I was with the 4th- and 5th-grade Jenks Arts & Music (JAM) Class last Friday morning. I’ll be setting a poem by Ryan Eckes for The Crossing and the Jenks choir, which they’ll perform next year. But Friday was a get-to-know-the-composer day, after they’d already gotten to know the poet.
The Friday before, I had seen the rapport Ryan had with the students, so I knew he had set the bar high. Mr. Kell introduced me, and I talked about what a composer does, about how I sang in choirs when I was their age, and about how words have music in them already.
But I wanted to dispense with talking quickly, so we improvised a piece of music together on the text “I’m happy to be in JAM Class,” involving singing, clapping, and stomping. I played a short work of mine, A Song of Sonia Sanchez from Latin Fiesta’s CD. They shook maracas along to it and we had fun. I also invited them to ask questions at any time, and have now learned to be careful opening up the floor to 4th- and 5th-graders.
“Are you famous?” was the first question.