Can you hear the music?
Every August Edmonton’s river valley rings with the sound of music from the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Our family has been attending for years, and it is always a highlight of the summer. I love the music, the camaraderie in the line-ups, the beautiful view, the food, and watching people come together.
For me, the best part is found in the workshop sessions. I am never quite sure what will happen when I first see the eclectic group of performers brought together on the stage, often meeting each other for the first time. Sometimes they politely take turns playing their songs while the audience enjoys the music. But other times, those different groups up on the stage come together to make magic. Someone starts a piece, and gradually the others join in. Each new instrument adds a layer until there is a rich, complex sound that pulls the audience in and brings them to their feet cheering. The best results may come from a familiar well-worn tune that each adds their own riff to. Or the musicians might rise to the challenge of adding their signature to an intricate song while the others support and keep the beat going. It is pure magic to watch them come together and become more than what they were individually. Sheer genius!
I can’t wait to bring this to my classroom with Genius Hour this year. My classroom is the workshop. I can follow that familiar tune, taking turns playing our notes and practicing until it is perfect. Muted applause. But what if we create spaces for students and teachers to play together, gain some confidence with the melody and take a chance playing a solo in the spotlight? Magic. Yes, sometimes there will be a hesitancy to jump in, and there might be a wrong chord here and there. But there will be joy in coming together and sharing the experience. Just like the performers on the session stage, they will listen to and learn from each other. And I hope it will bring my students to their feet cheering for more.
I know that I can use a number of tools to construct the stage and provide the authentic audience. Our class Twitter account will let students reach out to experts for advice and answers to their questions, and inspire new questions for inquiry. We will set up Skype sessions for performances, and I am looking forward to using Google Hangouts and Edmodo for connections. Since this will be the first time I’ve used them, I am sure I will be dropping a few notes, but together we will figure it out. Finally, having students use their blogs to record and reflect on the experience means that it is not limited to a specific time and space, but lives on. Just like at Folk Fest, we will have an authentic audience that is pulled in to the show and will leave knowing they’ve been part of something special.
Will it be a polished performance? Perhaps not, but there will be a joyful noise – and I can’t wait to hear that music!