Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A Button Factory, Jelly Beans and Jungles

This was the reply I gave today to sister Christine when she asked what the workshop was going to be about today. This was received with worried looks from both the parents and teachers especially since it was a few minutes before the workshop was about to begin and i was running around asking people what different types of beans there were! However I think that curiosity got the better of them in the end and turned out to be the first workshops the teachers actually attended (usually they just chill in the office despite all our persuading to try and get them to take part!) and infact a parent also watched as well!
We have done many workshops over the time we have been here and have ranged from rhythm and ear training to improvisation, and today, creative thinking. I was in my element today as this is what i do best. Playing musical games and having a right old laugh! We started with a warm up exercise about a fella called Joe who worked in a button factory. It ends up with everyone going mad and jumping everywhere but does alot to get their rhythm going. However since I have been quite unwell for the past few days this alone took it out of me and i could barely talk by the end of the exercise but we ploughed on to the Jelly Bean game. This involved me concocting a highly elaborate story about how i have a bean factory and my mother rang me last night and said someone had broke in and swapped all the pipes round in the factory and now all the different types of beans had been mixed up. The aim of the game was for them to act out the different types of bean and match them to a certain type of music. So when they heard a passage Sylvia improvised they would name the bean it represented and do the action. However the difficulty was (unusually) trying to get the kids to think of the actions in the first place. They wouldn't just open up and go crazy. They were far too embarrassed and when i picked on people to think of one they would hide their faces of point blank refuse. I have never found this in the UK and realised that this is probably why none of them play with any emotion - because they are too worried that it will be wrong and so to save themselves from embarrassment they just don't do it. But i didn't give up and eventually just forced them to do it and as soon as one student let go, they all did and they all really got into it! Obviously, like all things i do here, it all descended into complete and utter chaos but I think the idea was put across and was highly amusing for all, especially the teachers who were practically rolling round on the floor laughing. Actually looking back on it it must have been pretty funny watching a 19 year old white girl running around a room with a load of 10 year old Indians pretending to be a scary bean...
The next idea to be introduced was thinking about how to describe a scene, emotion or colour with different sounds. We picked the topic of Bangalore and got all the kids to think of a sound that describes Bangalore. Once we had all heard each others sounds individually we got them all to sit in a circle with their eyes closed and when i tapped them on the head they would make their sound. Whilst they were doing that I would get them to get louder and softer (like it would during rush hour and the middle of the night). It introduced to them the concept that their pieces are written about a certain idea or emotion. Once we had introduced that idea to them we played them pieces of our own on the piano and got them to make stories about them. Some of their responses were so profound and creative i would never have thought of it myself! I was most impressed, as were the teachers. We then got them playing their own pieces in front of the class and talking about them. At first no one wanted to play but as soon as i picked on one person then everyone wanted too and we are having to use the workshop time tomorrow to carry it on!
It turned out to be a really successful workshop and one that I think really opened their eyes to what music is all about but showed it to them through a different and more accessible medium.
We have also confirmed 2 workshop dates in ordinary state schools, one this Thursday and one next Monday which should be fun. Although we don't really know what to expect! Also since today was such a success we are thinking about repeating it there but altering it slightly to include composition and body percussion which always works well. We are also in the process of organising dates with another music school in the area to do a pedagogy workshop, children's workshop and concert where we also think we will repeat the same workshop.
On top of all this we have also found time to fly to Delhi and Agra to see the Taj Mahal aswell as other sites and have travelled to Mysore and the surround villages so explore some of the local history. We feel that we have definitely made the most of our time here and looking back across the whole period we have managed to make some significant changes and fill some of the holes in the students learning. If anything we hoped to have made music more enjoyable for the students and if not then at least they've had a good laugh!

Rosie (The last post was mine also!)

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