Repetition is Key

Even though it was a rainy day, Robertson House was full of energy today. I said hello to some familiar faces and met three new children who where very interested in touching the guitar. I explained they would be able to touch it after class and that it was time to start the Hello Song which meant sitting down on the carpet and placing their hands in their laps. This went over well for two of them, but the third child had to be removed from class when he got a tad overzealous and chose not to listen to his caregiver.

Knowing that I was going to be handing out lyrics sheets after class I made sure to go over a bunch of repertoire which resulted in quite a bit of review. We were able to get through the following tunes: I Wake Up My Hands, Hands Together Hands Apart, Roly Poly, Sticky Sticky Bubblegum, Cleano, Johnny Didn’t Have Any Breakfast, Sleeping Bunnies, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels On The Bus, andZoom Zoom Zoom. 

Instrument of the week was the Tambourine and I made sure to have each child try the proper technique by finding the handle with one hand and using the other hand to tap, like one would on a drum. We also practiced this idea standing and used the entire body to Shake Your Sillies Out.

We then brought out the Jam Bag and sang our hearts out to Three Little Birds, De-Oh, and The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It is very rewarding to observe the group week to week. Participants sing more confidently and begin to sound more “musical.” This is truly indicative of how repetition is essential in learning musical concepts and behaviors that go along with playing certain instruments (i.e. There was no banging of maracas on the drums! YAY!)  

Stay tuned…next week we visit the islands to learn some clave rhythms!

Lots of New Faces

I was excited to return to Robertson House this week after the previous week’s class was cancelled due to staff shortage. It was a pleasant surprise to be greeted by lots of excited bodies, and after speaking with one of the shelter workers I realized they had been doing quite a bit of promotion during the day to make sure that we had a good number of residents attending. It was a bit chaotic as people were still getting settled and I felt like I was going to have trouble remaining in control, so I decided to try a shorter version of the Hello Song, singing only three verses; one directed at the children, one directed at the grownups and one to myself so that they knew my name.

Starting with a chant like Roly Poly tends to ensure that I have the attention of the majority of the group, however, I was challenged at the beginning of class with some behavioral issues which led to slight chaos among the grownups. Switching gears I tried singing a familiar song, I Wake Up Hands, and had most people singing along. I was encouraged by this and repeated another familiar song from the first week of class, Sticky Sticky Bubblegum. Sensing they could handle a new song, I took them through the actions for Hands Together, Hands Apart and watched as the grownups started to settle in to listening and singing together. We also repeated The Wheels On The Bus and Old MacDonald, yet kept things exciting with a three verse version of The Itsy Bitsy Spider. After some encouragement I was able to get most of the group standing as we marched around the room singing The Ants Go Marching.

Once the group was seated I brought out the maracas and gave a detailed demonstration on how to play them properly, by placing the thumbs on top and flicking the wrist to ensure a crisp, clear sound. I also made sure to mention that we were not to use the maracas to play on other instruments. This took some explaining and as some little ones helped me bring out the big bag of instruments, I felt more comfortable communicating with the large (somewhat chatty) group.

For the jam portion of the class, I had to stop a couple of times to reiterate the maraca lesson,however, it was smooth sailing from here on out as many of the grownups played instruments and sang loudly to De-Oh and The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

I decided to finished the class off with the parachute. First by instructing the grownups to shake up and down fast to a recording of La Bamba, and then demonstrating how to go up and down more slowly so that the children could lie underneath looking up at the rainbow of colors.

Before I sang the Goodbye Song I made sure to tell them I appreciated them all being there. I also explained that by attending each week it will become more routine and even more enjoyable as they become comfortable with the music material. I also held up the RSF CD and explained to them that after three classes they would get their very own copy! After we sang goodbye, I made sure to introduce myself to each mom and learn the names of her children so that I would know them for next week. The staff also held a raffle for the residents at the end of the class and I let them know that it is a great incentive for them to join us each and every week. So, kudos to the staff at Robertson House!

We Almost Doubled!

It was a great second week at the Birkdale family residence. We almost doubled our attendance with 17 mothers and children in attendance. Six of the children and one mother were repeat participants; the other seven children and three adults were new. They all enjoyed singing “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Sticky Bubblegum,” “Everybody Knows That I Love My Toes,” “Six Little Ducks,” and, “Old McDonald”. The tambourine was the instrument of the week. Like last week, the children did an excellent job of sharing the tambourines, as well as the other instruments, during the jam session. They are proving to be an enthusiastic and fun group to work with.

Brian Returns to Birkdale

Had lots of fun returning to Birkdale Residence. We had eight children and one adult singing and clapping. They enjoyed “I Wake Up My Hands,” “Baby Shark,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” “All de Nations Like Bananas,” and “I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas.” One child did express her displeasure at the last two songs – because she didn’t like bananas. Oh well! The children enjoyed learning about and playing the tambourine. They were very cooperative sharing the instruments during the jam session. And of course, the parachute was a great hit, producing lots of laughing and jumping. Looking forward to a larger group with more adults next week.

New Year, New Blog

Today was the first day back at Robertson House after a busy holiday season. I took some time over the break to create some goals for the session, yet I realized as I do every time I prepare for a class that I must be prepared to go with the flow and be open to the ideas/inspiration set forth by the people I meet. I arrived about half an hour early to help organize the room and reconnect with the various staff members who were also returning from holidays. I noticed that the room was ready to go and set up slowly reacquainting myself with the large space in which we play. I was lucky to have Jo, my RSF Co-ordinator, attend the first class and found her presence, as always, to be a wonderful calm to my sometimes somewhat excited energy.

One little boy was standing outside the door and seemed rather curious and after inviting him into the room I learned his name. After giving him a name tag and explaining what RSF was all about, he excitedly said “I have to go get my mom!” He hurried off and shortly returned with a woman who brought with her three other children. She explained to me that she was the mother to five children and was expecting another (one was napping upstairs). I couldn’t believe it. Can you imagine having six children?! I told her how happy I was that her family could join us and told her to sit however she was most comfortable. Well didn’t she sit right down on the floor with her beautiful kids and smile! Her energy was incredible and infectious.

I started with teaching some sign language (hello, goodbye and their individual names) and got to know their interests. I discovered that they were familiar with several traditional children’s songs and decided to show them the RSF CD and what songs we would try singing that day. We started with I Wake Up Hands and Sticky Sticky Bubblegum. Moving along slowly we also did Wheels On The Bus and I’ve Been Working On The Railroad. Animal songs are always a hit and so I taught them Sleeping Bunnies, which had us laughing when one of the oldest boys was spooked by the guitar at one particular part in the song. Then I brought out the Bean Bag and asked them what colour and shape it was. I was impressed to see them answering the questions so quickly and confidently. The oldest boy interjected at one point and said “When will you be playing the guitar again?” and I knew in that moment that he was hooked. It was a great feeling.

For IOTW I demonstrated how to play the Djembe Drum. I started by asking them a series of questions such as “Which body part do you play the drum with?” and “Where did you first hear the sound of a drum?” When the second question seemed to stump them I explained that they first heard the sound of the drum inside their mother’s belly, and that in fact, it was the sound of her heartbeat. Then I played a steady “heartbeat” on the drum to make my point. I passed the drum around and asked them to try keeping a beat whether it be fast or slow. The we brought out the instruments and played Momma Don’t Allow giving each group of instruments a chance to solo.

Overall it was a wonderful start to the year with a extremely attentive group. At the end, more than one child said “That was fun!” and that is always music to my ears.