Spotted in Manila, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Until next time...

As I lay here back in my Texas apartment, eating the last pandan cake that I brought back from Manila, I struggle to find the words that accurately express what a truly unforgettable experience the last 4 weeks have been for me. I've struggled for the last 5 nights of being back in the US, every night, with the last 5 pandan cakes I brought back from Manila.

I too often say that something was life-changing; it's very easy for me to let my heart get touched. So I won't. Instead, as my final reflection on Project Philippines, I have created a list. These are the incredible scenes, snacks, people, and things in nature that symbolize my special trip--the reminders that connect me to my ancestors, and keep my music making full.

Things that stole my heart in the Philippines:

1. Pandan cakes
2. Pastel skies
3. Bumpy pedicab rides
4. Pancit
5. Lesson planning by candlelight
6. Catarman National High School
7. Chickenjoy
8. Billions of stars
9. Ocean phosphorescence. Like Earth's reflection of the billions of stars.
10. Cold bucket showers
11. Coconuts
12. Philippine High School for the Arts
13. Tide pools
14. Croaking lizards
15. Our driver, Raul
16. Street snacks
17. Open markets
18. Filipino pride
19. Filipino hospitality
20. Filipino smiles

Until next time, Philippines. Mahal ko kayo and Mabuhay!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

up the mountain!!

I'm so so so excited that I have returned to one of my favorite places, the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA). It is tucked away at the top of Mt. Makiling in Los Banos, Laguna just a few hours outside of Metro Manila. Even though I only spent a few days here, the rest of the team will be here for two weeks and will spend weekends at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.

The campus was hit hard by the most recent typhoon, Glenda. The storm impacted PHSA so much that the school evacuated all the boarding students and shut down for 3 weeks, losing precious class time, and only letting students return a couple of weeks ago. Now, the campus runs on a powerful generator during limited hours of the day, allowing classes to continue. We are also seeing the effects of the storm, as our living quarters (on campus) have limited water and no electricity. It has tested our patience, since the heat is uncomfortable, and the sun sets around 6pm, shortening our work days by several hours. But it is truly serene and therapeutic to live completely by candlelight.

(What would usually be completely masked by jungle, this view has been cleared by Glenda. The positive is that it is an insanely beautiful look over Los Banos)

The students at PHSA come from all backgrounds from across the Philippines to study their artistic specialization. Brian and I worked with the 22 very gifted music students who study violin, viola, piano, voice, flute, and guitar. It is a challenge for me to work with students who don't play my instrument. But I have found that some of the best musical advice I have received was from teachers of other instruments, and since the students already study privately with professionals from Manila, I thought Brian and I could still offer something new.

Their private lessons happen every weekend when the whole student body is transported to Manila to stay with host families and continue their studies in the city. During the week, the students take academic classes from 8am to 12pm and have arts classes in their discipline 2pm to 6pm, with occasional rehearsals 8pm-10pm. For the musicians, the afternoon hours are spent doing supervised practicing, and once-a-week theory classes. So Brian and I had the luxury of borrowing them for 4-6 hours every day! We split our days like this:

2:00-3:00 Lecture or group activity
3:00-3:45 Chamber music masterclass
3:45-4:00 Journal reflection
4:00-6:00 Thirty-minute private lessons. Students sign up for a time and others on that instrument were to observe.

Since these musicians are already so strong on their instruments, we wanted to do work that we knew they weren't getting already. This included studio classes, masterclasses with comments from their peers, written self-reflection, and time to ask us questions. Brian and I also chose our lectures and activities with this in mind:

Monday: Introduction to aleatoric music, group reading of Terry Riley's In C. 
*Assignment: compose a short piece the uses aleatoric elements and can be played by all the musicians at PHSA.

Tuesday: Mock audition, each student had 4 minutes to perform a solo and receive written comments.

Wednesday: Group readings of aleatoric compositions, and introduction to minimalism.
*Assignment: compose a short piece for yourself that only uses the pitch A. Use dynamics, octaves, tempo changes, and articulations to be expressive and evoke a mood.

