This past fall, Performing Arts faculty member Kristine Peters encountered more than the usual challenges of starting a new position; as the teacher of Lower School General Music, the Intermediate Program’s Choral Music, and Caroline’s Carolers, she faced pandemic safety limitations of an important classroom element: singing.

“We don’t sing, but we approximate singing by chanting with inflection, and whenever possible, I accompany them on the piano so they can hear melodic shapes and continue their Tuneful development,” said Peters. “We create sound stories, using instruments as sound effects to build the mood.” Having spent a decade studying under master music educators to understand how children learn, Peters draws on her extensive training to ensure her classes remain musically rich.

Her approach enables students to perform well-known works in new and interesting ways. “A wonderful book like Goin’ on a Bear Hunt is given new life when we add the vibraslap to sound like the slapping of mud, or jingle bells to represent snow,” she noted. “We use movement and body percussion to analyze form and bring meaning to iconic music. The gradual tempo increase of a popular-classical favorite like Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ becomes much more satisfying when one is tapping out an intricate routine of pats, snaps, claps, and stomps. With simple melodies as the foundation, we start with a simple rhythm (the steady beat kept on a bass xylophone or a short repeating pattern played on rhythm sticks); from there we layer on melodic fragments as developmentally appropriate and un-pitched percussion to add musical color.”

The resulting lessons have inspired students to expand their understanding and appreciation of music. “Whether it’s playing or singing in an ensemble, dancing to music at a wedding, or chanting at a ballgame, when we synchronize in a musical way, we are communicating in a way specific to humans,” Peters affirmed. “We activate an abundance of esprit de corps that honors the heart of the humans around us.”