Friday, 11 March 2011
Thursday, 9 September 2010
On Sunday 22nd August Aaron and I hosted two three-hour workshops for music teachers in Mumbai; however one group of teachers had travelled over 200km to attend!! The workshops were presented on behalf of Trinity Guildhall and organised by Furtados (a leading music store in Mumbai and across India!). Over the two workshops there were 80 participants, with ages ranging from 20-60 years; however, age aside, we had them all up on their feet and moving as part of our interactive workshop: Fun gets results.
Since arriving in India our main objective has been to make music fun and enjoyable. This is vital for the student, but also just as important for the teacher. The passion and enjoyment should be naturally transmitted through the teacher and our workshop explored ways in which lessons could be more varied and improved, finding fun ways to gain musical results. The other big point was to remove the emphasis on assessments: if pieces, sight-reading, aural, improvising, scales etc are always taught in the context of exams, then there is not the same sense of freedom and enjoyment through learning and exploring music! Also, music taught in such a way threatens to instil a fear of mistakes… Not fun. Not good. So what did we do?
Well, we made it fun for the sake of being fun! We started with a nice Brahms duet to set the mood, a short introduction, and then everyone on their feet. In a big circle we played various games, all intended to show how you can learn things (best) without even being aware of it. We talked about exams and how they are just stepping stones in the context of a wider goal. We discussed how ensemble playing (duets, trios etc) can be a fun way to address sight-reading, explore new repertoire, and develop the social and fun aspect of practising and playing. At this point we had some volunteers from the audience sight read a few piano trios: one piano, six hands – very cosy!
We discussed Kodaly and solfa by giving a demonstration lesson, firstly with rhythms – at one point we had everyone marching around in a big circle chanting and clapping in response to Aaron’s directions, in what looked like some bizarre ritual! Nonetheless, it was all very fun and we soon went onto singing using solfa, which included singing in parallel seventh chords and singing a simple canon Are You Sleeping whilst walking around the room. Then some listening and responding to music, emphasising the fundamental importance of being able to respond emotionally and personally to music. Then some tips on scales and playing them in pairs (thank you Nadia from the WAM Induction Course!) and sight-reading. Then a bit on improvising and the importance of exploring your instrument and getting away from this right or wrong answer approach to playing and finally a Q&A session.
We tried to make the session fun yet informative and the participants responded well, getting involved and asking lots of interesting questions. The teachers were very positive and many already shared some of our ideas, which was great. We simply wanted to provide them with some tools to help very their lessons and develop essential skills in a fun way. We finally summarised by coming back to our title of the workshop. We extensively went on about fun, but purposefully didn’t mention results. Of course, like an ‘unexpected’ twist in any Romantic Comedy, we concluded that our idea of results are not marks on a page, but, more importantly, musical results. TA-DAAAA!!!
The following week on Thursday 26th August we also conducted two more workshops organised through the British Council, which specifically targeted students from poorer backgrounds. The workshops took place at the Jawahar Bal Bhavan centre, Charni Road, which is one of many centres established as part of a national scheme to develop the creative potential of students by offering extra-curricular activities, especially within the arts. In each two-hour workshop there were around 40 students, selected from 4-5 different schools, aged 10-13 in the first workshop and 14-16 in the second. With no instruments and only one CD player, we conducted another interactive workshop, working a lot with body percussion. Having done a few successful workshops together, Aaron and I decided to follow a similar format to those before. Again we started with some fun games in a big circle at the beginning, introducing each other and generally creating a more fun and informal atmosphere. Then some listening and responding to music, which included two teachers showing off their Hindustani vocals! And I’m not talking about Aaron and I… Then we finished with an introduction to rhythm solfa, creating our own rhythms, and experimenting with layering them and performing them together. We had a lot of fun, made a lot of noise and the kids loved it! They were a pleasure to work with and responded well to all the activities we’d planned.
