Group Class Travels Back in Time

At our group class the other night, we traveled back in time to the Renaissance. I turned off all the lights in the studio and lit candles all around the room. As the students arrived, they heard the sound of monks singing Gregorian Chantsin the background. We focused throughout the class on how music is a language and can communicate a message to those who hear it. I tried to empahsize that music is not notes written on a page, but rather, the sound that those notes represent. The class time was broken into the following categories that I thought illustrated the natural progression for becoming proficient in a language:
1. Listen – we focused on the chants of the Renaissance period for this.
2. Learn – we discussed the terms tempo, touch, dynamics and mood. I wrote each of these on the white board and the students had to come up with terms or symbols that fit into each of these categories. The student who came up with one got to write it on the white board.
3. Create – the students were split into two groups and were given a set of descriptive scenes. From them, they chose one and had to work together to come up with a way to create music depicting that scene. They could use rhythm instruments, the piano and their voices to create the sounds. After the allotted time, they played their music for the other group and the other group had to guess which scene they were portraying. This was a blast and the students did an amazing job!
4. Interpret – each student explained the tempo, touch, dynamics and mood of their piece and then performed it for the others.

Throughout the class, the students filled in key words on this Blank Music Bingo card that I made for the occasion. At the end of the class, we played Bingo, with them “X”ing out the appropriate squares on the card as I gave the definition or description of the term or symbol. (I decided not to outright give them the name of the term or symbol, that way they would have to use the information they just learned in order to win the game.) The winner received a CD of his choice from a stack of CDs I keep on hand for prizes.

Here are a couple of pictures from the class:

A little glimpse of the candle-lit studio.


The boys’ group works together to create a musical sound byte for “a funeral march for a beloved soldier.”


The girls’ group poses for a picture while working on a musical sound byte for “a hurricane wiping out a town.”

Other possible scene choices included:
a circus acrobat walking on a high rope
a little boy playing with his new puppy
a horse pulling a heavy load up a steep hill
a man running a race and winning a gold medal
a group of high class citizens at a ball

As the students left, I gave them the hidden message worksheet I posted about here. A fun time was had by all and we look forward to our next group class!

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