Tuesday, December 23, 2014

first grade

the beginning of the journey

Happy Holidays! Here is a song I wrote for the first grade students who sang it for their parents the day before Winter Break.
Winter Song

Long nights and cold days
The winter time is here.
Leaves have all fallen
The gray skies appear.

Star light shines on me
From heaven above.
I’m with my family
I sing a song of love.

North wind and dew drops
The winter time is cold
Branches sway softly
On a fading sun of gold

Star light shines on me
From heaven above.
I’m with my family
I sing a song of love.

Deer mice and hedgehogs
The winter wood’s asleep
Baby bird and baby bear
Slumber and dream

Star light shines on me
From heaven above.
I’m with my family
I sing a song of love.

Candle glows softly
My winter rest is time
Warm in my blanket
Bells ring and chime.

Star light shines on me
From heaven above.
I’m with my family

I sing a song of love.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

a school play about salem

the pedagogy and the pride of waldorf school plays

The Davis Waldorf School Class of 2014 performed their musical Good Village Salem: The Unsung Story. When the final song concluded, parents, friends, faculty, and alumni applauded the students' stage performance. For a Waldorf school, the applause is more than a traditional response to a production that was well executed, more than an appreciation for the actors' abilities. A Waldorf school play has a pedagogical basis.

It is just as much about the process as it is the performance. Through the grades, with a curriculum that is rich in biographies, legends, and stories, the class teacher chooses a play that can bring the curriculum to life for the students. Learning about the fall of Troy and the rise of the Roman Empire, for instance, is brought not only through main lesson lectures, but also through a play.

The work of producing a dramatic retelling of a story requires reading and memorization, delivery and recitation, collaboration and cooperation, music and singing, art and crafts. In this theatrical medium, skills that are honed in the students in language arts, practical arts, and performing arts are creatively taught and practiced. Additionally, in the eighth grade, the elements of theater such as the script, the cast, and set are introduced so the students can further their appreciation of this age-old craft. The curriculum lives through the play. For our eighth grade musical, I wrote a play that retold the circumstances of the Salem witch trials, which is pertinent to our studies of colonial American history. Its themes included the entanglement of law and religion, women's roles, community versus individuality, friendships and reputations.

On a deeper level, the teacher has the opportunity to meet the child's soul force by thoughtfully giving the child a particular character to portray. Through the character, the teacher is able to individually tailor a lesson for the child, whether the child needs more practice in reading or memorization, or that the child needs to learn some kind of social dynamic, or some underlying truth about him or herself.

After all the practice and the hard work, the play is ready to be performed. The theater arts is meant to be shared and experienced by others, the audience. A dialog, a relationship, is formed in that beautiful moment of a live performance. This is what makes a play so thrilling and raw and powerful. When the play is performed by the children of parents who make up the audience, the pride of the production completes the arc of a Waldorf school play.

The applause on the evening when our musical ended was as much for the performance as it was for the pride for the students on a job well done, on an effort made, on the creative spirit released and shared and enjoyed.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

a musical about salem

eighth grade sings and dances through Salem Village

In he beginning of the school year, I promised the eighth graders of Davis Waldorf that I would write them a play. Capitalizing on their love of music, singing, and dancing, I figured, why not really stretch myself artistically and write a musical? So over Winter Break, in the solitude of early morning, I pecked away at the laptop, and amid the afternoons of family life, I pounded away at the piano. Days before our return to school, I had completed my first musical! It is called Good Village Salem: The Unsung Story.

Twelve students, six original songs, one witch!

Not only was writing melodies and lyrics a challenge, but the story itself required sensitivity and plenty of creative license. After all, I was dealing with a dark time in colonial American history, where the Puritan way of life was wrestling with its strict doctrine, the colonists were faced with insurgency from the Wampanoag, and there were land disputes and political turmoil. The Puritans struggled with the clash of community and individuality. Their lives continuously put them at odds with the devil. And how do I deal with the witch craft trials on stage without actually hanging anybody at Gallows Hill?

Well, using historical figures from Salem, adding plenty of real themes and motivations that drove the Witch Trials, I managed to get to the court trial of one of their citizens Bridget Bishop, and after much drama in court (pulled from real transcripts), the judge rules that Bridget Bishop is.......

Sorry for the cliffhanger! I'll let you know, in about seven weeks after the students have performed the play, what happens!