Giving Bach with Your Group
In this part of a “Giving Bach” concert, student musicians are paired up with audience members and teach them about their instrument. This activity will surely be the most memorable part of the concert for your own students. It will instill empathy and confidence into each of them as they see, firsthand, how their music can affect others.
By the end of this activity, all of your audience members will have met one (or more) of your students and learned how to hold, pluck and bow a string instrument! Encourage everyone in your audience to participate—students, teachers, parents, aids, and principals.
As your students meet and start helping the audience members you will feel a positive energy throughout the room unlike anything else you’ve experienced!
Training Your Students
Go over the “Teaching Your Instrument” handout. Stress the importance of what they are doing, the responsibility they are assuming, and how they will be making a positive impact on the student that they teach. Continue to emphasize their #1 goal for this activity: “My partner will feel successful and have fun!” (Little do they know at this point how successful they are going to feel!)
In front of the class, model what you expect from your students. Go over the activity with you teaching a student. Then switch places and roles, and run the activity again, offering suggestions to the student who is teaching you.
Next, “pair up” your students and have them practice teaching their instrument to a partner. Consider pairing up students who play different instruments. Practice every aspect of the activity from how to introduce yourself to presenting the certificate.
Rehearse the D String Blues.
Practice moving into the “Side-by-Side” set-up you will be using (see “Setting Up the Audience and Performers” below).
The “D String Blues”
Use this piece to give your audience the opportunity to perform a “real piece” with your orchestra. You can download the score and parts on this website. Download the D String Blues, print, and photocopy as many parts as you need!
Audience members will ultimately be playing the “Open D” part by rote while selected members of your orchestra play the other parts (the “ensemble part”). Make sure your students are able to perform both their ensemble part and the “Open D” part. Practice the piece in several different combinations.
Setting Up the Audience and Performers
There are three possible “Side-by-Side” scenarios. Follow the instructions after each scenario below to help you set up for the activity.
The Number of Performers and Audience members is the same.
Step 1 - “Every other” performer stands up and, with their instrument, exits the orchestra set-up. These members temporarily stand against the nearest wall. The remaining performers should have an empty seat on their left side.
Step 2 - “Every other” audience member is invited to walk into the orchestra set-up and sit next to a performer.
Step 3 - Performers against the walls fill into an empty seat in the audience, next to an audience member. All performers will work with the audience member on their left side.
There are more Audience members than Performers.
In this case, the “Side-by-Side” activity will need to be done more than once to give all audience members a chance to participate.
Step 2 - Fill the empty orchestra seats with audience members (use “every other” audience member until the orchestra set up is full).
Step 3 - Performers against the walls fill into an empty seat in the audience, next to an audience member. All performers will work with the audience member on their left side. Assure the remaining audience members who do not have a partner that “they will be next” and ask them to be a good audience until it’s their turn.
There are more Performers than Audience members.
As in scenario 2, the activity should be done more than once to make sure all performers get a chance to teach an audience member. Creativity on the director’s part is necessary to accommodate everyone! One possibility would be teaching all audience members the violin first. Then teach all audience members a combination of viola, cello, and bass that best fit your group. Performers not teaching can play the ensemble part.
Note: Performers leaving their seats and going into the audience should take their instrument, rosin, and a Play-Along Certificate.
Teaching the Instruments
When your students meet their partner from the audience, chances are they will dive right in, introduce themselves and start teaching. Stay at your spot in front of the orchestra and guide the activities by calling out what should be done next. Remember, in this set-up you will be surrounded by students– in front of you, behind you, and to the sides!
Preface all instruction with a reminder to everyone of how fragile the instruments are and how gently they must be handled. The “teachers” (your students) should always follow three steps when introducing a new concept to their partner:
Demonstrate (show them)
Ask (ask if they want to try it)
Guide (assist when needed)
Below is the suggested order of events (remember to give sufficient time before announcing next event):
Introduce yourselves to your partner
Show the different parts of the instrument (without the bow)
Teach how to hold the instrument (without the bow)
Teach how to gently pluck the strings
Find the D string and pluck it
Return instrument to your “teacher”
Play the “D String Blues” (a small group should play the “ensemble part” each time)
Step 1 - Everyone clap the “Open D” part
Step 2 - “Teachers” pluck the “Open D” part, audience members observing
Step 3 - Audience members pluck the “Open D” part
Show the bow and teach how to rosin it
Teach how to play with the bow
Teach how to play the D string
Play the “D String Blues” again (with a small group playing the “ensemble part”)
Step 1 - “Teachers” bow the “Open D” part, audience members observing
Step 2 - Audience members bow the “Open D” part
Remain in this set-up for your closing selection. If some of your performers end up away from their music stand, have them memorize this piece, OR have their audience member hold the music for them. Fun! For best results, this closing piece should last no more than 1:30 (things get a little awkward if it goes too long). Consider making cuts in the music if necessary.