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April 9, 2020

CIM's Eurhythmics Classes - Music in Motion - Adapt to a "New Normal"


Eurhythmics
A children's eurhythmics class from 2019. Photo by Rob Muller.

The preschool and kindergarten years are a perfect time to explore the language of music through social and interactive methods which encourage creativity and musicality in a joyful way – also known as eurhythmics.

But if you have to teach several 3-year-olds – online, and all at one time – the experience can prove to be, well, challenging. Cleveland Institute of Music alumnus Graham Rosen (BM ’15, Egre), a eurhythmics instructor in CIM’s preparatory division, has enlisted the help of his students’ older siblings at home to help keep the younger children focused.

“It’s funny how they (the older siblings) love that,” Rosen mused. “They’re each student’s ‘camera person’ and subtly aid the focus of the class by keeping their younger sister or brother on task.” 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused CIM to switch to online learning, Rosen says it's been interesting adapting a social class like eurhythmics to teach via video conference – “Not to mention they're 3-year-olds. We’ve been unable to continue our regular activities with props (hand drums and tennis ball games) and instead are centering on moving musically in their space,” he added. “We routinely examine different speeds of motion, filling up familiar places with unique and contrasted movements.”

A hands-on approach to music theory, eurhythmics teaches children – as well as pre-college and conservatory students – such musical concepts as meter, tempo, phrase, form and dynamics through rhythm games, creative movement, songs and stories.

“I’ve noticed that since our separation, I’ve started telling more stories, transforming likely a living room or cleared out dining room into more content to explore,” Rosen said. “The stories I tell are often inspired from my day-to-day.”

For example, during his homebound stay, Rosen says he’s finally had the opportunity to practice the accordion and figure out its intricacies – so he will lead an activity with the accordion – focusing on the things he may find interesting but also emphasizing that they’re all in the same boat of having to stay home. 

“I casually acknowledge that I’m able to show them this instrument because of the time I've spent at home, just like their parents,” he said. “The students understand and thrive from the reassurance that everyone is in this together. After a moment of pause, we push past these obstacles and continue to have fun like we would in person. We still play ‘The Airplane Game’ if they’re well-behaved, and we continue to consider the world musically – just in a smaller room for now.” 

In Rosen’s pre-college classes, where students ages 12-18 are at an intermediate level and already accomplished musicians, they use movement to deepen musical understanding while improving their ability to perform and communicate expressively through music. Rosen begins each session catching up and comparing notes about their current circumstances.

Since classes went online, the students have started an ambitious project, which ties together eurhythmics, notation and composition. Throughout the fall and winter, the students worked on a consistent and authentic set of movements, what Rosen calls simply “moving like you” – which helped them transition to learning at home because of the upheaval caused by COVID-19.

“This serves as a recalibration of sorts, for example, understanding their ‘perfected’ natural walk,” said Rosen. “With this standard set of movements, students have the opportunity to study how an emotional disturbance or physical ache can impact their ‘perfectly controlled’ version. In this project, the activity is simple – start by standing directly in front of their webcams, and as controlled and calmly as possible, walk to their kitchens to grab a glass of water.”

The students monitor the number of steps in each room, the quality of their stride and the tempo to accompany each moment along this path. Now, Rosen says, they are chiseling away on their route, which will later culminate in a musically notated 'piece' of interaction within their world. Each student submits an audio recording of their performance, capturing their footfalls. Rosen will later stitch this audio together and create a sonic manifestation of the space beyond where their computer screens connect them.

For this exercise, “some students emerge from basements, for others it's a quick trip to the next room,” Rosen said. “Slowly each student pops back into frame, counting their steps and arriving back to our new digital community.”

It's a lighthearted project, Rosen adds, allowing the students to refine a basic function into a rhythmically tuned route full of control and poise. Rosen believes that's what these students need now, to practice looking inward to their new world and finding music at every turn.