Jong KC junior
The Royal Conservatoire of The Hague offers a special programme for young children for instrumental education, the so-called ‘PI’-education. PI stands for ‘Programma Inleidend’ and means ‘prepatory program’. The shortcut PI is then extended to ‘Programma Inleidend Piano Onderwijs’, PIPO, which means ‘Prepatory Program for Piano Education’. In that way other instruments can be learned, like PISO for percussion, PIBO for recorder, PICO for cello and PIVO for violin. The two-year education is given on Saturdays and consists of a General Music Lesson with singing, moving, listening, dancing, etc., and an individual and/or group lesson for the instrumental teaching. The lesson time is about two hours each Saturday and the children are taught aurally first. The basic principle is: we play what we sing and we sing what we play. The repertoire is mostly covering as well the General Music Lesson as the instrumental lesson. In the last years more and more teaching tools which are also part of the Kodàly teaching have been integrated into the programme, like relative solfa, hand signs or the takadimi-language.
After this programme the students may apply for the sequel education, another two years of Jong KC junior, or ‘Young Royal Conservatoire junior’. This is education is more focussed of developing young talent as a preparation to enter the Young Talent department of the Royal Conservatoire. Three different lessons are offered: an individual lesson, a group lesson and a musicianship lesson. Every Wednesday I am giving the musicianship lessons. There I teach singing skills (especially canon singing and ensemble singing), rhythmical and melodical sight-reading, and aural skills.
Young Talent Classes of the Royal Conservatoire
After the Jong KC junior programme as described above, the students can enter the Young Talent department of the Royal Conservatoire. In fact it is a Music High School for children from 10 to 18 years old. Together with three colleagues we give solfège and musicianship training to the music students in roughly three age groups: ‘onderbouw’ (12 to 14 years), ‘middenbouw’ (15 en 16 years) and ‘bovenbouw’ (17+). The have lessons three times a week, which is ideal for developing skills by training and repeating. In all the groups we apply relative solmization, handsigns and takadimi rhythm language. Generally we work from sound to symbol, so aural awareness and aural training comes before reading and writing (staff) notation. For this research I will only take the lowest age group into account, because there I partly work with the same repertoire which could be used in the higher groups of Elementary School level, but in a slightly different way: because the different age I use more complex (clapping) games or more polyphonic activities to challenge the children on their level.
Higher Professional Music Education of the Royal Conservatoire
Concerning Higher Professional Music Education of the Royal Conservatoire I am teaching the Main Subject Singing students from the preparatory level up to the third year. In the study year 2013-14, during the first year of my research, the curriculum was organized in such a way that there were four separate lessons of 50 minutes, given in two times 100 minutes on the same day. The subjects were Harmony, Analysis, Aural Skills and Solfège.
After a lot of discussion in the Music Theory Department we chose for a new curriculum for the study year 2014-15. The main innovation was the division of four times 50 minutes on four different days. This would guarantee more training during a whole week than putting all lessons on one day only. Also the subjects were changed to Aural Skills and Improvisation, and Aural Skills and Analysis. As the names already suggest, there is a general shift in the approach: no longer abstract music theory right away from the paper deciphering noteheads into theoretical concepts but rather an aural approach to music itself by active singing, playing and listening as a preparation of reading and writing skills. So musicianship as a basis of analysis and improvisation. In the higher years, also keyboard and harmony skills are added to the curriculum.
For my teaching practice the new curriculum meant to teach continuous lessons four times a week where I can practice with the students what they have learned (to achieve ‘routine’), and where they can apply skills to different musical contexts.
Concerning this research I first wanted to take the lessons for the prepatory year and the first year into account. By writing this paper I realized that it would be too much. Nevertheless I would like to stress that there is a big congruence in methodology between Elementary School teaching and teaching the beginners of a prepatory conservatoire level. The main similarity is the sound-to-symbol-approach and the use of solfa, rhythm language and physical movement. The main difference is the fact that the level of cognitive understanding is much higher, so - for example - concerning takadimi-language I sooner arrive at the level where the system is understood as such. Still - and that is another similarity - this understanding does not replace constant training, repeating and practicing.
Elementary School ‘De Leeuwerikhoeve’ (The Hague Mariahoeve)
The orchestra of The Hague, the Residentie Orchestra, has started some years ago with sending out orchestra members into local schools to give instrumental lessons. This project is called ‘Leerorkest The Residents’. As a preparation for that lessons and also as a way to attract children to choose for following instrumental lessons, educated music teachers are sent out from the orchestra to the schools. For the year 2014-15, the second year of the research, I decided to participate as one those teachers in an elementary school in The Hague Mariahoeve. The school is called ‘De Leeuwerikhoeve’ and can be labelled as what is called a ‘black’ school, a school with more than 60% immigrant children.
From september to november I taught a 4th class (age 7/8) followed by a 3rd class (age 6/7) from december until march. The 4th class counted about 27 children, the 3rd class 24. The lessons took place in a normal classroom with tables, there was no space to move as necessary. So the 3rd class was split up in twice 12 children, six lessons for the one half followed by six lessons for the other. Due to the reduced amount of children the tables could be moved aside to have space for basic body-percussion and circle games.
I conciously decided to teach these children because I believe that I can not seriously research methodology for Elementary School children without having a practical experience to try out repertoire and methodological steps. The lessons were given every Tuesday afternoon at 3pm, lasting 60 minutes. Before the lesson the children were 15 minutes on the school’s playground and had another 15 minutes time in the classroom to eat and drink. There were no quality instruments at hand, only a little box with some old hand drums.