I have been a music educator of some form of fashion for 20 years and a trained musician for going on 30 years. In that time I have heard countless times from adults and children, “I am not a musician.” Or “ I can only play the radio or carry a tune in a bucket”. Nothing cuts me to the quick more than these statements or the stories of a long ago teacher, parent, pastor, or ensemble director that has told someone “don’t play”, “or just mouth the words”. Music is an essential part of what defines us as human. We are hard wired to be music makers and EVERYONE is a musician the only difference is some have more training than others. Often, in our dash to produce this holiday concert or that earth day extravaganza we lose sight of the critical importance of the process and act of making music is with each of our students.
Of course we want our programs and concerts to be pleasing to the ear and make an aesthetic statement, but we often forget to ask, “Are all my students getting the opportunity to make music for the sake of music making?” One of our most critical jobs as music educators is to empower students to embrace music as part of life and to encourage unabashed participation in the joy that is music making. I encourage you to ask yourself this question each day when you write your lesson plans and prep for your classes.
I have included a simple activity that can be done with just about any age group that emphasizes the process of music making at its center. I have taught this to just about every age group from early elementary through adult and each time there is a sense of empowerment and joy when they produce the final product in a matter of 10 or 15 minutes.
Peter Piper Rhythm Activity:
Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.
If, Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers,
Where’s the Peck of Pickled Peppers Peter Piper Picked?
Students will be able to perform a rhythm piece with accompanying ostinati to the tongue twister Peter Piper.
1. Teach students the tongue twister Peter Piper by phrase rote.
2. Repeat the tongue twister several times until students are comfortable saying it as a group.
3. Have students keep a steady beat by patching on their legs while saying the poem.
4. Have the students clap the syllables while saying the poem.
5. Divide the class in half, both saying the poem while one patches the beat and the other claps the syllables.
6. Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 as much as necessary for people to feel comfortable with both the syllables and the beat.
7. As a class create 3 ositinati to accompany the poem. Common ones that have been used in the past include:
i. Hot, Hot, Hot (quarter notes with a rest at the end)
ii. Jalapeno (dotted quarter eighth notes with a rest at the end)
iii. Bell Pepper (quarter note followed by two eighth notes)
8. Divide the class into groups to say and clap the ostinati together
9. Choose a group to say the poem and clap the syllables while the other groups play and say the ostinati.
10. Have all 4 groups perform at once noting the timbre similarities
11. Have all four groups perform again whispering the poem and words to the ostinati but stomping, clapping, snapping or patching the poem and ostinati.
12. Transfer the rhythms to unpitched rhythm instruments. (Suggested instruments- Hand drums for Hot, Hot, Hot; shakers for Jalepeno; triangle or bells for Bell Pepper; rhythm sticks for the syllables of the poem).
13. Have students perform poem with ostinati by “thinking the words” and playing the instruments.
14. Final product can be part of a larger project such as a rondo or stand alone as a percussion piece.