“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” – Mindful.org

Last Saturday I attended a workshop by Brenda Barr on this topic. It was perfect timing as the holiday season is upon us and things get super crazy, but it also got me thinking about our classes and music in general. It can be useful, not only to calm down a class or a particular student, but also in composition activities and evaluating others’ works.

In our classes, how can we utilize this technique to encourage our students to be more thoughtful ~ mindful ~ of the work they create while also seeing it in others’ works?

Music….great music….occurs when a series of sounds come together in various ways to craft something beautiful, thought provoking, inspiring, etc… Composers are “mindful” of each sound they put on the staff (for the most part) and how those sounds work together. Our job, as teachers, is to encourage our students to do the same ~ to think about what sounds they are placing together and what expressive elements they can use to provoke a particular thought or feeling.

A great place to start is in the first few minutes of class! In the workshop, Barr spoke about utilizing our senses to get in the moment. We can begin a “mindful minute” where we stop and be present for 60 seconds. Kids are encouraged to focus on the their breathing and clear their minds. This reminded me of when I taught in an elementary school; I would start every 3rd -5th class with breathing exercises. I found that it not only got students ready for singing, but also it helped the class calm down and get ready for the lesson…..as it did for me. Once everyone is calm, I could begin my lesson.

Composition is different than putting sounds down on paper. In the beginning it is important for young children to understand the concept, but once that is in place, the next step is for them to compose~ to put together in a thoughtful way. How do we do this? We model it.

We can go through the composition process together like in this lesson or we can show kids our work and go through how we do it (look for that process next week). Either way, it is important to show kids that there is a process ~ composition doesn’t mean to choose some sounds, slap them on a sentence strip or staff and call it a day. A composer cares what goes down on the page.

Once it is on the page, it is important to evaluate it. Did I communicate my ideas effectively? Do my listeners understand what I was trying to accomplish? Creating a Composer’s Chair it the perfect way to answer these questions. It is during this time that an audience can ask questions and make the composer think about his/ her work. Of course, in the end, it is up to the composer, but feedback is always helpful!

Stay tuned for this process……

Let us know what you think below!!

Photo credit:Foter.com