On a beautiful sunny day in August, I began teaching the first Kyuquot Summer Music Camp “Recorder Explorers” in the remote village of Kyuquot, a small community of mostly indigenous people on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I greeted five young students between the ages of 7 – 13 years old who had registered for the four one-hour classes at the Kyuquot Inn. The students were excited and enthusiastic about the camp – an introduction to recorder playing! Some students had a little experience playing the recorder in school, others had not had any formal instruction.
I presented a history of the instrument, included the differences in Renaissance and Baroque recorder construction and timbre, played different size recorders made from various types of wood, named the parts, ranges, tuning, fun facts, recorder care, technique – sound, breath, articulation (tu and du), music notation and a fingering chart. I talked about the “block” and the “bore” – how they affect the sound. We made sounds with just the “whistle” mouthpiece for fun! Students improvised and each played their tune for the class.
With a tambourine as our rhythm instrument, students enjoyed taking turns playing it for the group to keep a lively sounding even tempo. We played folk tunes “Chickalileo”, “Cuckoo”, “Furioso”, and a call and response song – a leader and chorus part in a musical dialogue.
To encourage memorization, I created a musical game called “Pass It Along” based on the game “Telephone”. It starts with one student who plays a note of their choice on the recorder. The next student plays the note, adds another note, and so on. Each student tries to remember the “tune” and play it without mistakes. Otherwise, the “tune” ends, we review the tune and what notes were play, then start a new tune. This game was a big hit and the students often memorized a 6-7 note tune.
As another learning tool for music notation, students would name notes after we played them to reinforce learning the note names and fingering. They also wrote the pitch above the note in the music.
During the final class, we chose and rehearsed a few songs. Each song was short and based on 2 – 3 notes or a pentatonic scale so it was easier to learn the notes in a short period of time. However, the rhythms were fairly complex, and low notes were more difficult to sound, so that was more challenging.
At the end of the final class, we gave a short concert and all of the students had family members who attended! I played an Irish Fiddle Tune called “The Pidgeon on the Gate”. It was a hot day and the mosquitoes were buzzing around us so one of the parents thought we should rename the Irish tune “The Mosquito on the Fence”. For this tune, the students played a “bass” note drone (low E and low D on the soprano). They alternated these notes every 2 measures. I made this simple arrangement so the students could play too. Their part was very effective as the “bass” sound, and a good teaching tool – one student had noticed it took a lot of breath to hold out each drone note. The sound had to be sustained and required more breath control. They listened for the change in harmony with every note change and it was a nice warmup.
For “Furioso”, a duet arrangement of an Italian Renaissance Dance, I played the bass part and the students played the melody. Next we played “Cuckoo” at a fast tempo while a student sang the lyrics to the song. Finally “Chickalileo”, a folk song, was the most challenging with the melody in the low range of the instrument.
At the end of the camp, each student received a certificate of completion, a well-deserved recognition of all they had accomplished at music camp! And one of the students is already teaching a sibling to play the recorder!
This music camp was made possible by a generous grant from the American Recorder Society.