Final Thoughts

Posted by Adrian Anantawan on Sunday, 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

Tags: "taio cruz" 

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.