Brian will continue this kind of exploratory work after I leave tomorrow with soundpainting, improvisation, and more composition. I also hope he will send me quotes from the students' journals while I am back in the US, because these students are so inspiringly in touch with their musicianship! Here are some of my favorite journal quotes so far:

"Music will be my tool of communication, a bridge to the unspoken ideas just waiting to be heard or shared. I would like to perform until the day I die. Music will stay with me for it is not just a tool which I use for expressing myself, but also a portal for me to a completely different world." -Lyon

"When I was introduced to the guitar, a whole different world opened up to me. I knew there was nothing else I wanted than to be able to share music with the world the way it has made me a better individual. When teaching and performing, money, or not a single penny, I will play. I'd also like to save Mother Earth with music. Is that possible?" -Marlee

"Imagining my life in 10 years without music would be like imagining myself without an arm or something!" -Micah

"Music will be the one I run to at any time. But I don't want to be selfish with my music. I want to share with everyone and let them express their feelings just by listening. I want to help and heal them." -Janna

"I love to play music because it's been with me my whole life. It's like my girlfriend, hehehe!" -Adrian

"Music is a home for me because when I am outside, honestly I am not able to express my emotions abstractly. But when I hear sounds that make music, I could almost feel that I'm home because I could express my thoughts all throughout." -Ian

These articulate, gifted young musicians have been the best way I can think of to end my 4 weeks in the Philippines. It's time for me to head to the airport to catch my flight back to Texas tonight! It's sad, but I'm ok, because thanks to them, I have enough artistic inspiration to last a very long time. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A week in Manila!

We have just completed our week in Manila. This week, rather than working together and focusing on 1 school, our team spent most of our time divided by discipline, finding connections with programs and local professionals in our fields, as well as beginning pilot programs with potential partner schools. Before we head to the Philippine High School for the Arts, here is a day-by-day of how we spent our week in this busy city.

Monday August 11
The dancers spent the day teaming up with the Philippine Ballet Theater, taking as well as teaching class. Brian and I spent the day catching up on much needed practicing and rehearsing together!

Tuesday August 12
While the dancers and actors worked with the resident companies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Brian and I met up with members of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) for dinner on the Manila Bay!

Wednesday August 13
All 8 of us teachers were reunited to begin a 2-day workshop at a Mariano Marcos Memorial High School in Santa Ana. This is one of the only high schools in Manila with arts classes and we worked with students enrolled in their Special Program for the Arts. The students who specialize in music take classes in choir and Filipino instruments. We had our first experiences in soundpainting, ostinato, and minimalism using these instruments and vocal sounds of Manila. Here is a video of a student performance from class.

Brian and I headed straight for the University of Santo Tomas where I gave my first university masterclass for the 9 bassoonists who study there. The students were excellent! It was such an amazing reminder of how much I love teaching specifically bassoon, since I had forgotten in all the work we were doing in Catarman in beginning music. To close the class, 5 local bassoonists and I read bassoon ensemble music. What a party!! I was so thankful for Pong Mendoza, the principal bassoonist of the PPO who set up the day.

Thursday August 14
We concluded the 2-day workshop at MMMHS with one final class. In music, we did a large group reading of Terry Riley's In C on Filipino traditional instruments as an introduction to aleatoric music and performers' choice. Then all the arts students gathered for a performance exchange where we performed pieces for them, then they did the same for us. Kyle also finished a large mural project with the visual art students that he has been planning for several months with MMMHS. It is titled "happyness" everybody needs love. It was a great pilot workshop with this school that has such a deep love for the arts.

Friday August 15
This morning, we were so lucky to be invited to observe the PPO in rehearsal preparing for their performance of Rigoletto opening next week at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. I so badly wanted to jump in and play with such a great orchestra!!

