Tuesday afternoon I had the
privilege of joining a group of second graders from Mason Elementary on the stage of Powell Hall and observed a presentation
by Jennifer Nitchman (flute and piccolo) and Cally Banham (oboe and English
horn). We learned high and low; we learned that the
smaller the instrument the higher the
voice and the bigger the instrument the
lower the voice. We learned about
melody and accompaniment, and that "the
melody is the tune" and
"accompaniment goes with the
melody." To help us learn this concept, Jen and Cally would alternate--the flute would play the
melody, the oboe the accompaniment; the
English horn would play the melody, the piccolo the
Afterward, I sat in on a power point presentation given by
Richard Ashburner, who helps musicians design their
in-school lessons, just as he did with Jen and Cally. With prospective
in-school musician/teachers assembled, Jen and Cally talked about how their melody lesson has evolved over three years in
classrooms. My favorite exchange: Richard: "What did you do after you got back
your basic info at the start of the process?" Jen: "We went to Wasabi for sushi."
The amazing thing to me about listening to Richard was to
discover how that simple, 40-minute presentation for second graders has so much
educational experience, theory and
research beneath it--the iceberg
metaphor is an apt one.
Richard took us through multiple intelligences, the varied ways of learning in the classroom, and a real eye-opener (especially for
someone who used to teach) "structure is
the behavior modification."
I'll be writing a Playbill
article later this season about the
support musicians have behind them
when they go into the classroom; but suffice to say for now that your
St. Louis Symphony is doing the
good, and effective, work in area classrooms today. It's not a musician trying to play Mozart for a gymnasium full of screaming schoolchildren anymore. It's about learning, with music as the tool.
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