Home to Our Stories: School as a Stage: 2019 Overseas Professional TAT LAB Training: Post-training Demonstration Class
The place was 130 Namdoyeojung Street, Yeongdo-gu, in Busan. It was early June, and Namdo Girl’s Middle School could be seen at the top of a steep hill, which, with the early onset of summer heat and blistering rays of sunlight, led me to imagine how much I would have sweat if I had walked there. However, I began to take a brighter look at things after meeting the students who, sitting in front of the salon where we would be having class, waved without hesitation and greeted me, a stranger, as soon as they saw me. These 16 first-year students gathered together from different classrooms to take part in a class on design, and I was more excited than ever to teach them an interdisciplinary class on arts and plays.
The day of our visit marked the second class of the 2019 Overseas Professional TAT LAB Training: Post-training Demonstration, under the theme of “The Art of Spaces – A School for Everyone, Art for Everyone.” This class was conducted in collaboration between Moon Eun-ah and Han Ji-hye, two of the four teaching artists who had attended the Teaching Artist Training Lab at Washington in March. The remaining two teaching artists, Lee Yoon-mi and Lee Eun-hee, attended as a supplementary class in preparation for their own demonstration class.
Stage, Actors, and Confidence
As a warm-up exercise, four teaching artists and students taking a theater class for the first time joined to form a circle and took turns going around doing impromptu acting. During the previous class, teaching artist Moon Eun-ah and the students explored the different spaces in the school and created design dice to use as important props. There were three different dice, one with different characters, one with different parts of the school, and one with different actions on each face of the cube. The purpose of the activity was to roll the dice and then act out the character and actions at the given space in the school.
“Lintaro (game character) / music room / getting caught while eating chicken” “Bear / cafeteria / spin around 20 times and do 10 sit ups” “Moomin / counseling room / act cute and pretty”
Perhaps it was because this is a mission the students came up with during class last week, but the students did a remarkable job at spontaneously acting out the characters and the actions they rolled in such a short amount of time. Although they were shy, they displayed great participation and enjoyed the activity from start to finish. The other kids even helped out by acting out the poses if their fellow classmates were shy or hesitant. Teaching artist Han Ji-hye led the activity as the students went around one by one, while teaching artist Moon Eun-ah closely observed which children were eager or reluctant to participate, which children were relatively more or less expressive, and which children were nervous. Next, the students and the four teaching artists were divided into four teams, with one teacher per team.
Now that the warm-up was over, the actual class was about to begin. Each team thought of a space in the school and shared a personal episode or special feeling they had about it, then expressed it in the form of a pose. The other students then had to guess what school space their classmates were acting out. For example, one student did a ballet pose to express the dance room. Another student pretended to be studying or sleeping at a desk, representing the classroom. The students also almost immediately guessed the most important space at school: the cafeteria.. Lastly, one student pretended to be in deep thought while taking a stroll under the sun to express the open space in the school near the large mirror. The activity was promising as the students were all quick to guess each room and each activity with ease. Now, the next step was for the students to use each of the spaces in the school as a stage for creating their own scenes.
Ms. Han gave a brief overview of the rules and the spaces that would be used during the activity, then asked the students what they thought were essential to any play. The students responded with "stage(Today we will be using spaces throughout the school as our stages) ", "actors(All of you will become actors and will be acting today)", and "confidence", with the last response evoking laughter from the other students. Once the explanation was given, the students in their teams quickly ran to their respective spaces out of the school dance room, cafeteria, classroom, and space near the large mirror, remembering the importance of confidence above all else during this activity.
Extraordinary Experiences in Ordinary Places
Children spend the majority of their days in school, not only studying, but also eating and taking breaks in between their classes. School is also a place where students meet their friends and laugh together, cry together, sometimes fight, and then make up. Ms. Moon and Ms. Han aimed to help students find a way to develop their emotional intelligence while at school.
The idea for this program originally began from wanting to show that everyday experiences can become art, and that anyone can do art if he or she wants to. I wanted to show that school, where children spend most of their time, is not just a place that children have to go out of obligation to carry out the same, boring routine everyday but, rather, that it can be an artistic space as well.
