Read the whole article at GVP: https://globalvillageproject.org/news/coding-in-music-elise-witt-teaches-how-codes-can-help-make-music/
by Erikah Swift | January 27, 2022
“It’s important to know that it is not necessary for a musician to be able to read music to make music,” says Ms. Elise, Artist-in-Residence. “Many musicians learn and create music by ear. Written music is just a code, a language for musicians to communicate with each other.”
The Integrated Unit of Study this quarter is on coding. Students will spend eight weeks exploring codes in modern and ancient languages and creating their own codes in various settings. As students harmonize through songs, this learning unit about codes highlights a special intersection.
“Codes are languages created to communicate about specialized subjects,” says Ms. Elise. “In music classes, we are learning about time (the length of a sound) and pitch (how high or low a sound is).”
Music class starts with everyone sitting in a circle. The class leader for the day holds a Tibetan singing bowl. She stirs it around and taps it once. A long music note vibrates throughout the classroom. For a few seconds, there is stillness and peace. And a few giggles.
She taps the bowl again. After the relaxing vibrations, the students recite together, “head up, back straight, feet flat and that’s that!” Now, it’s time to sing. Ms. Elise springs up and separates the class into two groups. Everyone counts up and down from five with their hands.
“We can divide into groups and create harmony by singing different pitches together. We are learning numbers in sign language, to help us physically relate to pitches. You probably remember the do-re-mi scale. Well, we can sing and sign the scale with numbers.”
By the end of this learning unit, students will understand how codes can help them write music.
According to Ms. Elise, “The objective is to really understand the language of music and how music is related to all the other subjects that they’re studying.”
For the next hour, students’ voices melt into a seamless blend of melodies. Ms. Elise directs everyone back to their seats for a final restorative practice. It’s time to close the circle through words of affirmation.
“I am powerful. I am gentle. I am a student. I am a teacher. I am beautiful. I am kind,” the students chant. Then, they end with GVP’s core values. “I am appreciative. I am respectful. I am responsible. I am a lifelong learner.”
The school bell rings for students to transition to the next class, until next Tuesday, when the harmonies will start again.
Ms. Elise’s current project, “Ready or Not,” is a community artwork project that features artists from around the world. Two students from our Form 3 class are also featured in the project. “Ready or Not” imagines our human journeys, through the image of packing a magic suitcase. You can check out our students’ work now in this YouTube video.
Our stories help shape and sustain our beliefs and actions. Meeting the challenges of the 21st century will require a revolution of thought and deed— in essence, a new set of stories powerful enough to change beliefs and behaviors.
“Change the Story/ Change the World” is a chronicle of art and community transformation across the globe hosted by Musician, Educator, Activist Bill Cleveland. In each episode, Bill introduces listeners to creative change agents working to re-imagine and recreate the social, political, and cultural narratives that define their communities.
Episode 46 is a conversation I had with Bill several months ago. Listen here:
Elise Witt: Global, Local and Homemade Songs
ALL SINGING: The Elise Witt Songbook is a collection of 58 original songs for solo and community singing. It includes lyrics and chords, as well as music notation, plus photos, graphics, and lots of stories
Daily Antidote of Song: Is an internet broadcast program that presents song leaders from around the world sharing songs with the intention of “Making each day better, one song at a time!”
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections at The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is home to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, a public resource named for the founding director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
Folk Alliance International: FAI is an arts nonprofit founding in 1989 to connect folk music leaders aiming to sustain the community and genre worldwide.
Jenny Jenkins: In the United States, Jennie Jenkins was sung as a way for a boy to ask a girl to dance. The boy would sing the first part and pick a color and the girl would have to make up an answer that rhymed. If the girl failed to quickly respond with an appropriate answer, she would be required to dance with the boy.
John Robert Lewis (February 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020) was an American politician and civil rights activist who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020. He was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966. Lewis was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington.
Alternate Roots: Alternate ROOTS supports the creation and presentation of original art that is rooted in community, place, tradition or spirit. We are a group of artists and cultural organizers based in the South creating a better world together. As Alternate ROOTS, we call for social and economic justice and are working to dismantle all forms of oppression – everywhere.
Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences: The Hambidge Center provides a residency program that empowers talented individuals to explore, develop, and express their creative voices. Situated on 600 acres in the mountains of north Georgia, Hambidge is a sanctuary of time and space that inspires individuals working in a broad range of disciplines to create works of the highest caliber.
The Small Family Orchestra; Elise “back in the day” with her sister Mary, her brother-in-law Rick Ruggles, her bro-in-law’s best friend from childhood Steve Harris, and her sister’s husband’s friend’s neighbor Beth Heidelberg. SFO featured intricate 5-part vocal harmonies accompanied by an intriguing and inventive combination of instruments – French Horn, cello, mandola, saxophone, fiddle, clarinet, bass clarinet, and guitar.
