Music and Movement: An UpBeAt ReViEw

Music and Movement: An UpBeAt ReViEw¯

Presenters: Ray Santos and Catriona Takeuchi

Review by: Luke Rigano

Who is Eric Jensen? Not sure? Nor was I but that was the very question posed to an eager audience on Sunday, September 19th 2010, at the lovely Yume Shirube Kaze Shirube meeting room nestled in foreground of Nara’s world famous Todaiji Temple.  The answer to the afore mentioned question was melodiously addressed in an interactive and inspiring presentation by Ray Santos and Catriona Takeuchi. 

Before I get into the question at hand, wherever you might be reading this, I urge you to start tapping your feet. Yep, right now. Go on.  That’s it.  A little faster now. Great.  Ok, you can stop now before other people start to stare but it feels good, right?

The point Ray Santos outlined throughout the presentation, based on the of the findings of author/researcher Eric Jensen,  was that using music in the classroom can in fact create not only a positive mood but also a more energised group of more often than otherwise ‘I’m sleepy…’ kind of students. 

I hear you asking yourself the obvious open ended questions that such a gripping statement may evoke.  Let me briefly recap a few of Ray’s main points.  Having some music playing in the classroom as students stager in, before they slump into their seats, can often set an more vibrant atmosphere from the get go.  Not just any music mind you; a bit of Enya may just be just enough to make even the most severe sufferer of insomnia descend into a deep slumber, perhaps a matter of personal opinion. Instead, what you are going to want to pump out that expensive audio equipment that rarely gets used for anything else than the monotone textbook dialogue is something with a minimum of 120 beats per minute.  According to the research presented, that is the magic number.  You know, something upbeat, something that gets the heart pumping, something that rocks!! By letting the beats work their infectious magic for the first few minutes of class it was suggested that it’s likely to get the blood flowing freely and invigorate students allowing for better concentration and participation in the classroom.

A similarity was drawn by one of the participants that if one listens to tunes at the gym, not that I can personally attest to ever going to one of those health freak facilities, then the beat rate of the music will inevitably set your work out pace. I can imagine it would.

Point there being, it’s not so much what you play but how fast it is. In the words of Jensen himself, “Music is a language that kindles the human spirit, sharpens the mind, fuels the body and fills the heart.”

This was demonstrated by Ray with a number of well planned music related activities that got the crowd, even the rhythmically challenged like myself, tapping our toes.   These included a ‘guess the beat count’ task to have participants consider the tempo appropriacy of some classic musical numbers.  This was followed by some maraca/hip shaking action and a finally a brainstorm session.  The results of the brainstorm not only showed an eclectic taste in music but also shockingly revealed what a bunch of ‘stuck in the 80s’ kind of audience members we were. They were. Musically speaking. Michel Jackson, The Buggles, and a-ha were just a few of the artists that were thrown in to the retro circle.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for slower music in the classroom. The point was also made that slower, more relaxing mellow type music can potentially also be incorporated into lessons as either soothing background music or to bring calm to a rowdy mob.

Where Ray was able to gets us tapping our toes, Catriona took care of things in the leg department, taking things up a physical notch, not surprisingly leading the ‘movement’ activities.  Ray and Catriona seamlessly alternated activities with a well balanced mix of seated contemplative and collaborative tasks contrasted with stand, bound and bounce type active activities. That’s when the stomping started!  The composed yet effervescent Catriona smoothly lead the group through her take on a few active classroom classics such as some variations on ‘fruit basket’ and some personal introductions which culminated in the ol’ ‘yes-no side step’, but with a difference.  That being the clearly labelled ‘DMZ’ running slap bang down the centre of the region, well, room.

One important thing that I haven’t mentioned is the mantra for the day, something that set the whole day off to a dynamic start from the duo.  A little chant with exaggerated energetic gestures that was effectively and repeatedly incorporated throughout the presentation to get us out of our seats, as a transition between tasks or just to keep us on task.  Wait for it… ‘Exercise boosts brain power.’ This wonderfully imaginative chant was used not only as an effective classroom management technique but also served to drum home the philosophy behind the presentation

The EBBP chant itself is a re-incarnation, introduced by the wonderful Kim Horne at her presentation a year or so back, though credit for the mantra is due to Ms Horne, kudos to Ray and Catriona for putting that extra ‘oo’ in boost and the ‘pow’ in power.

All of the melodic methods and swinging strategies presented on the day would be suitable for use in classrooms ranging from Elementary school right through to University classes.  Or, perhaps, even by flamboyant aerobics instructors to boot.

A big thanks must go the presenters Ray Santos and Catriona Takeuchi for a practical, pentatonic presentation.  Their enthusiasm as presenters certainly energised the audience and set a great example for educators wishing to follow the beat of their drum by incorporating some tunes into teaching. 

Further reading on the topic can be sourced from Eric Jensen’s book, Music with the Brain in Mind.

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