Final Thoughts

July 31, 2011
Final Thoughts
Above: The Hawthorne Kids dancing to an arrangement of Taio Cruz's hit song, "Dynamite"

Finally, we have reached the point where the CODA Project is through its first year of infancy. Like a child growing, it was remarkable for Bryan and I to see a series of tiny stories unfolding, some according to plan, and others a clear digression of what we intended a year before. During these times of inevitable digressions (perhaps accompanied with a degree of stress) that we also learned the most, while ultimately realizing the true ideals and values of the CODA Project. While the intention of CODA was to introduce outreach to our kids, we quickly realized that this was also an initiation of sorts for us. Throughout the program, Bryan and I stumbled upon a clearer vision of the objectives surrounding classical music outreach, not only its role towards children in our current society, and its potential place within general education. Things we learned:

  • Children inherently love classical music, but not necessarily how it's presented in a formal context.
  • We can reach a sophisticated level of comprehension in a piece of music, and still distill these ideas in order for a child to comprehend them.
  • All the music that we play is in some ways novel to a young learner; discovering the music through their ears refreshes our approach to interpretation.
  • Interactivity is key to successful outreach programs, which requires a degree of meta-awareness of the subtle yet dynamic reactions of your target audience.
  • Enthusiasm is required to present music to children, although it is sometimes a lot of work to find the kernels of excitement suitable for ourselves as musicians and a child concurrently.
  • Young musicians are all inherently creative in their playing, which often translates well into creating outreach programs. I believe that the relationship is symbiotic, where if you practice one, the other becomes easier.
  • Engagement comes from activities or ideas that we ourselves would find interesting; always try out an activity that you've created for a child first.
  • Instrumental music is inherently flexible when it comes to story-telling. Less explicit than music with lyrics, we can often make up stories that are not only creative, but coherent.
  • One must draw upon a variety of resources, from different disciplines, to create and design engaging programs for children. In CODA, we drew from developmental psychology, education philosophy, pedagogy theory, an overview of various curricula across North America, to name a few. This is all on top of the learning of the music itself.
  • The desire to practice skills outside of our instruments is not entirely innate. In the midst of mastering your instrument, it can be difficult to see the relevance of performing outreach.
  • In the best instances, outreach comes full circle in the life of a performer, helping us find relevance not only to the music we play, but its role in our evolving society.

These were just a few elements that we ended up realizing along the way in CODA, but also ones that became apparent looking in retrospect. Were there things that we could've done better? Certainly so, and it was the times things went wrong that we kept the most detailed notes. Will there be a 2012 incarnation of the CODA Project? From an organizational perspective, success is measured by the "proof of concept," rather than the small victories and failures like in education. Even in the midst of implementation, we were always cognizant of sustainability: elements of our program that not only we could use for years to come, but for others as well. Nonetheless, sometimes it the moment when school kids are jubilantly dancing to music played by a string quartet that we are assured that classical music will be here to stay; to what degree depends on us.

A special thanks goes out to:

Bryan Wagorn, my good friend and partner in all of this. Thank you for all the hours on the phone, in New York, and in Ottawa.

Geneviève Cimon, Director of Education at the National Arts Centre, for keeping us on track with our ultimate goal.

Colin Funk, for all of his inspiration and calming presence.

Christy Harris, for setting up all of our conference calls, and organizing us all in one room.

Pinchas Zukerman, for his continued leadership, and artistic commitment to the city of Ottawa.

Tina Fedeski, from the Leading Note Foundation.

Janis Sops, our key supporter from Hawthorne Elementary.

Richard Li, for his generous financial support.

All of the CODA Kids, who all have a bright future in music, and will become the next generation of leaders in the classical music community

Stinky Schumann and Orkidstras (Part 2)

July 31, 2011
Above: The CODA kids and Orkidstra have a joint reading at the Bronson Centre

Often described as a tenant in developmental psychology, it has been proven that young children actively confront their fears through role-play. For instance, dressing up as Frankenstein for Halloween allows a child to externalize what he fears most, and by doing so (using candy as a catalyst) conquers it.

