Friday, November 6, 2009

Getting My Little Musical Angels Ready for their Big Day

I didn't mention earlier that I work one day a week as a music coach for students in an after-school program based in southeast DC. As a music coach, I am helping them prepare for a show they are participating in next month. The after-school program focuses on poetry and sports and they chose to incorporate music into the curriculum to help retain students who were more likely to lose interest. The contractual agreement with them entails me working with the students for 8 days to prepare one of their poems into a song and then record it for distribution.

Sounds pretty straightforward? Of course. The one missing fact was that these children have absolutely no experience performing before and absolutely NO interest in performing. At least they didn't the first day with them. I'd like to think that has changed.

"Uh, hell no"

On my first day with them last month, I had two girls and about 8 boys who were very endearing from day one. I did an activity with them called "My Museum" that I developed which allows me to introduce myself to the kids in a way that is interactive and is actually a very helpful icebreaker tool. I showed them my "Museum" which was a table I had laid out my book on, small percussion instruments, and other small mementos that are important to me. I shared what each item signified. They then, in turn, talked about three items that they would put in their museum and why they were significant.

Next, we did an exercise with the instruments that I had brought in and they shared with me information that they already had about instruments (wind, percussion and string) and rhythm. We had a fine ole time that first day. Until I asked them did they know that they had an upcoming performance in Dec. They all looked at me blankly.

"Performance. You have one. In December. Uh, hello?"


"Ok, um, well, who here would like to perform in December in your upcoming show?"

No hands.


Garbled mumble from the cute little girl sitting next to me. I think she said "Uh, hell no."

Ok, so that was Day One.

Better it Gets

The second week was a bit more encouraging and we actually did a really fun hour-long activity where they played the instruments and followed commands as a band. This second day, only one girl showed up-- this time a different girl-- and three new boys showed up. Three boys from the first day were missing.

Yesterday was day three. I had called out on Tuesday due to a severe migraine and I just learned that I may have an allergy to peanut butter. But, I digress. So, I went in on Thursday and once again, I had two new kids and several missing. But, the boy from the first day who had called himself king of his team was there and I was so glad. This boy is 13, really loud, but a great leader and the kids follow him as if he was their preacher. Thankfully, he really enjoys my session with them and does what I ask him to do. I basically just give him directions and he leads his team.

They have split themselves into two teams, named themselves and are working on their song that I helped lead them to write using an excercise I developed called "Poetry Puzzle". I wrote a chorus for them and they went to work. Yesterday they performed what they had so far and it brought tears to my eyes. Here is an example of some of what they came up with:

"Call me nice, Call me mean, I’m something you’ve never seen" -Brandon

"I am strong Like lions, People call me tiger, Like the horizon" -John

"My life is free

My life is free

My life is free-ee

It’s all up to me

It’s all up to meI

t’s all up to me

I will shine like the sun

I will shine like the sun


The day is done

Cause I am number one, number one"

-Group 5 Stars

"We are fly like the sky

As we glide we wave good-bye"- Burrell

"My life is free like Sweet hot tea

And it makes me feel

Like a stingy bubble bee" -Alexander

My honey is a music producer and will be coming in with me on Tuesday to record them. Fingers crossed that they will shine like there those lyrics. I'm so proud!

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