatles lecture at the library, Cortez picked up an original pen-and-ink drawing by Krerowics, which is now part of her collection of Beatles memorabilia surrounding her presentation board. The drawing depicts the cover of Abbey Road, showing the four band members crossing the street, but it is made up entirely of music notes.

 

‘Exceptional student’

Isabella is in the gifted and talented program at West Leesville Elementary. Her teacher, Millie Ballagh has been teaching for 21 years and has been at West Leesville for about 10 years. Her teacher, Millie Ballagh, was excited to contribute some memorabilia to the project.

Ballagh said she was proud of Cortez’s work.

“Isabella told me in third grade that she wanted to focus on the Beatles when she got to fourth grade. She had seen other kids doing the project and was looking forward to it. She really started a year ago, already talking and thinking about it. It’s been a long, on-going project for her. She did such a good job,” she said.

Ballagh had never seen any other student focus on the Beatles.

“It was an original idea, she said. “It’s a pretty big deal to go to the state level.”

Ballagh noted that the parish, regional and state competitions pit her against other fourth graders and even fifth graders.

“Isabella is an exceptional student; very hardworking. The first time I ever taught her was in kindergarten, for enrichment. Isabella started in the gifted program in first grade. She is an over-the-top student,” Ballagh said.