2003 - 2004
Alice Shull – Principal/ Teacher
October 2003 Program
The introduction to the first lesson included an explanation of MusicUnitesUS, our plans for attending performances at Brandeis, and logistics. The students looked at a brochure about the Lydian String Quartet, and we discussed Ms. Eissenberg, her roles, and that she would be visiting each class as well. Students were given a brief overview about the pieces in the first concert. We briefly discussed the universal characteristics of all cultures and that the demonstration of these characteristics (language, food, shelter, beliefs, holidays, dance, etc.) shows their diverse nature. The universalism of music as a language surfaced during this part of the discussion. Since the lesson in one class followed their regular music lesson, their music teacher led them in singing Ode to Joy to me.
I told the students that we would focus on a particular composer and time period in order to illustrate that music reflected the times in which the composer lived. Students were asked to close their eyes and do a visualization. I described life during the Stalinist era. Afterwards, I asked students to work in small groups to do a “Think-Pair-Share”. They were asked to decide as a group three actions they would do if they lived during the era of Stalin. They reported out to the rest of the class ideas such as the following:
“I would figure out a way to escape.”
“I would meet with friends secretly and make music that I believed in.”
“I would figure out a way to fight the people in power.”
Students constructed many ideas that reflected what people living in the Stalinist era did to cope and survive. They reflected some of Shostakovich’s own ideas about the meaning and messages conveyed in his work.
I concluded the lesson by reading, (with explanations for the complicated parts), the inaugural declaration of the International Shostakovich Association. Since students had gained an understanding of the era in which Shostakovich lived, I hoped that students would place him in that context and begin to understand the man, the sound and spirit of his music. We also discussed the difference in the way Shostakovich’s music would sound compared to Beethoven’s because of what each composer was trying to say through his music and the era during which each composer lived.
After the first concert, students were asked to write about what they learned at Brandeis. The responses included some universal concepts, but also showed a wide range of what students internalized from the experience. Included are four responses that demonstrate that wide range.
I learned that there is music all over the world and in different countries music means all different kind of feelings. In Russia people couldn’t write the kinds of music they wanted to write. If I couldn’t write or listen to the music I wanted I would be sad.
What I learned at Brandeis is that music unites people together. I also learned that it takes years of practice to become a professional musician so I shouldn’t give up hope because I’m not the best percussion player in the world. Last, I learned that you may get no encouragement and no help but you become a musician overall because you tried.
One thing I learned is that music is very old and comes from many different places such as Asia. You can go to a place that does not speak what you do but understand them by playing music. Music is the alternative language of the world. I also learned that Mozart is the greatest composer.
I went to Brandeis on Friday, October 17. I learned a few things. This is what I learned. I learned that the tango used to be illegal because you had to dance so close. Another thing I learned was when you have two violinists, one viola, and a cello player it is called a string quartet. I learned that Shostakovich used to have to watch his back of what he was writing to play because the king could kill him or arrest him for not playing what the king said to play. It was very hard for him to write music. I learned that Beethoven became deaf and was a very good piano player. He was one of the best. One more thing I learned was when people wrote music they wrote about how they were feeling so if they were sad and depressed it would be very soft music. If they were happy and excited the music would be loud and fast. Those were a few things I learned at Brandeis.
November 2003 Program
The goal of the prelesson for the concert performed by the African musicians was to encourage students to think about the life circumstances that are at the roots of the music and how that music helped bring forth and reflect the concept of reconciliation in Africa.
Students were asked to close their eyes and visualize life as I described the era of slavery in the nineteenth century and then the era of segregation, Martin Luther King, etc. in twentieth century United States. They were then asked to work in pairs to do a “3-2-1 activator”. Students were asked to list three things that occurred during these periods that they felt were unjust. They were asked to name two things they would do to solve those issues. They were asked to write one question that they had. The goal of this segment was to use student’s prior knowledge as a link to “taking them to Africa” to the era of Nelson Mandela. Several pairs of students asked the same question, “Why did this all happen in the first place?” Interestingly, students wrote from the point of view of people with white skin and people of color.
Students were then given a map of Africa and a Word Hunt with words such as Africa, township, rights, apartheid, peace, oppression, discrimination, etc. I summarized a great deal of history and told the main points of the story of Nelson Mandela, apartheid, “how it all began”, etc. Students could find and circle any words they heard in my narrative.
The concluding segment of the lesson was a description of the performers and what they hope to accomplish through their music. The word reconciliation was a focal point of the discussion. In one of the classrooms we linked a question on their bulletin board about injustice (students were reading Number the Stars) to the conditions in Africa. There was some link in both classes to the era of Shostakovich and how certain patterns of authority and injustice occur over and over again in the history of the world.
Jane Gately - Teacher
February 2004 Program
I thought Monday's performance was excellent! I was particularly struck by the impact it had on the Hispanic students that I was sitting with. I was with a student from Mexico and one from Ecuador and they were so excited to be able to understand the words and know something that many of the other students did not understand. It really empowered them.
Overall, I think all of the students benefited from the programs. The opportunity to see and visit Brandeis (many for the first time) is so important. Many of our students and parents across the city are unaware of what tremendous cultural experiences a prestigious institution like Brandeis can bring to our city.
November 2003 Program
“In all my years at Brandeis, this performance was hands down one of the most glorious, life-affirming, and poignant experiences…That this music generated from extreme oppressive historical roots (slavery) and is being carried on for generations is moving and full of hope…Waltham kids laughed and were riveted from start to finish…the educational and social value of bringing their (Perú Negro) music-making into our community and fostering the interdisciplinary connections is quite vast. I look forward to developing interesting educational programming in my classes in response and in conjunction with Perú Negro.”
~ Brandeis Education Program faculty
“The recent visit to campus of this wonderful music and dance group was not only a rich and important cultural event but also a great opportunity to make connections between live performance and the academic contents of some of our classes…these types of academic and artistic connections contribute enormously to a multicultural understanding of the complexities and richness of Latin American Culture…Anyone who was at the Slosberg Recital Hall on Monday would agree with me that sitting there enjoying a wonderful concert in the company of Waltham elementary school students, our own students, professors, and staff, was a very educational and moving experience that contributes a great deal to our goals of a multicultural academic environment.”
~ Brandeis Latin American Literature and Women’s Studies faculty
“I had the pleasure of chaperoning two Waltham 5th grade classes to a Perú Negro performance at Brandeis University…It was personally a treat to learn about the culture of Black Peru through their dance, music, costumes, and singing…The powerful experience of Perú Negro and the students’ reaction to it is difficult to put into words – it is truly something you have to see for yourself. To experience their energy, talent, humor, and feel their obvious love of what they do was an absolute service to the students of Waltham.”
~ Brandeis student from the Education Program