By Glenda Bates, Core Artist

It wasn’t as scary the second time

– McKenzie

In the San Francisco streets on a Thursday afternoon, the skies are grey and the rain pelts down, but inside, blue and pink lights create a magical atmosphere in a darkened theater. A group of 4- and 5-year olds climb onstage with their colorfully decorated homemade ocean drums in hand, excitedly organizing themselves into a straight line across the front of the stage. They place (or drop) their drums on the floor, and turn their back to the audience, signaling the audio technician to start the video.

As an image of an ocean appears on the projector, the students at Chibi Chan spin around and begin singing their songs. I see joyful faces as they play their happy music following the sung verse, “Whitney the Whale, is Happy as a Clam, she swims and swims as far as she can.” I see beautiful, empathetic, faces as they play sad music and sing, “Whitney the Whale, is sick and feeling sad. The trash in the ocean makes all her friends feel bad.”

This is the dress rehearsal at the Brava Theater for Performing Arts Workshop’s Fifth-Annual Student Showcase on May 19th. It has been a long and fun process to get this far in our performance, and we will continue the fruitful process for one more month before the final performance.

In preparing for this performance, we did much more than simply learn proper singing and drumming techniques. Students engaged in activities and games to learn elements of composition. They then had opportunities to compose their own music and movements using these elements.

Our class talked about feelings: the way music can make us feel different emotions, how we can compose music to sound like different feelings, or make artistic choices that make the audience feel feelings. We practiced hearing and performing different emotions with music.

We learned about ocean pollution by reading about sea creatures, and thinking about how trash and recycling affect them. We talked about whales in the ocean, what they need to eat, and what they need to be healthy. We asked questions like,

“Where does the trash in the ocean come from?”
“How can we prevent trash from getting there?”
“How do you think the whales and other ocean creatures feel when there is poison and trash in their water?”

We talked about the end of year performance, what a performance is, and what it means to practice.

Students appeared excited to sing all the songs they know on stage together. They all seem to have caught the performance bug. Several were thrilled to see pictures of their ocean drum drawings projected on the screen behind them. They continued singing the seashell song together in excitement as we exited the theater, and eagerly sang for me a Chinese song that they had learned in school.

Our process for the month leading up to the final performance is to continue rehearsal, assessing, and revising.

My students at Chibi Chan have declared us humans, “Guards of the Ocean.” I challenge the world to accept this big, bold, and important title!