Song Writing and the Creative Process

One of the biggest perks of my job as a teaching artist at Orca is that I can practice being a teacher with the support and resources of several other educators at my side. I get to receive feedback, try new approaches and strategies, and assess how I am doing professionally on a daily basis. […]

One of the biggest perks of my job as a teaching artist at Orca is that I can practice being a teacher with the support and resources of several other educators at my side. I get to receive feedback, try new approaches and strategies, and assess how I am doing professionally on a daily basis.

Each day during first period, this dynamic works in my favor during the song writing class that I co-teach with the AWESOME sixth-grade teachers, Jeff and Tanisha.  In the classroom, I get to work through my own creative and professional process alongside those of my students and colleagues.

Our classroom culture aims to create an open and authentic space to write about what interests you. A typical day in song writing (if there is such a thing) might include any of the following: dance warm ups to Justin Timberlake songs, a get–to-know-you game based on Musical Chairs, a presentation on recording via Garage Band, a game of The Human Knot, a visit from fellow CSI teaching artist and song writing guru, Amy, and sustained time to work on writing lyrics.

While teaching artists consider myriad aspects of creativity and education, for now I want to focus on critique, feedback loops, and assessment because there is an element of each in the others. Critique is essential for any artist to hear new perspectives on their work and have the opportunity to engage in something they hadn’t considered. Feedback loops are the result of critiques. For example, “my classmates said the piece wasn’t relateable, so I will tone down the echo effect that makes my lyrics incomprehensible.” Assessment is trickier to define. Arts Corps’ definition is to “make student learning visible and give young artists reflective time.”  In no way is assessment a grade or judgement of a final product.  It is a chance for students to decide how their skills, understanding, behavior, and attitude have changed over the course of the class or project.  In a nutshell, feedback from others and the willingness to receive and create multiple iterations from that feedback is critical to how they will assess their own learning.

For the most recent project, we decided to try a new method of peer evaluation and feedback: post-its.  Since I am from Minneapolis, I decided it was good to keep my fellow Minnesotans employed by requiring each of our 20 students to give feedback to each of the 10 partner groups, including themselves, on post-its.  (I’ll leave the math to you.) After each song, we took a few minutes to write what we heard that we liked, and how we thought they could improve for the next project. This was the result:

photo 1

 

photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suggestions, critique, feedback, and compliments were stuck to each laptop so that we all had the chance to receive feedback. For self assessment, we asked students to write (again on post-its. You’re welcome, 3M.) responses to the prompts, “one thing that was awesome about the way I worked was…” and “one thing I would change about the way I worked was…”  Their thoughtfulness was impressive:  “I helped pick out tracks. I would want to give more ideas.” And, “I tried new things and pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone.  I would change how I worked by pushing myself a little further to sing maybe.”

At a time of transition in my life, my Uncle Dave told me to, “Measure your success in ways that are meaningful to you, not what others might think.”  I have it written on a (virtual) post-it on my laptop screen as reminder to myself of what is important as I experience new identities in various stages of young adulthood. As a rookie artist and educator, evidence of my learning is visible in how I encourage students to be honest and vulnerable, create stories from potentially nebulous ideas, risk putting them on display for peers, and stand tall in their own definitions of success— and to do the same things myself.

-Liz Farmer
AmeriCorps Artist-in-Residence
 
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What place does audio production have in the classroom?

Sound is all around you. It manifests in music and alongside visual media; in espresso machines and drops of coffee filling your mug, in freeway traffic, in dog whistles, shouting bats, and cell phone transmissions – it exists as vibrations in the air even when we believe it to be silent. Upon waking every morning, […]

Sound is all around you. It manifests in music and alongside visual media; in espresso machines and drops of coffee filling your mug, in freeway traffic, in dog whistles, shouting bats, and cell phone transmissions – it exists as vibrations in the air even when we believe it to be silent.

Upon waking every morning, we are bombarded with sensory information but are not often taught how to wield the power of our senses to create new understandings of the world. This is the culture that audio production fosters.

Audio production includes your favorite CDs and vinyl records. It includes video game sound effects and everything you hear in movies. It is at the heart of live concerts and podcasts and broadcasts and the reason you can hear sound coming out of speakers. Audio production is the process of capturing sound and reproducing it back to an audience – or perhaps to document and archive to retrieve in the future.

In my personal process of integrating arts into the classroom at Madrona K-8, I have been striving to give audio production equal weight as an art form and as a tool for students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic in an unconventional way. To demonstrate this, I recorded and edited my own podcast to represent my own understanding of the unit topic: Poverty.

I worked with a fellow AmeriCorps member at Arts Corps to record one of their spoken word pieces that deals with privilege and opportunity, and then included an interview portion where they talked about the meaning and intention behind their piece. Not only did I end up with a great podcast example, but I managed to show multiple levels of art – not just the artistry of the podcast itself being put together, but the art in crafting words to create meaning and the power this has in a recorded medium.

For the poverty unit, my fellow teaching artist and I collaborated on a rubric to include the choice between a visual project, an audio project, or another mixed media project. Many students took to the idea of using audio recorders to perform a rap, song, or commentary that showed their understanding and interpretation of the poverty unit theme.

There is a certain fearlessness that young people possess when it comes to giving them choices. Too often, the school system institutes rote procedures that allow little room for creative exploration and personal expression. One project really struck me as an example of what we may have never learned about two students’ unique expressive ability had we not given them this creative choice in the classroom.