All the disciplines spent the afternoon together teaching a workshop at Manila's beautiful Ayala Museum. The workshop was for local young performing artists, art lovers, and anyone interested; they all signed up for the all-day workshop to take a class in each discipline. Since the classes were held one-after-another rather than rotating, I was able to see my fellow volunteers in action and even took their classes in theater in dance. It was so beautiful to see how connected all the disciplines really are. To celebrate these connections, Brian and I taught vocal soundpainting during our music portion of the workshop and then had the participants make decisions on how our gestures would be interpreted in theater and dance. The workshop concluded with one large group piece where each participant chose a group (dance, theater, or music) to interpret the signs in their own discipline. The result was a stunning piece of improvisatory cross-disciplinary collaboration. 

(Me participating with a partner in a mirror activity in theater class. I was so nervous!)

Saturday August 16
Our final day in Manila was a very challenging one. We spent the day with Mano Amiga, a private school and organization that offers high quality education to families who do not have the means to enroll their child in school at all. Because we had gotten so used to working with students age 11-18, suddenly being thrown into a room with 30 six-year-olds was very trying. But once we were adjusted, we had so much fun playing and exploring our art forms together. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A sweet send off

This morning we arrived at the Catarman Airport for our 5am flight to Manila. We were surprised by a handful of students there to send us off. It was so sweet of them to show up and I will miss them! But I'm so excited to get started in the city!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Show time!

Today the students of Catarman National High School gathered with their families and friends to share everything they've worked on during this 2-week workshop with Project Philippines. The beautiful performance space was generously donated by Governor Ong of Northern Samar, and I think his support inspired everyone in the room. I was so proud that they courageously shared their art with their community. Here was the view of Catarman from the performance hall.

The show began with the students singing Lupang Hinirang, The Philippine National Anthem, with Brian and I providing instrumental accompaniment. To have 75 beautiful Filipino students performing their national anthem with me made it one of my favorite performances I've ever give. Next,  as our welcome gift to the families and students, us 8 teachers performed pieces in our disciplines. The dance teachers performed a brand new trio, the actors did combined monologues, and Kyle shared a piece he had been working on during his stay in Catarman.

Brian and I performed a jazzy duet, Rhythm Changes by Rob Hutchinson, and then all 8 of us (dancers and non-dancers together) performed a Filipino folk dance which we spent the last 2 weeks learning. I did my best to keep up with the rest of the team...

Music class opened the concert with Class 1 singing their song I am, then Class 2 sang Confidence, and Class 3 sang This Act of Love. To close our section, all of the students gathered for a soundpainting symphony lead by Brian and myself. We titled it A Day in the Life of a CNHS Student together illustrated through sound 6 movements:

I. Morning
II. Walk to School
III. Project Philippines 
IV. Evening at Home
V. Fiesta
VI. Sleep

By using elements from all of our music lessons, we were able to create a long list of possible sounds and colors, and in combining them, the students created an exciting masterpiece! (See my previous posts Week 1: Complete! and Week 2 at CNHS to see what we worked on and put into the piece). Before going on stage, almost every student expressed feelings of nerves and fear to me. But they performed the best work I've seen them do and with so much confidence and pride. Too bad I couldn't film it because I was on stage with them!

After music was the drama portion of the performance where the students presented small-group devised pieces where everyone presented a solo sentence about "I believe...", "I dream...), or "I fear....". In these piece they truly opened up and revealed very personal thoughts. It meant so much to be in the same room as this work.

The show finished with dance class, and all the students doing one large piece together, titled I Feel. Here is a video excerpt of the performance. Brian and I used body percussion that they perform here in our soundpainting piece!  

After awarding certificates to all the students and giving them new journals to continue journaling after we leave, we spent 2 more hours taking pictures and saying our goodbyes to them. They are the hardest working and most excited students I have ever worked with. I feel that their commitment to the arts and art education is something specifically Filipino, which has me addicted to this country. I will miss their dedication and smiles so much. 

Their unquenchable thirst for art has me inspired for life. 

Week 2 at CNHS

Our 2nd and final week at National High School has finished, and what an inspiring and productive week it was. Brian and I continued our work in teaching more musical vocabulary which allowed us to use these terms when creating the pieces for our final performance. Here is a day-by-day look at what we did!

