Balkan Beats (tm)
Music and Dance Residency
by Jutta & the Hi-Dukes (tm)
An exploration of World Music for Orchestras, Bands, and Music Appreciation classes
One of the most popular jazz recordings ever made, Take Five, was written by Dave Brubeck after his visit to Bulgaria, a country known for asymmetrical time signatures like 5/8. Since that time, World Music has played an increasingly influential role in most areas of Western music, be it Classical or Pop.
On that note, Jan Delgado, 2012 Music Resource Teacher of the Albuquerque, NM Schools’ Fine Arts Department, understands that a well-rounded music education today should include some practical, hands-on exposure to the rhythms and scales of non-Western music.
Thus, after seeing Jutta & the Hi-Dukes do a four-day music and dance residency at the L.B. Johnson School, she was so impressed by the band’s “wholistic methods of teaching” which “incorporate so many different intelligences”, that she brought the Hi-Dukes back to the APS system to do a Teachers Inservice Workshop and a series of introductory Assemblies.
Mrs. Delgado directly observed students benefit from experiencing the scales and rhythms of the Balkan music and dances the band presents and so, in promoting the program to the schools, she wrote: “They are exceptional folk dance teachers and the band is really good (especially with 7/8 and 9/4 meters!)” She also commented that after looking at the cost per student, “no matter what, this is a great investment.”
Growing beyond 2/4 Time and Major Keys
The Balkan Beats Residency is unique in that students learn to play Balkan music that uses gorgeous musical scales like Hijaz, Sabach, and Ousak, set in asymmetrical time signatures / rhythms like 7/8 and 9/8, by first doing traditional dances that use those rhythms. Not only does this process help the students internalize the rhythms, music is no longer just a matter of notes on a page. Instead, it also broadens their awareness of other cultures as it takes on a physical reality.
In the process of a Hi-Dukes residency, students learn about the cultures, such as Rom / Gypsy, Greek, Jewish, etc., that use these fascinating rhythms and scales. They hear traditional ethnic instruments, like the Bulgarian end-blown flute, Greek baglama, Middle-eastern drums, and world-famous ocarina. History and cultural facts are presented through personal stories while the songs and dances are learned. Thus, information about history, language, social dynamics, and more is an intrinsic part of the learning package.
Flexible content allows you to design a Residency that specifically addresses the needs and skill levels of your students.
Interdisciplinary Residencies that incorporate many departments, like Choir, Dance, and Music Appreciation, have a school-wide synergistic effect as well as making this already reasonably-priced program all the more affordable.
Music Appreciation students participate in a Balkan Beats Residency by learning to do some of the traditional dances and singing (in non-English languages) songs which use non-Western scales.
Getting the entire community involved
Speaking of synergystic effects, ideally, a Balkan Beats Residency culminates in a public recital that involves the entire school community particularly because the audience is invited at the end to join in fun yet simple, community-building, traditional circle and line dances that fit the music. Jan Delgado wrote about a recital, “... later that evening, they had 200+ people of all ages folk dancing.”.
Workshops are an option
When a Residency is not feasible, consider a Workshop. Students are exposed to Balkan music through demonstration, discussion, and dance. Pre-selected groups learn simple dances, others get to play percussion with the band, and everyone gets to learn the chorus to a song.
Since 1990, this Evanston, IL band has toured in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Two members, Jutta Distler and Terran Doehrer, are teachers at the Arcturus Teacher Training Program for Waldorf schools and taught dance classes at the Chicago Waldorf School for six years.
Scenes from Residencies, Assemblies, Workshops, and Afterschool programs
“[Their] music is exciting, and listeners will find it hard to keep from leaping up to dance.” — Natalie Wainwright, Arts & Life reviewer, Round Table
“I am not exaggerating or giving empty words when I say your performance was my favorite ever.” — Ashleah White, Reporter for The Current, University of Missouri – St. Louis, Nov. 28th, 2015
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