Children's Day is a workshop provided by Alberta Orff every second year. We were lucky to once again partner with the Winspear for this workshop and enjoyed working in such a beautiful space with such accommodating staff. We were also very happy to have Doug Goodkin join us from San Francisco to share his knowledge and skills as a master Orff teacher and respected author.
The day started with teachers and students arriving to register and settle in to the rehearsal hall at the Winspear Centre. Students received one of two different coloured t-shirts which would denote which of the two groups they were assigned to. Both groups started out by sitting together in the rehearsal hall and as they waited many of the students broke into smaller groups and began spontaneously playing circle games. Doug had been in the room since the students had started to arrive and after allowing some time for the students to play brought the day to an official start. With no discussion Doug began from the front of the room a simple body percussion pattern. Students began to recreate what he was doing in small groups at first but with the whole group participating in fairly short order. Without a word Doug led the students through a warm-up activity that, as were soon to learn, related directly to the activity to follow.
As the activity progressed Doug took some time to talk to the teachers and stress the concept that all activities should be intentional and lead to the next. He also stressed the point that verbal instructions should, where possible, be kept to a minimum. After Doug spoke the two groups were separated and one stayed and the other went to spend time with the Winspear staff and special guests. Moving on the activity led into the body percussion and movement required for the main activity "Step Back Baby, Step Back." The engagement of the students throughout these activities was palpable as Doug masterfully held their attention. Doug took time within the activities to talk about Jazz music and it's history and context which gave significant meaning for teachers and students alike. Ultimately the first group learned the body percussion, movement and drama for the activity.
Whilst this was happening the other group had the opportunity, provided by local jazz singer/writer/teacher Mallory Chapman, for a lesson in jazz vocals with a focus on scat singing. After the jazz vocal lesson the group was treated to several instrument demonstrations including the harp and the violin courtesy of the Winspear Musical Creativity team. These led to the introduction of an instrument new to both students and teachers, the harpsicle. This is a smaller diatonic version of the harp and will be used in the summer string day camp offered by the Winspear. This was a fantastic opportunity for the students to get up close and personal with some lesser known instruments.
After a short nutrition break the groups switched and Doug began to teach the second group the activity focusing on the instrumental accompaniment. After the initial teaching of body percussion the instrumental parts were layered in with one student per part demonstrating. Within the overall form there was a section for structured improvisation. This was particularly impactful for students as they all had the opportunity to try out the improvisation before specific students were chosen. Once the parts were all comfortably learned lunch began. Lunch was a great opportunity for students and teachers alike to socialize and talk about the morning.
After lunch the two groups reconvened and Doug had the students work on putting together the two parts; body percussion/drama and instrumental accompaniment. As this progressed it became clear that some time would be left before the afternoon performance. Doug made the decision to have the instrumental group teach the body percussion/drama group their parts. This showed the power of the student as the teacher and all the students seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.
The performance took place as scheduled with teachers and a number of parents and relatives of the students in attendance as audience. Doug introduced the presentation and it was clear the students took a great deal of pride in what they had learned. There was a definite jazz flare to the performance and it was fantastic to see the hard work and learning that took place pay off. With the performance complete students began to leave to return to school and the remaining teachers took a short break. After the break teachers reconvened on the third floor for a question and answer session with Doug. Some time was spent focusing on the day and the choices made. Doug shared that his favourite part of the day was the students teaching one another.
All in all the day was a fantastic experience for all involved and teachers gained a wealth of ideas that could be implemented within the classroom.