Finally back to the Garodia School and our biggest project – the final student concert on Sunday 29th August: A Music Extravaganza. In the last few weeks we rehearsed together with many of the students we’d been involved with from the Garodia School and its Music Conservatoire. It was an eclectic programme, with piano solos, piano trios, violin solos and duets, singing solos and duets (with one choral arrangement of a song), some songs by the year fours from The Swinging Piper (a show we have been rehearsing with the younger children over the two months), and a big cheesy finale piece with everyone (violin, recorder and vocal solos, three-part chorus, keyboardists, and lots of percussion), which was our own version of Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus. This came together really well and the students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to all be part of a big finale piece of entirely LIVE music. No backing tracks today!
A guest guitarist also performed as part of the concert and Aaron and I also gave our first solo tabla performance accompanied on the harmonium – we even changed into our kurtas! It was so much fun to play and was nice to share what we’d learnt as part of our time in India. The audience really appreciated and enjoyed this. We also played a Brahms duet as an encore – a little token of thanks and farewell. The students all worked hard and participated with great enthusiasm. There was an incredible buzz among the students, teachers, and parents after the concert and a general feeling that we’d helped to inject a lot of enthusiasm and interest into the children’s musical experience. I look forward to many more concerts like this when I go back.
So that’s it for now... Thanks to everyone who has followed the blogs and to friends and family for all the support. Most importantly, thanks to the WAM Foundation for giving all of us this opportunity – it has been an incredible two months.
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
We then enjoyed the rest of the afternoon/evening at the music school where we met the wonderful Veera Pooniwala, head of the music school. Everyone was inviting and friendly and the music school was set in a beautiful little building, looked after by the adjacent convent. They have two grand pianos, an upright and a digital. We then had a master class which ran from 3pm till 9pm, where students of varying abilities (grade 2 up to ATCL and even one FTCL student) played for us, after which Aaron and I worked with them, giving them advice and guidance, focusing mainly on interpretation, character, and colour. Tension and stiff wrists were a common problem that I addressed in various ways for some students, but generally the playing was of a very good standard and there was an obvious buzz about the school. It definitely had the enjoyment factor, which, since our trip began, we have been trying to develop in the schools we’ve worked at in Mumbai. In addition to piano the school offers singing, as well as classes in theory, aural and music appreciation. Although the session ran on for six hours and we were feeling the effects of a very long day, we enjoyed every moment with the students and wished to have stayed longer!
The following day we were shown round by Hemant Godbole, a piano teacher who runs classes in another part of the city. We got to see the huge university campus in its tropical setting, the old city and the Raja Dinkar Kelkar museum. It was also this day that we discovered Mosambi (sweet lime juice), also available as a combo with many other juices. D-E-licious! Then a shorter afternoon at Hemant’s studio, where we heard some of his students play. They were around grade 4-5 standard and played their exam pieces for us. Addressing similar issues as before, we hosted a small masterclass with them. Though coming from a less privileged area than those we’d seen the day before, the students were equally keen and responsive, even if their exposure to Western classical music was more limited. After another fun day our short time in Pune was up. And that was ten days ago. How time is flying here...
On the Mumbai front things have been very busy. We’ve now introduced recorders into the school and I have started off classes for the 4 standard children (ages 9-10) in small groups during activity times in the morning and a longer session on Saturday mornings (they don’t seem to mind coming along again!). I wrote a starter book for them, introducing five notes and basics of music theory through varied tunes and exercises which I get them to clap and sing along to first. The children are enjoying the lessons and the opportunity (for most of them) to learn an instrument for the first time. We are happy to introduce these extra-curricular activities, which can altogether enrich their music education and promote a more active music-making environment in the school. It is very encouraging that Blaise, the music teacher in the International School, is happy to volunteer his free time by helping me to teach the recorder, dividing the children between us.