Monday August 4: Word of the day--Intention
We began today's lesson with a sharing time where the students demonstrated their homemade instruments for their peers. They were incredible!! From bottle cap tambourines to coffee can drum sets to clothespin castanets, each one had a unique sound and design. The resourcefulness was astounding, and the quality of the instruments' sounds were quite great. I was very moved by their creativity. We asked the students to explain the intention of their instrument in performance. What is its role? How should it be played? What is necessary for it to be played convincingly?

We moved on in the lesson to study melody and accompaniment. Using their new instruments, and new knowledge of ostinato, the students were to create rhythmic accompaniment figures to be paired with a folk/pop/childhood song which they selected. This composing experience focused their listening to Stravinsky's Suite for Petit Orchestra, Mvt. 1, which uses repeated accompaniment figures to assist a folk song melody.

Tuesday August 5: Word of the day--Collaborate
Since a question came up from a student about the person standing at the front of the orchestra, we discussed conducting today. By warming up with identifying the pulse and learning the beat patterns of pieces in 2, 3, and 4, the students were then ready to collaborate in small groups to create their own conducting systems to show changes in tempo, pitch, and dynamics. Each group demonstrated by singing a simple song they learned in theater class, "Dum Dum Da Da". I was impressed with their team work in developing these complex communication systems, and when finding new ways to problem solve together.

Wednesday August 6: Word of the day--Trust
A big theme in today's word of the day was specifically focused on trusting yourself and this was very important in music class. We asked the students to use their knowledge of pulse, structure, and expression in music to compose songs using quotes form their personal Project Philippines journals. By filling in blanks and prompts, each of the 3 classes composed a song that had a refrain and 3 episodes in rondo form that used themes from our arts workshop so far.

Class 1: "I am."
I want to be an artist. I want to share my talent. 
I was to be an explorer. I want to know it all. 
I want to be an engineer and teacher.
I was to be a police and soldier.
I believe I can do anything I want. 

I believe in myself to be happy always. 

(Episode 1)
I hope that I'll have wings, I hope that I can fly. 
I hope to finish my studies, I hope to be a scholar. 
I hope I will explore, I hope I will travel around the world. 

(Episode 2)
Oh, my goal is to succeed in my dreams. Oh, my goal is to help people. 
My goal is to finish my studies, my goal is to do my best. 
My wish is to enhance myself, my wish is to have a beautiful life. 

(Episode 3)
I am a god's soldier. I am a good person, but I am not perfect. 
I am honest, I am happy. 
I am proud to be a Filipino, a Filipino. 

Class 2: "Confidence"
Confidence is the thing non one can take from you. 
It means to believe any time, any where, 'I can do it.'
Confidence is important to me. It is about being proud of yourself. 
Don't be shy, express!

(Episode 1)
Confidence is believing in yourself and being brave in front of the audience.
I'm most confident when I perform my talent. 
I believe I can anything I want. I am confident in everything I did today!

(Episode 2)
To me confidence means to express your feelings and to believe what you can do. 
I am most confident when I'm showing myself. 
I am confident in everything I did today, I can do anything I want. 

(Episode 3)
To me confidence means showing and expressing yourself. 
I am confident when I know what to do. 
I believe I can do anything I want. I am confident in everything I did today. 

Class 3: "This Act of Love"
I can give a present but presents can break.
I would rather give a song to keep forever. 
I would rather give love because love is unity. 

(Episode 1)
I felt love when all my classmates gave me a gift, 
and that gift was their smile, 
hug, and care for me when I was sick. 
Then I felt better and happy. 
This act of love was a gift to me, and I will share the love. 

(Episode 2)
I felt love when I was alone in my dark room. 
Then my friends and family were at my back to support me. 
My dark room was lit up with love and care. 
This act of love was a gift to me, I will share the love. 
I will share the love. 

(Episode 3)
I felt love every time I saw your smile. 
I wish that I had one more hug and kiss. 
I'll wait for you I promise you again. 
This act of love was a gift to me.
I will share the love. 

