Spotted in Manila, 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Culminating Concert at PS 11!

As a celebration of our learning this year, my 2nd graders and I have been working on final pieces over the last three weeks. Today these pieces were featured in a culminating concert where the three classes that my partner, Ivy and I teach collectively performed for each other. With the support of PS 11, we reserved the auditorium, and all 90 students put on a thoughtful, well-rehearsed, and entertaining show. It was a fabulous way to end our year, and a total party!

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.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I was so proud to see the students of PS 11 show off all they learned this year. I will miss those creative and thoughtful musicians, and I am so thankful for my opportunity to teach them through Juilliard's Morse Teaching Artist Fellowship!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hurricane Sandy Day of Service

Today I was so lucky to have spent the day with ten incredible people from Juilliard in Staten Island. This group of dancers, actors, musicians, and staff responded to my school-wide call for volunteers interested in doing rebuilding work on a house destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

I recently learned that more than 22,000 households are still displaced from the storm, and over 75,000 residents were affected in Staten Island a lone. This was a shocking fact to learn since most of Manhattan no longer sees the impact of Sandy and many New Yorkers (including myself) have forgotten there is a lot of recovery work still needed right in our own backyard. I thought it would be a perfect end to the school year for Juilliard's club, ARTreach to host a one-day service project to support the recovery efforts in State Island.

The incredible group of volunteers, Curtis, Matthew, Emily Chelsea, Robert, Victoria, Cleo, Khari, Priscilla, and JJ met at school at 7:45am wide awake and excited for the day. We arrived on the site by 9:00 and were immediately greeted by our contact from Yellow Boots, as well as Sandy's destruction and impact.

Our assignment would be to shovel, rake, and level out over 60 tons of gravel in the basement of this soon-to-be gorgeous house on the beach. The challenging work was very rewarding since we worked together with the future homeowner, Stephanie. We spent the rest of the day doing this exhausting work (with an occasional dance break) until 3:00pm. 

Throughout the day, I noticed the team using many skills related to our art forms in this work that may seem totally unrelated to our art forms. It amazed me that our skills as team workers, and as focused, persistent, and dedicated people could help us so much in this task of construction work, which only yesterday I considered as un-artistic as something gets. It was a great reminder of the power the arts can have on someone's work in any field, even shoveling gravel. 

Thank you so much to the whole team for their sweat, muscles, and compassion. I hope tis projet continues for semesters to come!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sorcerer's Apprentice

This whole year, my teaching partner and I have purposefully avoided teaching a lesson with a 2nd graders about music as a narrative or story telling. Our goal in teaching is to always have the students listening to the techniques in a piece of music and to treat the piece as a work of art that stands alone, rather than a piece which assists a visual, written, or dramatic work of art. The incredibly imaginative students at PS 11 already do this kind of story telling on their own when they listen to music, any way.

But today for our final lesson before we begin working on our year-end culminating project, we introduced the term Tone Poem as a way that music tells a story to be paired with a piece of drama, film, literature, or visual art.

We began or lesson by listening to musically contrasting sections of Paul Dukas's Sorcerer's Apprentice, and to review the techniques and topics we have studied this year, the students were asked to describe the music in terms of dynamics, instrumentation, pitch, tempo, and shape. Next, using visual art, the students story boards and comic strips as they listened to the entirety of Sorcerer's Apprentice. They were asked to create any story to match the music they heard, about anything, as long as they could explain their choices using descriptions of the corresponding music.

As the students shared their drawings while speaking their stories over the matching music that played, I was so amazed at the themes that every story shared. Even without discussing during the activity, and having no previous experience with the piece of music, each story had elements of magic and angst, followed by struggle and then resolution. Each student heard these characters in the music alone.

These commonalities made for an even more impactful viewing experience when we finished the class by watching Walt Disney's famous animated version of the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia (1940). Although the students had never seen this cartoon, they were amazed at the similarities between Disney's interpretation of the piece, and their own (as was I).

To me, this is a credit to the fascinating ability children have to listen to a piece of music without bias, but instead colorful, limitless imagination.

Here are a few examples of the drawings done by the students.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fully Funded!

Thank you, friends for your support on the Project Philippines Kickstarter campaign! The project finished today and I'm so happy that we not only met, but passed our fundraising goal. Thank you so much, salamat!