South­west mu­sic stu­dents learn from Saska­toon com­poser at work­shop

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG— mlieben­berg@prairiepost.com

The Swift Cur­rent Regis­tered Mu­sic Teach­ers hosted a work­shop for mu­sic stu­dents to give them an op­por­tu­nity to learn from Saska­toon com­poser Lynette Sawatsky.

The work­shop for mu­sic stu­dents be­tween the ages of four and 16 took place at the Fam­ily Com­mu­nity Church in Swift Cur­rent, Oct. 27.

Regis­tered mu­sic teacher Barb Levor­son said the work­shop was at­tended by about 50 mu­sic stu­dents from Maple Creek, Pam­brun and Swift Cur­rent.

“We thought it would be a re­ally good op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to be able to meet a liv­ing com­poser,” she men­tioned. “Most of the mu­sic that they study are com­posers who have been passed for sev­eral hun­dred years. So it's a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence for them to be able to meet a liv­ing com­poser and to un­der­stand how com­po­si­tions are cre­ated, the in­spi­ra­tion and the sto­ries that are built be­hind all of those songs.”

Dur­ing the day the dif­fer­ent age groups came in for hour-long in­ter­ac­tive work­shops with Sawatsky. She has been pre­sent­ing these ac­tiv­ity-based group classes for sev­eral years and the Swift Cur­rent Regis­tered Mu­sic Teach­ers there­fore in­vited her to do a work­shop in Swift Cur­rent.

“Lynette has com­posed a series of books that are be­gin­ning with pre­read­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren who are just start­ing to learn mu­sic and then they are staged all the way up,” Levor­son said. “She has a series of about six books and then ac­tiv­i­ties that sup­port each one of them. She does a lot of work with younger stu­dents in her own stu­dio. So she has a vast ex­pe­ri­ence with this and we're quite happy that she's here.”

She noted that Sawatsky is able to con­nect dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of mu­si­cal­ity in these group classes, which have var­i­ous ben­e­fits for stu­dents.

“I think it helps them to un­der­stand that the mu­sic sto­ries we cre­ate are not just plain notes on the page,” she said. “We have to build sto­ries and emo­tions into the mu­sic and un­der­stand how they're cre­ated and what type of at­mos­phere you want to cre­ate in your own mind, be­cause if you have that mu­sic story, that mu­sic pic­ture in your own mind, then when you are per­form­ing it, you can con­vey that to your au­di­ence so much bet­ter and you cre­ate more en­gage­ment with the mu­sic, both for the stu­dent who is play­ing it as well as for the au­di­ence who is lis­ten­ing to it.”

Levor­son felt the mu­sic teach­ers who were there dur­ing the day also ben­e­fit­ted from watch­ing the in­ter­ac­tion dur­ing the classes.

“I think that it was a good ex­pe­ri­ence for the teach­ers as well to be able to see how this com­poser has built her own songs so that when we go to teach them in our stu­dio, we'll have a bet­ter ap­proach as well,” she said. “As teach­ers you al­ways have to be learn­ing and it's not all just about teach­ing. We have to learn as well. So it's been good.”

Sawatsky's mu­si­cal train­ing started at the age of four and she com­pleted her per­former's A.R.C.T. (As­so­ciate of the Royal Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic) in pi­ano when she was in high school. She has a Bach­e­lor of Ed­u­ca­tion (el­e­men­tary) from the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan.

Her pi­ano com­po­si­tions have been used as fes­ti­val test pieces in On­tario, New Bruns­wick and Saskatchewan and have been added to Con­ser­va­tory Canada's syl­labus. Her el­e­men­tary col­lec­tion, Wad­dle & Quack, is on the Mu­sic for Young Chil­dren sup­ple­men­tal list.

“I al­ways en­joy meet­ing stu­dents and just shar­ing the love of mu­sic and try­ing to in­spire them to try new things,” she said af­ter her work­shop in Swift Cur­rent. “As mu­si­cians we do a lot of things solo and so it's re­ally fun to have the op­por­tu­nity to spend time to­gether and do some en­sem­ble play­ing and just share the joy of be­ing mu­si­cians.”

