Introduction to My Experience at MusicLaunch!

Hi Everyone! My apologies for the very late introduction to my internship this semester.

For Spring 2012 I am doing my MIE guided internship with NEC’s MusicLaunch Program at the Wang YMCA in Chinatown. MusicLaunch is a program with 13 students between the ages of 4 and 15 who meet every Saturday morning to learn music for an hour and a half. With these students, we use both traditional and innovative teaching techniques to work on basic fundamental music skills (rhythms, pitch, solfege) as well as learning instruments. Coordinating the program is Devin from NEC. The other instructors include fellow intern Salinla and middle school music teacher Johnny.

We spend a lot of time splitting the students up in small groups determined by age and instrument. In my small group I have four students from ages 10 to 13. Two of them play clarinet, one plays alto saxophone, and one plays trombone. When I first started I noticed that the students already had a decent amount of experience reading music and understanding notation. However, the students had very little experience playing their band instruments. I immediately saw the challenge in meeting in instrument groups for such a short time once a week: the students would not get reinforcement as often as most people get when learning these instruments. With band instruments, it takes such a long time and a lot of practice to develop the muscles for the proper embouchure, to reinforce good position/posture habits, and to get comfortable using so much air.

The other main challenge I noticed coming in was negative behavior in the class. Fortunately two of my small group students showed me right away that they were very polite and cooperative, but unfortunately, the other two showed me the opposite. One of the uncooperative students is the disruptive, antagonistic type. He constantly complains, talks back, and is not shy about saying that he doesn’t enjoy being there. His younger sister barely speaks, doesn’t want to participate, and has been known to cry in previous semesters in order to get out of participating. Neither of these students had shown any evidence of ever having practiced the material between classes.

I noticed immediately that my personal goals for this semester would need to be modified. As you all may have seen in my proposal, my main interest was getting the students to be comfortable using their ears in addition to what was on the page. Because of their lack of experience on their instruments, and because of the importance of reinforcing practice and study on these instruments in order to make progress, I had to put that main goal on the back burner. I am hoping that, in time, I will be able to reintroduce ear training of sorts into my lesson plans.

Thank you all for reading and please stay tuned for more posts!


Rhythm and Pitch Blocks at MusicLaunch

Editor’s Note: This post is in a series of several by undergraduate composition major Juhye Lee. Read Juhye’s previous MusicLaunch posts here. Or you can also see the whole MusicLaunch blog archive.

Today Devin and Pui tried to teach the rhythms and pitches with the blocks. They started to clap according to the blocks. For instance one block means clap once (which could be quarter note) and the longer block of the two is followed by clapping twice(which could be two eighth notes in quarter note). Singing the pitches were followed by the rhythms. Singing One-Two-Three (which is Do-Re-Mi) was added to the rhythms they were clapping. Do (in a quarter note), Do-re( in a quarter note, so there would be two divided notes of quarter notes, which are two eighth notes), Do-re-mi(Each do-re-mi is an eighth note singing in two quarter notes as (8th rest)-do-re-mi). I was curious when they sing do, do-re, (rest)-do-re-mi, The do-re and (rest)-do-re-mi has eighth notes in each, not a quarter note as the first Do. The next step would be building a harmony on Do-re-mi as singing the thrid above them(Which is mi-fa-sol). The kids will naturally learn about the sounds of thrid intervals.

In Pui’s Class, most of them were beginner and I could see that every kid’s ability (understanding, time that take them to get Pui’s teaching) was different even though they all are in the same situation.

Internship at the Josiah Quincy Upper School

For this spring semester, I am interning at the Josiah Quincy Upper School as a saxophone coach to 3 eighth grade students. Generally, I come into teach Kyle at 2 pm and then spend the next hour with Valencia and Jack together. To some MIE Concentration students at NEC, private instrumental lessons may seem like a no-brainer – just explain to them what you already know so expertly well (one on one). Having very little experience with teaching beginner level students, I had no idea what to expect. I had even suggested taking on a whole classroom of 25 before agreeing to start out with the 3 students I have at present.

