April 3, 2015: Music

Individual freedom, with responsibilities to the group.

Congratulations to all the 4th graders.  The presentations of "To Be a Drum" were phenomenal.  Thank you for coming to the performance, and for your thoughtful reflections on their learning.

Over the course of the project I observed many examples of our students working through problems together, students who are refining their IB Learner Profiles "Inquirer," "Open-Minded," "Communicator," "Knowledgeable," "Thinker" as well as IB Attitudes, "Commitment," "Confidence," "Curiosity," "Enthusiasm," "Cooperation" to name a few.

As you know, our "To Be a Drum" project connected to the 4th grade Migration unit by studying forced migration.  We are now connecting to the "Government" unit through a brief study of Jazz.

Exploring Jazz music and history through the lens of the US Constitution and Democracy

Over only a few classes we have been exposed to music performed or composed by Herbie Hancock, Ella Fitzgerald, Ornette Coleman, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Scott Joplin ("Hey that's the Ice Cream Truck song!"), Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Branford Marsalis, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis.  We listened to it, moved to it, played with it.  As different as all this music is, with musicians of so many different backgrounds, it is all Jazz. 

How are Jazz and Democracy related?  In a perfect democracy individuals have freedom to do what they wish, hopefully improving the group's overall experience.  In a Jazz band, each musician agrees on the structure (Tune, Key, Form etc.) but is free to improvise through solos or by comping the soloist.  Hopefully by listening carefully to each other, and responding with what we feel at the moment, our musical choices will improve the group's musical experience and start to "Swing." 

Please enjoy and perhaps revisit these delightful short conversations between Sandra Day O'Connor and Wynton Marsalis with your child: 

How a Jazz band has checks and balances like the branches of government:

How Jazz has bridged the gap between races in America:
An article that we read as a class:  
"How Jazz Helped Hasten the Civil-Rights Movement"  (WSJ Jan 15, 2009)

During our discussion of this article, one student made a connection between the stories in this article and the book "Bud, Not Buddy."  Please continue this conversation at home if you're inclined. 

Listen to a 4th grade Jazz Band balance their branches on a version of Miles Davis' "So What."  I'm including this example because I wanted you to appreciate how much the first player struggles with getting the piece started.  Through those phrases, he remained Committed to making it work.  He could have given up.  At the same time, the entire class practiced Appreciation, Empathy, Respect and Cooperation.  Listen to the bass player come in with a walking bass line to support the 2 soloists' improvisations.  The players comping the soloists are actively listening and Balancing and the whole thing starts to Swing.

"How can we figure out to meet each other objectives, and be together, and for it to feel good?" - Wynton Marsalis.  This will be our mantra going forward. 

We begin our Art & Music connection to the 4th Grade "Fictional Stories" unit next week.  Let there be Leitmotifs.
Peter Musselman
2-5 Music Specialist