Beginning in music can be tough, there is a lot to learn. Formal music lessons get children dealing not only with their instrument, but also with a whole new language of signs and notations that can be overwhelming. Wai Sum Chong, whose ability and passion for teaching I experienced first hand when she taught me piano years ago, created the holiday club Rhythm Circle to help with this. She designed a creative, multisensory method that makes the young learn while moving and playing. On February 23rd, I had the pleasure to contribute to Rhythm Circle with an interactive concert.
The children, ranging between four and ten years old, could see how the saxophone is put together, how it works and learn some differences between the alto and the tenor sax. We held a small colouring contest, and the winner had the chance to press the keys of the sax while I blew it, to experience first hand how the music comes out of the instrument. After that, we addressed the subject of the day: articulation.
The goal was to set the difference between staccato (short, precise notes that don’t connect with the ones around them) and legato (long, soft, connected sounds) in a creative way, playing songs the children knew, like Happy, by Pharrell Williams, or Old MacDonald. With one song, they had to clap when listening to staccato, and wave their hands when legato came into play. Later, we changed the movements, and with the final song, a jazz version of Wade in the Water, it was them who decided whether staccato or legato would be used, shouting the names of the techniques so I shifted to them mid-song. This was really fun and put me through my paces!
I am glad they had the chance to ask questions, learn and have a good time with music. They were a lively group and I hope to see them again on one of the next sessions of Rhythm Circle, that will take place on Easter and during the summer.