In terms of documentation, I have audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed some of the contents from one of my lessons below. Listening back, I realized how hard it was for me to articulate basic musical/instrumental concepts. There is one instance where I tell Kyle the wrong fingering to a note, spend some time wondering why that note won’t sound, and finally have to take the instrument into my own hands in order to find out that I had given him the wrong information. It is difficult going back to the fundamentals of music, concepts and principles that are almost mechanically ingrained within the memory. Preparing lesson plans for this semester’s internship, I had not taken into account how basic these kids’ understanding of music actually was. And the dilemma I’m faced with now is whether I am even equipped to teach younger kids, or whether I am more apt teaching at a college level. Is it worth it for me to spend the extra time reviewing major and minor scales, when my plan for teaching originally involved conceptual approaches and advanced techniques for improvisation? I just don’t know if I have the patience or the talent to a pursue a career in teaching children, although these three months have certainly taught me a lot about my own learning and development. In spite of my experience and background, I fumble over my words in explaining the simplest of ideas, such as syncopation. Slowly, I am figuring out more efficient/effective methods for teaching, but I must emphasize slowly. Progress is grim, but the students are very patient, they smile, and are eager to learn. For now, I am comforted with the fact that as long as I am not inhibiting their development, I can only help.
With Kyle, after reading over the music he plays with the 8th grade band, I ask him to play and transpose certain scales by ear: C, G, F major and blue scales. I sing while he is to hear and figure out the particular intervals of the scale on his instrument. We still have to review fingerings, so the process goes by a little slow. After reviewing the sounds of C and G blue and major scales, I show him the form of the blues. With quarter notes, we walk a basic blues progression, just hitting roots. I have him play it without the paper, and then eventually ask him to improvise using the scales we just “learned”. He seems to be a natural, and I get enjoyment from just listening to him play and repeat ideas that make sense. In addition to working on tone and reading, I basically am having him learn more scales by ear for now, using them to improvise as the end goal.
With Valencia and Jack, it is somewhat harder, especially since I’m dealing with them as a group as opposed to one on one. We spend a lot more time on reading the music they play during band. I try to get them to play in tune with slightly better results. When reading, I always get my metronome out and make sure their rhythm is together. When rhythms are off, I find it difficult to explain why, and can only demonstrate, which isn’t very effective in getting them to understand (this is what I’m referring to in my having a hard time explaining syncopation and subdivision). So far, outside of the band material, I’ve brought in etude and duet books, demonstrating the sounds of classical saxophone and vibrato. I have also brought in a Louis Armstrong solo book and had them play out of that as well. I am searching for new ideas and better ways to keep them stimulated and will continue to bring in new material. I also need to play for them some recordings of saxophonists and improvisers relevant to the topics being worked on.
— Incomplete transcription of audio excerpts from two lessons:
Um….maybe we can try…..I don’t know…you know the Blue and major scales with C….maybe some other scales? We can try those over the same thing (walking the blues).
– Making limitations, but your just kind of improvising over those scales basically, and then I brought a book of Lester Young solos and we could maybe play them.
– I just got this reed because my other one cracked inside, but it feels weird.
– Oh really. I’ve got these ones still.
-Thanks! (Plays the blues scale after putting on the reed)
– (Later) Allright… Can you sing that—basically what you just played?
– Sing it?
– Yeah.
– Probably not.
– (I sing it, he hums along. We work at it for a while) Yeah. I mean…I don’t want go through the intervals or how to form the scale in order to transpose it…like…so…transposing just means if you’re going the next key or whatever, you want to play it in C, I’d rather you hear, rather than just, “Oh there’s a minor third, and then a whole step, and then a half step”. That’s…it shouldn’t work that way. So…you just heard it and were able to sing it with G, maybe we can try to sing it with C.

Warming up to the Camera – February 19th

Editor’s Note: This post is the eighth in a series by MIE guided intern Devin Ulibarri. Devin is a first year graduate student of Eliot Fisk. His internship at the Wang YMCA is supported both by the MIE department and NEC Prep’s Community Engagement program. Read others in the series here.

“I Think that the Camera to be a Casual Thing”

Having a camera in every class could be a very scary thing and I didn’t want anyone to be scared of the camera so I chose a couple of tactics to lessen the camera’s ‘intimidation factor.’ One of the things I decided to do is have transparency of the footage, which is one thing the blog is about. The students and their families all have access to the blog at anytime, so they know what the purpose of the footage is – it is for my development as a teacher and for their own feedback. The other thing that I decided to do from day one is to let the kids hold the camera and record each other. I wanted them to feel somewhat in control of the documentation experience. This has been a success. They are aware of the camera throughout the lesson, but in a very beneficial way. For example, Jason and Janea both have adjusted the camera for me so that I can get the best shot of the class for my research. This shows me that they are not only comfortable with the camera being around, but that they are willing to help me and my research. I really enjoy this kind of positive feedback. Thank you both for being such wonderful sports about this!

The Atrium M+MI Program Choral Project (Winter Solstice Assembly 2009)

A further exploration of the efficacies of the MIENC’s ‘Music Plus Music Integration’ (M+MI) initiatives in laboratory school settings. This video highlights the work of the Atrium School (Watertown, MA) and its M+MI Choral Program, led by music director (and former [email protected] Guided Intern) Michael Glicksman, who is now in his second year of teaching at the Atrium School.

Atrium School Winter Solstice Assembly

At long last, we have posted a video of the violin program’s learning demonstration, presented at the Atrium School’s Winter Solstice Assembly. (Video of the choral program coming next!)

In addition to the demonstration and performance by Atrium 2nd and 3rd graders, you will also hear reflections from violin teacher Helen Liu, program visionary Larry Scripp, Atrium parents and co-principals Susan Diller and Linda Echt.

Vocab and Transforms in Improvisation in Music Education

Hi blog readers! The video below documents some activities and conversations in the 2/3/10 meeting ‘Improvisation in Music Education,” and a clip from a lesson I taught on 2/4/10.  I’ve had a lot of fun applying these ideas to my teaching and my music this past week! Enjoy the video by clicking on the link below.

Transforming Musical Objects