Yamaha Music Foundation Hosts The Second World JMC/YMES Teachers Forum in Tokyo, Japan October 2011
The Yamaha Music Foundation (YMF) hosted the second World Teachers Forum in Tokyo from October 22-24 in conjunction with the 40th IJOC in Yokohama. What a memorable experience for 55 teachers, school administrators and music directors invited from all over the world. Participants came from Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, USA, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Costa Rica, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and China.
In preparation for this forum, many countries prepared a presentation on one of three topics: Teaching Sequence, Musical Sense, or Composition. The U.S. staff chose the topic of Teaching Sequence. My participation in this project included videotaping JMC 3 & 4 classes — with the goal of using footage in the presentation — and giving the presentation at YMF along with Kathy Anzis, Director of Teacher Training. After four weeks of intense class tapings at the Yamaha Music School of Boston, as well as many conference calls and cross-country Skype video chats, we completed the presentation just in time for our long flight to Tokyo!
The forum began in Yokohama, with an orientation where individuals from YMF greeted all participants and introduced everyone to the group. Shinji Matsuda, Education Deputy Manager for overseas YMES, spoke on the topic of the history of YMES curriculum and the textbook revisions that have occurred since the first JMC lessons were held in 1954 in Ginza, Tokyo. He noted that the introduction of the newest materials, including the Common Textbooks (Solfege & Ensemble), have led to increased enrollment as well as better retention. It was motivating to see that as of June 2011, there were 692,000 students and 19,500 instructors at 5,650 Yamaha school locations throughout the world. My favorite portion of Mr. Matsuda's presentation was when he asked everyone to sing a song all JMC instructors know and recognize — “Come and Play With Me” — in the language in which we teach. It was during this sing-along that I realized how truly special it was for me to be present at this worldwide forum with teachers who share the same passion for teaching YMES courses as I do. How exciting to be a part of a music education system that is known, recognized, and respected throughout the entire world!
Later on that evening we attended the International JOC at the beautiful Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama where 12 young, outstanding composers from Italy, USA, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan performed their original compositions. It was amazing to see what these young musicians had accomplished — talk about motivating! I can only hope to one day see a YMS Boston student perform at this international level!
The second day, participants were split into three groups to present on their topic. Each country gave a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation including video footage. The purpose of breaking into small groups was to promote discussion in a more informal setting, where participants could freely present, share, and exchange ideas and opinions on the topics. Each of the three discussion groups was led by a facilitator: Teoh Ka Joo from Malaysia, Lievin Lefebvre from France, and USA's Manager of YMES, Mike Morrell. In our group, the Hong Kong team spoke on Musical Sense, Mexico’s team covered Composition, and Kathy and I gave our Teaching Sequence presentation.
Here are some conclusions our groups reached about these three topics:
Teaching Sequence (see JMC Teaching Guide pp. 48-51): We are all diverse — we come from different countries, we have different personalities, and we speak different languages — but the Teaching Sequence is universal. Effective teaching includes planning what our goals will be for each piece for the week. These goals must be tangible, achievable, and specific. We must continually evaluate the situation and students’ reactions in order to find ways to present, re-present, and communicate these goals in a way students will understand. The communication we, as teachers, use in this sequence is both musical and mental. Effective JMC teachers must be patient, flexible, and motivating while possessing high musical and pedagogical skills.
Musical Sense: Music is a tool of communication, just as language is, and must be cultivated from an early stage. JMC, an early-age comprehensive curriculum, is the perfect tool for developing a child's musical sense.
Composition: As a teacher, we are the students' role model and the amount of energy we put in to this part of the curriculum, class time and students' learning is what we will get out of it. Our commitment determines what our students will be able to create and compose and what their attitude will be towards the subject of composition. We must show a confident, positive attitude towards composition. Our own constant desire for self-improvement in compositional skills is also key.
It was very interesting to see not only the three separate topics presented, but also the way all three subjects intertwined into a big-picture learning process. We concluded that our teaching must always follow a rhythm and balance where all three subjects — Teaching Sequence, Musical Sense and Composition — are present.
We spent the third and final day at the Yamaha location in Ginza. In the new, beautiful Yamaha Hall, we watched other fascinating presentations from Europe, Taiwan, China, UAE, Costa Rica and Indonesia. We also enjoyed performances and interviews of Mutsuki Watanabe (Electone performer) and Yurie Miura (pianist), as well as toured the impressive two-story school on the Ginza site.
It was amazing, and an honor, to be among educators from all over the world — some of whom have been with Yamaha for well over 25 years — and YMF staff to share our knowledge, ideas, strengths and weaknesses with one another. After this forum, I have brought back so much excitement to my Boston classroom and all of my students, specifically a renewed interest in student original compositions. I truly hope that I can convey this experience and enthusiasm to my fellow colleagues and, together, we can work to achieve the goal of the World Forum 2011 stated by Mr. Matsuda: “Let's Share, Discuss and Spread the Joy of Music to All!”