Lesson Product

Most parents expect obvious results from their child's music lessons. They want to see some 'tangible' progress, such as learning repertoire, reading ability and theory. While I do think that these aspects of education are important, I find that when made the entire focus of the lesson, they hinder progress. This is why when I create a curriculum for a student I look at what the product should be and I make it very clear to the parent that we are creating a love for music as well as a well rounded musician, not just a technically proficient percussionist/pianist. 

The word product can mean many things, however in this case I define it by asking the student a few simple questions; What do you want to learn? What interests you? What do you want to be as a musician? There answers help me to form a curriculum that combines musical theory as well as aspects that will be fun for them and hold their attention. 

This usually leads me to focussing on compositional techniques (which help with reading music), Jamming and non verbal communication (which helps with performance and musical understanding) as well as letting the student choose their repertoire (we often write our own or pick popular songs or I write repertoire to fit their needs). Through all of this the product is not only a more well rounded musician, but also a student who enjoys what they are learning.

Community Music in CRASH

Anyone who practices or studies community music is constantly asked to define it. Most of my colleagues and I agree that everyone's definition is different and subjective to their own experiences. For example my idea of community music is focused on the educational benefits. However there are many aspects to community music that most would agree on. Let me outline what community music means to me and how I apply it to CRASH. 

The first is that community music focuses on experiential music making as apposed to study. At CRASH we learn about music through doing. The students write their own exercises, with my guidance, in order to learn theory and playing techniques. I find this is not only a fun way to learn about music, but is also extremely engaging for kids. Another aspect to community music is the difference in hierarchal learning. CRASH Rhythm classes allow collaboration between the students and I instead of a more formal lecture style. This allows the students input to be heard and gives the students pride in what they are learning. They are invested in the classes because they contribute to the material. 

Community music also preaches diversity and inclusion stating that music making and music education is for everyone. I heard an analogy comparing community music to cooking from composer, performer and educator Peter Moser that I found very enlightening. He said that cooking is a way of expression. Just because a recipe is written in english does not mean that someone who only speaks spanish cannot make it. And we never judge those who cook for leisure as apposed to profession. Music should be viewed the same way. Anyone can make music and contribute to the recipe. That is what community music is all about!

Rose Parade 2018: Kyoto Tachibana Band

I had the absolute pleasure of going to Pasadena, California this past New Years to cheer on my alma matter marching band in the World famous Tournament of Roses Parade. 10 years ago, when I was in the band as a Snare drum player, I had the opportunity to march in the nearly 9 km parade on New Years Day. The band represented Canada beautifully this time round with an amazing version of Big Noise from Winetka as well as an amazing visual and musical display of West Side Story during their field show performance earlier in the week. However there was a moment for me on this trip that was absolutely breathtaking, and it was Kyoto Tachibana High School Green Band.

The Tachiban band was one of the most moving musical experiences I have witnessed live. Their perfection and musical ability almost brought me to tears. Allow me to put their talent into perspective. This band has approximately 125 members and is the oldest female marching band in Japan. The group is now 95% female which was a nice little cherry on top of how amazingly talented they were. The average band does between 120-140 movements a minute during feild show. Tachibana destroys this statistic by doing approximately 244 per minute! They look like a professional dance troop who has the almost magical ability to play instruments at the same time. Their movements and music were flawless and perfectly in sync. Their field show and marching order was littered with skill, humility and humour. They do all this with the largest smiles on their faces. They perform not to be the best, even though they were; they do it because they love it, and it is obvious! On top of all that they are all teenagers. I seriously suggest everyone take time out of their days to watch a few videos and if they ever come to town, see them!!

Teaching Children to Communicate Through Music: Jamming Part 3/3

At the beginning of every group class I set what the students and I call the Jam alarm. This alarm is scheduled to go off 5 minutes before the end of class. My rule is that when the alarm goes off we drop whatever we are doing and jam. The children look forward to the jam because it is fun and has a looser structure than some of our lesson content. I also use this opportunity to give the students a chance to learn how to communicate through music (whether they are aware of it or not). Each class I will give them one limitation such as picking only one instrument, only percussive instruments (drums, buckets, tamborines etc.), only pitched instruments (piano, boomwhackers, xylophone etc) or a type of song structure. This makes them think more critically about how to create their voice. The different instrumentation also insures that each jam will have different characteristics. It is amazing how the Jams improve from week 1 to week 8, purely because the students are learning how to listen and how to contribute.

These skills are invaluable to any musician. Not only is jamming and improvising fun and kid friendly, but it also assists in learning how to speak the language of music. If you want your child to be a musician it helps to not only read the language, but to communicate with it as well. 

Teaching Children how to Communicate Through Music: Conducting Part 2/3

One way to communicate through music is using body language in conducting. I sometimes do this with younger ages in 1 hour workshops. In our weekly group classes, I give each student the ability to lead the group in conducting. I first explain to the kids that there is much more to conducting than just waving your arms around. You have to show with your face, stature and movement that you want the group to play X or Y. We first decide as a group what a few gestures will translate to, such as forte (loud), piano (quiet) or keep a steady beat. Then I leave the rest up to the conductor. I encourage them to come up with their own gestures and movements to see if the group will follow along without verbal prompts. 9/10 times, the students and I can follow along with the conductors intentions. This teaches the students the importance of leading and listening. They learn to make eye contact when they want something to change and how different movements can be interpreted. In this way they are learning how to speak the language of music. 

