CNMN > Projects > VIVA Singers Toronto : A Community Choir Program Connects Virtually

Edmee Nataprawira

  • Objets trouvés ou matériel artistique
  • Voix
  • Petite enfance
  • 5 à 12 ans

One rehearsal to a full school year

  • Éducation
  • Associations communautaires

VIVA Singers Toronto : A Community Choir Program Connects Virtually


In this pro­ject, music edu­ca­tor Edmee Nata­pra­wi­ra and her stu­dents in the Prep Choir of VIVA Sin­gers Toron­to build com­mu­ni­ty vir­tual­ly through crea­tive sin­ging and music making : 

Hi, my name is Edmee Nata­pra­wi­ra. I use she/her pro­nouns. I live and teach in Toron­to, Ontario.

My stu­dents are in the Prep Choir, the youn­gest divi­sion of sin­gers at VIVA Sin­gers Toron­to. Though a small group this year, we come from many dif­ferent back­grounds, with diverse gen­der iden­ti­ties, cultu­ral heri­tages, needs, and strengths. For the past two years, we had a ful­ly online sea­son due to the ongoing pan­de­mic. We are loo­king for­ward to making music in-per­son again, star­ting next sea­son. For most of the stu­dents in the Prep Choir, VIVA is their first expe­rience making music with others in an ensemble setting. 

Our pro­gram includes the inte­gra­tion of crea­tive music-making and com­po­si­tion with the deve­lop­ment of cho­ral per­for­mance skills. We sing a varie­ty of reper­toire, often wor­king clo­se­ly with guest artists – like Suba San­ka­ran and Auto­rick­shaw in our most recent sea­son. New to the VIVA pro­gram is our Crea­tion Stream, which builds com­po­si­tion skills through a varie­ty of mediums. The fol­lo­wing are two acti­vi­ties we use in the Crea­tion Stream : 

Crea­tion Stream

  1. Star­ting well with pre-school vir­tual choir : This is an acti­vi­ty that high­lights how we often begin our rehear­sals. The goal is to set the tone for student crea­tion and to encou­rage stu­dents to hold expan­sive defi­ni­tions of music, so that they see that music is eve­ryw­here. Using found objects from their home envi­ron­ment, stu­dents explore and share per­cus­sive sounds. They then inte­grate their sounds into the B Sec­tion of our wel­come song. View video below or see this link.
  2. A crea­tive approach to tea­ching cho­ral reper­toire : This is ano­ther exer­cise that demons­trates a crea­tive approach to tea­ching cho­ral reper­toire. We had been wor­king on the tune “Don’t Wor­ry Be Hap­py” in pre­pa­ra­tion for the spring concert ; in this video, we are crea­ting a coda for the song. The video shows the kids making connec­tions to things that make them hap­py in their own lives. We then draw out key words from these per­so­nal connec­tions and use repe­ti­tion to create rhyth­mic pat­terns, spea­king the words before applying them to our found ins­tru­ments. The stu­dents then use rhythm syl­lables to notate their crea­tions and later explo­red com­po­sing short melo­dies as well. 

Suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion ?

Click here to view video or read on for transcription.

Trans­crip­tion : “What is a suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion ? I asked my stu­dents at Viva Sin­gers Toron­to in the pre­pa­ra­to­ry choirs, the youn­gest sin­gers, what they real­ly love about choir or what they real­ly love about music. Three major themes came out : sin­ging, ins­tru­ments and happiness. 

  1. Sin­ging : The first came as no sur­prise that the student said that they loved to sing in choir. Sin­ging is the main medium through which we make music and so it’s real­ly what we’re doing most of the time when we’re rehearsing. 
  2. Ins­tru­ments : The second is a lit­tle more laye­red and a num­ber of stu­dents brought up that they real­ly like playing ins­tru­ments. The ins­tru­ment that came up a lot was pia­no, spe­ci­fi­cal­ly pri­vate pia­no les­sons taken out­side of choir time and out­side of school time. I do want to note that during choir prac­tice, we often incor­po­rate found ins­tru­ments such as tin cans, soap boxes, paper towel rolls, Klee­nex boxes, all sorts of found unpit­ched per­cus­sion. I also wan­ted to note that those found objects were also part of this category. 
  3. Hap­pi­ness : Third, although simple, I think this is the heart of music edu­ca­tion. The kids said that choir makes them feel hap­py, that they feel hap­py when they are sin­ging. I think that is the core of what suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion is. 

For me, in reflec­ting on that ques­tion on that prompt, three major themes came up as well. com­mu­ni­ty and connec­tion, pro­cess orien­ted prac­tice and a life­time prac­tice.

