CNMN > Projects > Jean Lumb Public School : An Urban Elementary Public School Explores Improvisation

Katherine Fraser

  • Ouvert (définition : partitions pour une instrumentation non spécifiée)
  • Objets trouvés ou matériel artistique
  • Instruments acoustiques
  • 5 à 12 ans
  • 13 à 18 ans
  • Éducation

Jean Lumb Public School : An Urban Elementary Public School Explores Improvisation


Ele­men­ta­ry Music School Tea­cher Kathe­rine Fra­ser and her stu­dents lis­ten, impro­vise, com­pose, and reflect on these crea­tive school music experiences :

« Hi, my name is Kathe­rine Fra­ser. I live and teach in Toron­to, ON. My stu­dents are Grades 1–8 at Jean Lumb Public School. Our music pro­gram includes lis­te­ning, crea­ting, making sounds, making sounds sound dif­ferent, expe­ri­men­ting, dis­co­ve­ring, dan­cing, and celebrating, 

Here are some games that focus on lis­te­ning and crea­ting :

Here is ano­ther exer­cise that builds a groove with impro­vi­sed loops

Here is a video of stu­dents com­po­sing using their own ori­gi­nal notation

What Does Suc­cess­ful Music Ed Mean To You ?

Here is  a video of my stu­dents and me reflec­ting on what suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion means to us, or read on for the transcription :

Kathe­rine Faser : “Today we are dis­cus­sing what suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion means to you. So, any ideas ?

Student #1 : “It means any­time that we get to come in here and learn about music and play dif­ferent instruments.” 

Student #2 : “ I also think that in a pro­gram like this, you come here and you explore what you want, even if you’ve never done it before. [The pro­gram] has a big impact on the music itself, and I think it’s a real­ly great expe­rience if you to come here to learn and prac­tice and just express your­self in music.” 

Kathe­rine Fra­ser : “Express your­self. And for me, a suc­cess­ful music pro­gram is that my stu­dents come in and they feel real­ly self confi­dent to take risks when we are impro­vi­sing, com­po­sing, but also when we’re rehear­sing and per­for­ming. That they see them­selves as musi­cians in this space. Any­thing else?” 

Student #1 : “I think it’s impor­tant that we’re actual­ly lear­ning the cor­rect thing. Like when you teach us a song, we learn where it ori­gi­na­ted, or who made it and things like that So we’re actual­ly pro­per­ly learning.” 

Kathe­rine Fra­ser : “I agree. Do you have any­thing else you wan­ted to add?” 

Student #2 : “I could add that I think it is real­ly fun that we come here and you teach us cer­tain music styles and then you give us a chance to turn it around and maybe com­pose some­thing that we thought of and use the impor­tant facts and feelings. 

Kathe­rine Fra­ser : “Love it. And the last thing I wan­ted to say was that it is real­ly impor­tant to me that my stu­dents feel seen and heard and the com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers as well, and that they’re repre­sen­ted here in the room and in the pro­gram, and that I don’t make all the deci­sions on where the units are going next, where the les­sons are going next, what songs we do for shows. We deci­ded that toge­ther. Any last thoughts ? 

What’s your favo­rite sub­ject in the whole school ? (laughs) That’s a loa­ded ques­tion. All right. Thank you.”

What brought you to crea­tive music ? 

View this video for my thoughts on crea­tive music making or read on for the transcription :

« Hel­lo, my name is Kathe­rine Fra­ser and I am the grade one to eight music tea­cher here at Jean Lumb Public School in down­town Toron­to. I’m here to ans­wer a couple of questions. 

The first one is, ‘What drew you towards this music making in your own tea­ching prac­tice?’ The ans­wer to that is twofold.

First, it’s cir­cum­stances. This contract I’m in now is my thir­teenth contract in my fourth pro­vince in seven­teen years. So eve­ry music job I’ve had has had dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ties, dif­ferent stu­dents, dif­ferent expec­ta­tions, dif­ferent ins­tru­ments. I’ve had to become a very crea­tive tea­cher and adapt. That has also given me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to reinvent myself eve­ry couple of years or two, and the­re­fore I have been able to try new things. 

The second part of it is curio­si­ty because I noti­ced that lis­te­ning games and acti­vi­ties and com­po­si­tion impro­vi­sa­tion units defi­ni­te­ly ins­pire more crea­ti­vi­ty and exci­te­ment than tech­nique-based les­sons wor­king up to a per­for­mance. So with crea­tive music making, more stu­dents became invol­ved in my pro­gram, and it became our music pro­gram. It was less tea­cher-dri­ven, less mine. 

Crea­tive music making has moved in my tea­ching prac­tice from one aspect of the pro­gram to the main focus. 

Also, I’ve found ways of cele­bra­ting crea­tive music making in concerts. A concrete example is this year I part­ne­red with the awe­some music pro­ject here in Toron­to. It  is a Toron­to-based orga­ni­za­tion that cele­brates music sto­ries, and fun­drai­sers to bene­fit men­tal health. I had the stu­dents go home and fill out a Google form with their fami­lies inter­vie­wing someone about their favo­rite song and the sto­ry behind that song. Then the classes and I lis­te­ned to the song selec­tions, chose one per class. We arran­ged and lear­ned a ver­sion of it with the ins­tru­ments avai­lable to us. For the concert, it was a video where it had the cho­sen song’s fami­ly making  an intro­duc­tion about why it was impor­tant to them, fol­lo­wed by the class” per­for­mance of that song. It real­ly brought the com­mu­ni­ty voices in and it was a very crea­tive, whole school, long project. 

How am I hel­ping centre my stu­dents” music lis­te­ning and soun­ding prac­tices ? I find when stu­dents create their own music, they’re brin­ging their own music pre­fe­rences into their pro­jects. So right now, Jean Lumb Public School stu­dents are wor­king on a com­po­si­tion unit. The first part is done in Sound­trap and Gara­ge­Band, They were encou­ra­ged to import files into their pieces so they could either record them­selves making music or bring in some You­Tube sound files. Then the next part of the pro­ject had them using Wes­tern Euro­pean clas­si­cal music nota­tion. So they were wri­ting on a staff with notes but they were able to choose wha­te­ver ins­tru­ment that they wan­ted that we explo­red before the unit. That free­dom real­ly helps them find success. 

Right now we’re on the last part, which is ori­gi­nal scores and so the stu­dents can deve­lop their own nota­tion. Some are ins­pi­red by gra­phic scores, and they are real­ly rising to the occa­sion. Their ori­gi­nal scores are so intri­guing, so crea­tive, and so their own. 

And last­ly, what are your hopes for music edu­ca­tion ? That music tea­chers find the sup­port and confi­dence they need to demons­trate to their stu­dents, their admi­nis­tra­tion and the com­mu­ni­ty that music edu­ca­tion does not have to focus sole­ly on the pre­pa­ra­tion and exe­cu­tion of Remem­brance Day, win­ter and spring concerts fea­tu­ring Wes­tern Euro­pean com­po­sers and instruments. 

The­re’s more. Stu­dents deserve more, and though per­for­mance might be a pas­sion for some, it’s not for all. Stu­dents and tea­chers need to lis­ten to more music, more sounds, and more voices. Pro­grams need to be com­pre­hen­sive and cover all aspects of Music Edu­ca­tion : crea­ting, lis­te­ning, cele­bra­ting, per­for­ming, resear­ching hea­ling, rei­ma­gi­ning, and won­de­ring. Thanks for listening. » 

For more infor­ma­tion, contact Kathe­rine at Katherine.fraser(at)

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