Klondike Korner: Making Music Instruction Fun

The half hour went by quickly and the children at the Tr’inke Zho Daycare were still involved with the lesson when Tiss Clark, their Orff music teacher, called the week’s session to a halt.

During that 30 minutes the kids marched in, chanting, formed a circle and went through a series of exercises that didn’t look at all like work, but were designed to teach music skills rooted in rhythm, form and melody.

In order to benefit the most from the exercises the kids had to work at listening, exploring and working with others while singing, clapping and bouncing around like bunnies and frogs during a story about an evil wizard who enchanted children.

The Orff method, known as either Orff-Schulwerk or Music for Children, was pioneered by German composer Carl Orff in the 1920s and 30s and has made its way around the world, being established in Canada in the 1960s.

The emphasis is on teaching music in a fun way, with children learning almost without realizing it.

In her report on the 10-week program that ran at both Tr’inke Zho and the Dawson Daycare during the fall, Clark noted that the children developed the following skills:

“Sing and play group repertoire; create sounds to accompany stories, nursery rhymes and songs; respond to the beat in music; demonstrate rhythmic patterns from group repertoire; sing short melodies; and use voice or instrument to explore elements of expression.”

Financing for the pilot project came from the North Klondike Music Society and some funds were raised at the monthly coffee houses and through the Dawson City Arts Society (DCAS).

Clark and the daycares are looking for funding to continue the program through to the spring, but some of the money will probably have to come from parents who want their children to participate in this program.

It looks like $10 per session or $100 for the entire series will do the trick.

If funding to continue at both daycares doesn’t come through, Clark may move the program over to the Odd Fellows hall and operate it privately under the umbrella of the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture. She has already had parents approach her about doing just that for a slightly older group of students.

Clark is a classically trained pianist, but is playing both the pennywhistle and the piano at the weekly contra dancing this winter. She also performs regularly at the monthly coffee houses.

As an artist, she works in mosaics with hand-blown glass and ceramics and makes jewelry.

DCAS president Peter Menzies and Whitehorse Orff teacher Annie Avery talked Clark into taking the training course and she’s found it a nice fit with her other interests.

“I’ve done a lot of workshops, I like working with people, I like working with groups, I like all kinds of drama and creativity, so it’s a nice branching out for me,” says Clark. “It seemed like a natural progression.”

The sessions will continue at Tr’inke Zho and the Dawson Daycare until the end of April.

After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.

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