Feb. 29, 2012 - Issue #854: Gobal Visions
A musical history
The ESO is using classical music to teach social studiesTo learn social studies content, 10 000 students from Edmonton's schools took a field trip to the Winspear Centre in mid-February. Kids from Grades 4 – 6 participated in one of three education programs that the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra will deliver this year.
Resident conductor Lucas Waldin developed and conducted the program, "Alberta: Songs of Our Land" which featured the ESO along with performers from Alberta's First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. "I put this program together not only to reinforce the social studies curriculum of Grades 4 – 6, but to really feature the wonderful diversity of Aboriginal communities and artists that we have within Edmonton and within Alberta," Waldin explains.
Among these performers was a group of Cree drummers from the Enoch Cree Nation, and Peggy Richardson, an Inuit elder, who performed Inuit throat singing. "We had also some wonderful young Métis fiddlers from Prince Charles School," Waldin explains. "This is a group of elementary students who fiddle every week, and I was going to the school basically every week to help prepare them to come in and perform on the Winspear stage."
To create educational programs, Waldin reads the curriculum for the grades that will be attending. He noticed the social-studies curriculum places a large focus on teaching about Aboriginal groups. "There was a key [phrase], which was, 'Celebrate the diversity of traditions' here in our big province," Waldin says of the curriculum. "I decided to try to find out what kinds of Aboriginal performers were available.
"I work really often with these artists and these groups and learned a lot about their traditions and about their cultures so that I could bring it into a symphony setting and then present it rhythmically and accurately to the students," he says, explaining the process of building relationships with the artists.
The program's theme, "Songs of our Land," was the link that connected the Aboriginal musicians' performance with the ESO's performance of classical music, among which was Dvořák's New World Symphony. "The way I was able to combine them was actually to show how many cultures and traditions, not only Aboriginal, but also the European composers, were inspired by the land, and used music to depict the wonders of nature and to instill a sense of respect for the surroundings, and to tell the stories and legends of their lands."
The show also featured works by two Alberta composers. Malcolm Forsyth's "Atayoskewin" had been the inspiration for this piece. As well as The "Great Northern Diver," a piece about the loon, written by composer-in-residence, Robert Rival. "All of these pieces, Aboriginal or classical, really reinforced the theme of the land," Waldin says.
The educational shows are interactive—he continually asks students questions, or he will invite someone up to the stage to play the recorder, for example. To keep students' attention and ensure they are invested in the performance, Waldin connects the new material that he presents to information students have already learned before. "I try to link every point to something that they have already learned in school, something they have learned in the curriculum," he says. "This way, they feel really empowered, because it's a new setting—they think they might be overwhelmed, or not be able to understand, but if you link it to something they already know, then they say, 'Hey, I know this! I have a connection with what's going on onstage, and I feel like I can participate.' To be able to hear a pin drop when I'm delivering these speeches from the stage is really one of the most amazing experiences, I think, in my position." vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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