Learning life skills through music is the focus of the Music and Movement workshop organised by Nigazh Theatre Centre

Twelve-year-old K. Muneeswaran’s knowledge of music was mostly confined to Tamil film numbers and temple festival songs. But a chance meeting with Steven Groner, an expert in music pedagogy from Switzerland, at a workshop changed his perception of music.

Muneeswaran, son of a brick kiln worker in Paramakudi, now understands the essence of music and its contribution to his life. . From being a tacit partner he has now become expressive, confident and an active participant.

The workshop on Music and Movement organised by the Nigazh Theatre Centre for children aged between 12 and 15 years, took the participants on a joy ride and made them hear music around their living place.

“Music is just not about tunes, it is much more,” says Steven. “It is omnipresent and reorganises a person and shapes him into a better personality. At this workshop we explore how music contributes in improving one’s life skills,” he says.

Steven introduced a game played by the Navajos, the largest federally recognised tribe of USA, and demonstrated how they created music with the pebbles. “Children from this tribe spend their time creating games with properties drawn from nature. The games were creative and developed competitive spirit among the participants,” he says.

He also taught the children about sound dynamics and improvisation. “Playing the Navajo games with stones will improve the coordination and motor skills of the students. It stimulates different areas of the brain and helps the participants improve their ability to concentrate ,” he asserts.

During the course of the workshop, Steven also introduced them to exercises and musical games played in different countries. He always emphasised the need to work as a group. “It improves community spirit and social skills. It helps the participants achieve the target together as the group,” he explains.

He feels that one does not need any expensive instrument to create music. Even the stones can be turned into a percussion instrument to create a rhythmic pattern. He involved children in a series of activities such as body percussion, rhythmic choreography, singing and improvisation. Participants learnt to create rhythms using their own body with hands and feet like clap and tap. They also sang popular game songs of other countries.

“I can proudly say that I am also a musician now. I can create rhythms and make people happy,” beamed M. Muthukumar, one of the participants.

“Such activities develop an inner feel for the pulse/beat of music (fundament for understanding rhythm). It develops a timing sense and helps them perform rhythmic patterns while singing a song. Participants also get in touch with different time signatures like 4/4, 6/8,” Steven says.

Modelled on similar programmes in Switzerland, the workshop helped the participants experience that immersive feeling.

“Most of the participants were underprivileged children from Sirudhoor Village and from schools in surrounding areas. For many, this was the first time they participated in such a workshop. We wanted to provide them an opportunity to learn music in a different way,” said M. Bharathi, artistic director, Nigazh Theatre Centre.