To give my students and I a break from music rudiments, I assign them music reports. They are a great way to give students a deeper understanding of the music they are working on and to let them explore areas of special interest.
I used to just ask them to research the composers of the pieces they are working on. Now, I've been getting a bit more creative.
Below are some of the topics my students have been researching:
the story behind a song that they like (this was particularly fun with Christmas songs)
information about the style or form of the music they are studying
music instrument profiles
Some have created some lovely poster boards, like this one:
My latest twist has been to tie music to another activity. For instance, two of my students study Aikido. Last week, I asked them to research five points about the samurai Musashi and his concept of rhythm-timing. Another is plays competitive soccer. She's going to research some information about some of the World Cup songs.
I've got a few more ideas up my sleeve. I am thinking of asking them to research music careers, music genres and local musicians.
For the first time, my studio submitted an entry to Long & McQuade's Annual Music Education Contest. It's been a really neat experience for my students and I.
When I saw the poster back in November, I had a hunch that the four students I selected for the project would work well together (aged 11 - 13). Three of them had already worked together in combo classes and improv classes in previous years. I went on a hunch with the fourth member. This is her first year studying with me. However, her creative vision and personality seemed like a good fit for the other three.
In December, D stepped up to be Team Captain/Music Director. They held planning meetings at my studio, starting in January. G, the new student, wound up being the Secretary, writing down ideas and project deadlines and practice schedule on the whiteboard. E picked the song, while W brought supplies for their photo shoot.
They opted to perform "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" by Train:
They wound up practicing sometimes twice a week at my studio throughout January. They did most of the planning by themselves. I served as an advisor, while D's mother helped supervise meetings while I was teaching.
After several discussions over their band name, they christened themselves "WEDG" (opting to use the first initial in their names). The group is comprised of W (cajón/vocals), E (lead vocals), D (vocals/keyboard) and G (keyboard/hand percussion).
I have a digital piano in my office, so I was still able to teach while WEDG practiced in the studio. At the end of the evening, I emailed the mp3 files from their practice for them to review.
There was one setback. Long & McQuade announced that the audio category was full at the end of January. The kids decided to press forward and record as they were already planning to continue working together. They were already talking about CD covers and decided they could still submit an photo entry for the contest.
We did receive good news last week though, in that Long & McQuade re-opened the audio category for the bonus prizes. Last Friday, the group recorded their entry AND posed for photos for not only the photo contest, but also their CD cover.
To my delight, I even heard a bit of their own compositions in passing. I was occupied with setting up the recording equipment when I overheard one of them say, "Let's run through our song first." I was floored as I listened to them run through a catchy pop tune that they created.
Whether WEDG wins a prize in the Long & McQuade Music Education Contest or not doesn't really matter. The moment I heard them come together as a completely cohesive unit for the recording their final take and the surprise moment when they ran through their own band songs - that's what matters. The ties created by their shared love for music, along with their shared vision. As their teacher, I couldn't be any prouder than I was at that moment. I cannot wait to hear what they come up with next.