Ten students gathered at the studio last Thursday night for our second group class of the semester. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, it seemed like the perfect theme for this event. We began by discussing how Thanksgiving (defined as “giving thanks”) and music are linked. I read Psalm 137 as a perfect example of how the psalmist exemplifies giving thanks to God through song. This easily segued into a history of the first Thanksgiving Feast where the Pilgrims were giving thanks to God for enabling their survival, due very much to the Indians and their willingness to teach them how to provide food for themselves.
I told the students that I had a feast prepared for them, but just like the Pilgrims, it would require some hard work. They would have to do some fishing and some shooting and would have to learn how to work together and help each other. One of my objectives was for the students to play an ensemble together. I selected the We Three Kings ensemble from A Christmas Gathering by Lynn Freeman Olson. (Please note, after conducting an on-line search, I found that this book is no longer in print. The website linked here is the only one I found that carries this great ensemble book.) I copied the pages and then cut it into two measure segments. The students would have to collect all the segments and piece them together before being able to play it!
The students were split into two groups. One group started out at the shooting range. Turkeys were strung up all along the wall (click here to download the file with these turkeys):
The students had to stand behind a designated line and shoot these nerf darts at the turkeys:
If they shot a turkey, they could take it off the line and see if it had a folded paper paper-clipped to the back side. If so, they had to open the paper (one of the two-measure segments from the ensemble) and follow the directions written on the front of the turkey – either “play the notes,” “say the notes,” or “say the intervals.” Here, one student plays the notes from his paper:
Meanwhile, the other group had baited their hook and was trying to catch a “big one”! I used a thick dowel rod, some twine and a small magnet to make the fishing rod and line.
The students were trying to “catch” these segments of the ensemble that could be hooked when the magnet attached itself to the paper clip on each segment.
There were, of course, blank pieces of paper included in the mix so that not every “fish” was a keeper!
About half way through, the groups switched places and tried their hand at the other challenge. The students found it surprisingly difficult to catch the fish and shoot the turkeys (considering their teacher wowed them by hitting a turkey dead-on when I demonstrated for them how to do it…okay, I confess…so I had been practicing before they arrived… :-D), but they had a blast doing it!
Once all the ensemble segments had been collected, it was time to start assembling them in the correct order:
This, too, proved to be quite the challenge, but working together they were eventually able to complete it:
The parts were quickly divied out and the students were ready…let the music begin!
I conducted, all the students counted, and they all followed their parts amazingly well (or at least faked it well!) and stayed on beat through the entire piece. I would have loved to spend more time doing this, but the promised feast was awaiting!
A scrumptious feast of popcorn, pretzels, corn tortilla chips, grapes and lemonade turned out to be a hit!
As we feasted, each student took their turn sharing one performance tip that has helped them and then performing a prepared piece for the rest of the group:
At the end of the class, I sent home a paper with the Thanksgiving story and a corresponding quiz that I adapted from this website that could be brought back to their next lesson to earn an extra dollar.
This Thanksgiving group class turned out to be lots of fun and a jam-packed hour and a half!