Group Class Week Round 3 Reflections - 2013 edition

image Another Group Class  Week has come and gone. I must say, I am quite grateful that I had to foresight to throw in group classes just before Spring and Easter Break. It's a great way to transition into the break.

The kids have been enjoying the group classes, for the most part. For us music teachers, we're just glad to be able to spend more time with our students on special areas of interest.

This week, some of my brother's and some of my students attended the following classes:

  1. Creative Composition with Strings
  2. Playing with Patterns - Introductory Improvisation
  3. Music Appreciation 101: Music & Technology
  4. Project – Studio
  5. Introduction to Sound & Technology
  6. Piano Combo Class

In my brother's Creative Composition class, the students wrote short compositions with limitations. Some of the limitations could be: write a short song in two minutes, write a jingle for a radio commercial or a video game loop or write a song for only certain instruments. I hear it went well.

In the introductory improvisation class, I gave the students the skeleton of five patterns to improvise on. In truth, I gave them certain modes to jam on. One student would take care of melody, the other played bass. I had to jump in on percussion to keep everyone in time. The group was pretty quiet, so I was unsure of whether they enjoyed it.

I ran the Music Appreciation: Music & Technology Class twice this week. Our students surprised me with what caught their interest. For instance, they perked up while watching a video where a technician started to pull apart a harpsichord. I had to stop the video several times to field questions. Ditto for the magnetic tape segment ("This recording was made with sticky tape and rust.").

The one area that they really surprised me with was copyright. They asked some really good questions. I think that I will have to write a group class plan for Creating and Copyright.

Project - Studio was lively. This is another class that ran twice this week. The students created a radio commercial, from concept to production in 90-minutes. Although Maestro didn't approve of the music selections or sound effects, I can safely say that the students left with smiles on their faces after completing their project.

Introduction to Sound & Technology has evolved since the first time it was offered in August. Last night, the students explored different types of sound recording technology before recording sound effects to go with a short video game clip. The students worked extremely well together and got a lot accomplished.

This was the first time that the Piano Combo Class ran this year. Three keyboards, three students. Each took a turn at working on melody, comping and playing bass. Depending upon their instrument choices, I had to jump in on melodica and try comping on the chords (emphasis on "try"). The kids worked on Ev'rybody Wants to Be A Cat, Tetris Theme A and Bad Romance. The hardest part for them was to approach their instrument from an ensemble perspective and not a one-person band. For instance, I had to remind them (and myself) to comp with rootless chords.

Now that Round 3 is over, we are getting a better picture of what works and what doesn't. For starters, any of the technology projects need more than one class to complete. They are just begging to be set up as a three or four-class course. The same could be said for the accompanying and conducting classes that ran earlier this school year.

Some projects are really hard to figure out running times for. It really depends upon how well the students work well together and how focused they are at completing their projects.

In some cases, two students are ideal in a class. Five is starting to feel like too much. Three or four is just right. That way, they all get a chance to work on the computer or on all the instruments.

Two more rounds to go. One in May and the final round in July. After which, we'll be able to assess which classes to expand on and which ones to cut completely.