Archive for the ‘family’ Tag

Building “family capital” through music

I enjoyed reading this article from the Creativity Culture and Education website recently. It discusses the importance of families participating in arts and culture activities together and the benefits of inter-generational arts activity, but also describes some of the barriers that exist (unwittingly or not, on the part of the presenters) for families in getting involved in projects and events. I remember reading some Australia Council research sometime ago that described the way experiences in music-making that were shared with family members were more influential and powerful (in predicting involvement/engagement in the arts in the future) than those that were experienced in schools.

It was this statement that led me to develop the Jam project model that I present for the MSO each year in Federation Square. I wanted to create a music event that would be attractive and appropriate for people of all ages and all levels of experience, all playing together. This meant there needed to be entry points for all people – the wee ones who take part with a parent sitting beside them, those who are slightly older and able to work more independently but not yet learning an instrument, young kids of primary and secondary school ages who are pretty competent on their instrument (whether it be an orchestral instrument or band instrument, or rock band instrument…), adult musicians, adult non-musicians… We needed to offer them music that allowed for all these different levels of experience and skill, and present the workshop in such a way that all those different age groups would be engaged and hopefully challenged.

It’s quite a tall order, but I think we acquit it well! The Jams I lead for the MSO last an hour (the right amount of time for the youngest group of participants), and I bring in with me musical material that is accessible and highly engaging. I prepare a short score or part for each instrument so that they have something to look at when they first arrive and are warming up, and that they can take home with them afterward. There is always a team of MSO musicians on hand to play alongside the participants and make sure they feel comfortable with what we’re doing. The Jams with MSO are free, and held throughout the year.There is one coming up on Wednesday 30 June so if you are in Melbourne, grab your family and whatever instruments are to hand (pots and pans are welcome!) and come along and check it out.

Singing sevdah

Christmas in Sarajevo with K’s mother was particularly special and memorable. Firstly, she made a special cheese pie (sirnica) for our breakfast. Then, in the evening, I got my clarinet out and started playing some of the sevdah (traditional Bosnian songs) that I remembered. K’s mother and auntie were there, along with K and Kemo (his cousin) and it was an instant party. Everyone sang, and I mined my memory for different songs. K and his mother would also sing some to me, line by line, so that I could play them.

Then more relatives arrived. I assumed it was a planned gathering, but K told me later that his mother had got on the phone and called all her siblings, saying, “Come over, come over, Dzil is playing clarinet, we are singing sevdah.” Soon a crowd had gathered, and the songs and wine flowed fast.

 K also whispered to me that this is not something that they normally do, and it is very special for them to sing these old songs together, very positive. He said that it needed a catalyst, like me being there with my clarinet, to make it possible for everyone to relax together in this way. He also said they were very impressed by the way I could pick the songs up while they sang them! Good to know those years of solfege training prepare you so well for something like this!

Everyone sang, even Kemo who was only 11 years old when he left Bosnia for Norway. I asked him where he had learned the songs, wondering if his parents had sung them, if he remembered them from his childhood years in Bosnia, or if he had learned them later. (It is an ongoing curiousity for me, what happens to the musical culture of people who are displaced from their homelands). He said that he learned them mostly with his friends, other Bosnians living in Norway, during and after the war. When they got together at parties they would often sing the sevdah songs, so this is how he knows them.

There were frequent tears this night, as many of the songs are sad and very emotional. The first song that I played, right at the start  of the evening, was one that I had been told was partiuclarly special for people. However, later in the evening, K translated the words for me, and I was alarmed at how stark and unflinching the song is about the horrors of war and the possibility of young soldiers not returning. I had offered this as a song to play?? Such a responsibility I had assumed, so blithely!