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Music Teacher Hosts Parent “Informances” at Glenwood Elementary

On Friday, April 12, 15 parents and adult guests joined Shanshan Ma’s Mandarin dual-language kindergarten class, as music teacher Amelia Coleman led them all through a curated music lesson. Despite the children’s obvious excitement at seeing familiar faces in the audience, they listened and performed like troupers, displaying how much they have learned in eight months.

All Glenwood Elementary School (GES) kindergarten parents were invited to “Bring a Parent to Music Day,” an “informance” during students’ regularly scheduled music class during the week of April 8. An informance (think performance plus information) aims to be both educational and entertaining, and it’s likely the guests at the Friday session would agree on both counts. The children’s glee and exuberance alone were enough to fulfill the entertainment requirement!

GES kindergarten parent informance Coleman said, “I began doing kindergarten and first grade ‘informances’ this year because I wanted families to experience first-hand the importance of music education, especially early childhood music education. Studies show that most of a child's musical aptitude is developed before the age of seven, so a quality music education that teaches students how to keep a steady beat and sing in tune is crucial before that age.”

After a flurry of greetings from the students, guests settled into their chairs in the music room, and the children took their places on the rug in front of Coleman. Each child held rhythm sticks, and they paid close attention to their teacher, following silent cues through gestures and rhythm. The initial activity focused on beat motions as an early step in music literacy.

Coleman explained to the guests that the goals in music class are to be “tuneful, beatful and artful,” and for such a young group, those qualities seemed appropriate. For a vocal exploration activity, Coleman played simple musical phrases on a slide whistle and asked the children to use their fingers to track the sounds in the air as they rose and fell. From there, they moved into song fragments, starting with the whimsical “Down by the Bay.” Children had prepared their own verses to add after the refrain, such as, “Did you ever see a dog, eating a log, down by the bay?” With each silly offering, the children laughed, many looking back at their parents to share in the hilarity.

Coleman said she wanted to give parents the tools to incorporate music into their homes and lives outside of school.  “Almost all of the songs and games we played during the informance were songs that students can easily teach their parents or play with their siblings and friends, so I intentionally invited the family members present to participate in our songs to reinforce that mindset.” The next tune was the old Scottish folk song, “Aiken Drum,” but instead of using food (i.e. “His eyes were made of meatballs…”), the children inserted instruments, “His ears were made of maracas, maracas, maracas, and his name is Aiken Drum.” Again, the children could barely contain their giggles.

GES music informance The final few activities revealed how much Coleman uses movement exploration to help children listen and respond to rhythms and beats. They played cats and mice, freezing when the music stopped, and then moved on to a clear class favorite, “A Ballet of Unhatched Chicks.”

Coleman said, “In the end, my goal is for families to feel comfortable making music together throughout their lives, whether that means clapping along with the band at a basketball game, singing on road trips to pass the time, or going to concerts performed by musicians that they love. I want students to realize that they don't have to be a ‘professional’ musician in order to be a musical person!”