the name game

Inspiring ownership of student learning isn’t one of Sympatico’s explicit goals, but it is an implicit part of making sure that learning happens across all of our ensembles.  Without student buy-in, the learning goals that we have can go unmet and unfulfilled as student attention wanders and focus drifts.  Making sure that students are part and parcel of the learning process while also ensuring that they own and are proud of the work that they are doing is essential for Sympatico’s success.

There are many ways to go about this, whether through games and activities or simple rewards.  In JABBA, the music-making process is a collaboration between the instructor and the students.  Ideas for rhythms, solos, and beats are solicited from the students and put together with the instructor’s ideas to create collective and integrated cadences.  The numerous rhythms are complex and require students to remember multiple parts, which is a lot of work.

Getting students to remember the complexities is tricky, but creating code names often helps.  Rather than each part being referred to by a letter or number, students get to name the parts of each piece.  After learning a new part, it becomes a game to see who is able to name that part.  Students are called to “set” – ready position – before being chosen to name the part that was just learned.  Names vary, ranging from Mu Shu and Code Fancy to Lemonade and The Original.

This may not seem like a particularly sophisticated technique, but it is of immense benefit in creating student ownership of the creative and music-making process.  Moreover, students then have something to hang their hat on (metaphorically, anyway) such that the word “Lemonade” or the phrase “Code Fancy” triggers their memory of a beat or rhythm.  Something as simple as naming the part of a cadence gives students the opportunity to invest in their learning, offering pride in and a sense of self-worth at their accomplishments.


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