Hello again from Mat, Maisie and me (Freya). For more information on who we are check out our previous blog post here

For the second week of the school holidays we headed to Warralong.

Situated between Port Headland and Marble Bar, Warralong has a population of about 200 people according to the 2011 census but, as with many remote communities, the population is fluid as people travel around a lot. The school is the centre of the community and runs many programs such as a healthy eating program for kids breakfasts and an art studio for local artists.

 

Sunset at Warralong
The Strelley Community School’s amazing vegetable patch supported by Jenny from the EON Foundation.

We came to Warralong hoping to write a song like we had done in Jigalong, but our aims changed once we met the kids and had a chat to the teachers.

We realised that the school had just written a song with a group who had spent a whole week working with the community in term three. This week we only had about three one hour sessions with the kids, and seeing as they’d recently experienced songwriting, we decided to focus more on general music education sessions using the resources already at the school. We were aiming to give children the opportunity to sing, play instruments, listen, move and engage with music to explore and develop their skills and understanding. We wanted them to experience making music as a group and as individuals to develop social skills in a safe and accepting classroom space. Below is an outline of one of the sessions to demonstrate the range of activities and aims in our educational workshops.

1. Pitch exploration

We started by bouncing a pretend ball to link into the previous sport activity. We took aim and shot for goal, vocalising the trajectory of the ball as it flew through the sky with an oo sound. Then we introduced a set of cards with shapes on them that we all vocalised together whilst tracing the shape in the air. This is a form of notation which will eventually lead to reading the contour of music notes from left to right. We opened the floor up to different sounds and in this session heard a few lip trills and rolling r’s which are great for gently warming up the vocal chords and helping the kids find their singing voice (as distinct from their speaking voice). We gave out a card to every student and played a game where the students have to vocalise their card and find other people who have the same card. This is a lot of fun and is a great way of subtly assessing everyones abilities.

2. Instruments, singing, group music making

The Strelley Community School has a set of glockenspiels so we decided to teach two simple melodic motives using the C pentatonic scale. The motives had words and were sung and clapped before attempting to play on the glockenspiels. Playing instruments such as this develops fine motor skills and knowledge and understanding of absolute pitch. We had three teachers in the room so we each took a group of students to more effectively teach the patterns before we all came together. We introduced the idea of composition, giving one student the opportunity to write four symbols representing the melodic patterns on the board for the other students to sing and play on their instruments.

Photo by Ngurra Kujungka

3. Steady beat

The game beat detective is always a hit. It begins with everyone standing in a circle, copying where the teacher places the beat on their body (thighs, knees, shoulders, nose etc). After this idea has been modelled, the teacher chooses one student to go outside, they will act as the beat detective when they come back in the room. They having to watch the circle carefully to find out who is the ‘conductor’ controlling where the beat is being placed. The sense of steady beat is a very basic and important skill which should be practiced regularly in beginner music lessons.

4. Beat and Rhythm

We used beat detective to gauge the kids ability to keep a steady beat before moving on a more complex rhythmic activity, teaching the cup game. In three groups Maisie, Mat and I first taught the lyrics which would make the actions easier to remember.

“Clap, Clap, 1 2 3, Clap My Cup, Clap The Wall And Switch It Up”.

This is a fun game that can be played at home or at school. I taught ST, the Ngurra Kujungka recreation officer, so she will be able to keep teaching the kids when we are no longer in community. This beat and rhythm work helped to prepare the kids for the next days drum circle utilising the schools collection of drums. 

Photo by Ngurra Kujungka

5. Listening

We wanted to get the kids thinking about the sounds around them by being more present and aware of their audible environment. Maisie first vocalised the sounds of the drum kit to explain samples and the kids echoed her sounds. We then took three groups into the school with a checklist of sounds we had to find such as kick drum, car and school. We also had to find three miscellaneous sounds of Warralong. We had heaps of fun running around the school hitting, tapping, rubbing things to see what sounds they would make while Maisie, Mat and I recorded our groups with our phones. That night, Maisie set to creating beats with the samples and we played them for the kids the next day. It was fun to hear the finished beats and try to work out who and what created each sound. When the sounds were collected our session was finished and we set about planning the next days lesson.

 

Reflections on music education in remote communities

While school holiday music lessons are incredibly valuable and enjoyable, I hope to see high quality music education being available to children in remote communities throughout the school year. The cost of purchasing and maintaining instruments is a real problem in remote communities which is why I believe singing to be the key to remote music education. The human voice is a beautiful instrument which is free and accessible to everyone. Music education is beneficial to learning in other subject areas and has a proven transfer effect. It can increases skills in areas of education such as literacy (including ESL), numeracy and social skills. But music is also important in it’s own right. Richard Gill, a renowned Australian music pedagog and education activist states that ‘We teach music because it is unique and good. We teach music so that children can make their own music. We teach music because it acts in a unique way on the heart, mind, soul and spirit of the child, stimulating thought and imagination in very special ways. These are the real reasons for teaching music.’ 

Maisie gives a one on one guitar lesson.

 

Your donations help us to equip remote communities with music gear!

On this trip, we donated about $750 worth of music equipment to people and kids who were lacking, or only had broken stuff to work with. As a charity, we quite literally can’t do this without your support!

 

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