Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lessons from the Institut

As I reflect back upon the week that I have had with some amazing teachers and colleagues, I can't really believe that it has finished. I would love to continue on the journey for another week. I am going to attempt to summarize some of the big ideas that I have learned from each part of the course in this blog, but I am not sure how successful I will be.
In Ulriche Jungmeier's class, I had the pleasure of watching her seamless process unfold for three sessions. We flowed from one activity to the next, with clear purpose. Her first lesson was a piece from MFC Vol. 4, and appropriately enough, about goats and goatheards. She invoked images of many goats, big and small, running around the mountain side. We all felt like you could actually hear them in the final piece. In the second lesson, we explored rhythm and movement. Ulrike really encouraged us to be free in our movement improvisations. These were all later put onto percussion instruments in small groups. The last lesson took us directly from warming up into making rain sounds on the floor and then into creating them on a variety of instruments. She was very inspiring and makes me want to become more animated and lively with my students.

The two sessions that I haven't commented on are Doug Goodkin's class on Xylophone Music from Around the World and Keith Terry's Body Music. I will start with Keith's class. For those people who haven't heard of Keith, check out his website: He is a phenomenal musician and is very much into how you can use body percussion (snapping, clapping, patting, stepping, singing, etc...) to a whole other level. I have taken sessions with him at AOSA's national conference before and they were really mind blowing! Now that I have known about how he makes music and have done some of my own explorations with rhythm and body percussion, I felt more at ease with fully participating in these classes. It was nice to have three 1.5 hour sessions because he was really able to develop the body music blocks and the concepts of phasing (like a round or a canon, but with rhythms,) polymeters (playing rhythms that are in more than one time signature at the same time,) polyrhythms, and sense of crosspulse (when two or more beats, time signatures, or meters are happening in the same amount of space.) If you know me well, you know that being confident when performing or reading rhythms is something I have always struggled with. Strangely, I did not struggle much with learning to understand the basics of all of the tasks in Keith's classes. Much of that is owed to Keith himself being a wonderful teacher. The other part of it must be credited to Jay Broeker, with whom I had my levels and curriculum training with. Jay uses a rhythm reading system called "takadimi," which has some roots in Indian drumming and rhythm traditions. What I love about the system is that each division of the beat has it's own discrete rhythm syllable, making it less confusing for a musician of any age and ability level. Part of what Keith taught us used simialr syllables, making it all the more easy for me to understand and perform with my group. Again, check out his work - it is truly fabulous!
My other afternoon session was with Doug Goodkin, who I have drawn inspiration from for a long time. He led us to explore many different types of lessons for children and in playing xylophone music from around the world. Again, I must point out that this was made easier for me to grasp only through the wonderful education I received at Morehead State University and at the University of Kentucky. He used some of Keith's body music concepts to make learning the pieces easier. Something that has been driven home over and over again is how much easier any musical task becomes once you put it on the body and speak it outloud. We played many pieces with kotekan, or interlocking parts. These pieces were the most intriguing to me. For the instrumentalist to play them well, you must first hear the whole melody, and not just the part you play. It is one of the coolest things! I wish everyone had a chance to experience it. We also played a few jazz pieces and talked through some issues regarding sequencing xylophone by grade level and what types of things are appropriate.

Wow! This is a very long post... I am making up for my lack of writing quickly, it seems!
I will reflect more tomorrow after I return from my "Sound of Music" Tour. Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!

Friday, July 9, 2010

More tomorrow...

Hi All,
I apologize for not writing more the past couple of days, but I had forgotten how exausting these courses can be. I have learned so much here! I just need to put it into words for you to read. I will write more tomorrow afternoon, after the closing session. It is very late here and I am trying to avoid the reccurance of a major headache from last night.

Sweet Dreams!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words, So They Say...

Today, you can see if this cliche is true...

This is the view on the way to Hellbrunner Allee and the Institut.

The Orff-Institut

This is the Schloss Frohnburg (Frohnburg Palace) where some folks are staying.

This one is really for my students...So they can see where their friend, Mr. Rest, has traveled this summer.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 1 - Afternoon Classes and Day 2

After lunch, everyone had signed up for two afternoon workshops, noting a third if those two choices were full. Luckily, I was able to have both of my first choices: Elemental Composition with Ranier Kotzian and Xylophone Music with Doug Goodkin.
As we came into the composition class, Ranier asked us all by gesturing to join him in a circle. He then told us that he was going to tell a story, some of the things in it were trueand some were not. A truly great story teller, we fell for the story about his missing car, hook, line, and sinker. This led us into learning some small repeated motives (ostinati) and eventually a story sequence. We took this sequence and rearranged it many times, eventually creating our own patterns. We also used these patterns for games and to create our own melodies. Ranier's process is seamless and teaching style is very engaging for us tired adults. I can only imagine how wonderfully it would suit young children. After unpacking everything we had done, we were then off to learn some xylophone music.

