Una Classe di Suoni – Musical Workshop for Children in Milan, Italy

Project location: ITALY, Milan
Project start date: January 2012 - Project end date: May 2013
Project number: 2012-064
Beneficiary: Fondazione Accademia d’Arti e Mestieri dello Spettacolo Teatro alla Scala

 

Timeline of this Report: January- May 2013

"Una classe di suoni" is a project consisting of a series of workshops of music and bodily expression that were provided in five different elementary schools in the area of Milan. Each of the schools participated at this 5-month project (January - May 2013).
The following activities were realized in the first phase of the project: writing of the call, promotion in schools, cooperation with the Regional Educational Office and Local Offices, selection of suitable schools, starting of the workshops. Accademia Teatro alla Scala received 24 application forms. Selections were held on 11th December 2012.
Priority was accorded to schools situated in impoverished neighbourhoods with a high density of recent immigration. Others criteria were: distribution of schools in the territory of Milan and its Province; selection of only one class per school; availability of suitable classrooms and equipment; appropriate number of students involved (maximum 25).
Selected Classes were: V° A, Scuola Vittorio Bottego, via S. Mamete 11, Milano; IV° B, DDS Arcadia Plesso Baroni, via Saponaro 36/A Milano; II°, Istituto Copernico, via don Tornaghi 6, Corsico; II° A, I.C. Buzzati Plesso Fermi, via Carnia 32, Milano; I° D, I. C. Einaudi Pascoli, via Val d'Intelvi 11, Milano.

Description of the workshops.
Each of selected school participated on 5-month project (January 2013 - May 2013) and the student were able to choose from two different courses, one tied to the expression of the body through music and the other to singing.

- "The Sounds of the Body" aims to reveal the body's musicality to children by exploring its vocal and rhythmic capabilities through rhythmic-melodic and percussive exercises. The first stage of the course is structured so that the children may gradually learn how their bodies are able to act in conjunction with the space surrounding them. The didactic aim is reached through the handling of a range of different objects and by bodily contact with others. In this part of the project the exercises are borrowed from drama training: students are asked to walk around the classroom in a state fully conscious of their surroundings. This state of consciousness is in part achieved by students' concentration on the sounds and noises generated by the surrounding environment, while they are investigating the infinite range of movements a body can take. During the second stage, listening to music, gesticulation and body movement combined in body expression exercises between pairs and in groups bring the children to construct autonomously forms with their bodies in harmony with the music. After this five months experience, children learned to express themselves through their bodies: children knows, learns, feels, with the body moves, perceives and organizes space and time. The exploration started from the discovery of the surrounding space through the senses: of its forms, its size, its limitations and its openings. The second step of the workshop was focused on the objects (on the one hand those with a very defined form as rocks and shells, and, on the other hand, elements seemingly formless like water), known through the touch. The shapes and the sensations suggested by the objects have been recreated by children through their imagination, transformed into movements and positions. In this second phase, the action of the body in the space started from the listening, and the exploration has become narration and story: the body speaks, has an alphabet, it's intelligent, creative, protagonist.
During the course, there was a strong connection between the perception of the outside world and the self perception. In this way the exploration of the space through the body has become an opportunity for children to learn and discover themselves, their emotions and their own fears, their own peculiarities and limitations.
Once internalized the outer forms, the children were encouraged to freely express their feelings through the body, create new forms and organizing space and time independently without predefined templates.

- "In time with the music" gives especial attention to the dimension of play and enjoyment. At the same time the workshop develops the children's powers of attention and instils in them respect for the rules of the game. The course structure includes an initial stage when children learn to experiment with their voices in a creative way, to pass from speaking to singing, and to explore the creative possibilities of percussion, both by using their hands and bodies, as well as by using musical instruments such as drums, rattles and claves. The pupils are then guided along progressive stages of vocal awareness, as they develop the skills required to sing all-vocal musical pieces or ones with a piano accompaniment, for 2 or 3 voices, and percussion. The most effective method for children's learning is the game, an amazing way to approach at music through enjoyable and rewarding activities. The meetings were based on "make" music, to teach children some aspects of this language (in particular rhythm and melody) not through the theory, but by the practice. At first, the lessons were focused on the musicality of words, and in particular the rhythmic aspects of small nursery rhymes. The rhythmic games were later transferred before on different parts of the body and then on the instruments. Following, the laboratory has focused its attention on the melody, starting from onomatopoeic words, to put in evidence the various sound parameters: duration (long sounds and short sounds), height (high-pitched sounds or severe), intensity (loud sounds or weak) and timbre (of the voice and the instrument). In conclusion children learned to sing in three voices accompanied by percussion.

- Methodologies applied.

All the courses were held by experts from Accademia Teatro alla Scala following a method based on creativity encouraging the active participation of the pupils. Educational methods based on game activities are an ideal way of stimulating children's early acquaintance of music. Through these exercises children develop in a fun and spontaneous way listening skills, empower the attention capacity, the sense of coordination and the social behaviour. Every workshop was projected in accordance with the school teachers, to create a link with their didactic program in a multidisciplinary experience. A primary concern of the Accademia staff is to establish an individual relationship with each of the pupils from the very beginning of the course.

Results obtained.

The Stimulate of active listening skills; the stimulate of sensorial perception; the exploration of the musical and expressive potential of the body and of everyday objects; the identification of the basic expressive elements present in musical language; the stimulating of work group and social interaction through non-verbal communication; the developing of children's powers of attention.
In the last step of the project (from March to May) children continued the courses started in the first three months of the project and built the final performance, an important way to show the objectives reached at the end of the workshop, and a festive celebration of the conclusion of the courses. The final performance was staged on June 6: in this day all classes were joined in a single concert hall (numbering over 150 children); each class performed some examples of the exercises done during the five months of the workshop. The final performance was an opportunity for classes to have an exchange of experiences lived during the courses. Each school was introduced by the respective workshop operator, who explained the purposes and the objectives of the course, showed the children's progress during the five months and commented the exercises.
During the entire progress of the workshops (from the very first lesson until the final performance) lessons were recorded by a photographer - who fixed the most significant moments of the courses - and by a video-maker - who recorded the children's progress -. During the final performance a short moment was dedicated to the exposition of the photos and videos of the workshops.
At the conclusion of the project, each class received a DVD containing the photos and the videos of the workshops, and a programme explaining the means and aims of the project, in order to spread results to the school, where the class come from. This DVD is also available at the Educational Offices of the City and District of Milan.

Results obtained

Music is a fun and spontaneous way of developing children's listening skills, their powers of attention, their sense of coordination and their social behaviour, all of which are also indispensible for a more general education of the person.
Starting from the background knowledge of the students, workshops made the children conscious of their expressive ability, and had a positive impact on their motivation: they were a strong experience of "learning to learn".
Children developed active listening skills for sounds and music, and learnt to express their creativity and imagination: music it's a big way to overcome communication‘s difficulties. Starting from the different skills of each individual boy, the laboratories have focused on education of team working and cooperative learning.
Through the course of bodily expression, children have also experienced and learned to appreciate their own bodies.

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