Sandinista Revolution: The Nicaraguan Revolution (Spanish: Revolución Nicaragüense or Revolución Popular Sandinista) encompassed the rising opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s, the campaign led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to oust the dictatorship in 1978–79, the subsequent efforts of the FSLN to govern Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, and the Contra War, which was waged between the FSLN-led government of Nicaragua and the United States–backed Contras from 1981 to 1990.
Ngapartji Ngapartji: Ngapartji Ngapartji was a community development and Indigenous language maintenance/revitalisation project produced by the Australian arts and social change company Big hART conducted in various locations across the Anangu, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in Central Australia and in Alice Springs.
Global Village Project: The seeds of Global Village Project were planted in 2007 by a group of volunteers who came together to support and tutor five teenaged Afghani girls in Clarkston, Georgia. By 2009, they’d founded Global Village Project, the only school in the country dedicated to meeting the educational needs of refugee young women and preparing them for high school.
Sweet Honey in the Rock is an internationally renowned Grammy Award® nominated female a cappella vocal quartet has a history of over four decades of distinguished service. They have created positive, loving, and socially conscious message music that matters as it pertains to spiritual fortification, and consistently taken an activist stance toward making this planet a better place for all in which to live.
Ysaye Maria Barnwell: Dr. Barnwell joined Sweet Honey In The Rock® in 1979 and her training as a Sing Language Interpreter, led her to facilitated the group’s tradition of including a Sign Language Interpreter in the ensemble. After 34 years Barnwell retired from Sweet Honey In The Rock to pursue her other interests.
Dr. Barnwell appears as a vocalist and/or instrumentalist on more than thirty recordings with Sweet Honey In The Rock as well as other artists. She has, for the past thirty years spent much of her time off stage working as a master teacher and choral clinician in African American cultural performance. Her workshop “Building a Vocal Community®: Singing in the African American Tradition” has during the past twenty-eight years, been conducted on three continents, making her work in the field a significant source of inspiration for both singers and non-singers, a model of pedagogy for educators, and cultural activists and historians.
Ella’s Song: In 1981, Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of the all-women’s a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock and a civil rights leader and activist in her own right, wrote “Ella’s Song” as part of the musical score she composed for the film Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker.
Kathy deNobriga: A founding member of Alternate ROOTS, a service organization for community-based artists in the South, deNobriga served as ROOTS’ executive director and planning/development director for ten years. A current board member of Alternate ROOTS, deNobriga is a certified mediator in the State of Georgia, and after three terms as Council member deNobriga now serves as Mayor for the City of Pine Lake.
Rev. Timothy McDonald, III is founder of the African American Ministers Leadership Council and President of the African American Ministers In Action of People for the American Way, and is Senior Pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where he has served since 1984. Rev. McDonald has taken First Iconium from 35 members to approximately 1500 members. He served three terms as President of Concerned Black Clergy of Atlanta, an ecumenical consortium of Black and White clergy and laypersons working on behalf of the poor.
The King Center (Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change): Established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”) has been a global destination, resource center and community institution for over a quarter century.The King Center is a 501(c)3. Nearly a million people each year make pilgrimage to the National Historic Site to learn, be inspired and pay their respects to Dr. King’s legacy.
Open Door Community: The Reverend Murphy Davis, who founded the Open Door Community with her husband Ed Loring, inspired a new kind of protest against Atlanta’s neglect of the poor.
Elise Witt’s “Ready or Not” imagines our human journeys, through the image of packing a magic suitcase.
Sponsored by Carpe Diem Arts! and the Daily Antidote of Song, the film, “Ready or Not”, is a collaborative project featuring artworks from the community and a virtual chorus, inspired by this idea of journey and what is most precious.
Now, join our #ReadyorNotSuitcase Community Art Project on Facebook and Instagram! @ReadyOrNotSuitcase
Share your art, photos, stories, poems, quilts, songs …
Uninspired. Adrift. Tired.
Well-watered. Filled. Flowing.
Elise Witt, a song creator in Atlanta, Georgia, opens us up to the idea of refilling, dipping our buckets into the well, drinking deep and long, washing away the dry and tired. This song has a lovely dancing rhythm that mixes threes and fives and sixes into a rolling, fluid motion that makes me feel like water tumbling down as I sing it.
Elise is a sparkling creative life-force — don’t miss the shownotes to learn more about the many things she’s doing — she has a project open right now for artistic collaborators — click here to learn more about “Ready Or Not!”
I met creator Elise Witt online during the pandemic, when we were both in a course led by the extraordinary improviser Rhiannon… I was honored, because I already knew of Elise as a composer of unusual choral work that I had explored doing with my community chorus. In fact this piece was conceived as a choral piece, and Elise very generously let me excerpt a bit of it to be a pocket song.