She will teach dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal as­pects dur­ing these classes, but her goal is also to en­sure that chil­dren are en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Of­ten there's some­thing I'm try­ing to show them, how mu­sic works, and there's so much to that with rhythm and har­monies and things,” she said. “But I think mostly, be­cause we just have a short snap­shot of time to­gether, I want to make it fun and mo­ti­vat­ing for them so that they're go­ing away and say to their teacher 'I want to play this piece' and just to have some­thing that fires up their imag­i­na­tion or get them en­thused to try some­thing that's new.”

Many of her com­po­si­tions are specif­i­cally aimed at chil­dren. The mu­sic used at the Swift Cur­rent work­shop was rel­e­vant to dif­fer­ent lev­els, but it will also as­sist stu­dents to progress to the next level.

“We're al­ways try­ing to work with where they are, but I re­ally think it's im­por­tant for stu­dents to have mu­sic that they en­joy play­ing and that is mu­si­cal,” she said. “So I'm al­ways try­ing to cre­ate pieces that will be lyri­cally ap­peal­ing. I some­times use hu­mour in my mu­sic, that sort of thing, just to try to in­vite chil­dren to par­tic­i­pate”

The Flut­ter & Blink mu­sic book is aimed at be­gin­ners, but she wants stu­dents to al­ready en­joy the mu­si­cal as­pect of train­ing at this level.

“It's meant to be taught by rote and teach­ers would teach it to their stu­dents and just show them pat­terns, and each of those pieces in there has a teacher duet,” she said. “So it sounds like mu­sic right away, be­cause begin­ner pi­ano of­ten sounds like one note at a time and this is meant to sound mu­si­cal right away, and then I have books that build from there. ... I use a lot of pat­terns in my com­po­si­tions so that stu­dents can pre­dict what's next and it's easy for them to me­morize what's next, and to cre­ate a piece of mu­sic that's mu­si­cally sat­is­fy­ing.”

In her mu­sic book Once Upon a Time, which is for stu­dents in grades 1-3 RCM/CCM lev­els, there are three pieces that al­low the stu­dents to make their own mu­si­cal choices.

“That's em­pow­er­ing, be­cause they don't have to just play ex­actly what's writ­ten,” she said. “They can make some de­ci­sions too, with their teacher too, to feel like they have a bit of con­trol over what they're cre­at­ing.”

She be­lieves mu­sic can bring joy and en­rich lives. She is do­ing a weekly lunch hour pro­gram in Saska­toon with chil­dren from core neigh­bour­hoods.

“I use a lot of sign lan­guage with the chil­dren as we're singing,” she said. “We have a lot of kids with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties in that choir and they're not able to fo­cus in their class­rooms and teach­ers who've come in and watch tell me they're amazed be­cause they all par­tic­i­pate. They're try­ing to do the sign lan­guage and they're able to do it, and so I think mu­sic has a power be­yond it­self to com­mu­ni­cate with each other and to make us feel like we're part of some­thing im­por­tant and to help us re­mem­ber things that, if we're try­ing to learn a verse and we want them to me­morize it, to set it to mu­sic is re­ally a pow­er­ful way to do it.”

This was the first time the Swift Cur­rent Regis­tered Mu­sic Teach­ers hosted a work­shop of this na­ture and it will prob­a­bly not be the last one.

“We're look­ing for­ward to do­ing more, be­cause Saskatchewan has a wealth of com­posers,” Levor­son said. “We're hop­ing that this will be the first in a num­ber of work­shops that we'll be able to run over the years. So we're re­ally ex­cited about this. I think it's been very suc­cess­ful and we're al­ready think­ing ahead to next year of some­body else that we can bring in to do some­thing sim­i­lar.”

Photo by Matthew Lieben­berg

Saska­toon com­poser Lynette Sawatsky in­ter­acts with mu­sic stu­dents dur­ing a group class at her Swift Cur­rent work­shop, Oct. 27.

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