Spotted in Manila, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Young Conductors

Over the last couple of weeks, we have been learning about conducting in my 2nd grade classes. Since we have been working since October to gain a deep understanding of pitch, tempo, dynamics, and rhythm, I asked the students to create their own conducting systems in small groups that they would demonstrate using a simple class song, "Dum Dum Da Da". As usual, I was amazed at their clever and creative ways of meeting my challenge. Many groups demonstrated their systems with one designated conductor, or several, and used their entire bodies, rather than just their hands like an unimaginative "grown-up" like me would do. One group even used a series of yoga poses--each one representing a different musical element and change--to conduct the class song.

We continued this conducting work by learning the patterns and techniques of professional conductors. Many of these techniques were already being used by the students: extending and broadening their hand motions to signal a louder dynamic, moving quicker or slower to show changes in tempo. So the only new technique we needed to learn was the conducting patterns of music in 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 time. Of course, they picked this up rapidly and were excited to practice these patterns as conductors in front of the class.

All of this work culminated in watching a performance of Leonard Bernstein conducting his own work Overture to Candide. I chose this video because Bernstein was not only a master American conductor, but is very entertaining to watch as he shows so much personality and character in his conducting. The music itself is also very beautiful, and changes between each of the conducting patterns we studied in class. It was a great couple of lessons and now I am excited to see them continue to use conducting in their compositions each week. 

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