I love the way the rhythm wakes me up from an uninspired, tired place — whenever I sing this, I almost always end up moving somehow. And now that I know Elise a little, I can see why — her brain is the definition of fertile, and she exudes energy and joyfulness you can almost touch through her little Zoom rectangle.
Elise says, “I believe that if we listen deeply, we can hear music in the wind, the water, the earth, and deep in our bones. And no matter how disconnected we get, that music is always there, when we are ready to return and listen.”
Song Song Deep In Your Bones Words & Music by Elise Witt © Non Si Sa Mai Music ASCAP When you're feeling dry, there's water in the well. (4x) No rain from the sky, just a tear in your eye, all alone, far from home, you roam. Feeling tired, uninspired, like you're drifting away from your heart and the part you play.
A Song Deep in Your Bones is a part of the Elise Witt Choral Series – available in SSAA, SATB and TTBB.
Read the whole article at GVP: https://globalvillageproject.org/news/students-write-create-remix-new-music-in-songwriters-club/
How do we deal with the many feelings we experience while stuck at home and living through a pandemic? For some GVP students, the answer is through songwriting.
A new student-led Songwriters’ Club has flourished at GVP as a unique space for students to explore composing their own songs and remixing others’. Students meet weekly via Zoom to workshop original lyrics and share their latest creations with peers. They swap techniques for using GarageBand, a digital music creation studio available on their iPads. And the finished products are impressive: as STEAM Coordinator Danielle Ereddia says, “It’s not only that students are writing lyrics, they’re writing melodies and using loops, voice filters, and instruments on GarageBand to construct multi-layered songs…with up to 14 different tracks on one song.”
It all started last summer when a student approached Music Teacher Elise Witt with an ask: she had composed a set of song lyrics and wanted help turning them into a song. Elise, a professional singer-songwriter, worked with the student in the fall semester via Zoom to transform her original lyrics into a fully fleshed out song. When other students caught wind of this exciting new project, they wanted in, too – and a new club was born.
Songwriters’ Club is yet another example of how the pandemic, while dramatically limiting educational opportunities, has also opened unexpected doors: GVP students taught themselves GarageBand using the iPads distributed by GVP for remote learning. As Elise recalls, “Songwriters’ Club began as our first pandemic experimentation with clubs. I am thrilled with how the students have taken the idea and run with it, teaching each other (and me!) how to use the technology.” Students have written songs about their experiences as immigrants and about the judgments they sometimes face as newcomers to the U.S. Others have used the technology to reimagine traditional songs from their home cultures, adding unique layers and harmonies to create something new. The innovation is endless: “[Students] are creating marvelous and intricate arrangements on Garageband,” says Elise, “coming up with layered, polyrhythmic vocal harmonies, and having fun playing with the different instruments and effects.”
Of course, the use of music as a vehicle for self-expression and learning is nothing new at GVP. Songwriters’ Club is only the newest addition to an arts-integrated curriculum that has long prioritized opportunities for students to experience, create, and perform music and other forms of art. With the courage and creativity of GVP’s many arts teachers, volunteers, and partners, that commitment has been sustained during remote learning as well: This February, GVP students were captivated by virtual guest performances from music artists like Lea Morris and Arnae Batson. 21 GVP students are currently learning ukulele, guitar, or piano virtually as part of the instruments lessons offered to students every year. And every week, students participate in drama classes with GVP’s long-time partner Playmaking for Girls via Zoom.
These activities not only help students experience the power and joy of art, but also contribute to their learning of English and core subjects. “GVP students who are now in college,” says Ms. Elise, “tell me they remember the Water Treatment Cycle, Math Operations, and the Five Freedoms because of the songs we wrote together.” Music helps students solidify their understanding of a range of topics from their content classes, from similes to life cycles, through the songs they write with Elise in weekly music classes. Most recently, our newcomer class has been working on a song about rights that they hope to share with our wider community at the Virtual Authors’ Tea in May!
Above all, engagement with the arts – including activities like Songwriters’ Club – is critical for empowering GVP students to use their voices. Refugee learners face many barriers as they navigate a new language, culture, and country, but through music, GVP students gain a creative pathway to sharing their voices and growing into capable young leaders. “You can see,” says Danielle, “when our Form 1 students are still nervous to be on the stage. And the Form 2 students are a little more comfortable. But the Form 3 students – they’re glowing. They are so proud to be standing on stage and sharing and using their voices. I think that is what is the most powerful about the arts at GVP.”
These days, the student who inspired the creation of Songwriter’s Club has been putting the finishing touches on her original song, which is about how she misses everyone during remote learning and hopes she’ll see them again. She shared a version of her creation with the whole school during our virtual GVP’s Got Talent this December. Her school sisters cheered her on with gusto. It was clear that the song had struck a chord with them, too, as all our students eagerly await the day when we can safely return to school, and sing together, once again.