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Entries in music (33)

Sunday
Mar112018

Photo 70/365

Friday
Mar092018

Photo 68/365

Saturday
Mar032018

Photo 62/365 (series: Harry Potter with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra)

At the Holiday Pops Christmas Concert last December we noticed an ad in the program for a Night with The Music of Harry Potter, a concert offering from the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. It sounded good to us so I made a mental note to look into tickets. Thankfully, I forgot to put that task in my journal, because a month or so later we were told that the Boychoir would be performing in said Harry Potter concert, no ticket for the singer necessary. So while Jon and I procured tickets, Calvin procured music and a magical frog (you can't sing in the Hogwarts Frog Choir with one, after all).

The night started with fun in the lobby, which Calvin got to participate in (including his very first selfie as part of the baffling Horcrux search) before ducking backstage for his Frog Choir debut. We were able to keep him away from the prying eyes of the Ministry and out of Azcaban, so I think we did a good job of wizarding.

Monday
May152017

Performance Week, culminating in a spring piano recital, age 10

Spring isn't just about the birds and the bees. Spring, for parents of children everywhere, is also about year-end activities, and for parents of performers, that usually means a lot of activities. If we measure this as an eight-day week, running Saturday to Saturday, Calvin had six performances. That's one choir gala (Saturday), one tap assembly (Monday), one band concert (Thursday), one play (Friday), one talent show (Friday), and one piano recital (Saturday). 

The week kicked off with the Boychoir of Ann Arbor Gala 30th Anniversary and Farewell concert. It was a special one for our family because Jon was a part of that choir thirty years ago, and Calvin is the first performing child of an alumnus. The concert was a beautiful program, and because some numbers included alumni, both of my boys sang, and both of them had solos that they knocked out of the park. I can't quite describe how eagerly I awaited this concert, or how much I enjoyed it when it arrived. 

The tap performance was actually a dance demonstration assembly put on at a local elementary school (coincidentally the school Jon attended in his youth) by Calvin's dance studio. Since it was during the day not all of the kids in the class could participate, but the bare bones dance was a special treat for Jon and me because the studio's spring recital will take place during the Sunday matinee of Calvin's YPT show, meaning he'll miss it and we won't really have a chance to see him perform what he learned in either tap or ballet this year.

Thursday night was Calvin's first band concert on a stage. I realize I sound here like the Olympic announcers looking to hyperbolize everything, but his very first ever band concert ever was in the gym during school hours, his first major band concert ever was in the bigger high school gym along with all the other area bands, now this is his first band concert on a stage. It makes a difference. So did the year of learning and practicing.

Friday's performances, the play, then clarinet and piano in the talent show were with our homeschool group, so they were pretty low key. Nuff said.

And lastly, on Saturday was Calvin's second ever age 10 spring piano recital. Second ever because last year the spring recital took place after his birthday, more in the summer, really, so that makes this his second age 10 spring piano recital. And he just about nailed it. 

Sonatina (Op. 20, No. 1) - Friedrich Kuhlau

Tuesday
Apr182017

10 reasons to include performing arts in (home)schooling

There are all kinds of articles and studies out there right now in support of keeping fine arts in the schools. This comes at a time when the greater push is to improve and intensify academic learning in an increasingly homogenized and student saturated environment, all with fewer funds, so the battle to defend (or, on the flipside, defund) the arts is real, and it's a brutal one. 

A few months ago we were at the GP's for Calvin's anual checkup. His doctor, a young man whom I for speaking to me like an equal and Calvin like a capable human being, went over Calvin's list of "out of school" activities with us. I think he was just curious, or he may have been checking in because he knows that Calvin is homeschooled, and although we seemed to pass any test that might have been administered, we also seemed to flummox him with regards to Calvin's arts involvement. That's a lot of music, he said. It wasn't said with any kind of tone, so I don't know if it was meant as a judgement or merely as an expression of surprise, but it got me thinking. 

Calvin has choir rehearsal twice a week, band rehearsal twice a week, dance class twice a week, and a weekly piano lesson. He participates in anywhere from 2 to 4 theatrical performances a year. We study fine arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, and art viewing) at least twice a week. This is a lot, especially when I see it typed up here in front of me, and by no means do I think this level of involvement is right for everyone. But Calvin does the performing arts the way other kids do sports. He is trying several of them, and the amount of time he dedicates to them over the year is not really more than a child involved in team sports dedicates to those. Yet his involvement in the fine arts elicits a very different response than a child receives who is heavily involved in sports. 

