The International School of Kenya has a student body of 900 students, all of which take an art elective. The school, serving students from around the world is very supportive of the arts and offers programs in drama, visual art, choir, and band. The building was beautiful and I was so happy to see a school with such an established music program. The band director, Daniel Ligon, seems to have big plans to expand the music program and I am excited to watch it grow.
We began our day early--with an 8:00am high school band class. It was a good sized band, with 25 students on clarinet, flute, saxophone, trombone, and percussion. We started the class by hearing the band play, while we joined in and doubled the parts. This gave us a chance to really hear the students and understand the kind of music they are working on. We continued by splitting into sections: Christina with flutes, Brian with clarinets, Nick with brass, and since there were no oboes or bassoons in the band, Ellen with saxophones, and myself with percussion. Of course, I am not a percussionist, so I was a little nervous I would have nothing to offer the students. However, they were so excited to have the individual attention of a sectional that they really enjoyed clapping rhythms and practicing dynamics. It is a shame that their band class is so short (65 minutes) that the director isn't able to give them individual section time. But I'm so glad we could offer that, even just for 1 day.
The class ended with a performance we gave of a few movements of Gyorgy Ligeti's "6 Bagatelles". The piece is very exhilarating and different than much of the classical music they have heard. But when we asked for observations, they really noticed the things we focused on in sectionals: varied articulations and dynamics. One student commented that those aspects of music "really bring a piece to life". I was so happy to hear this. So we made sure to remind them that their job as musicians is to bring a piece of music to life using things like articulations and dynamics.
From 12:30 to 1:30 we repeated this same lesson plan with the middle school band, an even bigger ensemble with 50 students. We were so impressed with their level of commitment and enthusiasm. Before we began the class the students were split in friend groups improvising with each other! It was very refreshing.
At 2:00 we visited the school's IB music class which has three 11th grade students who are very talented and interested in pursuing music as a career. They focus on theoretical analysis and performance, so the teacher asked us to give a live performance of the same Ligeti we performed that morning. Then, the students were to guess the era of the piece. Their thinking was so accurate when they mentioned things like dissonance, unusual rhythms, and specific articulations. We were so impressed!
It was really inspiring to begin our project with a very established and accomplished music program, especially since it was our first day teaching as a team. We are excited to return to ISK for one more performance on Thursday!