In the past year and a half, since joining this community as a music teacher, I have experienced some of my most satisfying musical moments.
Each child is a delightful riddle, and I enjoy the challenge of finding songs, instruments, and approaches, which will enable, encourage and validate musical expression. It is especially gratifying when a child finds something they can sing or play independently.
Elsbeth Sunstein* freely gave of her time and energy in providing guidance at the start. She reminded me often that JOY should be the main ingredient in everything I do. Fellow teachers and staff have provided encouragement, advice and insight to help me grow into this role. In the first year, I found myself puzzling about individual children while drifting off to sleep. Getting to know the whole child is an on-going process.
How children respond to music has often been surprising. For some children, I hear a change in vocal patterns, attempting to imitate a song, or even a vocal scale or arpeggio as a coda to the current song we are singing, or clapping and tapping that match rhythmic figures in a song we just sang. I might choose to imitate a vocalization, and very often a child’s eyes and continued responses say, “Thank you for hearing my song!”
Here at Camphill Special School, the music sometimes takes a while to work its way in. A few times I have moved on from a song, thinking it hadn’t made much of an impression. A couple months later, a child will spontaneously sing that very selection. We spiral back around with enthusiasm, and find an entire class excited to pick up and do more with a song.
With the older grades, the class ensembles have included creative instrumental improvisations. This has often been an expressive portal for students who find singing or exact musical structure to be too much.
I am still learning so much and feel even more gratitude for the collaborative spirit of this community.
Editor’s note: Elsbeth Sunstein was the music teacher at Camphill Special School for many years.