February 2018 — Encore!Sistema is proud to feature our Kahnawake Survival School program in this month’s update. The KSS program is for youth in grades 7-11 and includes both an after-school wind program and — new this year — a lunchtime ukulele and guitar club. Each activity meets 2 days per week, for 2 hours per day.
Under the guidance of head teacher Gabby Smith and tutor Tehoniatarahthe Diabo (guitar, bass), students in the lunchtime ukulele and guitar club work in small groups to develop instrumental technique and learn music fundamentals. Many bring in songs which they are interested in learning. Says Gabby Smith, “We have covered many elements of theory and harmony: exploring ideas of groove and different rhythmic patterns on the ukulele is a fun way to approach learning music theory. Most recently, we have been re-writing the words to Smashmouth’s All Star, and students can play all the chords on the ukuleles with many different strumming patterns. This lunchtime program has been a great way to learn about musical notions used on the wind instruments through a different musical genre.”
The after-school program often sees the same students as at lunchtime but on their wind instruments. Through repertoire such as Chameleon, by Herbie Hancock, and The Tempest, students are learning to play complex syncopations, exploring jazz grooves, and learning to layer phrasing, dynamics, and multiple melodies in a single piece. Says Gabby Smith, “We are really beginning to understand the need to breathe together, and to listen to all the different lines playing at once, as well as focus on sound quality.”
The Encore!Sistema program at KSS reaches approximately 10% of the student population weekly. According to one student, the music program is part of what makes him continue to come to school. Says another, “It feels like family.”