Spotted in Manila, 2014

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!!

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