Dan Hall Collaborates with Students to Make Curriculum Come Alive
For four full school days, guest singer songwriter, Dan Hall of Story Song Creations, recently provided the Charlevoix Elementary School children grades K-6, with a bridge from the process of creating songs, to their studies in school. Each class in turn, on all levels, had the unique opportunity of creating a verse to their own grade’s original song. The verses cumulated from class to class until each grade had a completed score. In order to make the experience relevant the grade level teachers had previously asked their classes to decide on a theme to put into music some aspect of their life at school or one of the subjects they have been studying. Kindergarten for example chose the seasons and called their song “The Seasonal Blues”. Other grade levels wrote about a specific subject like chemistry: “It’s Raining Molecules” (6th grade); the 2nd grade class wrote about Charlevoix, “We live in Charlevoix…it’s a pretty good place to be…”. Each grade built their lyrics from class to class.
“This was such a great experience for the elementary children,” said third grade teacher Julie McLean. “It was a fun and engaging process watching kids create and collaborate a song they wrote from start to finish, incorporating all aspects of the grade school curriculum.”
“The kids learn to feel the beat and use information they know to make a cool song,” said Hall. “I search for a melody that best fits the lyric lines and one the students like… when I start,” he said in one class, “I don’t know anything yet. Let’s just say we’re going to write a story about your theme.” He then proceeds to have the teacher record class-suggested words that will stimulate ideas and possible rhymes. What follows in the process is entirely their choice: development of the subject matter, style of music (rock, country, jazz, or blues…) and the song just evolves. Everyone participates. Together, Hall and the students build and edit as they go. At the completion of the verse building sessions, teachers are provided with all the lyrics and the soundtrack for their grade level. Then students can practice their song, looking forward to a recording session, when Hall and his engineer will put it all together, grade by grade. The recording session will take place on May 12, when each class will sing their collaborative song. A performance for parents and the community will be announced at a later date, yet to be determined.
Hall founded Story Song Creations in 1989 as an in-school workshop designed to help children of all ages “to retain the lessons they were learning in school by writing and performing songs about the subjects.” For almost 20 years, Hall, who is presently serving as a musical director for several churches in the Kalkaska area in addition to his story-song creation business, has “composed, performed and recorded over 500 songs in collaboration with more than 100,000 elementary students and story songsters of all ages… All of us, the kids, teachers, parents, me and my crew cooperate together in an enjoyable and enriching educational experience,” he said.
Hall’s performance was sponsored by Charlevoix Council for the Arts and the Charlevoix Waterfront Art Fair. “We were so happy to be able to schedule Dan for our kids,” said Mary Beth McGraw, Council President. “What a great learning process for combining writing, the creative process and the curriculum…We invest in the children of the Charlevoix area with the proceeds from the Waterfront Art Fair,” she said. “This is one of many ways we continue to do so.”
Dan Hall has opened or shared the stage with Bill Clinton, Tom Paxton, John McCutcheon, Christine Lavin, Josh White Jr., Michael Smith and many others. He has written and produced soundtrack music for a feature film co-starring Ernest Borgnine; several documentaries, commercial jingles and a theme song for a PBS television series. Through his songwriting residency, Dan has written and recorded hundreds of songs with tens of thousands of elementary students around the country.
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Charlevoix Council for the Arts and proceeds from the Charlevoix Waterfront Art Fair provide:
*college scholarships to students majoring in art; *art and music camp scholarships, performances by professional dance troupes (i.e. the Ohio Ballet),* performances by professional drama companies (i.e. the Prince Street Players),*concerts by musical groups (i.e. the Grand Rapids Symphony, Terrance Simien and his Zydeco band )*,the purchase of original art for display in the schools,* art and music workshops,* "meet the author" programs in the schools, and* grants for the purchase of art, music and drama equipment.”