Athabaskan Fiddle History: 20th-21st Centuries

First of all, I am so excited with this project. I have stumbled onto some people and places and possibilities that I truly do hope to incorporate this school year.

  1. My intended audience will be 6th grade music students in Juneau. These kids have been playing violin (or another string instrument) since Kindergarten. They have performed a lot throughout the community. This is their first year outside of the program, so they are trailblazers about to spark something new!
  2. I would like to spend a few days covering Ruth’s study on the history of Athabaskan music and a few days studying more recent Athabaskan music. Following the historical context, I have two projects. The first would probably take a week, depending on the tools available. My  second project could take a trimester in the spring, leading to the Alaska Folk Festival; this project could also draw from math, problem solving, art, etc.
  3. After studying the history and current practices of Athabaskan Fiddle Music, I would like the students to consider the following:
    1. How is the Athabaskan community working to preserve their music traditions and educate youth?
    2. Consider the evolution and immigration of folk music? Is music an organic, living art? When does a piece of music deserve the ownership of a composer or artist, versus public domain?
  4. I would like to incorporate video from past fiddle festivals, photos of the Young Native Fiddlers, Interviews (if people respond to my calls/ emails), Newspaper articles online, Texts from the Alaska State Library and UAS Library.
  5. Projects: My subject is large is flexible enough to offer a variety of exercises dependent on age and time that I am given to teach. Here are my main two ideas:
    1. Music Evolution and Ownership: Give one student a piece of music. The student must add an element to the music that reflects that student’s cultural identity. Nothing may be removed from the music, only added. After hearing the final product, each student must state what their inspiration was for their addition.
    2. As a larger, broader project. My students would study the Athabaskan Fiddle Festival in greater detail: what are the values and rules at the festival? How can the festival keep on going if it is free? Then the students will compare that festival with the local Alaska Folk Festival. If possible, I would have some board members come into the classroom and talk about some of the behind the scenes challenges, basic system for running the festival, and why the festival is an important part of the Juneau community. Long term, I would like the kids to problem solve using all their academic skill to put together a concert: should it be free, how many volunteers are needed, how will they get the word out, what kind of music will be showcased, what are the values they want to express, etc…During the annual Folk Festival, in April, each student should volunteer for 2 hours at the festival. Afterwards we can debrief.

4 thoughts on “Athabaskan Fiddle History: 20th-21st Centuries”

  1. Hi, Meghan!

    As I have told you, I really love your ideas for what you want the students to do in response to their learning. I like the idea of having them add their own cultural element to the songs because that can lead to a discussion on how our cultural identities bring a lot to the music we make. I also think it would be great to have students brainstorm ways to collaborate with the Fiddle Festival- I wonder if that collaboration can be set to happen during Folk Fest week when many of those students are already here?

    I like the essential questions you have, but consider revising the wording to be a little more age-appropriate.

    I can’t wait to collaborate with you!

  2. Meghan! This is great! I think you will want to narrow down the ideas specifically for the iBook project… but then keep all of these as concepts for future lesson plans. I really like the real-life application of having students plan their own concert. I just imagined visual artists in the class making posters and programs, bakers making cookies for the reception, etc. All of your ideas would give students flexibility, encourage them to use their own interests, and strengthen a sense of community in the classroom. I like the idea of having students volunteer, but I think limiting it to that one music event might be tricky. It just seems important that students/families that might not typically attend Folk Fest might be able to choose their own cultural event/concert to volunteer at. This way it would also give them more time to complete the volunteer portion of the project.

  3. A great idea. I especially like the cultural transfer through music and getting students involved in the festival or putting on their own. Some great project based learning there that carries over into other disciplines and soft skills in organizing

  4. I really love the uniqueness of this musical adoption. I think that it is awesome that you are going to teach about it.

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