From Students to Teachers

One of the most rewarding things we have had the pleasure of doing on this trip is working with young singers who are eager and excited to grow in music. We’ve been working on our own pieces for this tour for quite some time now, about two years from some songs, and every rehearsal is geard towards not only learning the pieces, but being better musicians each time we sing them.

What is so wonderful about working with these kids is that we now get to teach the things Professor Niblock has taught us over the past couple of years to these talented young singers who are just as excited about music as we are.

In Whitianga we worked with two groups of students who shared their music with us. The first group sang a popular song called “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. We taught them about singing with tall vowels and enunciated consonants. We then got to share with them our own demon song, “Daemon Irrepit Collidus,” to which one of the students in the workshop told us we were “singing ninjas.”

The second, younger group shared with us their song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. As none of these kids have ever been to West Virginia, we got to share what West Virginia and the United States is like, and we worked with them on how to tell a story with their songs and what it is like to sing about home. Our example of songs from home were our beautiful Alma Mater and “Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees,” a play party song that references the practice of boiling acorns from white oak trees as a coffee substitute during the American Civil War when coffee was too difficult to come by. We talked with the kids about what these songs mean, and showed them that the way we sing the words helps tells the story. A young boy eager to help us tell the story of “Coffee Grows on White Oak Trees,” informed us us, “you don’t grow coffee, you make it!”

After the workshop, we had a little extra time to sit with the kids and learn about their interests and let them ask questions about singing or about America.

Beyond the wonderful bonding experience our choir gets to have with other student choirs through these workshops, we’re also learning a great deal about music from a different perspective. Hearing the sound of a choir is much different coming from the audience, and different still coming from a teaching point of view, so we started listening to the music in an entirely new fashion. We got to hear for ourselves what a difference diction or changing our vowels can make, a distinction that is harder to hear from inside the choir. This perspective will ultimately make us better musicians and gave us a deeper understanding as to why Professor Niblock gives us certain singing instructions.

We have another school visit tomorrow morning in Christchurch, and I can’t wait to meet more inspiring kids who are excited to sing.