Wednesday, 25 July 2012

More from ACCM...

So (As Indians like to start their phrases with..), Amy and Constance into our third week as WAMers!

We’ve only been teaching at ACCM this week, but have still been keeping ourselves busy. The new timetable seems to be working well – the students have now started to turn up on time (despite still having some unexplained absences..), and we are following our schedule tightly, with the keen intention of covering as much of the syllabus as we can during our stay. At the end of the three years of studies (of which three students are in the first year and one in the second), these students will be awarded a Bachelor of Music (BMus) qualification. Thus, we know we have a lot to work on with them.

With the level of qualification in mind, there are few resources to accommodate the students’ needs. We have a good amount of chairs, keyboards and guitars, as well as a whiteboard of good size, a pair of good speakers, a decent office with a photocopier, and two clavinovas. However, there are no listening resources in the college. With the limited internet availability, we have tried to play musical examples (specifically for the history module) from Naxos, etc, but the students have no means to access listening materials themselves. Also, there were no desks in our first couple of weeks of teaching…

…but we now have six brand new shiny desk-chairs!

Both pictures above are of the weekly tests that we have scheduled for the students. These aim to check their understanding of topics covered in aural, theory and history modules. The results of these so far show their improvement in grasping the sol-fa technique and recognition of instrument sounds; but rhythmic notation seems to remain as a weakness. The history results were also satisfactory, apart from the students finding difficulties in pronunciations and spellings of composer-names, stylistic terms etc.  

In this week’s piano lessons, students have shown a good level of practice. They have improved greatly in the pieces that we have given them to work on. However, sight-reading remains a weakness, especially in the bass clef, and they also have a great deal to improve on their rhythmic reading.  Other small issues are seen in a couple of the students, such as stiff wrists/fingers, and 'sticky-out-elbows' whilst playing scales - Amy has filmed her one student that seems to have gotten into this bad habit, to see if they can show any improvement by the next lesson!

A couple of students have opted for extra individual lessons on their other instruments, so we have also taken on violin and vocal lessons. Again, learning from listening is apparent, as they struggle to sight-read but demonstrate strong call-and-response skill. In Beni’s first individual vocal lesson, we were surprised by how strong her singing (and speaking) voice could be. It has been fulfilling to see this increasing confidence in all of the students, as they are starting to approach us more with questions or for our creative input.

Composition classes are now running smoothly. With the limited time we have, we have selected song-writing as the compositional focus. After having the students compose an eight-bar melody last week, we have moved on to setting melody to text. As all of the students have a strong Christian background and are keen on using music in that context, we assigned them the renowned Psalm 23:1-3 to compose a melody to. They each tried their best to notate this down, and performed them in class:

In addition, we also performed our own versions of the Psalm as examples to demonstrate melodic compositional devices, and as a brief introduction to harmony writing. 

Apart from having all the serious studies, we hold a singing/ ensemble workshop every Wednesday. After having the students list their favourite songs, which were all Christian songs, we thought it would be a nice idea to work on these in our ensemble workshops. Last week, we started singing four-part harmony on Behold the Lamb (Thangboi’s favourite).   It's probably worth noting that we were surprised at the large population of Christians in this area of India!

As we didn’t have to travel to Trivandrum last weekend, we briefly visited Munnar, which was absolutely stunning! We trekked and toured around Munnar, and paid a visit to Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, which gave us breath-taking views of endless tea estates, wildlife animals including elephants, bison, monkeys, and more. Our local guides took us on a detour beforehand, where we each had a fresh coconut, hand-chopped from the tree (and witnessed our host climb up the tree with bare hands and feet!).

It was a truly refreshing weekend, we got back to ACCM feeling revived and ready for another busy week.

So(!), that’s this week summed up. More posts to follow!

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