Editorâ€™s Note: This post is the first in a series by MIE guided interns Soo Kyung Chung and Sojourner Hodges, graduate students participating in an internship with the Cantata Singers, an NEC Community Engagement Partner. See the rest of the posts in the series here.
My name is Soo Kyung Chung, a 1st year Masterâ€™s student in Music Theory, so what am I doing at the Mendell School with 2nd grade kids?
I am helping with a creative program called â€œThe Cantata Singersâ€ that encougages kids to compose and perform.
What a great idea that kids can compose!Â While mostly we learn music by singing or playing an instrument, kids in â€œ The Cantata Singersâ€Â discover music not only by singing but also composing.
Although we only meet for about one hour, the program is rich. The first part is to learn singing.Â In this program, kids approach music through very general terms.Â For example, students learn how the melody is shaped. By using one hand, the kids designed the rising or falling lines of melody. I think that following the melody with finger movement is a good method to figure out the shape of melody. The kids could understand that melody could be conjoint(stepwise) or disjoint(leap) and ascending or descending.
The kids also learn about the dynamic of how soft or loud music can be created. The depth of between two hands indicated the loudness. If an instructor shows a large depth by spreading her hands apart vertically, the kids respond with the loud sound [u]. When she puts her hands together to show a shorter depth, the kids respond with a softer sound. In this way, the 2nd graders learn about dynamics in a way that is fun, simple and very visual.
The Â second part is to participate in a small group where kids compose with a group leader. We have four small groups. Every group has a different topic about the Mexican culture. I work with Sojourner, a 2nd semesterâ€™s composition at NEC as one of group learders.Â The compositional style is totally free. Kids can emphasize any words that they like by melody or rhythm.Â If one student initiates the idea, the other kids can finish it. Or if one makes an ascending melody at the end of the phrase, and the other wants descending melody, we can make a melody by combining each phrase consecutively.Â One of the leaderâ€™s Â jobs is to catch what kids want by singing back to them because oftenÂ young students Â are not good at pitch so it is hard to understand. Â We also write down what they are singing, and show music score what they did the previous week. They are soÂ happy to see their achivements.
At the end of each session, each group shares what they have done. We listen to each groupâ€™s song, and learn some melodies.Â Each group has such different styles of music that I am always surprised.
Last week, we made a song over the course of Â 5-6 sessions. All of the 2nd graders will learn groupâ€™s song, and perform them for other students at the Mendell School. Later, on May 6th, the Mendell students will join with another group participating in the â€œ The Cantata Singersâ€ program, at a local elementary school. I invite you to come listen to these great young musicians.