|Music is for everyone!||
|Music is for everyone!||
If you were my neighbor, these last couple of weeks you may have noticed me in my bright turquoise parka shuffling to and from my car with various collections of instruments. Guitars, pianos, drums, and the ECM kit (Early Childhood Musician's Kit). Start the car to warm up, pack the car, unpack the car, etc. It’s about 50 feet between the door and the car. If temperatures were above 0oC (it has been mostly -30oC), I would probably use my car as a storage locker instead of hauling gear in and out. However, guitars and electric pianos prefer not to freeze. Added to this is the unpredictability of my car’s door locks which have recently refused to unlock at extreme temperatures. Not a reliable place to store music instruments that are needed every day. So I haul gear in and I haul gear out. House to car to venue to car to house.
After 20+ Early Childhood Music classes in the last few months, having a KIT ready to go is a real time and brain saver. I always have the same props and instruments on hand – some of them I use every time, and others I pull out just when the circumstance calls for it. Like today! A curious kid saw my Bear Paw Creek stretchy band and wondered what it was. The class happened to be the right size for the band, so I decided to use it. With the stretchy band, we all felt the song’s pulse together as we sang “She’ll be comin round the mountain.”
The items that I use nearly every time include shakers, sticks, scarves, and a box of assorted handheld instruments. I also use a Bluetooth speaker connected to my phone’s music list, a pitch pipe, and a guitar. Sometimes, I use the stretchy band, bean bags, the gathering drum and chime bars, but not always.
I was fortunate to secure some business start-up funding to purchase most of these props and instruments. Having this kit as a starting point is a real necessity to run classes of my own and be hired by organizations or dayhomes/daycares to provide musical enrichment.
Another aspect of the kit not to be overlooked is the ease of transport. I use a rolling, foldable crate with strong handholds and my guitar case has backpack straps. Meeting other traveling music facilitators and seeing their kits and carriers really helped me find the supplies that work best!
What do you have in your kit, I wonder?
This has been a season of trying a lot of new things! Sometimes it has been a calm lake experience where I can see far into the distance of a beautiful sunrise. Other times it has been a fast-flowing river demanding careful attention and swift manoeuvring with no time to rest and reflect. It has been more lonely and exhausting than I expected. Teaching piano for the first time to 12 young students, leading a weekly singing class for 5-year olds, and assuming the role of coordinator for a local arts organization is the new territory that I am discovering.
Energy out needs to be balanced with energy in.
I’ve also been meeting with people to discuss the possibilities of community music programs within their organization – generally being met with a supportive spirit, but without the resources or infrastructure to make it a reality. The open-concept of community music requires ambition to set into place. Networking, hustling and sowing seeds, and starting somewhere. This will take time.
In all circumstances, I can never be fully prepared. The unexpected, unpredictable happens. Children do not have breakfast and can’t focus longer than 3 minutes in a group. Kids are bullied at school and come to piano lessons with resistance to following directions. Circumstances are not necessarily a reflection of me and my abilities. Even still, I have to have a willingness to look stupid as I explore possibilities, new ideas, new experiences.
My hope is that with time and experience these brand new, unknown spaces become less terrifying. My tolerance for the ambiguity and unknown increases and is met with more calm.
This week I experienced that calm. In preparing for and waking up to a music-making engagement at a new place with new people, I started from a place of calm. An inner confidence and knowledge that I can do this work, and I know more or less what to expect.
Having a long-term vision has helped me to stay on course:
Promoting a culture of participatory music making for all ages and all abilities, where participants are connected, confident, curious and carefree.
What does your roller coaster look like, and how do you manage your in periods of low energy and enthusiasm?
At the end of July, I attended the International Community Music Activity Pre-Conference to ISME in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was honoured to give a short presentation of a research paper on the role of community musicians to foster creative collaborations across style-boundaries (that is, when musicians who play different styles – jazz, rock, baroque, hip hop – unite to creatively collaborate, a facilitator is very useful to the process, and a community musician is well-suited for this role). Mostly, though, I was as a quiet participant.
Before the conference, I was enthusiastic about attending, hoping it would fuel my enthusiasm and readiness to launch into the world of Community Music that is essentially freelance, at least in Canada. Forging connections with leading international community musicians, opening the channels for communication for years to come, was also a goal of mine. Inspiration did not come in the flavor of an enthusiastic and emotional high – it came with a more realistic kick in the pants to just jump in.
Here are my takeaways
The conference organized some great social events, like an evening of Ceilidh (Scottish folk music and dancing), and a field trip which included a visit to Sage Gateshead (www.sagegateshead.com/join-in), a musical picnic at Northumberland Park with entertainment from The Fastest One Man Band (www.fastestonemanband.com), and some brief stops at Bamburgh Beach and Hadrian’s Wall.
And last, but certainly not least, I got to catch up and hang out with my classmates, director and colleagues from the University of Limerick.