I was so proud of the students for really opening up and doing a brave thing in writing lyrics and melodies together, and wow, how beautiful these words turned out!

Thursday August 7: Word of the day--Focus
To test their focus today in preparation for our final performance, we studied a kind of music that is very special to Brian and I. Recently invented in America, Soundpainting explores real time composing with a conductor showing simple gestures which provide cues for musicians. With our students, we used gestures to sign long tones, hits, ostinati, selected songs, all with manipulations in tempo, level, and dynamics. The students had to quickly react to our gestures and used their voices, body percussion, and their homemade instruments to respond to do so.

Here is a video of Brian conducting a soundpainting warm up with the students!

Not only is soundpainting exhilarating and beautiful as art, but it is also so important to me that we introduce our students to a new definition of music. Based on our evaluation of the students at CNHS, their definition of music is the pop songs they hear on the radio. But for me, being very passionate about minimalism and new music, the definition of music is simply any organized sound. In studying soundpainting, the students were able to better grasp this new definition and see that music is all around them every day.

Friday August 8: Word of the day--Community
Today was our last day of classes before the students' big community performance tomorrow! We spent the whole day reviewing and rehearsing our pieces for tomorrow's show. Each class will perform their group song, and we will all perform a giant soundpainting symphony called "A Day in the Life of a CNHS Student". I can't wait for them to show everything they've worked hard to learn!

Since today's word was community, the students all worked together within their new Project Philippines community to create a banner for tomorrow's performance with visual art teacher, Kyle. They used vegetables and fruits to print and fill in the banner! Love it.

Then as another exercise around the word community, we asked the students to list the communities they are a part of in their workshop journals. I loved Angelica's response:

The community that I belong to is care all around me. Like my friends, family, classmates, relatives, and Project Philippines. And that love is my community. 

Then to wrap up the workshop, the students were given small slips of paper to send anonymous affirmations to each other. An affirmation could be anything from "I really loved your dance move in class today" to "You always have a beautiful smile!" This is such a fun activity so the students really feel love among their peers. These affirmation pockets hung next to the list of words of the week. For me, these 2 images really represent the love in the room, and the learning that happened with how these words relate to all the art forms.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Week 1: Complete!

I have been in the Philippines for 1 week now and every single day, I have to take a moment to look around and breathe, overwhelmed with a feeling of joy and thankfulness to be here teaching.

The students take classes in music, dance, and theater, and we teachers have each taken a day off from our own discipline to teach an "elective" class in something else that we are passionate about. Every night, the team chooses a word of the day to focus our lessons toward on the following day, and every day ends with a journal activity for the students to reflect and communicate with us. Here are descriptions of what each day has looked like for me!

Monday July 28: Word of the day--Hello
On this first day day of classes, rather than teaching music, I lead a creative writing elective with Brian and dance teacher Allie. After doing a warm up name game and alliteration exercise, we jumped right into writing "I am" poems where the students fill in the blanks with anything they would like.

I am ___.
I need ___. 
I want ___. 
I say ___. 
I see ___. 
I hear ___. 
I wonder ___. 
I believe ___. 
I love ___. 
I am ___. 

The students were very hesitant to share their work, but for the few that did, it was a great way get to know them. During sharing, the writers received feedback from their peers in 3 different ways. Responses could be in these formats where the peer quotes a line from the writers work:

I responded to ___. 
I learned ___. 
I want to know more about ___. 

This way, the writer can decide a way to narrow the focus of their writing to something that the class responded to. So we finished the class with one last free write so the writers could elaborate on a line that their colleagues provided feedback on. In her journal that afternoon, our student Catalina described writing class well:

My favorite part of today was writing class because there, I can share the thoughts in my mind and tell the others in my class in a safe place. 

