G4 Pretend Concert and Student Agency
What did G4 students work on?
This term G4 students put a mini concert together and performed it in front of themselves and two extra teachers. The whole idea started with one student suggesting to perform something. Out of that idea we asked ourselves what we would need to have a little concert and made a list: tickets, ticket sellers, seats, a concert manager, an audience, … and wait, wasn’t there something else? Musicians! Thinking about what was necessary for organizing a concert, musicians and their performances seemed to be low on the list; a first little run through of a rather improvised concert where students had very little time to find and rehearse musical ideas, turned out to be quite disastrous! Even though jobs such as selling and checking tickets seemed quite important we definitely needed more time to rehearse the actual music!
G4 students are divided into two groups of six students for their music (and art) lessons. At the beginning it seemed practical to have a few acts where all children play the same piece/sing the same song etc. as this would allow for an easy coordination of rehearsals. But then, there is student agency, isn’t there? And if you want minds to be creative and students to follow their ideas and plans, you need to have a voice and choice when deciding what to play and sing. It was clear right from the beginning that everyone wanted something different. Still, not a challenge we couldn’t take! After a few changes in group settings, students’ ideas for their musical pieces turned out to be two solos, two duos and two trios. (funnily enough each group was divided into a solo, a percussion duo and a trio with xylophones).
Student Agency didn’t come to a halt when students developed their musical ideas. After they had chosen their preferred piece, instrumentation, group setting etc. they had to refine their concepts, tackle difficulties, practise, rehearse and reflect, reflect, reflect. On top of that they had to do this with rather little direct support by their teacher as she couldn’t split herself into three.
With three different musical preparations per class the biggest challenge was to grant everyone enough quiet rehearsal time. One solution to this problem was: two groups working on something that doesn’t create a lot of noise/sound while the third was working on their piece/song. Quiet activities included: writing a program, cutting out play money, allocating jobs such as “usher”, “ticket seller”, “concert host”, etc or discussing what these jobs involved.
Over several weeks students practiced, rehearsed and thought about everything that needed to be organized to have our little performance.
On Thursday, 18th November G4 was ready! Students invited Mr Daniel and Ms Jessee and performed their pieces/songs in front of everyone.
How does this all fit into the PYP?
The answer is simple! ALL learner profile attributes are addressed in the working process:
- You need to be open-minded for musical ideas
- You need to be principled when sharing rehearsal time and the teacher’s attention
- You need to be a thinker to tackle problems in rehearsals
- You need to be knowledgeable to learn you pieces
- You need to be caring when playing with fellow students
- You need to be an inquirer to find the right music to play
- You need to be balanced when you play in a group
- You need to communicate with fellow musicians, your teacher and the audience in verbal and non verbal ways
- You need to be reflective in each rehearsal to improve your playing
- You need to be a risk-taker to go on stage!
Concerning ATL students developed their communication skills on complex levels, from discussing projects to communicating without words while playing music, as well as their social skills, thinking skills and self-management skills.
And last, but not least, student agency was at the core of the project.
What’s so special about preparing a concert in music class?
If you are looking for a place to prepare a concert at school it probably would be in music class! But, usually there is a program fixed from the start and students perfect it until it’s ready to be performed. This was not the case with our project though! As if the risk wasn’t big enough to follow a clear musical goal from the start and have it ready at a certain time, we didn’t even know what that musical goal entailed when we started!
At the beginning students in G4 were given one song called “Snappin’ Harriet” (see below) which in its original form is a piano piece with a text to sing along to. The plan at first was for the whole class to learn to sing it and maybe find an instrumental accompaniment. But what did it turn into? Our two trios were the only students who worked with this piece and made their own arrangements for piano and xylophones. They worked on their music for weeks, kept changing, adjusting, and adding new parts until these two separate groups created completely different versions.
All other students (six of them) decided to do something completely different:
- A piano solo (L. Mozart’s “Bagpipes”) that a student prepared for mostly at home, but also in class.
- A singing solo (“Cover Me in Sunshine” karaoke version) a student worked on in class mainly with computer and headphones
- A drumming duo improvisation that started with a simple rhythm and became more complex every time students rehearsed it
- A percussion duo planned improvisation playing a story based on a computer game
What did students think of all this? Time for reflection.
The overall response was very positive. Most of the students would like to do it again, preferably with a bigger audience and more rehearsal time!
Here are some answers to selected reflection questions:
When you were on stage how concentrated were you on a scale from 1-10?
- Svea: 9 (not 10, because the audience was distracting)
- Anneli: 8.5 (not 10, because the audience was moving/talking too much)
- Max: 10
- Eric: 10
- Tom: 8.8
- Andreas: 7
- Gowri: 10
- Zara: 7 (not 10, because audience was moving/dancing)
- Philipp: 9.5 (not 10, because I got some notes wrong and that distracted me. I thought there was some giggling in the audience)
- Mihir: 10 (I was super focused on playing the drums)
Were you nervous?
- Svea: no
- Anneli: a bit
- Max: no. I was confident
- Eric: yes
- Tom: a little bit
- Andreas: no
- Gowri: no
- Zara: yes, because I was singing alone on stage!
- Philipp: a little bit, especially when I made a mistake
- Mihir: yes, I was anxious before the concert and on stage, because everybody was watching me
When you were on stage what did you think of?
- Svea: dogs
- Anneli: my youth (or when I was a baby)
- Max: the legend of Zelda
- Andreas: amoguss
- Gowri: the music
- Zara: the music
- Philipp: I had a good feeling although I was a little bit nervous
- Mihir: the music and the audience
When you were finished with your performance how did you feel?
- Svea: embarrassed, because something went wrong
- Anneli: happy
- Max: confident
- Eric: happy
- Tom: bad, because I made one mistake
- Philipp: good, although I made some mistakes
- Mihir: awesome
- Andreas: stupid, because I wasn’t happy with the performance
Is there such a thing as a mistake? If yes, what do you think one should do when they make a mistake on stage?
- all: yes.
- all: continue and pretend there was no mistake.
If you worked in a group how would you describe your collaboration (finding ideas, practicing, rehearsing, performing)?
- Eric: I felt respected. I enjoyed working with Max.
- Max: Eric could have respected me a bit more. I felt I could have had more of a say.
- Svea, Hannah, Anneli: We think we are a good trio and would work together again.
- Svea: I felt like I had to make the decisions.
- Hannah: I didn’t feel that my ideas got through all the time.
- Anneli: Svea and Hannah are great! It was a shame that Hannah was not at the concert!
- Philipp: It was good, everyone was listening to each other
- Andreas and Mihir: We made a good team!
If you could do the project again, what would you do differently?
- Svea, Anneli and Hannah: more rehearsal time on our own partly with Ms Karin there to help out when needed
- Max: proper seats for the audience. Make jobs (ticket checker/seller) clearer
- Eric: ticket sale: tickets should have seat numbers
- Tom: a bigger audience
- Svea: the concert hosts could add more comedy to their introductions
- Zara: more singing practice, I’d sing together with Gowri
- Gowri: I would play the guitar and sing along
- Zara: have better lighting, coloured lights
Last, but not least, what did Ms Karin think about the project?
I really enjoyed getting to know my students better through their way of finding ideas, solving problems, working together and expressing themselves musically! I’m proud of them.