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Numéro 9/06

Passing it on … by youth

Workshops for musical and artistic culture (ACMA)

Having practiced music education for twenty years, I have noted a progressive decrease in the standard of musical culture ...Challenged by this phenomenon, I came to the conclusion that it was urgent to undertake an educational initiative. The setting up of workshops for musical and artistic culture (Ateliers de Culture Musicale et Artistique, ACMA) in the “Un, Deux, Trois Musiques...” school are some small steps that we have taken in this regard.


by Nicole Coppey

Picture  Yvan Pitteloud

The 4Ygrecs Quartet, in one of their original compositions


Nothing particularly extraordinary about this venture, unless you consider that it was initiated with the collaboration of young people who’ve taken on the responsibility for it, having been involved in it from the outset, and are spurred on to be the carriers of the message. The project is therefore noteworthy by its pedagogical and didactic approach having as its maxim: “Youth passing it on to youth.” Thus the task was assigned to four young people who were already associates and trained classical musicians (violin, cello, piano). They’ve been educated in Orff music pedagogy, and are as well the quartet know as the 4Ygrecs who perform eclectic percussionist artistic works using everything from milk cartons to djembe, pens, typewriters, sticks, chairs, or anything else that makes up the everyday things of life (note that all the works of the quartet are composed by Domitille, the musical director of the group).

The latest goal of these four musicians is the leading of didactic meetings (workshops). These workshops bring to the 25 participants (children, teens, and adults) a range of cultural themes, musical and artistic.

To apply the project to relevant cultural affairs, the themes they’ve chosen concord with the concerts of the International Festival of Sion-Valais 06 which began in August. The workshops, “pre-concert” get-togethers, are also led by the 4Ygrecs quartet, allowing the participants to discover the musical and artistic context of the scores performed in the Festival in a setting that is one of friendliness of mutual sharing.


First impressions


What the 4Ygrecs have to say:


Nadège, 17: “Right away I was excited with this project. I saw it as an opportunity: to show that not all young people are attracted to unlistenable styles of music but that they also will take the time to look into ways of presenting material that comes from the world of classical music.”

Mathieu, 18: “As soon as we finished our last project, Nicole quickly proposed doing this one. It was something completely new, and we were sure to acquire some uncommon experience by participating in it.”


Domitille, 17, project director: “Nicole’s extraordinary idea filled me with enthusiasm: this way of promoting musical culture through young people teaching other young people is really deep because it allows us to be the carriers of a completely innovative concept, it deepens our knowledge of music, to explore our abilities to address the public and to unite us even more... This formula has everything going for it to make it something really interesting because of all that it brings into play: knowledge, an ability to summarize, adaptability, the capacity of listening to others, and quite a lot of other elements that we will in time be discovering, whether it will be for us or for the group, and all of this taking place in a formal but friendly setting.


Timothée, 14: “I thought that it’s going to allow the participants to have a greater appreciation for the concerts because they will know more about the context in with the music were composed, etc…”


The question of organization


M.: “Once the theme was established we divided the chapters according to each of our own preferences. Next the individual research comes in, after that we pool things together. This requires good organization. It’s impossible to drag your feet because the others won’t be able to have things ready on time if some things are missing. This automatically requires everyone to be prepared. Then we choose the pictures and texts as well as the quiz questions.


N: “The quiz is a question sheet that’s given to the attendees at the end of each workshop; it’s then corrected for the following workshop. If it’s well answered there’s a reward, usually a CD…”





M: “I really liked the first theme we did on Shostakovich when I needed to talk about the world of other Russian arts and his relationship with political leaders. It was an exciting experience of discovery and learning about the Russian avant-garde and socialist realism of the day. It was extremely beneficial to me to spend so much time looking into books, biographies, watching videos, listening to CDs, all the research in order to come up with the material and then to organize it all for the presentation.”


T: “My favorite theme was the one on opera. I had to speak in particular about large opera houses. One of the things that I learned about were anecdotes on financing, such as how the reconstruction of the National Theater in Munich (after it was destroyed by a fire) was financed by means of a tax on beer.”


N: “I liked doing all the themes but especially the ones on violin. We talk about it and listen to a lot about it because of the children’s jury and also at the international violin competition. This project was very beneficial and it taught us to target the most relevant information, and it permitted us to show how there are young people who are interested in something other than what most of the people of our generation are interested in.


D: “The research I do always drives me to go further, I try to create a maximum of links between what I know, whether it be in musical culture, in history or in philosophy; and the new things that I’m learning. It’s for this reason I particularly liked the Shostakovich workshop, a man with multiple facets, torn between his desire for the freedom to compose and his political positions, nevertheless he was able to compose masterpieces in very varied styles…”


M: “The participants were unbelievably captivated. Preparing the presentation material is one thing, but then making it interesting for children and adults is quite another. Seeing their faces lit up with a yearning for discovery I was relieved to have been able to make my presentation captivating. For example I prepared masks to show how colors are used in Chinese opera. We tried to be interactive with the participants because if they don’t pay attention then our main objective has not been reached in spite of all of the best intentions.


