Saturday, July 27, 2019

Back to My Musical Roots

I still love teaching.

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me into her classroom to teach a mini-lesson about music, STEM, the physics of sound, etc. The audience was a group of rising 3rd graders. Of course, I said yes! We had a blast, and they were super engaged, so we ended up going much longer than originally anticipated. I wanted to share some of the more interactive activities we did below for my fellow musical friends - these could work well with any age, from preschool up through elementary school, or as a part of an accessible lesson for students with special needs.

Feel the Music

After playing and providing a little bit of an intro, talking about how the strings vibrate to make sound, I invited the students up to feel the vibrations while I played. Watching their faces was precious as they truly "felt" the music! Many of them also commented on how it tickled their hands :-).
*Note: This works best on cello or some larger bass instrument - I have also done it with trombone!

Learn a song!

The next step for these students was to learn a bit of a song! I used the Cabbage Song, one of my traditional beginning songs. The melody is four lines with a standard bass line, so after practicing with solfege hand symbols, I called four students over to the cello and assigned them each one line (4 notes - easy enough to memorize). They each practiced individually, and then we put it all together with me playing violin them playing the bass line, and the rest of the class doing hand symbols for the bass line!
*This, obviously, will only work with kids who are a bit older - it's probably too much for preschoolers to handle. I was a bit worried at first about taking care of the cello while it was on the ground, but they were super respectful and did great!

Play your own song!

The last interactive activity I did with the students was call them up, one at a time (if they wanted to play), and had them choose a song they wanted to try. The songs ranged anywhere from "Twinkle, Twinkle" to movie music from Moana! I taught them the very basics of how to hold the instrument (hand on the shoulder, hold the bow on the frog), and had them move the bow back and forth on one string while I did fingerings for them. This always results in a lot of laughter, because it is hard to keep the bow on one string and keep a good sound, so we get lots of *interesting* sounds! My fingering isn't always 100% accurate from this angle, either :-). Nevertheless, it is fun for the students to get the chance to "play" something that they want to play and also provides a great opportunity to talk about how hard work can pay off!


Of course, beyond these interactive moments, I played violin, talked about low and high (bigger and smaller instruments), demonstrated tuning (looser/tighter), etc. It was a great day with a great group of kiddos!

On a personal note, it was such a relief to realize that I can still go into a classroom and command the attention of a group of kids. That might sound silly, but now that I don't teach every day, I sometimes feel a little rusty! I never want to be too far removed from the day-to-day reality of teaching, and this was a great way for me to jump in with my favorite subject and just be with kids. I look forward to more opportunities like this over the course of the year! 

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