Kids Are Kids, No Matter Where You Are

singapore1.jpgBy: Wendy Silverberg

Back in November 2010, the Singapore Teachers Academy of the Arts visited the Peabody School. They had come half way around the world to attend music conferences and for a planned visit to the Kodály Music Institute at the New England Conservator of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Taking advantage of the session break at the Institute, Mary Epstein and Jonathan Rapapport, co-directors of the Kodály Music Institute, arranged for the women from the Singapore Teachers Academy, to visit my class at the Andrew Peabody Elementary School in Cambridge. In my program, children attend music four days each week in classes that use the Kodály program with the junior kindergarten through second grade students. We are now in our tenth year of this intensive music program.
After observing my classes, the Singapore representatives went home and initiated negotiations that resulted in an invitation for me to visit them at their school and work with a classroom of ten year old students. The plan was to work with students for three days and then tape a lesson to demonstrate to teachers in Singapore how Kodály can be used with the children in their own classrooms.
singapore2.pngI was assigned to the Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School, home to 2,000 students. Because land in Singapore is very limited, most buildings are more tall than spread out, and this school was seven stories high. The classroom I worked with had 41 students, 30 girls and 11 boys.
I had sent along materials in advance so the children would be familiar with the material I would cover. Still, meeting new students in another country had me anxious. I knew what I wanted to do but had no idea how children would react to a stranger from another land, race, and culture. It only took five minutes for everyone to fall into a comfortable rapport. Kids are kids, no matter where you are.
I worked with the children for a total of three hours before the video cameras started rolling. We sang, danced, and improvised and by the end of the three days the children, who had never had any dance experience were tearing up the floor and singing in rounds and reading music in two parts.

singapore3.jpgVisiting the Country of Singapore, which is also a State and City all rolled up in one, was amazing. Until 1965, Singapore had been part of Malaysia and has only been a Country for the past 46 years. During my visit, I got to experience Singapore's Independence Day holiday. There were concerts, parades, and festivities happening all over the Country.

The skyline can rival the most modern city in the world, most of which has been built within the past 10 years. I was able to attend a concert of the Singapore Symphony, as well as a concert of traditional music. I ate the most interesting foods from Kimchi for breakfast to an Indonesian buffet with foods that I would not even dare to try to spell. It was a once in a life time experience. I met new students, made new friends, and now have a connection to a culture and Country that was simply charming.

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