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The Kinesthetic Connection: MOVING ON UP to Higher Achievement

Many have heard the commonly used proverb, “Tell me, and I will forget.  Show me, and I may remember.  Involve me, and I will understand.”  The majority of learners lose interest when the material presented to them relies merely on listening and viewing.  What is one of the most wonderful aspects of a quality music education?  Practically all learning is done by doing. 

The term Kinesthetic Learning refers to learning by doing, or using the sense of physical movement to learn and express oneself.  Through interacting with the space around them, students are better able to solve and process information.  Music students, both young and old, will become more knowledgeable musicians when exploring concepts through performance-based experiences - movement, dance, singing, playing instruments, composing, and improvising.  Simply put, experiential learning plays a key role in lasting connections, understanding, aptitude, retention, and excitement!

How is this type of learning incorporated into a typical music room, lesson, or choral rehearsal?  Well, for starters, by bringing students away from their chairs and getting them moving!  When identifying specific examples, let’s begin with the foundations of rhythmic and melodic note reading.  Instead of simply showing the symbol for a half note on the board and teaching its characteristics, imaginations ignite as the classroom is turned into an ice skating rink.  Students glide past one another with widely-stretched arms as they feel the sustained two beat value.  Similarly, students exploring high and low pitch can engage in standing, kneeling, and sitting movements, as well as large arm motions and Kodály hand signs.  For pitch accuracy, a kinesthetic connection can be made by throwing an invisible dart at the bullseye on an invisible dartboard while singing each pitch in slow motion.  These examples of bodily connections help to deepen understanding.  To view more examples of movement used in our HAA Training Choir rehearsals, please view the slide show below.  You will notice the cooperative use of hula hoops while singing to experience the build-up and release of beautiful musical phrasing.  In several other images, students use hand gestures and large arm movements to create tall and unified vowels while propelling energy into their vocal warmups and repertoire. 

These engaging activities remind students how fun learning can be, and most importantly, they keep the blood flowing.  It is unnatural for students to sit and be still for stretches longer than ten minutes at a time.  The next time you find your child, student, or possibly even yourself at a musical plateau or crossroads, try incorporating movement.  Although it may seem a bit unconventional, students of all ages love to get out of their seats and get involved! 

Erin Repsher

Music Educator and Choral Conductor, Hunterdon Academy of the Arts

Attend a Complimentary Training Choir Re

Where’s the Fire?! The Rush for Readiness (By Francesca Panfilo-Milza)

“My child is 5 years old and is reading.  I think she’s ready forFrancesca Panfilo Milza 2 resized 600
private lessons.”

Before you rush out and buy that baby grand piano, STOP! 

There are many elements that comprise readiness for private instrumental lessons.  Remember, music learning is a cognitive, emotional, physical and social experience.  Here are some things to consider before taking the leap:

  1. Fine motor skills:  Can my child manipulate and coordinate hands, feet and mouth with ease?
  2. Gross motor skills:  Can my child move his/her body to a steady beat? 
  3. Expanded focus: Can my child sit for a 30 minute lesson, listen to instruction and multi-task?
  4. Self-motivation:  Does my child WANT to learn an instrument?  Emotionally ready?
  5. Self-discipline:  Will my child willingly practice every day for the required time?
  6. Cognitive skills:  Is my child reading?  Left to right notation reading?

This is why I value the Musikgarten Musik Makers sequence for ages 4 -9 years.  The program encompasses all of these aspects, giving children the room to grow and hone the above skills.   In my experience, pushing a child before he/she is ready will only backfire later.  The consequences of a premature start may not be seen until later years when they experience frustration, a declining interest and essentially burnout.  So RELAX!  Take the time to ENJOY the music.  In order to create a lifelong lover and learner of music, READINESS IS KEY.  

Orff What?

When browsing the social media world, one notices that the word "Orff" is used playfully in many different constellations, some funny (as in, "I'm orff to bed"), others apparently meant to be offensive (as in, "Orff You!"). Though the word "Orff" may have a strange, even ominous ring to it, conjuring up images of giant creatures in the woods or on the bottom of the sea, it actually is closely associated with one of the most wonderful methods of teaching music to children.

