At the heart of Bridge Boston Charter School’s El Sistema-inspired music program is a commitment to empower young students to become active creators of their own future. Our program’s instructional scope and sequence is supplemented with the socio-emotional Tools of the Mind curriculum, an identified set of problem solving skills that guide young people’s strategic reasoning, insightfulness, creativity, and craftsmanship. The understanding and application of Tools of the Mind skills assist individuals to work through real life situations by responding with awareness, critical thought, and intentional strategy.
This past summer, with the assistance of the Sistema Fellowship Resource Center, I was fortunate to examine how musical composition supports the development of socio-emotional skills described in the Tools of the Mind curriculum. I enrolled in Creative Music Training, a the summer workshop offered by London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, to better understand the processes and products of collaborative group composition and to observe how such creative projects could support the learning goals outlined in the Tools of the Mind curriculum.
The weeklong workshop proved to be a promising beginning to my inquiry. At the start of the course, two enthusiastic teachers, Natasha Zielazinski and Detta Danford, led participants in multiple short-term dynamic collaborative exercises. In one activity, Natasha and Detta created an imaginary ball for each participant to first pass to each other in a circle and then playfully manipulate the ball’s size, texture, sound, and purpose. As an educator I saw great potential in this activity to not only encourage young musicians to follow a conductor but more importantly to promote creative ability in altering the imaginary ball and exercise flexible and interdependent thinking in communicating a new object into the group activity.
During the second half of the week, two renowned educators, Sigrun Griffiths and Paul Griffiths, led a large-scale group composition in which middle school students and adults created and performed an original musical piece. To complete this task, Sig and Paul divided all participants into smaller groups, and instructed each group to compose a specific section for the larger composition. For three entire days, these smaller groups continuously presented their progress to the larger class, allowing for all members to actively reflect and respond to the emerging work. I found this process of providing and receiving feedback to construct a culminating musical piece extremely valuable in practicing Tools of the Mind’s valued skills such as developing one’s critical thought, reasoning and craftsmanship.
I'm looking forward to furthering my understanding of the correlation between group composition and Tools of the Mind socio-emotional skills, and eventually constructing means to formally assess the acquisitions of these skills.
Does your music program or musical instruction practice highlight the Tools of the Mind curriculum? Do you incorporate collaborate group composition? Email me at julieLdavis[at]gmail(dot)com
For more information about the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s Creative Music Training workshop, visit Creative Music Training. For more information on the Tools of the Mind curriculum, visit Tools of the Mind.
Julie Davis, Sistema Fellow '12