“We are not a bunch of nerds! We are all just a bunch of big book worms,” proclaimed Debbie Yeo’s grade four Topham Elementary class. Beyond being avid readers, the students are all now professionally recorded singer/songwriters.
The in-school writing sessions is a new program developed by Laura Koch, a local musician and one-half of The Kwerks duo with her husband Ryan.
“A teacher asked if she could use a song I had wrote for a school show,” Koch explained. “One day I said ‘why don’t I come in and write an original song with the class’ which I thought might be something I could develop.”
After experimenting with the process in 2018, the result is now a three week course where elementary students get the chance to shout out song ideas and build the lyrics as a group.
“Sometimes we work with a curriculum or themes like bullying and life cycles work their way in,” Koch said. “But it’s a way to work together. I talk to them about being vulnerable and that it’s okay to share ideas.”
Koch shows up for three sessions total, unifying the class on the first day to brainstorm thoughts. The second session is where the song lyrics and structure are built. The third has the students finally performing and recording their hard work alongside the musical accompaniment of Koch’s guitar.
“I just set up mic-stands and record with the GarageBand App on my laptop,” said Koch in regards to the quick process.
What the students end up with when the final mix is complete, is an mp3 file with their song edited all together – including their own claps, snaps, and backing vocals.
The one-time band was quick to point out that their single won’t generate any money or even go on the internet. The song is just for the class to enjoy and commemorate a collaborative effort well done.
“It’s really about empathy building and the willingness to express ideas,” Koch added. “The pride they get from sharing and creating is so unifying.”
This particular grade four group at Topham Elementary drew inspiration from the books they had read throughout the past school year.
“It taught us how to work together,” stated one Topham student.
“We got to know everybody better,” added another.
Common themes Koch was aiming for such as the realization it’s okay to share ideas and that everyone has something to contribute was evident in the class’s overall response.
On the lighter side, the grade four class seemed to agree they learned that “you can put anything into a song.”
Even a few hands were raised when the question of “would you consider a career in songwriting” came up.
Koch has taught the songwriting course at several different junctures including the Langley Fine Arts School. She hopes to expand all throughout the Fraser Valley so as many kids as possible get to work together and develop their very own song.
“I always loved working with children in different capacities. So it’s a pleasure of joining two loves – music and working with kids. Seeing them light up is so satisfying. I really, really love it,” said Koch.
For more information on Laura “Kwerk” Koch and her program, people can visit her website www.thekwerks.com.
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