– Teaching Artist, Han Ji-hye
Although school is not exactly a special or new place for students, I wanted to find a way for them to take the stories and experiences that they have about school and express them artistically. Sometimes, when we take a closer look, even daily routines that seem mundane have something new and exciting about them. I hope that through this program, students can create new memories about school and look at this space from a new perspective.
– Teaching Artist, Moon Eun-ah
The teams went to their respective spaces in the school and began to quickly create their scenes. They shared their thoughts and feelings about their designated spaces and began to assign each other roles. Meanwhile, the teaching artists would ask the students questions and observe how they interacted with each other in the activity, helping them when needed. Surprisingly, the students finished making their three- to four-minute scenes within the span of a short 30 minutes. Next, each team presented their small "play" at their respective space, from the open space next to the large mirror on the fourth floor to the dance room on the first lower level floor. Starting from the fourth floor, the students used the space near the large mirror to put on a performance that seemed to be a new transfer student being bullied by the popular crowd. However, there was a bit of a plot twist. (The reason for this, as it turned out, was because the students did not want a predictable scene with the characters forgiving each other and getting along in the end.). In the next play, held in the classroom, students were chattering behind the teacher's back as she wrote on the board. In the cafeteria, the students talked to each other over a delicious chicken salad. Finally, in the dance room, students who snuck in snacks acted in slow motion as they spilled everything on the floor.
After all of the performances were finished, the students and teaching artists gathered together once again and shared their thoughts on the day. The next step was to assess the students' performance in the learning objectives for the activity, which is the most important part of the TAT Lab. The teaching artists handed out a sheet that the students used to rate the actors, performances, stages, and participation levels of their fellow classmates with a maximum score of five (5), and the best team was then chosen. When asked to share their comments on the activity, the students responded as if they were full-fledged actors.
“Student A was hilarious playing an annoying character.” “The script's delivery was really clear and the team worked very well together.” “They seemed really confident. The slow-motion acting when they spilled the snacks was fun to watch.”
“It was not awkward at all even though we were originally from different classes, and we actually became closer friends through this activity.” “I got the feeling that acting is just not for me. (Laughter) But I definitely want to give it another shot next time.”
This program, which involved exploring the different parts of the school and using them freely, would not have been possible without the help of Ms. Yang Hye-jeong and the other staff and faculty at Namdo Girl's Middle School. I asked Ms. Yang whether it was difficult to make the arrangements and getting the other teachers to cooperate, considering that the students were not from the same class and that this was not an academic activity. She responded by saying that, since the school is located far away from the city, the students do not have access to very many cultural activities. As such, she was eager to give them the opportunity to participate in this program. Smiling, she finished by saying that, no matter how difficult the preparations might have been, as long as the students are happy, it is all worth it. It is definitely no surprise that behind all those smiling children was a great, caring educator.
Finding the True Essence of Arts Education
Since 2017, the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service has conducted a training program that is an extension of the TAT LAB to strengthen the capacities of teaching artists and other educators in the field of arts and culture education. However, there were definite limitations considering that the program offered in Korea was relatively short. It involved inviting experts from overseas for a 3-night, 4-day program, whereas the regular TAT Lab program is originally conducted in three sessions over the course of seven months, with collective training, lesson plan coaching, and teleconferences. In response to this, in 2018 a few TAT Lab participants traveled to Seattle to attend the final collective training session. After attending the training, the teaching artists returned to Korea and conducted regular meetings and follow-up research meetings based on what they learned. The result of these meetings was the concrete development of their “big idea” through the composition of a concrete Learning Plan and the implementation of the Tuning Protocol, which was an important part of the overseas training in using feedback to strengthen the achievement and assessment of certain learning objectives. These resulting innovations were then applied to actual classes to test them out.
Prior to this experience, I had always worked on my own as a teaching artist, which meant that I often stuck to what I was good at or familiar with. However, in working together as a group, I gained the courage to branch out and try new things. I kept on thinking of things that we could work on together, considering the unique expertise and experiences that each team member could bring to the table. I think this is the biggest accomplishment as a result of the research meetings following TAT Lab training, as well as proof of the need for such meetings.
