Building Community Through Song Writing

This is my first year as the 4th and 5th grade general music teacher in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It’s always my goal to extend the musical experience beyond the classroom and into the lives of the musicians that visit my music classroom. I have written an article for the Michigan Music Educators Journal about breaking down the wall between “school” music and “real” music. This is a wall that musicians build in their mind caused by the disconnect from their school musical experiences The music that is the soundtrack of their lives is different. Music 2 Save Music is bridging those  experiences into one “music”. The way the students are talking about their songs and the purpose behind their musical decision making is shifting the culture of my new classroom. The musicians are taking the experiences home. I have only met with the 4/5 grade classes 3 times. The first meeting was a time for community building. I was a new teacher and we needed to begin building relationships right away if we were going to become a supportive community of risk-takers. The first couple of meetings was where Music 2 Save Music emerged as a purpose for our expressive music making.

Last week on Monday, I met with the East Hills Middle School musicians. Mrs. Rowe’s class framed the next few weeks in beginning our whole class composition. We shared our thinking about whether to start with the harmony, melody, rhythm, or vocals first. Understandably, the class was undecided. Every musician begins their creative process differently. The class decided to form collaborative groups that would focus on each and come back together. Class time ended before the musicians were able to realize their parts. On the way out, one of the lyricists asked if she could work on the song at home. Later that evening I got this in me email 

Lyrics:

Verse:

Try to bring me down but I won’t fall. I’m gonna build up a big brick wall.

You know I don’t quit. I’ll never stop trying.

Gonna reach my goal. Forget all the crying.

Cuz, I’ll get to the top. Whatever it takes.

I know what to do and I’ve learned from my mistakes.

Chorus:

You try to bring me down, but I refuse to fall.

I’m gonna stand up, big and tall.

You know how I work. You know how I live.

Shooting for the stars and just dream big.

It was great to be included in the connection this songwriter made with the experience that we shared at school. Mrs. Rowe’s class came to the music room again today. This is the first songwriting experience that most of the musicians have been a part of. We are using Logic Pro X, a M-Audio MIDI keyboard, and a Blue Spark condenser microphone to record our music, which is all new to these musicians as well. The class was excited to engage in the songwriting and recording process, yet reluctant to share their voices to sing the lyrics. As the song came together (lyrical melody supported by harmonic structure), the class began to take more ownership of the music and their singing became more confidant. At the end of today’s class, a different lyricist approached me with a notebook clenched to her body and said, “Mr. M, I have added some lyrics and changed the melody a little bit to the words we already wrote.” I enjoy learning more about the musicians that come see me, and am realizing that there is creativity surfacing. There needs to be a sense of trust reciprocally built in a new music classroom that will support these risks and celebrate accomplishmants. I am excited to be a part of the community that is being built in my new music rooms. I will leave you with the progress that was made today with Mrs. Rowe’s class song.

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