This article about taking a ‘virtual holiday’ for a world music project in your lessons was written by Gareth Gale. Gareth is a music teacher, author, drum education specialist and performer from Durban, South Africa. In his classroom at Crawford International La Lucia, Gareth teaches a wide range of music concepts with improvisation and composition being among his favourites. When not in the classroom, you’ll find Gareth in the drum room, filming videos for his YouTube channel or creating resources to inspire drummers to be creative, independent and thoughtful musicians. Gareth loves spending time with his family and is always up for playing sport with his two sons.
As music teachers, we all want our teaching studios to be dynamic, full of life and bursting with creativity. We want our students to arrive for their weekly lessons feeling motivated and excited. Yet – if we’re honest – there are times when this simply isn’t the case.
“Welcome, it’s great to see you. Please take out your book; let’s begin where we left off. Yes, that’s right, bar 36 please…”
We’ve all been there.
As teachers, we need to cover the essential techniques, concepts, and repertoire. That all-important performance or exam is coming, and they need to be prepared, right?!
Are your systems, structures and routines keeping you stuck?
Our systems, structures and routines are important. They provide us with consistency and help ensure we’re delivering our very best teaching week after week.
Yet, if we’re not careful, our helpful routines can also limit us.
When we simply stick to what is familiar, safe or comfortable, our music lessons run the risk of losing that all-important spark. They become all about fulfilling a checklist rather than challenging our students and helping them stay motivated.
Trust me, I know how all-too-easy it is to feel stuck.
Sometimes, it takes all the energy I have just to get through my teaching load for the day. The thought of trying to be creative, inspiring and innovative is a tough ask. I just need to get the job done.
But what if my lessons become too predictable? Do I run the risk of gradually demotivating my students?
We never want this to be the case. So, if you’d like to shake things up, I have an exciting world music project for your lessons.
(drum roll please……)
Why not take a virtual holiday with your students?
A virtual holiday is where you travel the world with your students discovering new music, exploring cultures and meeting new musicians. All done together, virtually.
Now, you might be thinking, “Hmmmmm, a virtual holiday with my students? I’m not so sure…”
But please, hear me out.
I truly believe that if you go on a virtual holiday with your students, you’ll all come away feeling refreshed, energised, invigorated, curious and excited – just as if you went away for a ‘real’ holiday.
Take a moment and imagine that you’ve just landed in Cuba. Think for a second of what you might hear:
- How does their music sound?
- What role does the piano play? How about the drums? The guitar?
- What do their rhythms sound like?
- How do people respond to their music – do they dance? Sing?
Now imagine playing a piece of Cuban music with your student. What would that be like?
A virtual holiday is about possibilities. It’s about learning in a way which is active and alive. It’s about motivating your students as you discover, learn and grow together.
Interested? Excited? Great! Let me give you some tips on how you can incorporate this world music project into your lessons.
Virtual Holiday Planning Tips and Ideas
Step 1: How long will your virtual holiday be?
3 weeks? 2 months? You need an idea of how many music lessons you’ll take to travel the world for this project.
When you’ve decided, set a date of departure and arrival. This will give your virtual holiday a clear time frame and help you know how many countries you could realistically visit.
Step 2: Plan your Destinations
Choices, choices, choices…
This is a tough one. Our world is full of beautiful cultures, each with its own unique approach to music, instrumentation, and performance. Sadly, we can’t visit them all.
Here are a few questions to help you narrow down your choices:
- Have you personally ever explored music from another country? Familiarity is helpful.
- Which countries use your instrument in unique ways?
- Are there any musicians you’d like your students to discover?
- Which genres of music interest you and will interest your students?
- Where do your students or their families come from?
Once you’ve answered those questions, draw up a travel itinerary. This will help you and your students to know exactly where you will be going in each lesson.
Step 3: Find Musical Examples
Before you begin touring with your students, take some time to explore the countries you’ve selected.
It could be New Orleans in the United States (would love to go there!), Rio De Janeiro in Brazil or Durban in South Africa (you should absolutely visit here.)
For each country, find a specific musical example you feel works well and will excite your students. Create a list of all the musical examples your student can use throughout the virtual holiday to help make this music lesson project is a success.
Step 4: Involve your Students
This is a big one: Your examples are meant to be a starting point. We want to inspire our students to go and research each country’s music.
You could end each lesson with the following:
“Remember, next week we will be landing in Tokyo – don’t forget to research a few musical ideas and bring them to your lesson.”
Step 5: Make Music Together
This is the icing on the cake. Where possible, try to find a short piece you can play with your student. Look for pieces which include authentic rhythms and chords, etc.
These pieces don’t need to be long or complicated. You could even just take one rhythm pattern or melodic idea and experiment with it. Echo the rhythms, play question-and-answer or compose using the scale.
- Your students will be inspired as they perform new pieces
- They will be challenged – a clave rhythm or Salsa Montuno is always interesting
- Your students will be motivated as they re-discover their instrument
- Your students will become intermusical as they learn other musical languages
Need help planning your lessons? Nicola’s got you covered on her Planning Lessons hub page.
Go Big and Be Creative with your Resources
For this project, you can go as big as you want. You can create a wide variety of resources to help bring this idea to life. For example, why not print a personalised airplane ticket?
You could find a large map of the world, hang it in your studio and mark each of the countries you’ll be visiting. This will help your student to see the various destinations you plan to explore in each lesson.
Why not use a travel journal where your students can write about their experiences? It could be a powerful reminder of the musicians they’ve discovered, what they loved about each country and musical ideas they’d like to try.
I know – these take time. But, don’t worry, I’ve got your back! Simply click on the images below to download an airplane ticket and travel journal you can use for your own world music project.
The Right Time to Travel
This world music project is not meant to replace the important work we have to do in lessons. And, it won’t necessarily be good for every season. Sometimes you just need to keep your students on track and moving forward.
It is, however, an exciting tool you can use to reinvigorate your weekly lessons and motivate students who perhaps need to shake things up.
What renews your music students’ motivation?
I’m ready for my virtual holiday. Who’s with me? If your bags are packed, leave a comment below and tell me where you’re headed.