Finally, and most excitingly, I will be coming back to the Garodia School in September to teach for a further year, as part of which my main job will be to continue the work Aaron and I have started in the classrooms by fully establishing a music curriculum for the International School (at least standards 1-5). In addition to this project, I will also continue to work in the Music School, again helping to develop its infrastructure as well as offering more free classes beyond the students’ weekly lessons (aural, theory, ensemble classes etc). The International School is preparing for two large shows on October 1st, so once this is completed I can start up an International School choir, extend recorders to earlier year groups and introduce recorder ensembles at the very least... This is a very exciting opportunity and, while there have been some lasting improvements since Aaron and I have been here, this will ensure continuity from our efforts over the last two months.
So good news and exciting times here; however there is still a week to go and so much to get done, including more British Council workshops and a final concert for all the students we’ve been working with across the schools. Back to work for me...
Monday, 23 August 2010
Esh-du? How much?
Respect is a universal trait, that is highly regarded in every culture. It goes a long way when it comes to speaking to strangers, from rickshaw wallahs, to the security guards, to misfortunate homeless people. To gain the respect from the Avatars, we have learned several words in Kanada, the local language of the natives. Yesterday, our invaluable language studies was rewarded.
Brigade Road is in the heart of the city and it is always packed with the growing middle-class and tourists on a Sunday night. As many shops get ready for the fall clothing line, attractive promotions lure people, testing both their spending power and temptation quotient. We have also noticed the attraction of “Slumdog Millionaire” children on the streets. The packed streets only permit Rosie and I to walk in single file for we wanted to wiggle our way through the crowds as quickly as possible. Since our accents have improved, we are feeling more at ease and have circumvent many situations which tourists may experience. After dinner last night, a young girl walked passed me as her eyes were fixed on Rosie. Usually this is the norm on Brigade Road but Rosie was silent behind me and I kept hearing the begging sounds. To my disbelief, the girl was aggressively following Rosie clinging to her arm. I stopped, waiting for Rosie to come closer and staring straight into her eyes I said with the utmost authority and poise “ILL-LAH.” The girl immediately stopped what she was doing and her eyes lit up. She was baffled and froze in the stream of passer-bys, as we continued our way down Brigade Road.
Over and Out,
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
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!)
Sunday, 15 August 2010
We have our concert organised for Tuesday 24th of August, I believe the venue is meant to be good, but the piano will be digital which is most disappointing because I wanted the children to experience an acoustic piano. Making sure they are all prepared for the concert is proving difficult with some children and a dream with others. They are given so many piano lessons a week (some, even 5 hours!!!!) and so do not really understand the concept of practising outside of lessons . . .
Our work with them is paying off though and the improvement in some pupils who have really taken to the challange has been vast.
The only problem with the concert is that focus has been forced to switch from working on general problems to working on problems in the specific piece the child is playing, and trying to make sure it is good enough and ready for the concert. Therefore their learning has been a little restricted and tailored mainly to the piece they will be performing. I feel that when we leave and they begin a new piece they will not be able apply what we have taught them effectively enough.
Unfortunately, working with the teachers, or the teachers observing our lessons has not materialised and this is a major hole in our work here. Little knowledge has been passed on that will sustain, as it has all been just one-on-one teaching with the children. I have suggested that during the remaining time after the concert we do group classes on style and interpretation, pedaling, sight reading, and so on, and some classes with the teachers on how to teach certain concepts effectively (like articulation!) . Hopefully this will allow us to pass on some more lasting advice.
Sam, Gaspar, Helen and myself are heading to The Doon School next week (I hope this is how you spell it) to give a recital and do a one day workshop with 25 children, so planning for this needs to commence . . . Will write about it when we get back. Not looking forward to travelling through the night though!
Then we have our British Council workshops - two days in our last week hear. We have chosen a fable and plan to create a play with music from this within each three hour workshop. Minimal instruments, maximum body percussion, and hopefully 100% effort and participation. Hopefully the children will not have too many barriers and will be ready to let their hear down and make a fool of themselves. If it's anything like the games we played in our planning session then the children will leave thinking us Brits are a little crazeeey . . .
Which of course we are, and hopefully, will always be!