Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Swallowed by a lion...

I'm not a group person.  I think I work well in groups, but I typically like doing things by myself.  The piano, often thought of as an instrument for one,  fits with my personality well.  Fortunately, I'm also a person who likes to challenge myself in new ways, look outside the box and test things out.  What if piano could be explored in a group setting?  This is the question I asked myself almost six years ago.  And the answer that came to me was through a Google search:  Simply Music.  Since beginning my Simply Music journey, I've explored this area of group learning and what it's done is made me more curious about group creating.  What would the experience of creating piano music in a group be like?

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of introducing eight of my students to composing in a group.  This is how it went:  We started with deciding on a who, what and where for our story.  A free flow of ideas emerged as the kids came up with the name for our character, what he does, what he wants and where he is.  From there we established a beginning, middle and an end.  Each student contributed an idea and within five minutes we had our simple story on the board.  

One of the students got to be the storyteller and he told the story completely giving us all a clear picture of who "Ike" was and what he was doing.  We took it to the piano and each student "told" his/her part of the story by finding notes to express the mood or the action.  For our group performance, two students sat at the piano, one stood as the storyteller and the others played a drum or a shaker.  Plenty of drama, silliness and lots of laughter:)

With the framework in place, I chose two leaders who then picked their groups.  With pen and paper they drafted their own stories.  There were students who had an endless supply of ideas.  "And then Bob got swallowed by a lion...  but... but...  the lion couldn't digest him!  And then..."  Others listened to the one with all the ideas and would offer "Yeah!  A lion!  And he got a stomach ache!"  And others sat in their group, listening but were noticeably nervous about sharing an idea.  

When it came time to put the music and the drums with the story, they all got involved.  Lots of decisions to be made:  which part of the story needs a loud drum beat or a tinkling of the keys, does the storyteller speak while the music is happening or does he wait?  As the group, they took their roles and contributions and put them together to make it work.  

At the end of the hour, each group performed for each other.  Their stories were so completely different!  There were lions eating people in one and diamond thieves in the other.  I looked around and saw bright eyes and smiling faces.  It was clear they had enjoyed being the audience just as much as they enjoyed being the performers.  And it was also clear that collaborating with others in a creative space encourages listening... which encourages new ideas... which encourages action... which makes for a really fun time!

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