magazine WE LOVE TO IMPROVISE
Los Angeles USA
1 September 2010
Dear MIMA, The mass-media will have us believe that our heroes are celebrities, millionaires and rock stars. Is there room for the everyday heroes who make the world revolve?
Starting in September 2010, MIMA Teachers Kevin Wenzel and Caleb Dance will host a new songwriting program in New York City at the CENTER FOR LIVING, a therapy center for adolescents and young adults participating in outpatient drug abuse rehabilitation.
Photographs & layout by C.Geiseler Photographs by Qai-fi Photographs by Christina Charalambidou
This is community. This is where heroes are born. Many adults underestimate the infl uence that they can have on their communities, and particularly on a younger generation. Who do you love? Who loves you? Can you trust a complete stranger?
CONTENT THE MIMA CONFERENCE SAO PAULO THE FLOW EXPERIENCE by C.Charalambidou
Our daily actions and accomplishm ents seem minute when we compare them to the feats of tho se who grace newspaper covers and cereal boxes. Think about the people that matter most in your life. These people have an immediate connec tion to your existence, which makes human relationships indispensable.
PAGES 4 5 6 1-10 5 7-8
We should not ignore the people aro und us in our search to be heroic, because most often our friends , family and neighbors cry out for a chance to connect with each other at a deeper human level. We are all teachers, guides and role models for one another. We donâ€™t have to look very far for heroes in the modern age , they are right here, in our midst.
CHRISTOPH A. GEISELER MIMA Founder and Executive Director
magazine SEPTEMBER 2010 Edited and Published by Christoph A. Geiseler
Is life not a hundred times too short to get bored? Nietzsche
CONFERENCE PRINCETON UNIVERSITY 16 October 2010 KEYNOTE GILBERTO GIL
Performance by the Princeton University Concert Jazz Ensemble directed by Dr. Anthony D.J. Branker Scholar’s symposium about improvisation in music education, public diplomacy and social entrepreneurship, hosted by Dr. Pauline Oliveros, Dr. Jill Sigman, Dr. Lori Custodero, Dr. Stanley Katz, Dr. Scott Burnham Rev. Paul Raushenbush, Dr. Susan Haig
SPONSORS: PRINCETON UNIVERSITY MUSIC DEPARTMENT • PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PROGRAM IN JAZZ STUDIES • PRINCETON UNIVESRITY PROGRAM IN LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES • PRINCETON UNIVERSITY VICE PRESIDENT FOR CAMPUS LIFE • PRINCETON UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR ARTS AND CULTURAL POLICY STUDIES • PRINCETON UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL CENTER • US EMBASSY BUENOS AIRES • MIMAMUSIC.ORG
icipatfessional musicians. They have part Rafael Rocha and Qai-fi are two pro iting s in Brazil and hosted a free songwr ed in multiple MIMA training program for the kids of ACM Leide das Neves. workshop in Sao Paulo in July 2010
What can we do to help?
. personal emails and communication INSPIRE: Voice our support through Sao Paulo. TRANSFORM: Link our contacts to . visit their community and help out CREATE: Take a trip to Sao Paulo to e. sibl pos ks of Art in every way CELEBRATE: Trumpet the finished wor
THE FLOW EXPERIENCE Music Ed. in Cyprus by Christina Charalambidou
Cyprus completed its first phase in June 2010 and now we’re starting to plan new MIMA projects on the island. There are so many beautiful and vital experiences that I would like to share with you. I experienced moments that stimulated myself, but also ones that disappointed me. Being with the children and observing their transformation helped me to overcome difficult obstacles and improve my own skills as a teacher.
the energy and the professional performance that was presented by the Rio group. At the end of the clip, all the children started asking me if it was real and if the teenagers weren’t professional musicians. At that moment, the group was stimulated and they had a very high level of expectation. They were ready to ROCK! I thought to myself, “This is it, this is the REAL THING, I have to meet their expectations!”
