NCKP 2013 (16) – Singing Through Your Instrument, by Scott Donald and Klondike Steadman

Sat 2013 July 27 @ 11:15am – Singing Through Your Instrument, by Scott Donald and Klondike Steadman.

Mr. Steadman began the Orpheus Academy of Music with the intention of being able to offer private and group classes for students and constant interaction between teachers.

Singing is so beneficial because it brings students joy and allows students to internalize the music before playing. Singing is also a helpful tool for teachers to be able to assess understanding.

Among many of the approaches and methods that teachers at the Orpheus Academy bring, the Kodaly approach is fairly central. It begins with listening, goes on to experience through kinesthetics or visuals, and ends with the presentation of a concept.

Zolton Kodaly (Hungarian composer and educator) believed that music is for everyone and that beautiful music making comes from singing. Begin with the heart and the head, and then move to the fingers. Beginning with the heart and head creates immediate connection with the student and creates an active listening experience. It also lends itself to expressiveness without explanation. Students will sing frequently at home, sometimes even in solfege. Knowing the sound first also leads to self-correction.

Next, Mr. Donald discussed the overlap between the Frances Clark legacy and the Kodaly method. Most obvious is the “sound before sight” approach. In music, the sound is worth a 1000 words instead of a picture. Frances Clark believed in the order hear it, feel it, see it, and then name it. The more you vary the activity (aural, visual, kinesthetic), the deeper the understanding. It is expected that the student should be able to check that the sound matches the picture.

One of the worst ways to begin an activity is to say, “We are going to learn about quarter notes today.” It relates to nothing in the student’s previous experience. It is important to work with the sound first.

Mr. Steadman then discussed the idea of using a Prepare, Present, Practice approach. The prepare phase includes aural/vocal exploration. At the present stage, the student is should already be able to perform the concept musically. Then follows practice.

Mr. Donald showed a video of a student singing and swinging arms for a couple of phrases, with a lovely tapered shape to the phrase. They then brought it to the piano, where the student was very successful in making the phrase sound beautifully shaped, without any discussion of decrescendo or phrasing.

The next video example showed the student listening for a smooth, connected sound.

The next example was interactive with the attendees. We sang Old McDonald while tapping the heavy beats on our thighs and the light beats on our shoulders. This lead to non-standard notation on the whiteboard. Mr. Steadman pointed out afterwards that method books that notate Old McDonald in 4/4 time are wrong and are lying to students! Noone sings Old McDonald with quarter notes – they are actually eighth notes over duple meter. He suggested that if you are using a method book with pieces notated in a way that is working against you, you can correct it by crossing out the time signature and making the quarter notes into eighth notes.

It was fascinating to learn about the overlap between the Francis Clark legacy of teaching and the Kodaly approach!

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3 thoughts on “NCKP 2013 (16) – Singing Through Your Instrument, by Scott Donald and Klondike Steadman”

  1. Hi Joy,
    I have been enjoying your posts. I have been a piano teacher for about 30 years. I started teaching Lets Play Music about 6 years ago. Have you heard of it? I love how so many things it sounds like you learned at your recent conference, totally supports the Lets Play Music philosophy- using all of your senses to experience music, before actually playing it on the piano. You should check it out if you haven’t yet. There website is Where do you live? They just might need a teacher in your area.

    1. Hi Julie, Thanks for your kind comment! I would love to become trained in some kind of early childhood music curriculum someday. We’ll have to see what the future brings!

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