This quarter at Frye, we have been working based on a curriculum created by Dr John Feierabend, a professor at the University of Hartford and one of the leading authorities on music and movement development in children. At Frye, we have focused on the three pillars of Dr. Feierabend’s approach, working on the skills of being Tuneful, Beatful, and Artful*. An adult that is tuneful is able to one day sing a melody to their sleepless child, blend in during ‘Happy Birthday’ and express themselves with song whenever the occasion arises. An Adult that is beatful can clap along at a concert without driving the musicians mad, dance confidently throughout their life, and connect more deeply with the rhythm that exudes from every corner of our world. A student that has artful approach to music has a more meaningful connection their culture, their sense of self, and the human depth of emotion.
We have practiced singing melodies together and in harmony, both with familiar and unfamiliar songs. We have broken down the percussion parts to various songs and replicated them with instruments in our classroom. We have listened to the songs that move us deeply and had many insightful discussions on the cultural power of music and responsibility that comes with that power. We have listened to songs from many different cultures and talked about their connection to time/place/current events. We have also discussed the connections between musical genres and how it led to modern pop music.
Similar to the other enrichment opportunities, I have observed a noticeable correlation between positive engagement in music class and each student’s investment in themselves and their program. As they learn about themselves through therapy and behavioral work, the students are more open to trying unfamiliar or uncomfortable skills, making meaningful contributions to class discussions, and re-defining their relationship with music and its’ role in their lives.
This quarter at the farmhouse has been more performance and technical skills-based than any of the others. We have seen an influx of students moving up the farmhouse and digging in deep to learn skills for mastery of their instrument. The challenge of learning an instrument takes discipline, dedication, creativity, problem-solving, fortitude, self-criticism, and an openness to feedback from those with more experience. We have students learning difficult guitar solos (“Susie Q” by Creedence Clearwater Revival), learning complicated jazz-based progressions, and writing and performing their own songs at our Spring Fling talent show. This increase in skills has allowed us to take on more challenging songs. The soul/funk ballad Valerie features difficult chords, a very challenging vocal part, and a swung rhythmic part that needs focus in order to stay together. ‘Susie Q’ has a more undefined vocal part and blues-based arrangement which requires improvisation, excellent listening skills, and the ability to hear when the next part is supposed to happen (as opposed to being cued or counting measures). The students came to a decision on the songs by way of mature discussion and compromise and displayed a clear understanding of which songs are fitting for family weekend and which songs are not. The students’ approach to music class was a reflection of the skills they were being asked to work on in their program, whether that is leading by example, self-affirmation, making appropriate connections to their peers, or setting short term, or long term goals.
*Feierbend, John (2006) First Steps in Music for Preschool and Beyond. GIA Publications.