Christopher House Preschool
Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education
Music Integration residency at Christopher House Pre-K
2 classrooms, 5 sessions each
This was a short residency but we generated a lot of ideas and a lot of sound!
Our focus was on emotions. The teachers shared that the children were having trouble with emotional expression- learning to describe how they are feeling and why, instead of merely reacting to their emotions. We decided to create musical compositions about each of the emotions that the kids were aware of, and use a generative process of brainstorming, associations, movement, drawing, music and recorded sound.
The residency began with introductions and listening games, to ‘turn on’ their ears and sharpen their listening skills. I introduced the ankle bells: and the idea of the BEAT that keeps us all together as a group. This was helpful in improving their ability to listen to each other when we play music together (or do anything else) as a group. We played “Echo”- clapping and repeating patterns, and the children were encouraged to invent patterns with body percussion for the group to repeat.
We explored my primary instrument, the frame drum- they listened to the sound, discovered and discussed the materials it is made from (wood and goat skin), and practiced proper playing technique to get a good sound (gentle).
I brought in various percussion instruments for them to explore- initially the sound alone- I would play the instrument hidden from view, and the children would guess: What could be making this sound? What material might it be made of? Wood? Metal? Seeds? Often they found other objects in the classroom made of the same material. Then I would reveal each instrument and they learned the name and proper playing technique and gave it a try. We related my instruments to the ones in their classroom collection and established proper and safe playing techniques for each instrument in their collection. (set them to rest in front of you without touching, until 1, 2, 3, sticks ready, etc)
In this way we reinforced safe and careful use of any classroom instruments, and awareness of the materials each one is made of, where it comes from and how it sounds.
We explored their associations with each sound- How does the sound feel? Where in your body do you feel it? What does it sound like? If it were an animal, which would it be? If it was a person’s voice, what would they be saying?
The kids also drew each instrument in journals, and the adults transcribed their descriptions. (Meanwhile Ms Maria took my suggestion to go on a sound scavenger hunt around the school – her class made a list of all the sounds they heard on their walk and then grouped them according to their origins (body sounds, machine sounds, or nature sounds). We explained that we would be making a CD of our own, and I played a recording of a group of preschoolers I had worked with previously at another school and the sounds that they found and described.
In addition, the kids made shakers with rice and/ or beads inside of long paper towel tubes, and they became quite good at guessing what was inside by listening carefully to the quality of the sound.
We discussed the idea of rhythm and repeating patterns, focusing on the heartbeat as the closest rhythm to us at all times. They learned one simple rhythm using body percussion, and practiced playing as a group and starting and stopping together.
We also learned an accompanying song (Down Down Baby), recorded ourselves and listened back! This was very exciting to them.
We asked the kids to name some emotions that they know or feel. Their list included Sad, Happy, Angry, Confused, Silly, and Scared.
We wrote them out and brainstormed about each emotion- how does it feel? What makes you feel this way? What might it sound like? What instrument seems most right for this emotion? If you made music feeling this way, would you play fast or slow? We wrote down all our ideas which became our guide for the recordings.
On the last few sessions, after 10 minutes of circle time all together, I worked with small groups to record compositions for each emotion. 4 to 5 kids at a time went with me to a quiet space downstairs (unused classroom) and worked on recording the sounds (vocal and instrumental) that expressed their emotion. I also recorded any spoken responses or associations that they had, in English and in Spanish.
Later, we discovered that fellow CAPE artist Morrie Bowers was also working with emotions in his photography residency with two other classes in the school. We put together the images from Morrie’s workshop with the sounds from our workshop to make this multimedia emotion museum!
Angry - Enojado
Scared - Miedo
Happy - Feliz
Silly - Chistoso