I was in Kananaskis at the Fine Arts Council conference of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. I gave two workshops on vocal and movement improv, and we had a grand time. In the first session, I introduced participants to the fundamentals of circle-singing–the improvisation technique of Bobby McFerrin (here’s my favourite Bobby McFerrin video about the pentatonic scale). My group of music and drama teachers were so amazing! No one had sung in this style before, and by the end of the session, we were free-form grooving and experimenting, with one participant improvising a whole song!
In the second session, I led a group through a series of voice and movement improvisation techniques to use with students in grads 4-8, to help them explore a wide range of sounds, and to help shy students feel more comfortable using their voices. We imitated soundscapes and we made machines. We also went for a sound walk around the glorious property of the conference centre, set in the heart of the Rockies. We reassembled and created a soundscape of the sounds that we heard. And we brainstormed ways that we could move these sounds into composition, and integrate creative exploration into the music curriculum. Such generative ideas!
I’m keen to explore the possibilities of creative sound exploration and improvised music in classrooms. If you do work like this, let me know! What works? What have been challenges? I’m so excited to continue singing and exploring the possibilities for vocal improv in music classrooms and in my own practice. Special shout-out to Karen Porkka, who leads the Vocal Improv Network of Edmonton, a group that I’m now singing with regularly, and loving. Feels so great to get back to vocal improv, and to challenge myself and grow my practice and my pedagogy more.