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Band Slam

Music plays an amazing part in our lives. It can reflect our mood, celebrate happiness and sadness, bring people together, and spark special memories in our lives. As I am writing this article, I have my headphones on listening to jazz to help me focus. Just like great authors, musicians dedicate their lives to creating and performing songs that bring people joy and happiness.

As part of his course curriculum, our middle school music teacher, Mr. Robert Kilvington-Shaw (Mr. KS), offered students an opportunity to participate in a music competition called Band Slam. This unique experience provided a stage for middle school students to perform the music of their choice in front of a live audience. The level of passion and confidence during each performance was incredible!

It is true when someone said, “Music makes the world go around.”

I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. KS and learn more about his thoughts on the role of music in our students’ lives. Please read on to find out more.

Why should we highlight music in our children’s lives?

This question can’t be answered thoroughly with any one example or answer, as this in itself is a lengthy subject! But If I had to pick one thing it would be the huge benefits to brain development and cognitive function that can only be experienced as a direct result of playing music. A great TED-Ed video to watch on this subject is entitled “How Playing An Instrument Benefits Your Brain”; I’d highly recommend this to any student or parent as a great insight into how music utilizes brain function like no other subject.

What is Band Slam?

Band Slam is traditionally known as Battle Of The Bands. However, I don’t believe music and the arts, in general, are well served by association with the word “Battle”, hence the re-branded name. Students in both Grade 7 and 8 were instructed to choose bands of 4-5 people and to pick a song that they would like to learn to play. This is a good example of the importance of autonomy in education, a facet of music-making that I firmly place at the center of my classroom. When students choose what it is they learn they feel empowered and get a greater reward from the experience as a result. Each class had performances from all bands, and students used criteria devised by themselves to judge the effectiveness and musicality of each performance. In turn, this in-class judging produced the winning band from each class, with the winning bands making up the final Band Slam event.

How did this project build confidence in our student community?

I feel Band Slam – like all of the musical experiences our students are exposed to in school – builds confidence because it initially provides a safe space for taking risks and feeling nerves and anxiety. For me, confidence is often born out of risk-taking and seeing a potentially uncomfortable situation through to a positive conclusion. I remember a saying I head when I was a student at school: “a brave person isn’t without fear; they just feel the fear and do it anyway”. This is the essence of building confidence through a project like Band Slam I feel. It’s learning that taking risks and putting yourself “out there” is actually a brave and ultimately gratifying thing to do. Plus, rocking out on stage to one of your favorite tunes is cool, right!?