After a year in Salzburg, James Jackson came back to teaching with the need to share. Bringing us back as teachers in September to the experience of being a student is always so valuable as we begin the year, and this workshop was just that.
Finding the space for improvisation within the classroom gives back the fun to the students, laying the groundwork for their interest and involvement. Building community and inclusion is so important and giving children in music class a chance to find their place.
One way James took this further was by asking us to reflect regularly in between activities. Reflection has to be taught, giving kids a chance to develop their vocabulary and ability to believe in their creative input. This is especially important in BC where our new curriculum requires us to incorporate this in our teaching.
Working from individual to partner to group work was a conscious choice of James to demonstrate the perspective shift that happens when you change how students have to respond to music activities. The importance of this is echoed in the Orff mantra pointed out by James, “first the voice, then the body and finally the instrument”.
The afternoon took us to the instruments, where we explored some different ways to open up instrumentation to improvisation through the pentatonic scale and easy visuals to simplify student playing. Again, taking a simple poem and letting us develop and play with composition activities. Handing over the arranging of a song to the group provided the proof that we can easily create our student performances from their own creative work.
In James’s year in Salzburg, he noted the focus on teachers as artists with teaching as the medium. With this mindset, we can teach the kids that same approach and allow them to find their artistic expression through improvised interaction, helping them to find their own entry point. Constantly returning to this idea of the seed being simple gives the teacher and students that artistic fuel to boundless creativity.