In the end, our victories with this class were on a socio-academic level perhaps more than musical. Above is a student who at first was disruptive and a bit negative. By the last sessions, she was attempting to play a chord I had showed her on the guitar. Other girls at her table, who tended to follow her lead, were listening and participating and attempting to shush other tables when they disturbed the class. Another girl at her table tried to play the woodblock as a table leader. Their entire table tried to get a boys’ table on the correct “beat” when we tried to put ostinati and the rappers together as a class. Buy-in, some sense of ownership regarding their project, and tentative teamwork as well as very much improved class atmosphere, was a great outcome.
The quarter note beat box table. . .who tried to, but could not find, the beat!
As you will hear in a video clip interview with the two rappers, these boys tried valiantly to drum a simple quarter note beat as a table while the rest of the class played other ostinati, either as soloists or in tables. The desired result was to be a beat box of rhythms or “ostinati” that would be the tonal and percussive background for the rappers. We had assigned an agogo bell, cowbell, woodblocks, guitar, and gong, at this table, and gave each table simple ostinati that we had created, notated as a class, and also used in a rhythmic dictation exercise. The leader at this table consistently played the quarter note late. This led to attempts by both the rappers and girls at a neighboring table to help them get it right. It is amazing that the boys made several attempts to get it right in front of the rest of the class when a few weeks prior, none of them would even answer a question or volunteer an opinion. It is also amazing that students who had previously laughed at and derided each other whenever someone volunteered an answer–whether it was correct or not–abandoned that dynamic in favor of some actual teamwork.
Lisa teaches Brian, the original hand drummer, an ostinato
Here we have Brian, the original impetus for this project. As Art would say “right thing, wrong time.”. Brian was playing incredibly intricate rhythms on his desk during the first few classes that other boys would join, creating a noticeable disruption with what was a musical activity. We hoped to eliminate the distracting noise and give him an outlet for his creativity by building our exercise, in part, around the rhythms. Brian in this picture is attempting to read a rhythm we had worked on in class in preparation for leading his table in playing their assigned ostinati.
“Money helps save people’s lives, Money helps buy school supplies. Money helps me sleep, it buys me stuff to eat safely, Buy net flicks and rent a movie, Money is my homie but he smells kind of funny, All the money in the world won’t buy me. Money is honey, it’s sticky and sweet, I can buy anything with it off the street. Money helps for laundry, I see money in my dreams, It’s a nicety, it can feed my family. Money can’t buy love if I give myself up. Money buys me Hello Kitty stuff. Money could buy tools, but I use it for tissue. I really think that’s an issue. I would buy a private plane, buy a gold car, Money has very great power. I would buy the music program new violins and cellos, Buy myself a mansion, buy my own tv show. I would swim in money, I would buy a jet. Help the homeless, buy chocolate, give the poor gifts. Every kind of bill has a president on it. Money is sometimes hard to get. Fifty Cent sometimes makes a difference to some people. He should make a sequel, all people should be equal. Money is something you can keep, but when you lose it, you always weep.
The money rap, with blank couplets completed in class
This is page two of the money rap.
On the last day of class, we attempted to put everything together; the ostinati being rapped by Lavar and Divonte while their classmates drummed, played, etc. their ostinati either with their hands or on instruments.
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