I worked with the St. Demetris group for 12 weeks and met them once While using the MIMA methodol- a week for 40 minutes, and sometimes ogy, I quickly experienced indica- for 80 minutes. I used the MIMA methtions of a “Flow Experience.” odology to organize my lessons and based each lesson on a specific theme. The first thing that comes to I adjusted the lessons according to the mind is my first day at the St. Demetris musical, emotional and social learning School. Twenty-eight 6th grade children needs of the group. Eight students from were looking at me in wonder and think- the group had some instrumental skills ing to themselves, “oh not again, an- and the rest of them joined the proother project!” I showed them the short gram to learn to play pitched and nonMIMA video called “Mulheres” from pitched percussion instruments. While Rio de Janeiro. While they were watch- using the MIMA methodology, I quickly ing the clip, their eyes started sparkling experienced indications of a “Flow Exwith excitement. They were amazed by perience.”
Columbia University Professor and Music Ed-
ucation specialist Dr. Lori Custodero writes in an article for the journal “Music Education Research” that a “flow experience” is when individuals are “in a state of optimal enjoyment where their ideas ‘flowed’ without obstacles...and directed further involvement in the task.” “Flow” opens the gates for creativity, free expression, motivation, authenticity and an embrace of community and culture. The students in Cyprus started anticipating each session and their favorite activities. Then, in each session, they started expanding MIMA activities by raising the bar of proximal development, and extending ideas outside MIMA sessions. When the children experienced these three levels, it was a clear sign that they had taken autonomy of their experience. A student named Antzi from St. Demetris wrote; “I liked everything we did in class, especially, I liked that I can talk freely…also, that we are going to create our own video with our song and dancing!”
result is coming to fruition: an original children’s song about friendship and solidarity.”
Through the MIMA methodology, the children first learned to use their body as an instrument, which provided them with a visual representation of what they were experiencing and a full understanding about what they were doing. After the first sessions, the group was ready to use instruments and explore more possibilities through play. The activities were always playful and artful, but challenging. In each session I observed their transformation, which was taking them to the next level. Also, the activities provided them with a quality of experience and led to their personal “Flow” opens the gates for creativity, free growth. In other words, the students were unfoldexpression, motivation, authenticity and ing their musical identities. Throughout the proan embrace of community and culture. cess, the students stated their values, preferences and attitudes and used their original composition to express their own point of view about living in Dr Maria Yenari from St. Demetrios Elemen- society. Like Leonard Bernstein says, “the way it tary Public School provided me with a program makes you feel when you hear it…if it makes us evaluation; “I was happily surprised to see some change inside, when we are understanding it.” of the students who were slightly behind othDr Maria Yenari continues to write in her ers in their musical skills, making an effort in the evaluation, “I believe that the MIMA methodology circle games. I observed an improvement in these children especially in their hand-eye coordination is a fresh and ‘cool’— as the children would call it — and sense of rhythm. I was also happy to observe approach to music-making in groups and I consider that one of the children who usually comes late it to be very suitable for this challenging age group. to school in the morning was always on time on a I believe the success of the program lies in the fact MIMA morning. All the children were very enthu- that it allows freedom of expression for individuals siastic about MIMA from the beginning. The end- by simultaneous empowerment of a group feeling.
In this way individuals flourish within the safety of a group within which they all are equal and all are engaged in friendly creative exchanges.” A student named Maria said, “I feel we became better people, we got more connected as classmates, and learned more about music.” Another student named Irine writes, “it’s the first time I saw most of my classmates working together.” Each student’s self–esteem defined the course of his or her total “liberation” from musical and personal concerns. I confirmed this fact with their everyday classroom teacher, Ms. Christina Kalli. We had elaborate discussions about the children’s progressive behavior during the MIMA sessions. She stated that the children used to be separated in different groups, but once the MIMA sessions started, she was able to observe a big change on students’ social communication that unified them as one big group. I’ll never forget hearing the other children of the school calling them the “Cool MIMAS!”
