Monday, May 16, 2016

reflections night(s)

Reflections Night is our time to reflect on the music and art that we have been working on all year.  For me it is a thousand little errands and then a big show.  Are all the microphones in place?  Is all the music ready?  Are there enough chairs?  Do the 5th graders all know how to play their songs?  Does everyone know the words?  Are the instruments in tune?... there are a lot of questions.  After rushing around like crazy for 2 hours with a bad cold, trying to be as prepared as possible, I ran into the atrium of the school which doubles as a cafeteria and triples as a performance space.  The kids had set up the sound system and tested all the microphones.  The kids had set up all the chairs and printed all the lyrics to the songs they needed.  The kids had practiced the songs that needed to be practiced. The show went smoothly.  There were a few mistakes and a few moments when the sound system produced a very loud feedback noise that hurt everyone's ears.  I saw somebody in the audience holding their ears and making a frustrated face at the deafening sound and, while I completely understood why that was so bothersome, all I could feel about it was a great pride for what the kids had accomplished. I stopped feeling sick for a second and I asked the audience for a big round of applause for the tech crew.  I'm sure they were confused.  Why are we clapping for the people who are making our ears hurt?  I didn't explain it very well but that was my Reflections Night reflections moment.  I realized that what the kids have been working on all year is a sense of ownership over the music that they make.  These kids chose, learned and composed their own songs.  They set up their space for the show and they ran the sound system all by themselves.  They made a few mistakes but they did an unbelievably terrific job for their age and experience level. They put on a great great show. Every mistake was a learning moment and every success was truly earned.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Musical Mania

We are right in the middle of Musical-Mania and it is a big fat fiery ball of fun.  Both 1/2 classes and both 3/4 classes have written incredible musicals and are ready to start planning their performances.  This process has been such a blast.  The kids have composed compositions, choreographed choreography, plotted plots and rehearsed, um rehearsals.  These shows have unfolded in the most creative (and messiest) way possible.  Kids have stopped me on the way to the car yelling "Josh, I know what we have to do during the dance about the aliens" and burst into the music room during my lunch yelling "Josh, I know what costumes we can wear during the last song".  While I realize that I am doing a terrible job setting boundaries, I am very excited about these shows.  They are wild and crazy and full of surprises.  They don't follow any rules and the music is excellent.  They are completely owned by the kids and I think they are almost as excited as me.  We'll post info about dates soon.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Autonomy:
That's what I always say I am trying to teach the kids.  I think we are making some progress.   The Kindergarteners rejected my song ideas for better ones that they thought of themselves. The 1st and 2nd graders asked me to stop leading the drum circles because they all know how to lead without me.  The 3rd and 4th graders told me to stop singing along to all their songs because they sound better without me.  The 5th and 6th graders almost don't need my help composing anymore and the 7th and 8th graders are teaching each other arrangements of the songs they are composing and don't even need me to play in the band.  I know this is what I wanted but I have to say, I'm feeling a little left out.  I can't wait to start something new and feel needed again.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

This was our best week for composition, I think, ever!  Middle schoolers were asked to create a melody based on a particular mode (a group of notes) and tonal center.  At first, while there were a few excited kids and many scared kids.  "I don't know how to write a melody."  I don't know where to start."  "I don't know what to do."  By the end of the class, we didn't have time for everyone who wanted to to share their compositions.  It took too long for everyone to comment on how much they loved each others' melodies.  It was one of those weeks when I thought that everything we do at SK magically works exactly the way it is supposed to.  Scales and fingerings and notes and lessons turned into creativity and melody and excitement and brilliance and riveting performance.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Another wonderful Cafe

This was a magical week at SK for music as our Music and Art Cafe tradition was passed down to a new set of aspiring musicians.  It was amazing to watch the 8th graders take on a leadership role this year. They knew just what to do, since so many of them were involved with it last year, but they did it so differently than our 8th graders last year did. That is what I love about this tradition. It so reflects the personalities and talents of the kids.  They are not just sharing music, they are exploring their identities.  We had so many different wonderful things happen that it is impossible for kids to be part of it and not expand their concept of what it means to be a musician.  We had empowering rock music, beautiful classical music, heart wrenching vocal ballads, Michael Jackson music and no less than five brilliant original compositions composed and arranged by  students. It is not until the performance is over that the new fifth graders, participating for the first time, really realize what I meant when I told them, in the initial meeting about the cafe, that they can do anything.  Congratulations Middle Schoolers.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My two favorite moments this week at SK both involved our adorable kindergartners. I love the way they look up to the middle schoolers and love the way that SK is designed to facilitate lots of interactions between them. For weeks the kindergarteners have been begging to see their hero, Nik, come down from the mountains of 8th grade-land to perform a song for them. They know Nik so well because he helps out in the kindergarten room once a week and they were astonished to find out that he goes to music class just like they do. So this Wednesday's kindergarten class began with a performance by Nik and Matthew of an incredible piano piece they composed together (you can hear this piece too if you come to the music and art cafe on Friday the 13th). It was great to see Nik and Matthew experience the impact their music had on the kindergarteners and it was great to watch the kindergarteners love the performance.

My other favorite moment this week happened when we went on a little field trip to the fish lab and the kindergarteners discovered a snail on the side of the fish tank. Lisa answered all sorts of questions about snails and then we wrote a new verse for our animal song about snails. This was a very special week for them and I can't stress enough how nice it is to work at a school that really knows the meaning of community.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Halloween Halloween

Celebrations and holidays are special to small schools because we are very purposeful about our sense of community.  Though the original meaning and purpose of Halloween is, for most of us, distant; the tradition of dressing up and celebrating offers us another set of meanings - to play, to imagine, to be someone or something else, to change what life looks like and feels like for a while, and to do something interesting and make a great spectacle as a community. 

These practices are deeply ingrained in our humanity and music plays an integral part in such traditions.  Music connects us in so many ways and that is its great power.  Its rhythm puts our movements in sync.  Its texture connects our moods and feelings.  Our repertoire is a set of familiar experiences we share, that make us who we are as a group.   This week we shared an experience as a school.  We all sang Halloween songs and talked about what spooky music is (and how to make it).  We marched in a parade.  We banged on big drums and made howling noises. We ate sweet foods and wore crazy costumes.  We were not as separate as usual.  We were less a group of classes and more one community. I love this feeling at SK because for me, it is what makes us a great school.  Even though we will go back to our regular activities next week, we are still more community and less separate than most places.  We will have many more experiences connecting us together by movement, feeling and familiar experience, which solidify our identity as a community and make our experience at SK so much more meaningful and formative.  Music always does this.  In just two weeks is the Music and Art Cafe and I'm looking forward to yet another great community experience. Mark your calendars, November 13th, and have a happy Halloween!