By Brittany Thomas, Carter G. Woodson School
I had a real breakthrough with the boy's jazz band a week ago. This is a small group of 7 boys in 8th grade. They really like to pick on each other and not follow rules. They got this really cool piece called South 21st Shuffle by Maynard Ferguson arr. by Mr. Hinson (the band teacher) that the boys absolutely love playing.
There is this open two measure solo section towards the end. None of the boys want
to solo in front of the other boys. They are all completely capable of doing this,
they just don't want to. I kept encouraging them to just go for it and have fun but
they just wanted to sit there and goof off most of the time. Finally I got the trumpet
player to go for it. I taught him really quickly some cool tricks he can add to the
solo like flutter tonguing and using your hand in the bell. Once he did it the other
kids thought it was super cool and so they all of a sudden got super excited to try
doing some extended technique on they own instrument.
I taught the trombones how to flutter tongue and how to glissando with the slide very quickly. Now at this point, everyone is ready and willing to play their two measure solo. Since the boys are really into the idea of “winning,” Mr. Hinson made it into a competition to see who could be the most creative during their solo. The boys did two rounds of solos during the piece and it was so awesome to just see how they just went for anything and everything and smiled and laughed after they were done. Mr. Hinson picked one of the kids who actually pretends to play a lot of the time. He really went for it and we were blown away. I found that the next few days I started to hear him actually playing during the different pieces. He also has slowly started voicing opinions about what he wants to play and going for more and more solo opportunities.
I really believe improvising in front of your peers is a great way to teach the boys how to be brave, how to be kind to other people, and how to just go for it while knowing that there's no way to fail.
May 22, 2017