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Parent Tea Collaborative Performances

While teaching music at two inner city schools, I was asked to have a class or two perform for the parent appreciation tea. There were two classes that earned this privilege through their focus and determination: one was a grade 4/5 class who despite not knowing how to play many of the instruments required, was eager to explore playing "What a Wonderful World/Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, and another was a grade 3/4 class who had learned the hand jive and I asked for them to help me to teach the parents how to do it.

The first one we worked on for a long time and I really had no idea how we were going to figure it out. I was not actually a music teacher, but we worked with what we had which was two piano players and a whole class of eager participants. I explored the song and the instruments we had and decided to go with a group of ukuleles, singers, drums, and pianos. The twins in the class who were experienced piano players were tasked with learning the song through their piano teacher, (with the youtube link provided of the version we were doing) and then coming back to class to help teach very basic parts to two other students each who would have a small part in playing. The ukulele players were tasked with watching youtube videos of people teaching them how to play the parts, the singers were given printed lyrics and tasked to learning the song on their own with youtube and the lyrics, and the drummers were tasked to learn how to play a steady beat together (because anything other than that was not going to happen until they could get together in rhythm!)

This task was unexpectedly, incredible hard given I only have 30 minutes 2x a week with the group but we managed to BARELY pull it together to perform. The kids were so nervous that you could hardly hear them singing when performing so even though I had not planned to perform and only to help the drummers stay on beat and help anyone who needed it, I jumped in and started singing with them. Once I did they felt more comfortable to sing louder and they totally rocked it. The audience loved it and we got great feedback!

The second group was more of a last minute addition because of their awesome energy and spirit when learning the hand jive. Because I am used to teaching groups at events how to dance I figured they could back me up as awesome dancers demonstrating the moves while I explained it, which is exactly what they did. When prepping for it and giving them instruction on where to stand and when, I learned A LOT about my teaching style that I had not realized. Instead of teaching them how to perform, I was teaching them how to help people feel comfortable enough to be inspired to join in. It worked like a charm and many people did join in!

My learning from this experience was huge. Being asked to do this with SUCH short notice, not being a trained teacher in the subject and being brand new to the school were all challenges that I found were easily overcome when the right vibe was present in the room, and the right amount of student led decision making was structured and facilitated. These both were definitely artist driven with participant input, but the kids seemed really engaged and excited to figure out this challenge. Leading up to the show itself students were VERY nervous to share what they had been working on and both times I found that my participation WITH them (leading from beside) helped them to share their learning in a challenging but manageable way.

This experience was awesome and it is not until reflecting on it that I realized how relatively brave it was given the circumstances! I also found that it was actually easier for me to do something like that with a content area I was not familiar with vs. in dance which I found out during this past year showcasing my dance festival pieces. Check out those posts for my learning in those projects!

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