The Workshops

Posted by Adrian Anantawan on Friday, July 22, 2011

The Workshops

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 frame our new idea under the same philosophical umbrella. This led us to our primary question, within the context of including CODA Project in the SMI curriculum: what are the qualities of a professional musician in the 21st century?

Appropriately, I remembered a mandatory course I took at the Curtis Institute of Music entitled "The 21st Century Musician," (my first year of college was in 2001) which for some reason at the time, evoked apocalyptic visions of android violinists in my mind. Who knows what a musician will look like over the next 100 years? In 2002, the Kenan Institute for the Arts (under the auspices of the University of North Carolina) sponsored a conference for ten of the top conservatories in America, in hopes of shedding light on the curricular evolution of their programs not heading into, but having already arrived into the 21st century. Eric Booth makes a valid point that the term conservatory itself seems to indicate a penchant towards non-progressive, reactionary thinking. However, I believe that conservatories make their name by acting as the stalwart guardians of the rich classical tradition of music, one that we needs to be vigilantly preserved for the benefit of successive generations. However, what goes into this preservation, and how has this changed in the 21st century? This question, amongst others, was addressed at the conference, and discussed amongst a variety of stakeholders: the conservatories themselves, arts foundations, the League of American Orchestras and a handful of current students. The results led to a shift in thinking about how to balance a conservatory curriculum such that the students were finding enough time to practice, but also had a chance to become fluent in skills like advocacy, entrepreneurship and outreach. I'm not sure about this, but the 21st Century Musician course at Curtis may have been a byproduct of this meeting in 2002. 

Regardless, I am ashamed to admit that I didn't realize the importance of any of this at the time, as tried to skip as many of these "professional development" classes as possible in order to practice the Korngold Violin Concerto that semester. In all fairness, however, I wasn't entirely convinced that the school placed a priority on this class, as while it was mandatory, it always seemed non-formalized to a point where we couldn't treat it seriously as students. Lessons ranged from "how to create your own press kit" to "life as a freelancer," although perhaps I missed the one dealing with "outreach in schools." Today, I'm curious to see two things: how the course at Curtis looks today in 2011, and a retrospective survey of musicians my age to see if we use any of the lessons that were taught in the course in our current careers. 

In any case, the CODA Project was not a survey course on the 21st century musician, but merely one facet of it; we were hoping that the reduced scale would help us focus our workshops, especially in light of the two weeks we had with the kids. The second motivation for the condensation was that because these were pre-collegiate students, we wanted them to have an introduction to outreach rather than be swamped with extra work during the SMI. Even with two workshops, and one "field trip," there was a challenge in balancing their time in traditional professional development and the CODA Project. Conversely, Bryan and I had the additional challenge to distill outreach to it's essential elements in a handful of hours. This is why Bryan and I chose the name CODA Project, rather than CODA Program or Initiative. With project based learning in mind, we would be obliged to design every activity in the workshops with respect to the Hawthorne P.S. and Orkidstras interactions. So what did we do in the workshops? Here's an outline that Bryan and I created in March 2011:

Activities (Workshop I)

Introduction of Program (10mins)

•    Why are we doing this? Catalyzing motivation for students

BRAINSTORM: How did you fall in love with classical music? What was it about your first experiences in this art form that has led you to be here in this program today? How can we provide these same experiences to a six-year-old that will spark a lifelong interest and curiosity about music?

•    Overview of Schools (curricular elements, demographics, overall pedagogical philosophy, pictures/video from Hawthorne, A/B speak)

1. Overview of childproof language (10mins)

•    Share and discuss translation activity (Ask for volunteers to read, and volunteer translations which we received anonymously. A/B provide supportive feedback)

•    Review children’s literature involving music (A/B read short 30 second examples aloud, and students are asked what is appealing about the writing style)

Children’s books (grade level 1-5), whiteboard, sound equipment (speakers), projector (HDMI cable)

Immediate outcomes: develop and understand the vocabulary to effectively communicate with children

2. Overview of successful interactions through media (10mins)

•    Present videos of effective children’s shows involving music (i.e. Sesame Street, Arthur and Dora the Explorer) (4 minutes)
•    Discuss elements of engagement that worked effectively and are age-appropriate

BRAINSTORM: What did you, as a child, learn? Why and how does it work?

Resources: Video clips (A/B provide in advance)

Immediate outcome: increasing confidence, improving improvisatory skills, and also discovering what good interactions between young audiences and musicians

3. Application of outreach templates (60mins)

•    Groups have the opportunity to rehearse and act out one of the three interactive activities (folk music, call and response, story telling)

•    One or two groups at a time will be one stage (Dvorak: call and response, Mendelssohn/Schubert: folk music, Schumann/Janacek: story telling), engaged in one of the three activities. They will be given the content, and learning objectives, and there will be a group discussion as to how to animate that content. The students not on stage are actively engaged in participating as the “students/audience” and are also giving feedback. A/B are constantly moderating to ensure that the students are aware of how to perform the activity

•    By the end of the 60 minutes, all of the groups have carried out their activity, and all students have learned how the activities will be successfully carried out. Students not performing will act as both “architects/creators” of the animation activity, and the “children/audience”

•    A/B refer to process note templates. Each group is given complete process notes so that they are able to carry out and practice their entire interactive performance by the second workshop

BRAINSTORM: Which methods and techniques ultimately lead to the optimal amount of active participation of your target group, rather than passive listening?
What facets of your program will motivate children to learn more about classical music?

Elements from David Wallace “Reaching Out” (Chapter 2, pages 6-16), Eric Booth “The Teaching Music Bible” (Chapter 6 and 8), ball

Intermediate outcomes: Students are aware of the specific elements in their outreach programs, subject to refinement into workshop 2
Intermediate outcome: Students have carried out interactive activities, and are aware of modes of interaction within their chamber piece, with a clear choice of games/activities to engage a young audience.


1. Dry run-through of each interaction (90 mins)

•    Each group presents their outreach presentation (minus the performance of their pieces, to save time)
•    Videotaping will be used as a reference, and will be given to each individual group at the end of the day
•    Other students not performing will role play as a younger audience, ask questions, and will provide feedback in a moderated discussion by A/B
•    Facts will be given on what can be avoided
•    Focus will be placed on clarity of communication, presentation, and audience engagement

BRAINSTORM: How did we do this time? What do we need to do to get better? Talk us through your thinking process as
you work present this activity.

Resources: iPad, stands, piano, student instruments, David Wallace “Reaching out” (Chapter 6) Assumption: Students have most of their dialogue worked out by the beginning of the workshop

Immediate outcomes:
Greater confidence in interacting with peers, more effective real time decision-making in the performance, improved speaking and presentation skills, students understand the relationship between their music and the classroom

Long-term outcome: Students are self-motivated and have the tools to initiate and implement outreach programs in their own communities

Assessment: Have the students prepared for their actual performances at school? Survey?


How much of this did we actually achieve while we were in Ottawa? Surprisingly, most of the outline came to fruition in Workshop I, with a few hiccups with the iPad and the projector. For the Workshop II, Colin Funk had the brilliant idea of splitting the entire group into two for the run-throughs, therefore doubling the time we had with each individual group. Sometimes simple solutions can make all the difference in the world. To see a few months of planning condense into those few hours we had with our kids was extremely gratifying, and although we probably didn't get as much done as we would've liked, we learned a lot from these workshops to apply to the 2012 incarnation of CODA.

Tags: coda  workshops  "curtis institute" 

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.