Sister Patricia to Present Paper at University of Exeter in England
Sister Patricia Ann St. John, executive director of Carondelet Music Center and adjunct professor of music at Columbia University, has had a paper accepted for the prestigious RIME (Research in Music Education) Conference, hosted each year by the University of Exeter in England. Sister Patricia’s paper, Preschoolers Banding Together, uses the conceptual framework of music as an innate expression in early childhood. Through this framework, Sister Patricia set up an environment where children might find and make musical meaning, discovering musical skills and concepts quite naturally and intuitively. Sister Patricia set up this environment at the Carondelet Music Center in June 2009, creating a week-long Instrument-Play Workshop for preschoolers as a summer camp experience. The schedule was quite organic, and the activities were emergent, based on the children's response to the material and where their interest would lead the participants. The children explored a variety of instruments, experimenting with texture and timbre, sonority and sensation. By week's end, children performed solos on various percussion instruments (Bass xylophone and African drum were the favorites.), formed small-group ensembles as they found sounds created by peers that complemented their own sounds, made drawings of their sounds to create a “score,” engaged in critical thinking by arranging these sounds sequentially and choosing the instrument on which to perform it.
The end result was a group composition which the students performed for parents in the final class. Sister Patricia analyzed 217 video clips that were recorded in the five hour-long sessions. One of the most interesting findings in the study was the experimentation by three and four-year olds with melody and the keen awareness of peers' sound-making. In the first class, after having explored the four instrument “centers” (wood, metal, drums and barred instruments such as xylophones, glockenspiels, etc.), Sister Patricia asked the children what they had discovered. One child exclaimed, “I found a band!” The child’s response surprised Sister Patricia and offered insight not only into the child's keen perception and awareness of others but also of his interpretation of Sister Patricia’s intended curricular task.
Sister Patricia delivered the paper in April at the University of Exeter in England.