Music Appreciation Class At Government Tamil School – Austin town, Bangalore

Kalyan Siva conducted a music appreciation class at Government Tamil School – Austin Town, Bangalore. He shares with us his 6 day long musical experience.



 Govt. Tamil School in Austin Town 
As part of a pilot for a new class in Government Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) schools, students of grade III and IV of the Govt. Tamil School in Austin Town attended a class on the Music Appreciation from 8th July 2013 – 17th July 2013. This report aims to detail findings and feedback from the experience, and to recommend the class to other schools due to the positive response from students and teachers alike.
“Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.” –Ludwig van Beethoven

Why Music? Do we need another class?
There is a word that defines children very well. ‘Precocious’. They learn things very fast, and build on their knowledge as they blossom into young talented men and women. As a child, I had the benison of being introduced to music, and it has been my constant companion ever since.

Various studies in India and abroad have tried to predict the effect of music on students, and it has been a contentious topic in educational circles. Of late, studies are favoring and calling for the inclusion of music  into  the  curriculum  of  students.  According to  them, music improves concentration levels of students and this has been supported by a corresponding increase in marks obtained by the children.

As a volunteer with Akshara, my initial assignment was to go through the RTI act and the curriculum of the SSA schools in the state. Along with this, I was given a data sheet, compiled by Akshara, which detailed information about the schools. On going through this list, it struck me as a surprise that most schools didn’t have a playground. Children need recreation to balance out their curricular activities. Citing this, I developed the idea of having a music class for students. If the students were able to improve their analytical ability because of it, as many papers on the subject state, it would be great. If not, it would still give them a lifelong companion and develop in them a passion for the fine arts. This, for me, was motivation enough.

The intentional use of music in the classroom will set the scene and learning atmosphere to enhance our teaching and learning activities. Plus, using music for learning makes the process much more fun and interesting! Music, one of the joys of life, can be one of the joys of learning as well. Below are a few areas where teaching music can be highly effective.

LEARNING-INFORMATION
Music  can  be  used  to  help  us  remember  learning  experiences  and  information.  In  Active Learning  Experiences  music  creates  a  soundtrack  for  a  learning  activity.  The  soundtrack increases interest and activates the information mentally, physically, or emotionally. Music can also create a highly focused learning state in which vocabulary and reading material is absorbed at a great rate.

ATTENTION, ATTITUDE AND ATMOSPHERE
Preparing for a learning experience can make the difference between lessons well-learned and just passing time. Certain music will create a positive learning atmosphere and help students to feel welcome to participate in the learning experience. In this way it also has great affect upon students’ attitudes and motivation to learn. The rhythms and tempo of musical sound can assist us in setting and maintaining our attention and focus by perking us up when we are weary and helping us find peace and calm when we are over-energized in some way.

SELF-EXPRESSION
Music is the doorway to the inner realms and the use of music during creative and reflective times facilitates personal expression in writing, art, movement, and a multitude of projects. Creation of musical compositions offers a pathway to expressing personal feelings and beliefs in the language of musical sound.

All of the above has been well corroborated by John Hopkins University and Stanford University School of Medicine. Renowned Neurobiologist says that music exists all over the world, and has conducted and researched various studies into the impact of music on children. The support for this movement is endless.

It cannot be emphasized enough that, apart from all the learning benefits that music potentially brings, it will always be a companion to those who learn and relish it. Introducing young ones to such a wonderful and accessible art form is return enough.

Music Appreciation Class at GTLPS – Austin Town
The Government Tamil Lower Primary School (GTLPS) in Austin Town was the venue of my classes. With a large courtyard and playground, and clean premises, the school exuded an aura of learning.

I was allotted time with the children of the Third and Fourth grade from 14h00 – 15h00 every day. So as to give the children a holistic view of music, the music classes were organized as follows:
    Day 1: Introduction to Music the building blocks of music
    Day 2: The base of everything: Classical Music
    Day 3: Variegated music: Different forms of Regional Music (Folk)
    Day 4: Salute our Nation: Desh-Bhakti songs
    Day 5: The light side – Filmy
    Day 5+: Desh-Bhakti + Filmy

Due to a request from the management of the school, citing their desire to make the children learn more Desh-Bhakti songs, select songs of that genre were practiced from day 2. Each session ended with the national anthem.

Each day brought on new excitement from the children and new delight to their instructor. As a class, they were their naughty and fun loving selves, but soon bought into the idea of learning music, and I could perceive their enjoyment. The language of communication was Tamil, but I was also asked to occasionally speak in English so as to help them get a grasp on that as well.

Day 1 proved to be the most challenging. Getting the children’s attention was no easy task, but I managed to do so by singing a famous film song. After getting their attention, I explained to the children the origin and the importance of music in our world today. This was followed by a session where I taught them about the elements of music: S-R-G-M-P-D-N (The Saptaswara). The children had warmed up to the idea of the class, and learnt intently. To my happiness, many had had an exposure to this earlier.

Day  2  took  the  children deeper  into  the  world of  classical music,  with  different  variations  of  the Saptaswara, and the introduction of the concept of Raga and Taala.   They were taught how classical music is the base of all we know in music and its relevance in our culture even today.

Day 3 saw an introduction into folk music for the children of GTLPS Austin Town. With songs like ‘Aache Manaya’, the children understood how different regions had different styles. They were allowed to express themselves by coming up and singing any song of their choice. With only a few volunteers initially, the parade grew to a point where each child wanted to sing multiple songs! Seeing their enthusiasm, I made it a point to give them time at the end of each class to sing whatever they wanted. That is, after all, what this class was all about.

Day 4 was officially Desh-Bhakti day. In a very long, but enjoyable session, the children were introduced to the ever-popular ‘Ham Honge Kamiyaab’ and ‘Yeh Tiranga Pyaara Hai’. Watching the sing ‘Ham Honge…’ with gusto was a special moment for me. Their rendition of ‘Vande Mataram’ was also fine tuned.

Day 5 was filmy day, and ‘Yuhi Chala Chal’ from the movie ‘Swades’ was their task for the day. They clapped to the beat and sang to the tune wonderfully well. Later, all of them wanted to sing their own favorite tamil songs, and the passion with which each of them did so was truly amazing.

From Day 6 onwards, my task was to perfect their Desh-Bhakti songs for Independence Day, and they followed to the best of their abilities.

Children of Class 3 and 4 of GTLPS, Austin Town

Throughout the course of the workshop, the attendance in the class remained fairly constant. Even though nothing can be said about the effect of this class on the attendance of the students, I was able to perceive a happiness during and after the class in the children. They looked forward to giving their vocal chords a go, and they seemed interested to learn throughout the course of the class.

Through this experience, the importance of music in the lives of children was reaffirmed, and I would urge those who can to introduce this concept in all schools. It would almost be unfair to deprive them of the opportunity to learn it. They don’t have to become Shankar Mahadevans and Shreya Ghoshals. A little excitement and happiness in their lives through music will go a long way.

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