I love these session with other teaching artists. Today was Rhythm and Words led by Alex, a drummer/percussionist who I’ve met before. He did some great warm ups and introduction pieces that got us up and engaged. I plan on working some of these in somehow in the future. 


He then introduced his technique of associating word and beats, starting with one, two, three and four syllable words: Rice, corn bread, sesame, ramen noodles. We played sticks on orange buckets to those words, tried different tones (areas on the buckets) to each food example. We then put them in different orders. This all goes towards developing the sense of composition in rhythm, and the ability to make artistic decisions. 


We then paired off, and I worked with Jenny. We decided to do Quaker concepts since we were in the Friends Center in Philly. We picked Peace, Justice, Liberty and Love in the World and worked out our composition and played ours along with the others. 


We took a break and returned for another exercise. Alex had a set of percussion set up, and picked up a shaker of some sort. He then asked how does this sound taste, smell, what color it is, how does it feel. It’s a way he gets kids to think outside the box and extend their creative thoughts into words, phrases, etc. 


He then sat down at his array of percussion and asked us to shut our eyes while he play a ‘piece’. He then asked us to interpret what happened, to find a narrative and then to write down some words. We then paired up, formed some combination of our tales and wrote it down on paper. He then picked up the papers and redistributed them to the different groups. Then the groups picked out various instruments and set out to adding sounds to the paragraphs. We then presented our interpretations of the written words, now minus the words, and we had to figure out who’s piece was whom’s.


The thing that I love about these sessions in the group of artists that partake in them. We are a motley crew of musicians, poets, dancers, theater people, but all with an interest in being teaching artists. That means we are used to making creative decisions, taking risks as part of our make up as artists. There’s lots of juice flowing and it’s great to be in these collaborative situations. 


We all come away informed, enthused and reminded that we are creative artists first and musicians, poets, etc. second. It’s always worth the effort to attend these seminars and I come away for the better.