(Tips from Richard Meyer)
So, you want to incorporate the “Giving Bach” program into your own curriculum.
Congratulations! I know it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you and your students will have together. Here are some ideas to help get you started.
1. Explain the “Giving Bach” program to your administration
Set up a meeting with your administration and explain what you have planned. Chances are they will immediately see the benefits of such concerts on your audiences, but be sure to emphasize the positive effects this program will have on your own students. Describe how it will help to build their leadership skills, and how it will instill empathy and confidence in each of them. Feel free to show them the slide show and pictures found in the photo gallery on this website. Once you have your administration’s support, you are ready to start “Giving Bach” to your community!
2 Find an audience.
Decide what type of audience you want to reach. Remember, your concerts are going to be very interactive, involving the audience as much as possible. I decided to focus on special needs children and, through the internet, started looking for special needs schools in my area. Five Acres Therapeutic School in Altadena, California and Frostig School in Pasadena, California seemed like good fits, so I emailed their principals. In my initial contact letter, I introduced myself and described the “Giving Bach” program. There is a wealth of programs for special needs students in every community, and they all have a website with contact information. I found the Starlight Children’s Foundation and the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles on line and contacted them in the same way.
In addition to performing for special needs children, we have also presented concerts for the kindergarten and second grade students in our own district. A simple visit to the classroom of these teachers got the ball rolling. We now send out a sign-up sheet to all second grade teachers giving them a list of the open dates and times that they can bring their class to our school for a concert. We take them on a first-come, first-served basis and present performances right in our music room. They are always thrilled with the opportunity for their students to visit our school and learn about the instruments.
3. Introduce the “Giving Bach” program to your students
I introduced the concept to my own students in three steps:
1. I gave each student a simple written survey to find out why, in their minds, they were playing music in the first place. A piece of paper with the following two sentences was given to each student:
There are many reasons for making music.
The number one reason that I make music is:
I gave students five minutes to complete the survey, collected their papers and told them I would return with the results tomorrow. I read all of their papers and shared the results with them. Of the 72 students in the class, 65 of them mentioned only themselves in their answer: “It’s fun” “I enjoy it” “It makes me feel happy” and “It let’s me express myself” were the most popular responses. Only 7 students mentioned other people in their answer- “I make music to entertain people” or “It makes people happy and calm”.
2. After sharing these results with the students. I then showed them two signs:
One read: musIc The other read: mUSic
I asked them what they thought the signs meant. While they all seemed to understand the concept of music for myself (“I”), their impression of the second sign was revealing. To them, the “US” meant the orchestra, the team, the group coming together to perform. I encouraged them expand this concept and to think even further beyond the orchestra. After a little “guided discussion”, I could see the “light bulbs” starting to go on as they began to realize what, at first, they didn’t see – the “US” refers to the orchestra and the audience. We’re performing for a reason beyond ourselves. Suddenly we had arrived at our goal—we are going to share our talents with others and discover the “US” in music!
3. I then introduced my students to a quote by the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma. For me, this quote describes what “Giving Bach” is all about.
“I think that being a good musician is very much like being a good waiter. You’re not the chef – the composer gets that job – but you need to be knowledgeable about what you’re serving in order to do your job well. If you do your job well, you can really add to the enjoyment of the overall experience.”
Now you are ready to start selecting and rehearsing music for your “Giving Bach” concerts!
4. As the Concert Approaches
As the date of the concert approaches, there are four more things to do that will help to make the program a success:
1. Send information about your “Giving Bach” program home to parents. See the Sample Letter to Parents for ideas regarding this important communication.
2. Personally visit the school or organization where you plan on “Giving Bach”. Meet the principal, teachers, staff and students if possible. See where you will be performing and work out all logistical problems. Make sure the principal is aware of what type of concert you will be presenting. Together, figure out the smoothest way to make the “Side-by-Side Instruction” part of the event happen.
3. Invite the principal and school representatives to your school to meet your students and talk to them about what they should expect. This was a fantastic learning experience for my students when it came to discussing special needs students. Also, use the resources at your own school to make this the most meaningful experience possible for your students. I had our school counselor, and special education teacher visit my class and talk to them and answer their questions.
4. A day or two before the concert, have your students write down their thoughts about the upcoming event. Before doing an event for the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, I had my students fill out a research questionnaire to better prepare them for the type of kids they would be meeting. See the Student Questionnaires for ideas.