The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
Performing: Realizing artistic ideas and work through interpretation and presentation. Essential Question: How do musicians improve the quality of their performance?
The residency culminated in a school performance so artists and students were working on their performance for the entire residency. The artists discussed how to perform the songs and rhythms, soliciting student ideas on how to enhance the performance. The cultural significance of the rhythms and dances were discussed throughout the residency. Older students wrote up reflections on performing and the residency itself as part of this project. An example is below:
“The most difficult part of this class was probably getting everyone to work together at the same time, it could create quite the cacophony if not everyone was doing the right part at the different timings. And probably the most impactful thing about this experience was introducing new cultures so our community could come together was pretty amazing.”
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
“For me, it’s been a great experience to learn to sing and play drums. My favorite part was learning about the harvest dance. While the men go harvest, women, children and older people play the drums, dance and sing. I enjoyed learning about this because it shows the value of helping neighbors and friends. I think it would be great for our community to bring these new friends of ours to continue teaching us about their amazing culture.”
Students, teachers, and artists participated in discussions about music, dance and culture. Our students have such limited exposure to other cultures that they embrace these artists and immerse themselves in drum and dance enthusiastically. The artists from Show Brazil and West African Cultural Arts Institute are talented performers and gifted instructors who are truly amazing cultural ambassadors; students are comfortable asking them all sorts of questions and challenging themselves to try new dance moves and drum rhythms. The students talked about this residency for a long time afterwards and want the artists to return, which is evidence of the impact that this residency had upon them.
Each year that we have these residencies and are struggling with program logistics, unforeseen snow days and the usual last minute hiccups, the minute the culminating school performance occurs, we turn to each other and say ‘let’s do it again!”. The joy and pride that students experience performing, their proficiency in playing rhythms and dancing and their interest in other cultures is a powerful motivator in wanting students to take part in this annually.
Cascade High School band members performed in the evening public performance put on by West African Cultural Arts Institute, which was an unexpected and vey welcome addition to our residency. West African Cultural Arts Institute also had students read their residency reflections as part of the school performance, which was a terrific way to share the impact with community members and other students.
Both Show Brazil and West African Cultural Arts Institute are consummate professionals and tailored their programs to meet the needs of our rural students.