Wednesday, 24 July 2013

That (singing) experience…

That (singing) experience…. In 500 words

I believe that many music educators and practitioners have some memory of music experience that has had an impact on their careers or activities.  In opening this forum, I wish to invite readers to respond by submitting their own experiences or stories. Granted, not all will be glossy, but each has something that music educators can learn from.
Chair, MISTEC Commission

Children Singing Outside a Church
Lately, I have found myself thinking back to school days.  Primary school days in particular, with rather frequent visits to my first official year in school. Official because I must have been 5 years old when my brother and I went to school for the first time. Other than my blue tunic with white collar and tie-back belt uniform, I remember singing.  In the classroom, under the tree, during the sports days… we sang. The next three years took me through a number of songs. It is during the singing sessions that I first heard and pronounced words in Kiswahili and kikuyu, very difficult for a 6-year old luo girl living in the heart of Nyanza Province in Kenya. Then came a major change of school, to one where we had an official school choir, and my memorable experiences revolve around choir practice and music outings.  But equally significant are the choral sounds, with unison and part singing, getting to know my vocal range, to sing texts that didn’t really mean a thing to me then but sounded good, and to sing some songs that said exactly what I felt.
It is odd to remember that even at that rather tender age, I found that song had the power to say things that I didn’t have the appropriate vocabulary to express. Singing was the available avenue of music making for us. It opened doors to the experience of beauty through sound, and had a way of inducing a good feeling, however long and tiring the practice session was at times. But was it just a pleasant way of spending time, an opportunity to escape the longing for home that boarding school induced?  Or did I actually grow in ways that were not measurable then, but that can be traced in later choices and achievements?
I believe that this early exposure to good music, through experiences that were fun, to say the least, may be responsible for my (obstinate) choice to study music despite strong persuasion to the contrary.  However strenuous music study became with time, there was always a voice that said ‘this is fun’, because it really was a pleasurable activity. I always felt that the outcome would be pleasant, and noticed that it brought joy to others too. Song in my early childhood led to the development of interest in music scholarship in ways that have sustained academic pursuit decades down the line.


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