We were invited to the Institut für Elementare Musikerziehung to participate with the students in their music class. One of our “guides” Tonya brought us to the Institut and participated with us. When we arrived, the music teacher, Sebastian was happy to see us and welcomed us into the classroom. Once inside, we had to take off our shoes and sit on rectangular pieces of carpet on the floor in a circle. Each class lasts approximately one hour and we attended the four and five year old classes. Our first bunch was a group of girls and they were very shy but warmed up to us as the class went on. The second class was a co-ed wild bunch and I applaud Sebastian for being able to tend to all 10 rambunctious, eager to learn students and being patient with them.
Both classes began by singing the Name Song (in German of course), in which we went around the circle and when the song stopped we had to say our name. This was a good ice breaker for the students and us as well since it was so repetitive we were able to quickly learn the words. As a group we learned hand gestures to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite, Op 71a.” After we learned the hand gestures, we all had to choose a scarf and the fun began! Sebastian played the music and we were able to dance with our newly learned movements.
Sebastian then brought out the musical note cards to review with the students. They are learning about the whole note, half note, quarter note, eighth note and their beats. The teacher and students have a “secret language” to help them remember the number of beats per note. They had hand movements and different sounds to teach pitch.
After reviewing the notes, Sebastian brought a beautiful wooden xylophone to the center of the circle. The students were so excited to be able to play the xylophone! Each student was able to play. They sang a song and when it came to the chorus they played eight notes on the xylophone. Another song Sebastian played with the students was a song about a mouse that went up the stairs and when he was hungry he had to come back down to eat. Each word in the song corresponded with a note on the xylophone. Sebastian proceeded to ask the students to find the violin and cello in the room. When they did, he took the instruments out of the cases and showed the students. He asked questions about each instrument. For example, he asked them if the instrument was solid or hollow; what is the shape of the outline of the instrument; he told them that the body of it was called a corpse; he went over the different parts of the instrument and asked the students how many strings each instrument had. He had each student practice the form of holding a violin and then they were allowed to play the real thing. He also allowed them to play the cello. Afterwards, he had them touch the cello while he played the instrument so that they could feel the vibrations while it was being played.