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!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Individual learning within a group environment:
That is our focus in music class at SK. Learning music is a difficult balance between group and individual learning. Playing music together with a group is a unique human experience.  We communicate, collaborate, listen and create at the same time.  We are bonded together by rhythm and melody and each of us contributes our own individuality to the group.  We all have our own rhythmic feel, our own vocal timbre, our own set of skills and abilities; if one member is gone or added to the group, the experience is completely different.  Playing music together is a euphoric feeling and we do it in school as often as possible.  But we also realize that as we each progress in our own individual skill set, playing in the group becomes even more enjoyable and productive.  This is a great life lesson for the kids as well.  The more we have to offer individually, the more we can contribute to society.  There are skills to be learned from playing together and skills to be learned from practicing alone. This week at SK I was really amazed to see those skills all melding together.  We really have a community of musicians and I just love to watch them grow and work together.  This week I wrote the notes and chords to a song on the white board and asked the 3rd and 4th graders to choose instruments, form groups and perform the song.  I just sat back and watched as a class full of creative musicians with the skills necessary to prepare a performance practiced, worked together, and came up with new ideas. The performances were brilliant and we all cheered for each other.  It was really an amazing moment for me.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Well, it's time once again to plan for the Music and Art Cafe!   (November 13)
        Exciting things are on the horizon. This is one of my favorite things that happens at SK.  The music cafes were designed to be an informal format for the kids to share music with each other.   They are not demonstrating the lessons they learn in school.  They are not being evaluated by their music teacher for specific skills.  They are just playing music for fun and clapping for each other and showing support.  This is an invaluable experience for a few different reasons:
1. The kids don't feel afraid to explore and try new things
2. They can bring the music they do at home, in lessons or somewhere else into our musical school culture. Our music culture at SK should not exist in a vacuum.  It should connect to music that we hear everywhere.
3. Everyone gets practice being creative and performing, and sees that music is fun and wonderful
4. We develop a culture at SK where we are always creating, composing, practicing, arranging and playing music with and for each other.  We are each others audience and entertainment.  Music is just something that we do - all the time.

This is not to say that we are not learning and demonstrating skills at the music cafe, just that this is a platform for fun; an opportunity to use our musical skills for whatever we want.  We may drill our soccer skills in PE or at soccer practice and be very serious about it, but during recess, we just want to have fun.  The music cafe is our recess.  Plus there is delicious food and coffee.  Can't wait!!!!!

Friday, October 9, 2015

It was another awesome week in the music wing (yes, I'm calling it the music wing) at SK.
In true "Project-Based School" style, we are starting on some really big and interesting things and they will develop musically and organically:

Kindergarteners are developing a repertoire.  We now have 3 fun songs under our belt and we have taken turns singing and playing ukulele, xylophone and drums on all of them.  Instrumental and vocal skills are developing well and of course, we also do a lot of dancing.

First and Second Graders are singing dancing, playing instruments and reading music.  Just like the Ks, we are working on a repertoire and eventually we will plan a concert.

3rd and 4th graders are working on their repertoire as well.  Including their theme songs, they are up to 3 songs now.  We will split into 3 different bands (in each class), create choreography, work on perfecting instrumental and vocal parts and soon we will begin planning a concert, proving to ourselves and the rest of the world that there are lots and lots of songs out there that we have the necessary instrumental skills to perform.  in January, we'll be using these instrumental skills to compose our own songs, but for now, we will have a blast preparing for a big show!

5th and 6th graders were dearly missed this week but I'm sure they were all doing amazingly musical things during our professional development day.

7 and 8th graders had their first Musical treasure hunt this week:  This is our way of listening to some of the specifics in a musical piece.  We checked out some exciting music by John Williams that we all know, and found some interesting compositional techniques we didn't know were there (well, I knew).  Next week we will begin our unit on recording.  We will learn to record music by recording an album together with the theme songs from all the classes.  This will prepare the 8th graders who are recording albums for their monumental task.