Poverty project – rap

Audio production teaches young people how they can use their voice as a mechanism to express ideas, how to practice and plan for the moment of recording, and eventually transcend the fleetingness of time by contributing their voice to recorded history.

In the end, it can just be a playful process where students have a means to demonstrate their understanding of a topic in an unconventional way that now has a chance to be shared and celebrated.

 
-AMY
AmeriCorps Artist-in-Residence

 

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CSI Artist-in-Service: Amy Pinon

“Music is the art of thinking with sounds.”  – Jules Combarieu I am a recent graduate of The Art Institute of Seattle with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Audio Design Technology. Which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve invested a lot of time learning about the technical applications of music and sound! […]

“Music is the art of thinking with sounds.”  – Jules Combarieu

I'm with Amy

I am a recent graduate of The Art Institute of Seattle with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Audio Design Technology. Which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve invested a lot of time learning about the technical applications of music and sound! I am a vocalist, audio engineer, and educator. I write and perform acoustic music with my musical partner in crime, and together we form a band called I’m with Amy.

Toward the end of my time in college, I realized that I had a passion for education and I merged my love for audio with teaching by developing an audio curriculum for my Senior Portfolio. I have since taken an arts-integration approach to audio production – a personal commitment to addressing the lack of technical arts education available for young people and a nod to the opportunities I had before college to discover the world of audio production in the first place.

Our ability to learn new skills relies on the availability of programs and the support of experienced professionals to teach us. I realize I have had many teachers in my life that have gone out of their way to help me in some way. Be it a small action or a large undertaking, it is always a gesture I appreciate and would like to pay forward in my own endeavors. With a commitment to such investments in young people, we not only foster a positive creative environment, but also allow an up-and-coming generation to become more socially and civically responsible.

Music has always been the most powerful force in my life, and as such, I use it to express, create, and innovate everyday. My true passion in life is to help the next generation of aspiring young artists and engineers realize their potential through the creative processes of arts and music. I am humbled to serve as a Creative Schools Artist-in-Service at Madrona K-8 to highlight the importance of my art form in the school.

-AMY LP

 

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Summer All-Access Showcase Preview!

From the Storage Studio to your media viewing devices…Arts Corps Glee Club member Yasmine gives a preview of performances to come at this Friday’s All-Access Showcase!

From the Storage Studio to your media viewing devices…Arts Corps Glee Club member Yasmine gives a preview of performances to come at this Friday’s All-Access Showcase!

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2012 La Festa del Arte Trailer

Music Natural Alucinação © Show Brazil Records, opening photo © Susie Fitzhugh, show photos by Scott Wellsdandt, end photo by Joshua Trujillo Photography

Music Natural Alucinação © Show Brazil Records, opening photo © Susie Fitzhugh, show photos by Scott Wellsdandt, end photo by Joshua Trujillo Photography

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My last day at Kimball Elementary School

It was June 2011, and the spring was still offering some raindrops as apparent resistance to the sun who timidly appeared to announce the proximity of the summer. The undefined weather resembled my last day at Kimball Elementary School reflecting on a mixed feeling around my heart.  Happiness for moving to a different direction with […]

It was June 2011, and the spring was still offering some raindrops as apparent resistance to the sun who timidly appeared to announce the proximity of the summer. The undefined weather resembled my last day at Kimball Elementary School reflecting on a mixed feeling around my heart.  Happiness for moving to a different direction with Arts Corps after accepting my new role as Faculty Development Manager, blended with the sadness of knowing that I made a decision to stop teaching my afterschool class.

I didn’t intend to overload myself with too many different activities, so I could embrace my new responsibilities and ongoing activities with more efficiency. Although, not ready to cease my academic activities, I will still be teaching music once a week at a non-profit music school in the Eastside. I felt that I was ready to join the Arts Corps staff and become a new component of an impressive team that bravely fights to provide quality Arts Education to King County.

On my way to the gymnasium where my class was held, I performed the same ritual: stop first in the lunch room, say “Hi” to Mary, and pickup the basket full of snacks to distribute to my students after our usual check in. I was almost entering my teaching space, when a student intercepted me, and with a beautiful smile on his face and a vivid voice said “I know you… you are the drumming teacher, and I can’t wait to join your class next quarter”.

Without waiting for my response, the boy disappeared into the long corridor among other students, parents and teachers who moved rapidly in different directions to who knows where. What I know is that his statement made me ponder how that child’s reaction would be when he finds out that the class he wanted was no longer available. I had to “put myself back together” and be prepared to bring a positive presence to my students who were about to arrive.

After my class, before I turned my car on, I spent a few minutes reflecting about the weather and myself. Why the image of the child walking away after his solid announcement was affecting me so hard and why I was thinking about the rain and the sunlight. Those assorted conditions some how made me understand even better, that Teaching Artists are making a difference.

It was clear that that child wanted to stay afterschool because my drumming class did exercise a positive response while making the school still a safe environment even after-hours. I should not procrastinate on giving a bigger step to help Arts Corps to imagining possibilities by looking at ways to expand the action of Teaching Artists who for sure will hear some other boy or girl saying: “…I can’t wait to join your class next quarter”.

Eduardo Mendonça
Arts Corps - Spring 2011
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