Why this unequal respect for the two main paths of "extracurricular" involvement? Sports are heavily lauded for the benefits they bestow upon their participants, and rightly so. A sense of teamwork, self-respect, and physical fitness are just three of the many important things they are charged with teaching kids, and I don't at all doubt the veracity of those claims. I do, however, think the same things are taught through participation in the performing arts. I read an article recently that urged people to stop defending arts in the schools, the argument being that they need no defense, their value speaks for itself. If that were true, though, the battle for funding and support wouldn't be raging as we speak.

So in defense of performing arts in schooling (home or not), here are some of the things kids will learn or gain from that study:

Self discipline
It won't come right away. It might take years to achieve, in fact, but practice is self-discipline, and all arts require it. I've always told Calvin at the piano that music practice in particular is self-policing. Practice is sitting down to play a small part of a song over and over again until the whole family is going crazy, but you can finally play it right. You can't fake it, it's either right or it isn't. If it isn't, keep practicing. 

Accountability
The point of practice, or self-discipline, is to perfect a skill. In the days between classes or lessons, kids are responsible for putt their best effort into this achievement. It's a little like homework in that a parent can make a kid sit down and play their scales they way they can make them finish their math, but arts practice is less mechanical in nature, and the resulting achievements are assessed more fluidly. Ultimately, students practicing the fine arts are more responsible for the value of their practice time, and, thus, more fully accountable for their achievements or lack thereof.

The skill of public speaking
This is an obvious benefit from stage performance, but the ability to get up in front of others is taught in any and all performing arts. It's in the performing part. In preparing works to share with others, be they piano songs practiced for recital, or vocal music to be performed in a choir concert, children are learning the skills of selection and preparation with an eye toward communicating with an audience. Then they actually get up in front of that audience. Not everyone who practices performing arts will be a talented public speaker, but I'm willing to bet that they will all at least improve in this area.

Confidence and Self-respect
Similar to the skill of public speaking, kids who go through years of performing arts education gain a level of self respect from lessons learned about preparation and performance. Youth performance environments are designed to be supportive and encouraging. The main goal of youth recitals is to help young performers gain confidence in their skills and in themselves. A secondary lesson is: put your best into it, get your best out of it. Everyone applauds at a child's recital, which is supportive and encouraging, but kid will know when they've truly done their best, and many will learn to respect themselves and the process enough to the work in between.

Perseverance
Nothing is more frustrating than a section of song you can't quite get, or a line you can't remember correctly, or a step you keep tripping on. And nothing is more rewarding than finally getting it right. Practice may not always make perfect, but done correctly it does always improve capability, and that reward teaches perseverance.

Collaboration
Duets, ensembles, stage performances, dance troupes...though many people think of performing arts as producing divas, the truth is that, as in sports, there are more team players in the discipline than individual rising stars. Get your instruments in tune, set up group practices, follow the director as one, don't miss your entrances. Collaboration is key.

Self expression
All kids long for self-expression. We see this in the child singing at the top of their lungs in the shower, or in the three year old screaming at the top of their lungs on the grocery store floor. Performance arts, any fine arts, really, provide a healthy means of self-expression.

Social exploration
Any collaborative approach in any performing art gives kids a common goal and asks them to set differences aside to achieve it. As part of team work, kids will learn ways to overcome social obstacles together. More literally, kids participating in theatrical arts are given the opportunity to play-act a wide variety of social situations. Kids do this on their own in imaginative play, but here they'll do it with the benefit of coaching.

Cultural and global exploration
All of the arts are celebrations of culture and heritage, and many performing arts programs seek out pieces from world cultures for students to try out and learn from. 

Health and fitness
Especially true in theater and dance, but to some extent in all disciplines, the arts require a healthy life style and encourage physical fitness. While this necessity is obvious in dancers, think also of the need for great breath control and capacity in singers and wind instrumentalists, and also posture and fine motor control for all musicians. Piano players have some really strong arms and amazing abs.

Expansion and connection of all other subject areas
We've probably all heard about the studies linking music in particular to improved mental acuity and performance in other subject areas, like math. Reading music can help students improve their language skills as well. But we also try to include music, literature, and visual arts in our history and culture studies as we go. Since the arts are a celebration of culture and heritage, arts through time can be considered primary sources—snapshots in time—and there is a lot to be gained from studying them.