A great start to the Fall!

16 Oct

The year’s music appreciation classes in the UNRWA schools in Qalandia, Jalazon and Al Amari began this week, and Ibrahim and Freya have been teaching the children basic body percussion techniques in order to explore co-ordination and rhythm. In addition they have been introducing the flute recorder as an instrument in class and been exploring group pitch and rhythm games, such as having half the class clap beats 1 and 2 of a bar, and the other half play beats 3 and 4 as notes on recorder. They also looked at dynamics; a miscellany of animals including cats, dogs, lions, tortoises, mice, gazelles and cows have been imitated over the past few days to demonstrate differences in speed, pitch and volume!

Iyad Staiti playing oud for the students

 In Iyad’s Sunday session the use of the oud had a significant effect on the group listening skills; the children loved listening to him play so much that they remained completely still – transfixed by the music – for a good few minutes, which is close to a miracle when it comes to 6 year olds! They also enjoyed imitating pitches on the oud by singing and copying rhythms by clapping. 

A child sits transfixed by the music


Dynamics exercise

21 Feb

Below is a video of me leading Ms. Suzanne’s class of 3rd graders at Qalandiah girls school in a dynamics exercise.  I like to start each lesson with this exercise as it gives the girls a good amount of energy and then I pick one girl a week to come up to the front of the classroom and conduct with me.


Music bridges West Bank, Italy and France

20 Feb

Dear readers, friends, fellow music educators and students,

We are a group of wonderful and enthusiastic music educators that work as teachers at Al-Kamandjati in Ramallah teaching music appreciation classes in Palestinian refugee camps.  The project we are working on, “Music bridges West Bank, Italy and France” has been implemented by the Terre Des Hommes Foundation and aims to provide music awareness and educational access to thousands of children from the Jalazone, Qalandia and Ammari camps.  We are currently teaching a total of forty one-hour long music classes per week at both the boys and girls UNRWA schools for grades 1 through 3.

Learning music  helps children cultivate many skills that they can use throughout their entire adult life.  Researchers have found a significant relationship between music education and positive performances[1] in reading comprehension, spelling, math[2], listening skills, primary mental abilities (verbal, perceptual, numeric, spatial), social skills[3] and motor skills.

Up to date structured music education has rarely entered the Palestinian refugee camps and children have never had the possibility of studying it or enjoying it in an attentive way.

Through this blog, we hope to share our work and our experiences with the children in the camps, as well as our teaching methodologies and tool kit that we will be developing throughout the upcoming months.

We have also begun workshops with the UNRWA teachers at Ammari camp so that they may begin to utilize music in the classroom to help with critical thinking skills in other subjects.  More to come on that, pictures and video in the upcoming week!

Looking forward to sharing and discussing with all of you dear readers and followers, friends and peers and students,


[1] According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at Brown University, “Music instruction can help build intellectual and emotional skills, facilitate learning and strengthen other academic areas”

[2] “When children learn rhythm, they are learning ratios, fractions and proportions” Professor Gordon Shaw, University of California, Irvine;

Many students learn math facts faster when they can use mnemonics, rhymes, and songs. Students love to create their own memory rhymes and songs, which allows them to personalize math facts”. Karen Thompson, Instructional Technology Facilitator, Springfield School District 186, Springfield, IL

[3] “Children who take part in music develop higher levels of social cohesion and understanding of themselves and others, and the emotional aspect of musical activities seems to be beneficial for developing social skills like empathy,” Dr. Alexandra Lamont, Lecturer in the Psychology of Music at the University of Keele