To begin the preparation process for the concert, Ivy and I decided that each of our classes would have a composition theme. Each class was to compose in seven groups of four students, and each group would write a "movement" to be combined with the other six groups to make a seven-movement original work. My first period's theme was New York City sounds inspired by Steve Reich's City Life; my 2nd period's theme was Spring sounds inspired by Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Since these were familiar concepts (see my previous posts Welcome, Spring! and First Semester at PS 11), we now had the chance to dive deeper into the music we were studying, as well as the rehearsal process.
The first lesson of this three-week project was spent reviewing the concept of ostinato, since the students were to write pieces that use layered ostinati in the subject theme. After this review, the students spent most of the class period drafting their pieces and notating their work. Although the composition process is nothing new to them, the students had not ever composed a piece that was to be revised or used in a future lesson. So I tried to emphasize the importance of being able to notate their work so they could come back to it next time. We finished the class by blocking the positions the students will take to enter and exit the stage, as well as how to bow! These were new, and very necessary things to make for a smooth, easy performance.
I was nervous for the second week of preparation since the students would be doing something new in returning to their drafted pieces of music. But as usual, the students amazed me, and came to class prepared with even more thought out and rehearsed pieces. I thanked them for such hard work in the time I was away and showed my appreciation by giving each group the option of using one small percussion instrument to use in their piece--also something new, hopefully making this process more memorable and exciting. After time for revision and review of the terms "on deck", "on stage", and "bow", I explained the importance of rehearsal and dress rehearsal to the students. This lead us into two very smooth run-throughs of the classes' seven movement pieces and gave all of us in the room confidence in our performance for the next week.
I arrived at PS 11 this morning so excited to watch the culminating performances. I was thrilled to see the young musicians present their exhilarating compositions with pride and joy, and I was delightfully shocked to see the students who usually refuse to participate get on stage with incredible presence. The students surprised me, many showing up with accompanying literature, dramatic gestures, homemade percussion instruments, and costumes to complete their works of art. Ivy and I closed the concert with a performance of a Telemann duet, allowing us to demonstrate our instruments one last time.