– Teaching Artist, Lee Yoon- mi
I feel like this was a meaningful experience because I could work together with my colleagues rather than working on my own. I think that working collectively in this way is crucial in finding the potential to develop higher quality approaches to arts and culture education.
– Teaching Artist, Lee Eun-hee
This training program was a clear demonstration of the endless research and consideration that the four participating teaching artists had collectively put into its planning since they attended the overseas training program in March. Above all else, it was particularly noticeable that they emphasized working as a team rather than in solos when approaching different issues. Also, the underlying essence of this program was not how or what the teachers taught but, rather, how and what the students learned. Currently, it is difficult to find classes in schools and in the arts education field that promote cooperation among teaching artists themselves and between teaching artists and other educators. In order for arts education in schools to improve, perhaps we must begin by finding teaching artists who use their unique expertise to inspire and stimulate each other to do better as educators.
"Orchestra of Dream"-A Three-day Voyage : 2019 Orchestra of Dream x YOLA Music camp and Open Rehearsal
On a rather gloomy day, I heard that Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) was performing at Songpa-gu in Seoul in collaboration with the Orchestra of Dream for three days and two nights from March 14th to 16th. I made my way there as quickly as I could and found myself by the sounds of the instruments. After entering the space where the camp was being held, I stood and listened for the message that the artists were trying to send with their music.
Unfamiliar Places and Time: Shall We Get to Know Each Other Better?
Slightly different sounds and slightly awkward harmonies, nonetheless passionate, can be heard in the music being played in the large space. From behind, I watch the orchestra members as they sit bright-eyed in their seats. The Orchestra of Dream and YOLA musicians still appear to be adjusting to playing together. However, it is still remarkable to see these young musicians looking confident and in their element, playing as if they were professionals. The passion of the orchestra members and the conductor can be felt from the start of the performance to the very last note. The three pieces that the joint orchestra is performing are Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No.9 in E Minor, Op. 95 "From the New World", Arturo Márquez's Conga del fuego nuevo, and Lee Ji-soo's Arirang Rhapsody, each with its own unique style and story. As they practice together, the musicians engage in a mutual exchange where they express themselves and learn more about each other through music.
The conductor leading the joint practice is LA Philharmonic's Paolo Bortolameolli. The first thing I noticed was the amazing progress the young orchestra had made in such a short time, considering that the two respective orchestras come from different countries and backgrounds and had only been practicing for a day or two. Then again, if you listen closely, you could hear parts where the joint group was not in harmony, missing notes here and there and playing as separate groups rather than as a single unit. Perhaps the reason for this lack of unison is not that the musicians lack the skill to perform well but, rather, because the gap that exists within the relationship between the two orchestras is reflected in the sounds of the instruments. Clearly the conductor took notice of this and attempted to bring the two groups closer together, explaining to them how to fix the problem in a way that they would understand. He explained that music, as an intangible form of art, depends on the way the performers interpret the piece they are playing; even if an orchestra is playing the same piece, if each member interprets it differently, the resulting music will not sound in harmony. On that note, Bortolameolli told the musicians to think of playing in an orchestra as working together to draw the same painting. Then, almost as if he could see that joint painting, he provided them with the detailed guidance they needed to play together as one.
He provided very exact directions during the practice session, telling the students to perform one part as if they were giving someone an ultimatum, while playing a different part as if they were exhausted after dancing out of excitement. I was impressed at how the conductor would describe and imitate the sound of instruments so that the musicians could follow along. Bortolameolli also made a point of focusing on the instruments whose sound was most important at any given time during the piece, making eye contact with them and encouraging them to play to the best of their ability. Certainly, the level at which this training session was being conducted was not expected from an amateur youth orchestra class. With each practice, the music began to sound more and more harmonious, with the sound of each individual group gradually margining into a single, harmonious performance. The song that the students were playing at this point sounded like a completely different one from the one I had heard them play when they first arrived, despite the fact that it was the same piece. Although they still had some work ahead of them, their noticeably growing harmony was a positive sign that left me looking forward to each next performance.