T: “I’ve noticed that when we ask a particular group if they know such a score, the result is very revealing as no one knows any scores we haven’t presented to them yet, but when we mention one that we’ve spoken about in a previous workshop everyone raises their hand. The participants hear the particulars we share with them during the workshop and they find them again in the quiz. They’re going to remember it and maybe even share it at home with their families. The CD also has a big part in the picture, because some people will hear it and then become interested in the music they’ve listened to. That way they’re going to be discovering music that is totally new for them and they’ll understand that classical music offers a wide range of choice.


D: “For me it’s inconceivable to talk about music without hearing it! That’s why we’ve decided that at every workshop each participant will leave with a CD – lent to them until the next workshop – something they can listen to at any time to help them develop listening skills, his/her musical culture (scores, performers, musical styles, …) and his own taste for what is known as classical music. I’m persuaded that this approach can only be but beneficial for a growing child, because music is one of everyone’s fundamental driving forces.



Results of the project?


Let’s listen to some of the participants between the ages of 7 to … 64.


Quentin, 8: “It was well explained, it was great that it was young people who did it. I learned a lot of interesting things. The one on opera made me want to go to the opera in Lausanne. The quizzes kept me busy in between the workshops and I learned to find out more from my parents. I happily returned to more of the workshops to learn more new things.”


His brother Ludovic, 10: “It’s cool to have teenagers explaining lot of interesting things to us about music. I really understood what they were saying, the words they used were easy for me to understand. My favorite theme was Mozart.”


Laura, 10: “I really liked being a part of the workshops. The lessons were very dynamic and lively, there was lot of energy, and the 4Ygrecs quartet explained things really well.”


Harry, adult: “The workshop that these four teenage musicians presented seems to me to be a very productive undertaking. For one thing they sustained the attention of the children and their answers to the questions they were asked were very succinct and precise. Even for an adult like me, the presentation was very interesting. Alternating between themselves to present the subject, as well as using audio means (targeted listening) and visuals (big screen projections) gave a potent depth to the pedagogical discourse.


Jessie, 12: “The quartet has their own special way of teaching and this is the thing that makes the difference: instead of having an old wizened teacher, here you have 4 teenagers who, I guess, are having just as much fun teaching as we are having learning. In their lessons, they tell anecdotes and jokes which make the subject more interesting.”



From now on shouldn’t we take more advantage of involving young people to take on responsibilities for the up-coming generations? The musical, cultural and social dimensions involved in a venture of this nature result in sincere reflection. It’s clear the 4Ygrecs have received supervision to realize this undertaking, but they took on the responsibility for it and assumed those responsibilities with brilliance. The experience they acquired while taking on further endeavors has enabled them to manage a variety of situations with maturity. As Mathieu said, “Preparing the presentation material is one thing, but then making it interesting for children and adults is quite another”, this says it all on the art of teaching. This project has given each one of them the opportunity become aware and to pass on their knowledge with joy, authenticity, commitment and passion.


You can read the published version here



Aktuelle Titelseite


Der Vermittlung... durch Jugendliche

Nicole Coppey hat nach rund zwanzigjähriger Berufserfahrung als Musikpädagogin ein zunehmend sinkendes Niveau in Bezug auf die Musikkultur festgestellt. Angeregt durch diese Beobachtung hat sie in ihrer Schule «Un, Deux, Trois Musiques...» in Sion die Workshops für musikalische und künstlerische Kultur (ACMA) auf die Beine gestellt.
Deren Grundgedanke ist es, vier jungen Musikern (14- bis 18-jährig) die Leitung von Unterrichtseinheiten zu übertragen. Diese vermitteln den 25 Workshopteilnehmern (Kindern, Jugendlichen und Erwachsenen) einen Überblick zu kulturellen, musikalischen und künstlerischen Themen. Ein Quiz, CD-Ausleihe, interaktives Hören etc. bereichern diese Workshops. Um dieses Vorgehen in der Aktualität zu verankern, wurden Themen im Zusammenhang mit dem Internationalen Festival Sion-Wallis 06, das im August begonnen hat, ausgewählt: zum Beispiel Schostakowitsch, die Geige oder die Oper. Selbstverständlich wurden die jungen Unterrichtenden in ihrer Arbeit begleitet, aber sie haben ihre Verantwortung glänzend wahrgenommen. Die bei anderen Projekten erworbene Erfahrung erlaubte es ihnen, die Situation mit grosser Reife zu bewältigen. Müssten wir also nicht häufiger die Jungen dazu bringen, Verantwortung gegenüber der kommenden Generation zu übernehmen ?

Ubersetzung: Philipp Zimmermann