In this class, Doug led us through a body percussion piece which morphed into a movement with song from Uganda. It has two layered parts in voice and in movement which made it tricky but very satisfying. After twisting our brains with that, we moved to xylophones with some mallet games to keep us from playing on the instruments before we were prepared. (Teachers in classes are much like the children we teach! Some of us also make horrible students now, as far as being respectful and patient.) Doug then eased us little by little into playin on the instruments with a very engaging action story, which I was excited to experience with him first hand, as I had used it with my students. Luckily, I was not too far off in my interpretation of it.

The day finished out after dinner with a marvelous performance by Keith Terry. Keith is a body musician, body percussionist, etc.; there are many names for what he is doing. His work is jaw dropping, revolutionary and a throw-back to the very first musicians all at the same time. If you get the chance, you should check out his website at Very cool stuff!
Doug Goodkin then talked briefly about the history of jazz, demonstrating with Keith some hambone, juba, and some other jazz pieces and a little about their history.

Instead of just regurgitating anymore about my first day and then about my second, I just want to tell you the biggest thing that I have learned so far: the power of story telling. It has been everywhere! I have been using it for a long time to an extent, but never understood the full weight of its power. I am not just talking about choosing a picture book to pull the story from, but really creating your own stories to frame the concept you are trying to teach your students. The full potential of this tool has come to my attention in a big way this week. I think that this is just one of many valuable lessons I will come to learn and unpack from the Institut.

Coming Tomorrow...
More class observations from Doug, Ranier, Andrea Ostertag, and Keith Terry.
Also, I will post some photos from my first trip to the main city and new ones
from my afternoon tomorrow.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Opening session and Day 1 at the Institut

After returning hot and tired from a day on the town, I returned to check if my suitcase was at the reception desk and **TAH-DAH** it was there! (I felt very sorry for the reception clerk as she put up with many questions from me the first two days.) I had never been so happy to see my clothes in all my life. I took a shower and then made it to the opening session just in time.
Ranier Kotzian, the course director, opened with playing a body percussion and xylophone piece. Then he had everyone stand when he called their country. I was suprised at the diversity represented here. Over 30 countries... WOW! After the faculty were instroduced and some announcements, all 90+ participants made our way to another room to learn some songs and dances. We learned at least six, maybe more songs, including one that is a hillarious "fighting" dance from Sweden, taught to us by Doug Goodkin.
More exhausted than before, I headed to the room and went to bed...

This morning, I woke up late! I rushed to get ready and hoped that I had everything I needed. We rode to the Institut and made it exactly at 9am and slightly late for the first class. We were all divided up into 4 sections and were able to choose 2 afternoon sessions to attend for the week. My first session was "Foundations of the Schulwerk" with Ulrike Jungmair. She led us in some great warm-up excercises for the body (and mind) and then led us through some preparatory rhythm movements. The piece we worked on was one that called to mind goats and goat-herders climbing in the mountains. A wonderful piece from Volume IV of Music for Children that I did not know.
After debriefing, was a short break and a session by Christina Wieblitz on singing and technique. She gave us such wonderful ideas on how to warm up the children's voices and then led us in a beautiful round in voice and movement by Soili Perkio, a Finnish Schulwerk teacher.

Next, we had a long lunch break that I spent shopping for food at the bio market. This super market was not as tricky as I thought, but was still a trying experience. (I forgot to mention that in the morning it was raining cats and dogs during both sessions. By lunch time it was not raining, but there were dark clouds in the distance. I was hoping to get the shopping done in the good weather.)
After waling my groceries back to the room and getting a bite to eat, I found a shortcut back to the Institut for the afternoon sessions.

More on these tomorrow!

The Missing Suitcase - Part 2 and Day 1 in Salzburg

(I apologize that I didn't get to write yesterday, it was a crazy day.)
I was last telling you about my claim ticket being a good thing, but alas it produced no results. So I was trying to keep calm while filling out the paper work about where I would be staying, what the suitcase looked like, etc, and then also when asking the information worker about how to get to Franz von Sales Kolleg in the southern part of town. Guess what? He had no idea. He just told me to take the #2 bus to Hauptbanhof and ask directions from there. "Great," I was thinking to myself. "He doesn't know where I am going anymore than I do!" SO I set off to wait for the bus. After about 5 minutes of trying to figure out how to buy a bus ticket from a broken machine, a man that I had seen in the airport baggage area also came up to me and asked me if I was attending the Orff-Institut, also. It turns out that his bag was lost as well and he was staying in the same building as me! He also had the proper directions to the Kolleg. Whew!
We finally boarded the bus, paid the driver and were on our way. Now keep in mind, this was at about 2:15 pm and we could not check in until 4pm. So we decided to kill some time at the main bus terminal and grab something to eat. We then waited for the next bus which took us to the reception area. We checked in and explained to the very patient reception clerk our baggage dillema and she offered to call the airport to check the status of our bags and give them our room numbers. Pablo's bag would be in that night she said, but they were not sure about mine. They could not find it yet. So, again I tried to maintain my composure, and asked her how late the stores were open. She said only until 6pm and now it was a little before 5. I booked up to the room, where I dropped off my few things and then I raced out the door to buy a few clothes and toiletries.
After returning that day, needles to say I was done for the night. I read to calm myself down and then went to sleep.