Teaching Children how to Communicate Through Music Part 1/3

Music is undoubtably a type of language. I am sure anyone who has made music with another person would agree. This is especially evident when improvising or jamming, where a piece of music can fall apart if there is not some form of communication between performers. Something amazing happens when a simple nod, look or chord progression can completely change the mood of a piece. 

I always tell my students that the most important component to group jams is listening. Listening to each other as individuals and to the group as a whole. It is in listening that a performer can find their role in a piece. Should I play out? Should I sit back? Should I change my surface tempo or chord progression? It is also very important to know when it is time to lead or when it is time to follow. Knowing when to do these things and how to do these things is so important in being a well rounded musician. This is why I feel it is important for the students of CRASH to be exposed to improvisation in group settings as frequently as possible. The skills that are required to communicate with each other in improvising is crucial in interpreting music in any setting. Stay tuned for some of the methods I use with the students of CRASH in order to help them learn how to communicate through music. Stayed tuned to learn more about these methods.


Music as a community and not as competition

Many of you may not know that the idea for CRASH started when I was in University looking for a drumming extra curricular. Laurier has a very impressive music program with many extra curricular but there was no marching band, drumline or up beat, group for casual campus events. Using my experience in drumline I started a Garbage can drumline called the Junk Line. We used to only play at football games and campus events, but have since expanded outside of campus to street festivals and educational settings. It was this experience of bringing music to others in an unconventional way that eventually grew into CRASH. 

Even though I have since graduated I still come back to Laurier to run the Junk Line and play different events. This past weekend the Junk Line and I attended our first Laurier Football away game at the Yates Cup in London, against the Western Mustangs. For those that do not know Western and Laurier have a pretty viscous rivalry. There was a part of me that worried about how well the Junk Line would be received by the fans. This feeling was put slightly at ease when I received an email from the director of the Western Mustang Marching Band asking if the Junk Line would be in attendance and if we would be interested in jamming with them. I responded immediately with a very excited yes!! I love it when musicians come together to make something amazing, especially when these two things do not normally go together. A marching band in full costume with real instruments juxtaposed with 5 people on garbage cans wearing funny looking leggings. 

When we arrived at Western we were greeted by excited fans, both Laurier and Western who were mostly curious about why we were carrying garbage cans, and a couple surly Western fans (to be expected). At halftime we left the Laurier side of the stands to join the Western Band, and I must say they looked and sounded very professional. On our walk around the field we had a few Western Football fans tell us to go home, also to be expected at any sporting event. It was at this point where I got a little nervous again about how the Western band would react to us joining them. I remember my sister warning me that it might go down like a movie where the competitor sends a friendly invite to join them then eggs the opposing band as one elaborate rouse! I think she was only half kidding. 

I will get right to it by saying that the Mustang Band was beyond hospitable. Multiple members came over and introduced themselves saying how happy they were to jam with us and how excited they were to hear us make music out of garbage cans. We talked with the Mustang drumline briefly and felt so at home. At this point I knew that the Junk Line members were beyond pumped to collaborate.

We set up in a semi circle with the Junk Line in the Centre and played a rendition of "Do What ya Wanna". We immediately fell into a groove and had so much fun accompanying the bands soloists and getting an opportunity to play some solos of our own. A highlight was when one of the drummers from the Mustang band came over and joined us on the garbage cans.

However the best part was when I looked up at the crowd that had formed and saw a ton of Laurier and Western fans clapping, dancing, videotaping and smiling because of our music. For me this was unrefutable proof that music, even in a competitive setting, is all about bringing people together. We all had such a rush after playing this song. I wish we could have played 10 more! Here is a link to the full video of us playing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4ahAvzQOOo&feature=youtu.be 

There are so many times that musicians get caught up in being the best that they forget music is more fun when people make it together! Huge shoutout to the Mustang band, filled with fun and class. It is your approach and mentality towards music that I aspire to teach to children everyday. 

Welcome to CRASH Rhythm

Welcome to CrashRhythm.ca. This blog will serve as a direct message board for all that is CRASH, including upcoming school programs, relative news and Junk Line performances. 

My name is Hilary and I am the founder of CRASH. My passion has always been to bring music to people in a fun and unconventional way. As a percussionist and performer I have found bucket drumming to be an affordable, versatile, sustainable and an extremely fun way to explore music! I try to avoid giving children an adult approach to music. Instead of heavy repertoire and constant practice we at CRASH believe that improvisation, composition and ensemble work foster creativity and initiate an interest in music at a young age. It is in this method that children find a love for music that can grow. 

I also believe that you are never too old to learn music while also being able to goof off! This is why CRASH also runs adult sessions for those who have always wanted to drum, and may also be a kid at heart!

Please look through this website and find out more about CRASH. If you have any questions or would like to book CRASH for your class, camp or business then email me at hilarywhiskin@crashrhythm.ca. If you love music please join in on the conversation!

Stay tuned for more blogs about CRASH Rhythm's inner workings and mentality.