Rehearsal of the Abreu Orchestra at Conservatory Lab Charter School
This week, the fellows had the wonderful opportunity to experience some of what we've been learning, by visiting the Conservatory Lab Charter School, where first-year Abreu Fellows Rebecca Levi and David Malek direct an El Sistema program. Alaskan teacher of the year Lorrie Heagy (from the same class of fellows as Rebecca and David) spent the week with us unlocking the “magic” behind fully engaging and managing a classroom of children while elegantly scaffolding lessons.
What was surprising to us was how integrated music is into the school day. It seems that children are playing music all day long, in between other subjects. How fantastic!
A day in our week looked something like this:
The fellows learn teaching techniques with Lorrie.
Fellows and Lorrie begin in a circle singing a song as a ritual to begin our day.
Lorrie spends time explaining how she builds lessons with a balance of including songs the kids know with new songs.
In teaching a new song, she breaks different sections down and celebrates each “level” of learning. For example, if you learn the first verse of a tune, she'll say, “Congratulations! You've reached level 1! Take a bow!” before she moves on to the next verse, hand motion, etc.
After teaching us by instruction, Lorrie would notice the energy of the group and say that we needed to “breathe out” by participating in an activity.
The group would get into a circle and sing another song.
Visiting classrooms at CLCS
Observing a Kindergarten classroom where Rebecca and Lorrie would co-teach a class on songs and movement.
Observing one of the three orchestras at the school (the Abreu, the Bernstein, and the Dudamel orchestras), and noticing how the techniques we explored with Lorrie were being used in the lessons. The Dudamel orchestra (comprised of older students) sets the bar for the other learning in the school. The younger children see this orchestra, aspire to play in it, and know where they're headed musically and that they need to work hard to get there.
Watching a music class with the choir (all of the children sing as well as play in orchestra). The choir director was fantastic, and I got quite choked up to hear the kids all sing together.
Discussing what we observed, what we noticed about the teaching and learning throughout the day.
After spending a few weeks delving into building strategic non-profit organizations, it was a powerful experience for many of us to see the life of an El Sistema program in Boston, and confirmed our aspirations to contribute to this movement in the best way that we can.