Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Day one, year two

After a really fun long weekend, the new semester starts today. I'm not actually teaching today, technically, but I do have the first lecture of the course that I'm running a couple of recitations for, so today will be the first opportunity I will have to see the new students and get a sense of the classroom situation. I have been excited about this for a really long time (one of the first things I said to my advisor when I arrived in New York was "I'm really looking forward to teaching"), but I'm also beginning to feel both more clear about the course, and a little nervous. Most of these students are not music majors, and while only very few of them are freshmen, I feel like this is a really important opportunity to open up their academic experience. I am TAing for a course called "Expressive Cultures: Sounds", and the topic of the class is "Contemplating Voice". This course is part of a general academic program that students have to take a certain number of courses from during their degree. For many people, this is a course they don't especially want to do. They are taking it because they have to, and they are taking this class in particular because they think it will be an easy A. For some of these students, this is the only liberal arts course they will take during their entire course of study, and for others, it is the only music class. So I'm invested not just in selling them on the university experience, but also of giving these students a little bit of a sense of the value of something outside of their usual experience. The course lecturer has decided that we will be seeking out opportunities to use our voices during this course, and we will be doing some vocal exercises during every lecture, which is a great place from which to start, but I also want to find ways for students to think about and use their voices that are not necessarily expressly musical. Singing is such an important part of my own life, because of the level of physical engagement it gives me, but speaking is also becoming more and more important, and I hope to use this class as an opportunity for the students and I to think more about how we use our voices in mundane and also creative ways. I want to teach students about what it means to communicate in a classroom so that they have a skill that they can take beyond this course, and I want to teach them about the type of learning that happens when you act or perform or use your body to engage with the things around you. But if the only thing students come away from this course with is the knowledge that they spoke in recitation every week, and were listened to, that will be a pretty good start.


Evan T. said...

Sounds like there could be a lot of creative opportunities in this class. I wonder if Pauline Oliveros's vocal tuning meditations would work, especially in the context of students who might not sing on a regular basis? Good luck with the class! - Evan T.

choirgirl said...

Thank you for the suggestion, Evan. We are going to be using Oliveros's meditations, and so your comment confirms for me that this is a good choice. If you have any other suggestions, I would be delighted!