Friday, April 15, 2011

Class band.

In the past 3 years of teaching, I've tackled some scary subject units.
British history (eek!), metric conversions (sometimes I still have to check with the back of the textbook for verification), French verb conjugation (high school was a long time ago), long division (thank goodness my kids are sharp!), and punctuation and grammar rules (why does the English language have to be so messy!?) to name a few.
But never, ever up to this point have I attempted such a daunting endeavor as... A class band.

You may be surprised, as there are few things I love more than music. But please keep in mind that loving music and TEACHING music are two very different things.

This year however, I've decided to give it a go. As soon as I mentioned it after devotions one morning, my kids were all in - pulling out their instruments from home, ranging all the way from electric guitar amps to harmonicas.
Fortunately, my mom was here to get the ball rolling when she was visiting a few weeks ago. She taught Zach, Noah and Caleb as if her guitar teaching days in London were only yesterday. They tuned their strings, got a feel for a few basic strumming patterns, and then we moved into chords. Since she left and Grayden has returned from vacation, the boys have acquired a solid base of chords and have been jamming out to 'Wavin' Flag', 'Awesome God' and 'Lions' (by Lost and Found).

In the meantime, Ana and Mina have been learning the ropes of playing the recorder (which might I add was one of the best finds I've ever made at the dollar store!). We've nailed out the notes for the 'Here I am to Worship' chorus, with the girls doing the harmony and me holding down the melody (what a sight!). Unfortunately, their little fingers put them at a disadvantage when covering the air holes, which results in frequent high-pitched reverberations, but they don't give up easily. It's currently 6:23pm on Friday night and I can hear them practicing on the porch downstairs. Bless their hearts.

Lastly, we have Bridgely, who initially I had thought could join in with the girls and I in our 'winds section', or learn some basic rhythm patterns on the bongo to compliment our band with percussion. He had some other ideas. This past Christmas, he received a harmonica and sheet music accompaniment, and when I gave him a choice between drums and recorders, he asked to give the harmonica a go instead. Initially I hesitated because I've never even attempted playing the harmonica in my life. I could see in his eyes he was really hoping I would agree, so I resolved that enthusiasm was enough to give it a fair shot. After testing it out a bit myself in the corners of quietness, I wrote down a few patterns on a post-it note and left him to it. I quickly discovered that he's a natural.

All of this to say that even though class band is as chaotic and headache prone as I imagined, it's been such a thrill for me to see my kids take the little I know and run far beyond with the natural talents and determination they possess.

I still spin from one instrument cluster to the next, each producing their own flavour of harmonies. I write out notes and numbers. I clap out rhythms. I count them in. I review finger positions. I raise my voice to be heard above the noise. I start over again. I am very well aware that I am in over my head. But I'm learning that it's okay.

A few days ago while practicing with Ana and Mina, I made a complete fool of myself as I demonstrated the melody and totally messed up the notes. The girls still looked at me like a world-class orchestra conductor. When I moved to the porch where the boys were jamming, they nodded their heads to the rhythm that I played out as if I had years of experience to my name. They may or may not know that I still can't play the B minor chord properly, and I never use a capo because I don't know how it works. They could care less.
Then I move over to Bridgely working faithfully on the harmonica. He can play way better than I ever had, and when I start gushing, Caleb remembers that he's got a harmonica laying around in his room upstairs and decides to get it. Before I know it, Bridgely's teaching him the ropes and they've got their own thing going.

My kids are getting good and clearly it's by no merit to me. And even better, we're learning more than just music notes. We're learning about each other. We're learning about the talents God has given us. We're learning how practice pays off. We're learning that it's okay to laugh. We're learning that it's not only the the sounds we make that can blend and harmonize and benefit each other, but our unique personalities and abilities.

Like when Mina builds so much air pressure blowing her recorder that it comes out her other end and we all bust a gut laughing. When the school day ends and the boys remain in the classroom jamming with each other and playing 'Smoke on the Water' from the low base to the highest pitched string. When Bridgely nudges my jot notes on a post-it closer to Caleb and they play together.

It doesn't matter that I'm not a professional. It doesn't matter that I've never done this before. It doesn't matter that we don't have brass and keys and electrical equipment to put on a professional show. The audiences we perform for will no doubt be enthralled, and the Lord will smile at our joyful noise.

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth:
make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
~ Psalm 98:4

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