As a teacher, I'm always thinking about creative ways to keep my students motivated. There are many different forms of motivation though. For instance, the fear of getting a bad grade or being punished is a motivator (though not a very effective one), at the same time that earning a reward like a trophy can also be a motivator. Each can be successful in its own way, but extrinsic motivators like these can be somewhat superficial and lose their value over time. That's why I always try to motivate my students by helping them connect to a deeper sense of meaning in what they do.
In music, one of the simplest and best forms of motivation is the opportunity to play music with others. Not only is the sense of connection and camaraderie super rewarding, but you also feel a sense of accountability in wanting to do a good job for your band mates. Unfortunately though, most young musicians don't get the chance to play in groups until they reach the middle or high school level.
So when I found out that three of my students not only go to the same elementary school, but are in the very same class, I invited them to perform in a guitar trio together! Of course, just me telling them to play together isn't enough motivation in itself, the kids also have to be involved in some of the decision making in order to feel a stronger sense of ownership and accomplishment. In this video, I sat down with the newly formed Orpheus Junior Guitar Trio so we could discuss our goals for the group. You'll get a chance to see how Orpheus students are involved in the learning process every step of the way. I hope you enjoy!
Johnny: My name is Johnny and I'm playing the Russian national anthem.
Klondike: [hums melody].
Klondike: [hums melody].
Johnny: “Drunken Sailor.”
Klondike: And the “Drunken Sailor,” that's right.
Mabel: My name's Mabel and I'm playing the “Drunken Sailor” and “Ai Bolubolum,” German national anthem, “Auld Lang Syne,” “Love Somebody,” the “Bear Song.”
Klondike: Lots of songs, very cool.
Lizzie: My name is Lizzie. I’m playing “O Canada,” “Joy to the World,” and “Ai Bolubolum.”
Klondike: That's right.
Klondike: I really appreciate you guys meeting with me today. I'm super excited to get this trio started. And so I thought it would be interesting to share how you guys met, because it's really funny, you guys all met each other at school, but you didn't know you were all taking guitar lessons with me. Mabel and Lizzie, would you share how you found out that you were taking guitar lessons with the same teacher?
Lizzie: Well, I was humming “Ai Bolubolum” at school and Mabel heard me and she asked if I was humming “Ai Bolubolum” and I said, “Yeah, how did you know?” And she answered, “Because I play guitar.” And then I asked her, where did she go [for guitar lessons]? And that's how we figured it out.
Klondike: Very cool. And Mabel, since you've got your guitar out, would you play “Ai Bolubolum” for us?
Mabel: Sure! [plays song]
"Mabel heard me and she asked if I was humming “Ai Bolubolum” and I said, “Yeah, how did you know?” And she answered, “Because I play guitar.” And then I asked her, where did she go [for guitar lessons]?"
Klondike: Johnny, how did you find out that Mabel and Lizzie also took lessons from me, is it because I told you or did you find out at school?
Johnny: I knew that Lizzie was and then Lizzie told me that Mabel was playing.
Klondike: Got it. Yeah, because you and Lizzie come on the same day, so you kind of sometimes see each other at Orpheus, huh? Johnny, did you want to play something for everybody? I am just so proud of you for your own composition. Would you mind sharing your composition with them?
Johnny: Well I made up this song, and Klondike thinks it’s really good.
Klondike: And what's it called?
Johnny: “Lurk.” [plays song]
Klondike: I love that because you play so many cool different things on the guitar with slides and harmonics and everything.
Klondike: Lizzie, did you want to play a piece, or just show us the chords you know how to play? Because I think that's something super cool that I didn't even teach you, you went to a summer camp and you learned your chords. Or any piece you want to play.
Lizzie: [plays song]
Klondike: That was awesome, that was a great start. What was that piece, Lizzie?
Lizzie: “Joy to the World.”
Klondike: “Joy to the World,” awesome!
Klondike: Let's talk about what we want to do as a trio since it's super cool that you guys already are in the same classroom. And then of course we can all play together in the Orpheus Friendship Concert. There's so many different choices of what kind of cool music we can play together, and I want to get everybody's opinion so I can know which type of songs to pick for you.
So one choice is, we could have you all play on guitar some of the songs you already know. For example, you could do “Ai Bolubolum” and we could have one of you playing the melody, another one of you playing the bass, and another one of you playing chords, just like in a rock band. So you'd all together make it sound like a bigger song. And then you could play it again and a different person would play the melody. So that would be with known songs.
Another possibility would be to do popular music. Music by The Beatles or music by, I don't know, Ariana Grande or some other artist that everybody here likes their music.
And a third option would be to do songs from a movie, like sometimes my students like the music from Coco, or sometimes they like the music from a TV show that they all are into, or sometimes they're all into Avengers or something like that.
Klondike: Johnny, is there a song that you would like to do that would sound really cool with three guitars playing?
Johnny: My best guess would be like a national anthem or something.
Klondike: Well you've all done different national anthems and that's a really good idea. So Mabel and Lizzie could play the accompaniment while you do the Russian national anthem, and then you and Mabel could do the accompaniment while Lizzie plays the Canadian national anthem, and then while playing the German national anthem.
You could do your own little national anthem project for your school, and that would be a pretty cool project. Do you know why? Because you'd also be teaching all your classmates about what flags they have and where those countries are on a map and stuff like that. So you could basically be teaching geography, I bet your teacher would love it if you would do that.
Klondike: Does anybody else have a song they'd like to suggest that we could do?
Johnny: What about “Ode to Joy?”
Klondike: “Ode to Joy” is a great example, yeah we could do “Ode to Joy.” And you might not be playing the melody because it would be very boring if everybody's playing: [plays just melody]. But if it sounded more like this: [plays melody, bass, and chords], that sounds a lot cooler doesn't it? Sounds more like a symphony.
Mabel: What about “Ai Bolubolum?”
Klondike: I think that's a great idea. So “Ode to Joy” gets a vote, “Ai Bolubolum” gets a vote.
"One of the coolest things is that you guys are getting to play in a group at a pretty young age, compared to most groups. I didn't get to join my first band until I was in high school."
Klondike: All right, does anybody else want to share anything else about what we should do this semester when we're playing together as a trio? Like maybe book a rock venue and play for thousands of people and the crowd goes wild and there’s glitter and lights and you're– No? That's maybe not for this semester, we'll save that for maybe next year.
Johnny: Maybe we could all camp out at one person's house and we can play the song and the three families can be there.
Klondike: That's a very cool idea. I've never been to Lizzie's house. Lizzie, do you have a backyard or anything?
Klondike: I know Johnny has a big backyard, I know that Mabel has a big backyard. We could all have backyard concerts, and all three families could come, right?
[Johnny, Lizzie, and Mabel nod]
Klondike: Very cool. All right, those are really great suggestions and if you think of anything else, of course, you could tell me in your guitar lesson.
You know, one of the coolest things is that you guys are getting to play in a group at a pretty young age, compared to most groups. I didn't get to join my first band until I was in high school. I don't know if you know this, but my daughter, she plays in a group with other kids mostly in high school and they have gone and played around the country. They won first prize in a competition last year, so there's all kinds of things that you can do if you play together for a really long time.
All right, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today and I can't wait to see what we get accomplished together. Have a great week!