biggest obstacle that I had to overcome presented itself in the first class. Three children refused to participate in the MIMA project. However, they were in class during every session and mostly observed the group. At the last day of rehearsal and filming (after ten sessions), they still refused to participate at the concert. Two of them said that it was too childish for them to be in the group and that they preferred to play soccer. The third boy was constantly refusing to participate because he had low self-esteem. During the filming, the first two boys also refused to be part of the music clip. However, by the end of the filming session I saw them taking two percussion instruments and joining the rest of the group outside the classroom. The third student finally felt comfortable and strong enough to overcome his fear and join in the final rehearsal. I remember that on the night of the final performance, all three children participated with great enthusiasm and pride. Specifically, the third boy who was very shy constantly asked me if he sounded good. My experience with the three boys was an important lesson for me; every person has a unique personality and each student unfolds his or her musical and artistic identity in a different time and space. We must never stop stimulating the learners and always recognize the time and space that each individual needs. Another challenge that I faced was the appar-
ent gender differences and a particularly strong bias of girls being more involved with the program. It was obvious that the girls showed more dedication from the beginning of the program. They always asked for more group responsibilities and took it upon themselves to stimulate the boys to match their skill level and enthusiasm. A student named Vasiliana reflects on her experience and writes; “I will have my MIMA CD and always remember this experience, the togetherness, and work we did.”
I discovered that the children found it difficult to come up with their own original melodic ideas. Therefore, we concentrated more on activities that promoted improvisation. My second class included eighteen fifth grade children from B’ Macedonitissa elementary public school, located outside the city of Nicosia. The public school experience included 12 weeks of MIMA Music with meetings once a week for 40 minutes. The learning experience with this specific group was different from the first group. Their needs were different and therefore their composition was arranged differently. In this case, I had to deal with students that were shy and younger in age. Only two children knew how to play a pitched instrument (pi-
ano and violin) and the rest of children only knew how to sing in the school choir. Two children from the public school wrote some very inspiring lyrics, which we incorporated into their song. It reflects two different musical styles: ballad and hip hop. I discovered that the children found it difficult to come up with their own original melodic ideas. Therefore, we concentrated more on activities that promoted improvisation. I used some well-known songs that matched their lyrics, like “Imagine” by John Lennon and some Greek songs. Consequently, the children were able to improvise and experiment with different melodic examples. They took the piano introduction of “Imagine” and started brainstorming different melodic ideas for their own composition. Once the children had some references, it was easier for them to express ideas with passion.
educational values, like creating a group composition and having a cognitive understanding of music. When I look at the progression that was made by both groups in Cyprus, the MIMA sessions remind me of the “recycling” process. Individuals were Re-boosted, Re- challenged, and Re- energized, inside and outside their school environment. A student named Elli T says, “I can imagine how much more we could do if we had more time.” The MIMA methodology emphasizes an aesthetic education. Each MIMA teacher, consciously or unconsciously, places value on the importance of finding ways of developing a more active sensibility and awareness in their groups. The music scholar Dr. L.A. Reid writes in “Meaning in the Arts” about the importance of initiating students “into what it feels like live in music, move over and about in a painting, travel round and in between the masses of a sculpture.” It is important to recognize the starting point where Each MIMA teacher, consciously or uncon- students can feel from the inside what it means sciously, places value on the importance of to be with music and gain a big part of a connection between cognitive understanding and the finding ways of developing a more active capacity to hear, to see and to attend. At this mosensibility and awareness in their groups. ment you can see how students appreciate each other’s creativity and gain a better understanding of what they are doing as unique musical indi I feel that the MIMA methodology works vidualities. like a springboard and teaches children important the rehearsals and performances of both groups, I questioned myself; “What is a performer’s identity?” The Oxford Dictionary defines a ‘performer’ as a person who is, “an exhibitionist...engaged in carrying out notable feats for the sense of personal achievement.” A fine instrumentalist or vocalist is someone who has practiced the instrument since childhood and has technical and expressive fluency. I saw how the children tried to work together like a professionals and exchange their passion and enthusiasm with each other in their performance, even though they did not have the skills or experience to make a “good” solo or group performance. The two groups might not have had technical fluency, but they had an expressiveness on stage that turned them into true performers and became a defining moment for them. A student named Theodosia said, “MIMA is the best thing I ever did.”
In my point of view, I find it very important to institute the pragmatic goals of music education, like being able to enjoy and participate in music throughout a lifespan. The MIMA methodology gave a lifelong experience to Cypriot children. We can really create an environment for experiences that lead to transformation, which opens new vistas and allows for new ways of structuring a real life experience. My experience with both groups gave me the opportunity to challenge myself as a teacher and musician. I had the pleasure of building a rapport with the students; hence I was not just “Ms. MIMA” for them, but also a friend that they could talk with.
“What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
— T.S. Elliot
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