This semester in Teaching Artistry 101 I had the amazing opportunity to work with Nick at Mission High School. The goal of our work with the two choir classes was to prepare them for an upcoming concert and to give them some necessary tools for future singing. Nick and I joined the group every Thursday for several weeks. During our sessions, we normally began with choral warmups that consisted of breathing and vocal technique. These concepts seemed completely foreign to the high schoolers, especially the first class. The two classes were divided into beginning and advanced choirs. The beginning class consisted of mostly underclassmen, so our presence must have come as shock.
On the very first day of my six week tenure, I gave the classes a taste of my operatic training. I sang a few bars of “Depuis le jour” from Charpentier’s Louise and they seemed intrigued. The students had many questions about singing after I sang, but I really wanted to know what they thought about opera. Most of the students had never experienced live operatic singing before, and when I asked them what they thought about my performance, they thought I appeared “sad.” “Sad” is not exactly what the music portrays in that piece, but it was a start. One huge challenge that Nick gave the class on the first day was a game called “Angels and Demons.” This game is actually a way for a group to create a spontaneous composition in which all of the members of a group are encouraged to sing different tones. If you want to be an “angel” you sing the same pitch as someone else in the room. If you want to be a “demon,” you sing a different pitch than what you hear. What often happen is there are many cluster chords being created and overtones are heard.
Nick and I did face a few challenges while at Mission High. Many of the students did not speak English as a first language and preferred Spanish. This was not a problem for Nick, as he is fluent in Spanish, but it was difficult to engage some of these students. Nick would often repeat his instructions in Spanish so everyone would be on the same page. I believe that was one of the reasons Nick was such a caring and flexible instructor. Often times, the students would speak out of turn or refuse to participate, but other students who were eager to learn would explain to their classmates that they should show us respect. I think instances like these showed that we made a big difference and it showed that the students truly had an interest in learning music.
This was a great experience for me to work with such a talented Teaching Artist and I truly hope that I contributed to the success of the students at Mission High. I hope I can go back again and hear the amazing progress they made over the course of the semester!