Ten days ago was our last Wake Up With the Arts (WUWA) for 2013-14. My parents arrived later the same day for their first visit in a year. They’ve now left, and though I’m just finding the time to write now, this blog has been on my mind since last Thursday. It’s a story I simply have to tell.
Wake Up With the Arts is the brainchild of our arts department and rooted in the desire to open up more showcase and performance opportunities, particularly of a kind that have less pressure and demand than the Christmas, closing and other special concerts of the year. About once a month from 8:00 to 8:30, around a dozen performances are shared by students from JK to grade 8, student artwork is on display on our three gallery walls and many bulletin boards, and coffee and muffins are on offer in the foyer. With only rare exceptions for the youngest students, teachers have no role in organizing these performances. The expectation is that they’re the initiative of the student(s) who sign up. Solo vocal, piano, violin, guitar, percussion, brass and woodwind performances tend to make up the majority of the mix. Students also organize duets, ensembles and multi-grade groupings in any of the performing arts, including dance and drama. Parents, nannies, teachers and fellow schoolmates gather in the foyer to enjoy and cheer on the performers before rushing off for the rest of their day.
That alone is wonderful enough, but there’s more.
- For numerous young children, this is the first occasion when they’re willing to perform in front of a group. At this most recent WUWA, I learned that one of our new students in grade 3 would perform a solo guitar piece for the first time. He had seen a previous WUWA and saw that other students perform even when new to their instrument and even when they made mistakes. He saw that the audience loved the performance regardless. He told his Mom that if those students can do it, he could do it too.
- At a WUWA last year, a student in grade 2 decided to improvise a piano piece for her performance. I wasn’t there to hear the piece but I was thrilled to hear that her courageous artistic spirit had a place to be showcased at KCS.
- A different time a group of grade ones rounded up their grade 8 buddies to sing Christmas carols together.
- Some of the music is familiar, while some are originals composed by the students.
- One of our grade 4 boys has frequently showcased his exceptional hiphop dance moves – an inspiring example to get more young men dancing.
- Another boy in grade three has twice sung for us a cappella, and most recently he led the whole audience in “thinking of a happy thought” and invited us to join him in the chorus of the hit “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
It’s no secret that children have tremendous capacity and often outright ability in the arts. It’s not always easy to showcase them enough. And it’s rare that all students have a regular opportunity to “share what they know”, just for the love of it and their willingness to take a risk. Polished or not, every performance makes a difference. It tells future performers “If I can do it, so can you”. It has all in the audience beaming with delight and bursting with pride. And it reminds all in attendance of how wonderful the world can be, and a school can be, if we make time to see what students want to share.
Come if you can next year. There’s no better way to Wake Up.
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.