Children Share Their Stories Through Sound
After the group practice session ended, the musicians took a short break before dividing into separate teams. During the break, it was nice to see them acting like children, as opposed to the serious musicians that they appeared to be during practice. The first team included the violin and viola, the second included the cello and the base, and the third included the brass, wind, and percussion instruments.
While observing the team practices, I came to realize the importance of the instructors and their capacity for teaching. One of the most notable aspects was that, before the start of each practice session, the instructors gave an overview of the music's background, information on the composer, and the intention behind the piece. In other words, rather than looking at the music sheets and playing as soon as the class began, the instructors placed an emphasis on ensuring that the students had a high level of understanding of the music that they were playing. Using this information, the young musicians focused on reflecting what they learned when performing. I watched as the cello and base team tuned seemingly endlessly until they finally achieved a level of harmony that was deemed satisfactory. According to the instructor, the cello and base act as the foundation for the rest of the instruments in the orchestra, it is especially important that they play accurately and in unison; otherwise, the rest of the instruments will also find it difficult to play in harmony. Throughout the session, I came to learn more about each instrument's individual sound simply by watching them work toward playing together in unison. During the practice session for brass, wind, and percussion instruments, the instructor surprised me once again by using a piece of paper and blowing on it to demonstrate how hard to blow and how long to hold each note.
While watching the team practices, I noticed that the instruments accurately complemented the personalities of those who played them, with the sounds almost like the voices of the children themselves as they came together as one. The violin and viola players practiced fiddling their bows rapidly to even the smallest beat with the greatest precision, all with similar facial expressions. The cello and base players create an environment with their deep and robust sounds so that the other instruments in the group can shine to their fullest potential. Meanwhile, the brass and wind instruments pay close attention to the notes of the string instruments as they await their turn in the spotlight, playing a beautiful melody that flows through the air like spoken words. As for the percussion instruments, they come and go at the most important times of the piece to please the audience that much more. Just as there are people with all different personalities who come together to create a single world, the separate teams of the orchestra bring with them unique characteristics that come together to create a single, harmonious melody. The key to this is mutual consideration and respect, knowing when to step in and out of the forefront in collaboration with the other orchestra members. It is through this relationship that different sounds work together toward the common goal of a single musical piece. It is through this process that children share their stories through sound.
Working Together to Turn "Your" and "My" Sound into "Our" Sound
How do the participants feel and what thoughts do they have in participating in the orchestra? We asked them what their favorite part of the program was and what it means to them to be a part of the joint orchestra.
"It was truly a remarkable experience to play together with these amazing musicians and conductor. I am so happy to have been able to communicate with YOLA through music. We were a little stiff and nervous at first when we played, so it was interesting to see the LA members play with so much energy, as if they were dancing. Our conductor kept pushing us until we played with the melody, beat, rhythm, and tone that he wanted, explaining everything to us with great detail to the point that we improved in even our smallest forms of expression. Once our melodies and harmonies came together, it was like a match made in heaven. Emotional moments like this are when I find meaning in creating music together.”
– Lee Hyun-do (Osan Orchestra of Dream, Clarinet)
It was clear that the children fully understood the meaning behind this joint orchestra. This experience, although it calls for a serious attitude and a lot of deep thought, will later be remembered by them as perhaps some of the best moments of their lives. Teaching artists also participate in the music camp along with the students. How do these educators feel about this joint orchestra project?
"I was happy to see the kids taking part in something new and, to be honest, was also a bit envious of them. Although they were a little awkward at first in following the direction of the conductor, they seemed to catch on as time went by. I think the most important things that the Orchestra of Dream has to offer to children are exposure and access to various music types and a platform for those interested in exploring more challenging levels of music. During this camp, I noticed that the LA teaching artists were skilled at teaching children the different nuances of various types of music in great detail, much like teaching them how to paint a picture step by step. They also seemed to enjoy teaching students how to use different actions to express themselves musically. Although they might not realize it now, as time goes by, the students of this program will come to realize that this is an extremely important and meaningful experience that certainly does not come easy to everyone.”