Carl Orff (1895-1982) was a visionary German artist and pedagogue whose work has enjoyed a lasting presence on the concert stage as well as in the music classroom.  Though a prolific composer, Orff is now celebrated primarily for his large-scale 1932 oratorio Carmina burana.  By contrast, his pioneering pedagogical research seems generally far less known, though it is very much alive and thriving in school systems around the globe.  

In 1924 Orff and Dorothee Günther co-founded the Günther-Schule in Munich--a new type of school that offered instruction in music, dance, and gymnastics.  As head of the music program of the Günther-Schule, Orff developed his educational philosophy that music should be learned in combination with movement, rhythm, dance, and speech.  Orff's ideas were highly controversial at the time, requiring music teachers to acquire special skills--knowledge of Orff's preferred instruments (recorders, glockenpiels, small metallophones, marimbas, drums, etc.) as well as the ability to improvise, i.e., to create music spontaneously.

Orff's music classroom functions as a "lab" where students explore sounds and develop their innate creativity in a relaxed and friendly group setting (Orff Ensemble).  With students singing and dancing to improvised rhythms, and communicating with each other in "call-and-response" situations, music study becomes an enjoyable, playful activity, and an experience involving multiple senses simultaneously.  

From 1932 to 1935, Orff collaborated with Gunild Keetman and Hans Bergese in publishing his Orff-Schulwerk: Elementare Musikübung, which presented an introduction to group improvisation and techniques of playing various percussion instruments, as well as a few ensemble compositions.  Music teachers at the time were flabbergasted by the Orff-Schulwerk since it ran counter to established concepts in traditional music education.  

It was not until 1950, when the Orff-Schulwerk was reintroduced with a second publication, Musik für Kinder (Music for Children).  This 5-volume work represents the basis of Orff instruction, providing teachers with a discussion of what is often called the "Orff Approach" or "Orff Method," and a number of ensemble compositions.  Due to its universal appeal, the "Orff Method" has since been adopted by music educators around the world.

For families in and around Flemington, NJ, Orff instruction is now available at our Hunterdon Academy of the Arts, starting in September 2010.  Enroll today since space is limited!


Music Lessons and the Family Budget

Though rates for private music lessons may vary between instructors and music schools, they tend to be higher than tuition rates for group classes.  Why?

As with almost anything else, you get what you pay for!  In the case of private lessons, your tuition dollars provide you with the undivided attention of your teacher, who tailors style and content of his or her instruction to meet your individual needs.  For many students, the individual lesson format provides the ideal learning environment to make progress as quickly as possible.  In that sense, a

keyboard lessons young child.jpgprivate lesson teacher is no different from your personal gym trainer, who makes sure that you do your exercises correctly for maximum benefit.

If we stick with the sports analogy for a moment, some of us are not particularly crazy about working one-on-one with a trainer, or working ourselves through all that exercise equipment at the gym, one machine at a time.  That can be tedious and a bit solitary at times.  By contrast, joining an aerobics class or a sports team to play soccer, football, basket ball, and what not, is an entirely different experience.  Although as members of a team, we may not be getting all that individualized attention, we're having fun, working collaboratively, laughing, and sharing victories and losses.  And on top of it, we're still toning those muscles and losing a few pounds!  Not bad at all.

When it comes to music education, it is similarly possible, and enjoyable, to learn within the socially interactive context of group classes.  Young beginners often express a strong preference for music classes not only because of the social interaction involved but because the group format offers them the most developmentally appropriate venue for absorbing information.  Young children may learn as much from observing each other as they learn from their designated teachers.  To be sure, for some kids, the group class format may be too stimulating and distracting.  Kids falling into this category will do better in music lessons under the guidance of an instructor, who focuses their attention and provides a firm structure for the learning process.  Parents should consult with their music teacher in choosing the option most suitable for the learning disposition of their child.

If after careful consideration you have reason to believe that your child may progress more easily through group instruction, why would you sign her up for private lessons?  And why, looking at your bottom line, would you invest the extra dollars on individual instruction before your child is actually ready to enjoy its full range of benefits?  Start young beginners age 4 through 8 in group classes as a high-quality, low-cost alternative to music lessons!  When given sufficient time to mature and learn, children are more likely to develop a life-long appreciation for music.  Isn't that what it's all about?

Hunterdon Academy of the Arts, Flemington 

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