Pablo, the man that I met at the airport, is from Spain and a very nice person. I wanted to rent a bike to ride while staying here, as my room is about a 20-30 minute walk to the Orff-Institut. Pablo asked if he could come with, so after renting the bikes we decided to ride to find the Institut. The way that the reception clerk recommended was a beautiful path. After turning off of the main road, there is a side street that turns into a gravel road, which leads through a huge open meadow with a view of the Alps right behind. It is like something out of a movie...("The Sounds of Music" comes to mind... and for those who don't know, a lot of it was shot here in Salzburg, including the residence next to the Orff-Institut.)
The path continued to a tree linedgravel road with more gorgeous views, this was Hellbrunner Allee. After we found the Institut and made it back to the rooms, we started out for downtown Salzburg, finding out along the way that it would be as late as this evening before my suitcase would come, but there was no guarantee. I didn't care as long as it arrived.
Downtown Salzburg, or the old city, is beautiful and breathtaking. The Salzach River (or the Salt River,) runs through the middle and separates the old town from the new. I had found a self-guided walking tour in my guide book and we followed it.
It lead us through the Mozartplatz and through the old town square with its Romanesque fountain. Words cannot describe how much I enjoyed wandering through this city that was so important to music. I will post photos soon....

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Suitacase...and then there was none!

It all stated simple enough yesterday with me telling you about super excited Tara who was in the airport waiting on her flight to Salzburg. Fast forward 24+ hours and you will see a super exhausted Tara, though still very excited about being here. My room for the week is a cozy apartment with a kitchenette, parquet floor, private shower & bath, all with an amazing view of... (wait for it...) The Alps. Talk about grandeur! But, my title today was about a suitcase and a suitcase you shall have, or at least a story about one.
As I was waiting at the BWI airport, I called John and was talking to him about my flight schedule, when he put the brakes on.
"Whoa," he said. "There is no way you will be able to exit off of that flight to Chicago and make it to the next gate by boarding. Your bag won't either."
But I, the optimist, said "Sure I will. They wouldn't let me do something if it wasn't going to be possible, right?"
"I don't know, Tara" said John.
So, off I went to find the nearest American Airlines attendant, which was harder than you might think. I proceded to ask this nice, logical woman if the above scenario would be true. She checked and rechecked, assuring me that everything would be fine and that the system would not let a grave error like what I was describing happen. I felt better and went about the rest of the flight normally, until I hear my name over the speaker as we were taxing to the gate in Chicago. I found the attendant who whisked me off to the next gate departing for Frankfurt, all the while assuring me again that my suitcase, (which has ALL of my clothes, toiletries, etc. in it,) would end up in Frankfurt with me. I boarded ahead of time and spent the flight being served food, soda, reading, and sleeping on and off. Although I never managed to get any good quality sleep in, don't ask me why. As I make my way through the Frankfurt airport to get my next boarding pass, I notice that it is the most busy and crowdede airport I think that I have ever been in! Once I get over that fact, I make my way to the correct terminal and then board a bus to the end of the airport to board a small plane with with propellers, something I haven't seen in a long time. I didn't want to admit it, but I was a little worried about my suitcase then. I put my little fear aside and said, no worries, it will be there...

But, when we got to baggaged claim, mine never appeared through the flaps. :( There was a kind woman in the lost items department who promptly helped me and some others fill out the proper forms. I was encouraged by how positive she was when she saw the claim ticket. "Ooh, it is in the system! That is good!"
"It better be in there," I was thinking...

To be continued...

Well folks, my eyes are pretty heavy so I think I will continue this tomorrow, where I hope to have my clothes and things back!

Until then...

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Journey Begins...

Well everyone, the time has come, so to speak for my trip to begin. I feel so blessed to have been afforded this opportunity through the generosity of the Byrnes Family Foundation.
I arrived at BWI around 215pm and checking in was far more simple than I imagined it would be. I have been biding my time by reading a little, walking a little, and compulsively checking and re-checking my travel details. I come by my worrying honestly through my mom and grandfather, both "worry worts."
I am excited and a little nervous, since it has been more than ten years since I have done anything like this by myself. I know that only good things await me in Salzburg, so check back frequently, as I will try to post daily.