– Kim Soo-min (Asan Orchestra of Dream, Violin Teaching Artist)
In this way, everyone participating in this joint project experienced, learned, and grew in many ways together. Throughout the course of this project, from the first moment they began learning and practicing their instruments to the moment of the open rehearsal, the participants worked closely together with YOLA to find "your voice" in "my voice" and take these various voices and combine them to create "our voice" through close collaboration and hard work.
Orchestra of Dream X YOLA – Toward A New World Together
At 3PM on March 16th at the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall, it was finally time for the long-awaited open rehearsal of the Orchestra of Dream X YOLA program. No one would have guessed that it was just a rehearsal judging from how nervous the orchestra members appeared. I was prepared to cheer them on as I remembered how passionate they were when I saw them practicing the day before. I held my breath and quietly watched the young musicians' every move. They were so nervous they resembled young soldiers about to be sent to the battlefield, almost as if they were going on stage to perform in front of a live audience at an official event. Prior to the rehearsal, I observed them as they all tested their instruments and reviewed the parts that they felt less confident about over and over for the last time before it was time to begin. Paolo Bortolameolli, the conductor who trained with the orchestra the day before, opened the rehearsal with Arirang Rhapsody and Conga del Fuego Nuevo, and the crowd erupted in roaring applause.
After completing these first two performances, LA Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel took the stage. His overbearing presence could be felt throughout the venue as soon as he walked on stage, but the young musicians continued to look straight ahead. Together, they prepared to welcome their new captain and embark on a new voyage. The opening of Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No.9 in E Minor was filled with great tension, with the first E sharp chords sending chills down my spine. I watched intently at the edge of my seat until the very end of the piece, feeling as if I had embarked on a journey with the orchestra members. Whenever the members felt as though they had been playing hard enough, Dudamel convinced them otherwise and continued to push them harder, surprising the young musicians and, perhaps, even disappointing them a little as well. Dudamel kept explaining to them that their performance needed a greater air of tension.
As the conductor, Dudamel kept running the orchestra members through practices and, whenever they felt like quitting, kept working hard to help them realize their true potential. It was almost as if he was playing a game of tug-of-war with the musicians, testing them again and again until they corrected even the most minor of sounds in their performance. Dudamel would catch short melodies that others did not notice and would change them on the spot before having the orchestra practice. This way, he could show them the length and the depth of each harmony and feel them first hand. Through this process, the young musicians built a stronger sense of the weight and importance of sound. After learning from one of the greatest conductors, albeit for a short period of time, the sound of the orchestra changed completely compared to what it was before.
Although the explanations on music given throughout this program were presented at a level that was appropriate for the children to understand, they were also a big help to me as a musician. The teaching artists provided such great details on the various factors that made up different rhythms, melodies, and harmonies, along with the roles that each instrument group plays in the overall sound of music. Also, they taught in a way that focused on understanding each musical piece with great depth. When it was time for the final E major part of the piece, all of the musicians, the conductor, and even the audience members were in a state of rapture, echoing on even after the brass instruments ended on the final note. Once the music ended, there was a brief silence before the crowd broke into applause. Through music, not only the musicians, but also all of the people present in the same space embarked on a journey together from an unfamiliar place to a brand-new world. With the emotion from the performance still lingering on, the rehearsal finally came to a close.
The music camp and open rehearsal held jointly between the Orchestra of Dream and YOLA was not simply a collaboration between two orchestras in exchanging music. Rather, it was an experience through which the participating young musicians could learn how to push themselves past their limits and show their true potential. Together, in an unfamiliar space, the children learned the strength of human synergy and through consideration for one each other and strong communication, culminating in a shared sense of community. It is my sincere hope that this program will serve as an example, encouraging other Orchestra of Dream coordinators around the country to refrain from limiting the programs to simply musical performances and aim toward greater opportunities for development and growth on a global scale.