Jessica Anne Baron shares tips on guitar teaching with Rhode Island CMN member Marcia Taylor. Here’s more about our summer CMN get-together with Jessica, from Amy Conley.
CMN New England members held a potluck in July in Arlington, MA, to greet Californians Jessica Anne Baron and her son Elias during their summer stay in Boston.
Jessica is the founder/executive director of Guitars in the Classroom. She shared with us some sample lessons from this innovative program designed to bring more music into classrooms by giving guitars to teachers. GITC trains teachers to use guitars – often donated – in teaching various subjects.
From their website: “Guitars in the Classroom inspires, trains and equips general classroom teachers and specialists to integrate music and music making across the academic curriculum through “song-based instruction” so students of all ages have the opportunity to learn through making music together in class, everyday. Our work prepares and supports educators to lead the way competently and confidently, employing music as a powerful tool for reaching all learners, teaching all subjects, and building character and community in their classrooms.”
GITC has put special emphasis on teaching sustainable living through music with help from their publication, The Green Songbook. This book of 42 simple guitar songs includes many by CMN members such as Bonnie Lockhart, Nancy Schimmel, Monty Harper, Peter Alsop and Ruth Pelham.
The GITC program helps students learn subject matter through music, a technique that has proven to help memory functioning (When I taught language arts, my students learned grammar lessons best when we sang songs like The Preposition Song!). Jessica showed us her method of helping teachers feel at ease with the guitar, a task not always easy for an adult who has never played an instrument.
Once teachers feel at ease with some open tunings and simple chords, they learn how to write songs with their students, not only conveying subject matter but experiencing the group process, creative problem solving, poetic language and more. Jessica herself has a background in psychology, which seems to have given her some great insight into how GITC should be taught to adults.
A bonus for our CMN get-together was that Jess’s son Eli brought his new five-string banjo, and he offered on-the-spot lessons to a few attendees. One person was so excited, she signed up for Jess’s week-long August workshop – and loved it! Thanks to all who added your enthusiasm to a great night.
You can read more about GITC in the online version of CMN’s journal of children’s music, Pass It On!
Amy Conley is a member of the CMN Board of Directors.