Rebranded as the Stinky Shoe-Man group, each of the five members were given the responsibility to invent fun and ...
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Stinky Schumann and Orkidstras (Part 1)

July 31, 2011
Above: The Stinky Schumann group demonstrating "bad posture"

Last November, in preparation for this summer, our CODA Project had found a partner with a program known as Orkidstra—Ottawa’s attempt to replicate the El Sistema philosophy in Canada. Founded in 1975 by Venezuelan economist and musician Jose Antonio Abreu, El Sistema (or “the system”) provides free instruments and lessons for the children of his country, most who come from poor socio-economic backgrounds. The Orkidstra progr...
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Schubert to Seuss

July 30, 2011
Above: The CODA Kids read Dr. Seuss at Hawthorne P.S.

Over the past fifty years, you can argue that there as been no wordsmith who has been as singularly influential to multiple generations of young English readers as Theo Geisel or, better known under his pseudonym, Dr. Seuss. Hidden behind child-friendly words, Dr. Seuss reaches into the whimsical psyche of a youngster, transforming their world through charming (but never patronizing) poetry. His collected works are a cultural institution, p...
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The Workshops

July 22, 2011
Above: Bryan and Natasha playing the "catch the imaginary notes" game

After submitting our original proposal in the fall of 2010, Bryan and I kept our fingers crossed as we waited for a response from the NAC. The general outline of our program would be deliberated by Pinchas and the Summer Music Institute (SMI) administration, and that it would take time for everybody to think about our idea.

Because the SMI's focus has always been one of professional development for young musicians, we had to...
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Childproof Language (Part 2)

July 21, 2011
Above: the CODA kids pretending to be much younger kids

Initially, Bryan and I had more than a few trepidations about the translation activity. The Gershwin letter was meant to be a fun way to introduce the CODA Program to them, and was sent a month prior to their arrival in Ottawa. What if they were all very quiet, shy kids? What if they didn't find the translation activity interesting? At the 2011 SMI, all the pre-college kids had a chance to play three pieces of chamber music: a Romantic pi...
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Childproof Language (Part 1)

July 21, 2011
Above: the CODA kids in Workshop I

What is a translation, and in what forms does it take?

It's etymological roots are similar to that of transportation, literally meaning to "carry or bring across." I try not to get too bogged down into definitions, but I find when we apply a term like this through the lenses of music education and performance, these roots serve to clarify its origins, but also raise the key question: to carry across from where?

Only when we take a step backwards and see the wor...
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Pinchas Zukerman writes about CODA

July 15, 2011
Israeli violinist Pinchas Zukerman, the artistic director of the National Arts Centre, wrote on his thoughts of the future of classical music, and was nice enough to mention our names and a brief outline of the CODA Project in the Ottawa Citizen:

Classical music can still thrive

By Pinchas Zukerman, Ottawa Citizen July 12, 2011

For some it may seem like an alarming time for classical music. The Philadelphia Orchestra, which filed for bankruptcy in April, and the New York City Opera, which is le...
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Bus troubles

July 13, 2011
The CODA Kids at the gym of Hawthorne Public Elementary. Bryan and I had arrived a couple hours earlier to have an interview with the CBC, with the understanding that our kids would be taking a bus an hour later. About half an hour before the Hawthone students were to file into the gym, we received a phone call from the Summer Music Institute office, exclaiming that the bus had never arrived! Even the most detailed plans and proposals can be defeated by a bus driver with a broken alarm ...
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The OEI and the awkward acronym

July 13, 2011
It's always interesting to see a program in it's infancy, especially in retrospect. Here's a section of our proposal in 2010, before it was called the CODA Project:

The Outreach Education Initiative (OEI) will focus on the educative performance of classical chamber music, while stressing creative and innovative ways to interact within at-need sectors of the Ottawa community.

The program will include:
  • Research and discussion of target groups, from their socio-economic, sensory motor, psychosocial...

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The CODA Project

Created in 2010 by myself and colleague Bryan Wagorn, the Community Outreach for Developing Artists (CODA) program was implemented June 2011 at the National Arts Centre (NAC) Summer Music Institute (SMI), founded by Isreali violinist Pinchas Zukerman.