Tuesday July 29: Word of the day--Expression
This was the first day of music class! I was so excited to have "expression" be today's word since the most wonderful part of being a musician is having the ability to express what words cannot. Brian and I focused today on breaking down a few ways that music can be expressive of an emotion or story: variations in tempo, dynamics, and orchestration. With specific guidelines, we had the students compose short piece in groups of four about an argument using body percussion. The students were so thrilled to compose! Every piece was exhilarating and demonstrated their understanding of the new terms we discussed. Here is a video of one of my favorite compositions: 

We finished the class by listening to and analyzing a music argument masterpiece, a variation from Carl Nielsen's Wind Quintet. This movement was written for a clarinetist and bassoonist who did not get along well and to me it perfectly illustrates an argument in music. Brian and I performed it for the students and they identified the techniques that Nielsen, and we used to express the tension of a fight.

Wednesday July 30: Word of the day--Confidence
Now that the students had the vocabulary from the day before, we began to reinforce these ideas with another composition activity. After creating a list of sounds they hear around Northern Samar, the students were to write compositions using these sounds to demonstrate their understanding of ostinato and layered ostinati, as well as concepts from yesterday. Then the students performed their works, which helped us work on the word of the day, since though improved from Monday, the students were still very shy about sharing their work. I love seeing them get more used to this sharing idea and begin to open up to us.

We finished the class by listening to a piece that I think is a great example of layered ostinati, and also uses sounds of New York City to create them: Steve Reich's City Life.  I loved seeing the students laugh and really understand how ostinati can create exciting music.

Thursday: July 31: Word of the day--Question
Since our workshop will culminate in a final performance next week, we stated work toward this today. We began with a contact game where the students lay their heads on each other's bellies to show how vibration feels. Then followed that with video demonstrations of the orchestral instruments and how each family (strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion) creates vibrations differently to make sound.

Now with this information, we gave the students a weekend homework assignment to create instruments from one of the families of the orchestra out of materials they could find at home. THeir only guidelines were to not buy anything, be able to identify which family it belongs to, and be prepared to show where the vibrations were happening. We encouraged them to experiment and question the "trash" they have at home--to ask themselves "how many different sounds can I make with only this?" At the end of class we gave a few minutes to begin to design their instruments and I can't wait to see what they come up with on Monday!

Friday August 1: Word of the day--Give
Today was another special day in that the visual artist on our team, Kyle go most of the day to work with the students on another culminating project. As part of the documentary he will be creating about Project Philippines, the students created stop motion animation films today. Each of the 8 teachers are in charge of a core group of 9 students and in these groups, we created 30 stop motion films. Each group wrote a story up to 30 words about an act of love that beings with Once upon a time and ends with I will share the love. This was the beautiful story that my group of girls wrote:

Once upon a time... I hugged my friend and shared my secret with her. She was happy to hear my gift, so she kissed my forehead to say 'thank you'... I will share the love. 

The next task for the students was to assign a group pose to each word in the story so that in the style of a flipbook, the photos for each word would play to create a stop motion film. Paired with a voiceover of one of the students reading, the film would be a complete series of images to show the whole story. Here's a shot of Kyle photographing my group. I love their smiles!

With just a little time at the end of the day, each discipline had a few minutes to review with all 70 students in one room. Brian and I demonstrated our own piece to review ostinato, as well as introduce a new idea: melody and accompaniment. With the students singing "os-tin-a-to" in the style of the accompanimental ostinato from Ravel's Bolero, we each played our instrument's solo and traded off the snare drum part. Although not my best Bolero performance in terms of an orchestral audition, it was the most meaningful and exciting performance I will ever give of that piece. 

To finish the teaching day, our journal prompt was "what does it mean to give?" I thought our student John Paul put it well, connecting the ideas of the day--giving and love. 

For me, giving love is the most important thing to give to others because if everyone has love, there would be unity, and if there;s unity there will be a happy peaceful world. 

After such a great day, I was filled with inspiration. But it wasn't over! We headed straight to the University of Eastern Philippines where we were interviewed on their community radio station to explain about our project. Brian and I played a duet and it was my radio debut!

This has been an amazing week and I can't wait to keep teaching next week and getting to know these amazing kids!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Some images

Here are a few images of Project Philippines so far. I hope these show the amazing beauty of the Philippines, the smiles of the students, and the silliness of our incredible team.