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!

1 comment:

  1. Tara,
    Thank you for sharing. Interestingly when I was in Salzburg it was with all European teachers. There was a familiarity to your descriptions and the way that you related your experience back to Jay that leads me to believe your experience was a bit different than mine. Not better, not worse, different. Thank you for sharing - I know how difficult this is to do having stayed up past midnight each night blogging in the lobby of the Frohnburg!