Finding Ways to Explore Music

This year, Music teachers are required to re-examine their teaching approaches and strategies. How does one teach instrumental music, when students cannot play together? How does one teach vocal music, when students cannot sing together? The answer may lie in the fundamentals. Regardless of instrument, every student needs a solid theoretical understanding of musical concepts. In addition, every musician needs a solid rhythmic foundation, for rhythm forms the basis of most music they will encounter.

The Vocal Music Program in the Upper School, therefore, has pivoted sharply towards rhythmic work and theoretical study. Students are now actively learning African American Step Dancing, as a way to get rhythm centred in the body, for though rhythm starts as a concept, it ultimately must be felt in order to be executed. Together with vocal, clapping, and drumming exercises, we are focusing on improving this core skill. We are also expanding the knowledge and understanding of how to interpret written rhythms, as well as other aspects of notation. Finally, classes are engaged in collaborative work through technology, which brings a 21st century perspective to the notion of “ensemble work”.

The Upper School instrumental music program at SJK this year is using different strategies so the students can continue to receive the high quality of music education they deserve, offering classes in a way that will provide students with the best possible experience. The goal is to keep our students involved with playing their instruments, discover their creativity and build their artistic confidence. We have introduced students to the SmartMusic program that allows them to practice their instrument at home in a very interactive way, allowing them to keep track of their progress and giving them the possibility to record and share all their practices. The students have also been introduced to the world of electronic music and video editing using different software that helps them not only understand the process behind music production but inspires ideas in creating their own music.
As we continue to navigate our way through teaching Music during COVID, the Lower School music teachers are providing creative strategies to help keep students engaged in music-making. Individual percussion kits were created for every student of the lower school to spark inspiration and provide a vehicle to demonstrate their understanding of rhythm, notation, mood, pitch and timbre. Dancing, moving and percussion playing are keeping students engaged and having loads of fun! Teachers have created videos of singing and playing so that we can show ourselves ‘performing’ in class, which helps our learners practice ‘with us’ at home. Students in Grades 4-6 have been playing and writing bucket drumming compositions. The beautiful autumn weather has allowed us to be outside often for music-making. The important elements of musicianship and collaboration are on display every day in our classes. As well, Google Classroom and Seesaw have been used to showcase student demonstrations of singing and instrument knowledge.

- Chris Cigolea, Andrew Craig, Andrea de Boer-Jones and Steve James

St. John's Kilmarnock School

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