  1. Com­mu­ni­ty and connec­tion : The first, com­mu­ni­ty and connec­tion, for me is all about how music making, espe­cial­ly music making in an ensemble, so in choir or in class, you’re with other people, and you have to be able to work with other people, create with other people, com­pose, rehearse, share one’s music. It’s not some­thing that you can do by your­self. And I think that is at the core of suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion. This remin­ded me of a stu­dy that I heard about a num­ber of years ago and I loo­ked at the the people behind the stu­dy, Kir­sch­ner and Toma­sel­lo, on joint music making pro­mo­ting pro-social beha­vior in kids. The pre­mise of it is that being toge­ther in time and having sha­red musi­cal expe­riences helps people want to be more help­ful, altruis­tic, empa­the­tic. Aren’t those all things that we want in our com­mu­ni­ty ? Pret­ty outs­tan­ding, I think that music can play a role in that. 
  2. Pro­cess-orien­ted music edu­ca­tion : The second ele­ment of music edu­ca­tion being pro­cess-orien­ted, has to do with the steps that are taken in the lead up towards a pro­duct. So I think often we think about music edu­ca­tion as being all about the per­for­mances. While I do think per­for­mance is valuable, and can be real­ly quite magi­cal, I think that the way you get there is more impor­tant than the concert itself. So for me, pro­cess-orien­ted music edu­ca­tion involves stu­dents making deci­sions that impact the expe­rience itself. So stu­dents making deci­sions either in terms of com­po­sing and crea­ting the music, or in terms of the rehear­sal pro­cess, or direc­tion that the rehear­sal takes, the pacing. All of those dif­ferent deci­sions are empo­we­ring stu­dents to be part of that pro­cess. I think that’s real­ly key to suc­cess­ful music education. 
  3. A life­time prac­tice : The third idea of a life­time prac­tice goes to some­thing that Dr. John Feie­ra­bend calls the 30 year plan. Here the idea is that as a music tea­cher, you aren’t only tea­ching the chil­dren in front of you, you’re tea­ching them such that they might become adults who feel com­for­table sin­ging hap­py bir­th­day with their friends, who feel com­for­table dan­cing at the wed­dings they attend, and should they choose to have chil­dren of their own some­day, that they would feel com­for­table sin­ging a lul­la­by to the kids in their life as adults when they grow up. So that is ano­ther impor­tant part of suc­cess­ful music education. 

I want to pull up the core values of Viva Sin­gers Toron­to. So there is that ele­ment of per­for­mance artis­try, high­ligh­ting a sin­ging vocal music edu­ca­tion, the idea that music edu­ca­tion needs to be for eve­ry­bo­dy. Lea­der­ship and men­to­ring can be a key aspect of music edu­ca­tion, and com­mu­ni­ty. Again, it’s all about rela­tion­ship. In order to have a suc­cess­ful music edu­ca­tion pro­gram, it has to be about community.” 

Thoughts on crea­tive music-making 

See here to view video, or read on for transcription.

Trans­crip­tion : “What drew me towards crea­tive music making in my own tea­ching prac­tice was, to be honest, the pan­de­mic. I think that when music edu­ca­tion as I had known it no lon­ger was pos­sible, I was real­ly chal­len­ged to reflect on what the pur­pose of music edu­ca­tion was. Why was I doing what I was doing before the pan­de­mic ? And is that some­thing that I want to be doing after, if there ever real­ly is an after ? 

In reflec­ting on the pur­pose of music edu­ca­tion and fin­ding myself with more ques­tions than ans­wers, what I found was that I had more room to expe­riment. I had more room to try dif­ferent things out, to let my stu­dents try dif­ferent things out and I’d dis­co­ver that that’s actual­ly a lot of fun, and real­ly, real­ly valuable. So what drew me to crea­tive music making prac­tice was an inabi­li­ty to do music as it always has been, and space, time, ener­gy and crea­ti­vi­ty from my stu­dents to expe­riment with some­thing new. 

How might crea­tive music making help access the cen­ter of music, lis­te­ning and soun­ding prac­tices that my stu­dents bring to the class­room ? Well, I think as tea­chers, one of our big­gest jobs is to get out of the way of stu­dents’ lear­ning. That is not a concept that I’ve come up with myself, but that a very res­pec­ted col­league of mine has sha­red with me in the past, and I just think it’s such a great phrase : get out of the way of stu­dents’ lear­ning. Crea­tive music making helps us make room for the stu­dents and it helps us step back as their teachers.

What are my hopes for music edu­ca­tion for my stu­dents as of broa­der prac­tice ? Well, I would real­ly love for more people to expe­rience the joys of music making. My hope is that all stu­dents feel able to engage ful­ly and stretch them­selves in music at a high level, and not just those who have been tra­di­tio­nal­ly suc­cess­ful, often with the sup­port of pri­vate les­sons or spe­cial pro­grams. I feel like eve­ry­bo­dy should be able to expe­rience music in its most won­der­ful form. 

And my hope is that we move away from the mis­con­cep­tion that crea­tive music edu­ca­tion com­pro­mises the qua­li­ty of the chil­dren’s musi­cal expe­riences. I don’t think that’s true. I think in actua­li­ty, crea­tive music edu­ca­tion enhances it. And so that’s some­thing that I want to explore more and that I hope as tea­ching prac­tice as a broa­der prac­tice, we’re able to explore and expe­riment with toge­ther as well. » 

For more infor­ma­tion, contact Edmee at edmee.nataprawira(at)

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