Every summer I teach at choir camp as part of being on the faculty of the Seattle Girls’ Choir. It is a chance to gather as an organization; a system with all of its moving parts in a beautiful setting on the Puget Sound.
The purpose of camp is to work consecutively over many days culminating in a small concert, and the other purpose is to bond with each other, students, faculty, and chaperones. I am always amazed at what happens to a group in 6 days. I experience this bonding of a group in meditation retreats as well.
Not only do we sing, have campfires and walks, make crafts, but we have electives for smaller groups. I teach rhythm and Movement. This is a chance for me to work directly with 10-12 girls ages 10-15 on some very specific features of music. In the end, we work on much more than that.
They are hungry for the teaching; a much bigger teaching, a way of Being, an approach to learning and a standard of excellence. For me and for them, it is not about the end result. That is a by product of the process we go through.
Through music and movement, I have a chance to instill principles in them that will stay with them forever. I can give them something to ponder. I can help build their self esteem. I can challenge them to do more than they think they can.
Even a conversation can mean so much to a young girl of this age.
This year, I set out to have them analyse the rhythm segment of the hip hop song Tennessee, They chose which instruments, from drain pipes and trash can lids to traditional drums, cowbells and claves to be the most appropriate for the sounds from this synthetic track. Once that was done, we would set a form to follow which requires real focus and attention. The patterns are extremely repetitive and dense; something a produced track is used for nowadays. When I played the song for them, they looked at me like deer in the headlights.
The process became perfecting the execution of each part and then keeping track of where we were. By the end, they were chomping at the bit to integrate the sounds, implement their new skills, and produce our creation together as one.
They themselves were motivated to make it better, but it was light hearted and full of laughter. Without prompting, the older ones showed the way by helping the younger ones stay on track when they got off. The desire to stay late and do it one more time was indicative of something very healthy. They got fired up. They themselves wanted to do it right!!!
When it was not good enough, I told them so with the utmost diplomacy and they willingly picked up their sticks again. I was teaching them a standard of excellence that will translate into everything they do. They learned that letting themselves off the hook never produces the right result.
They proved to themselves that anything is possible.
Just a week in the life of a Muse.