monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

3 minutes reading time (565 words)

Caesura -- Working with Young F.A.C.E. Musicians

Have you ever heard the word "caesura"?

I hadn't.

But it came up recently, during a conversation with my friend, F.A.C.E. music teacher Ms. Stathopoulos. She was telling me about how challenging the pandemic has been for her music students at F.A.C.E. That's because these kids are gifted young musicians, and because of the pandemic, live performances are cancelled and there will be no giant end-of-the-year concert. So Ms. Stathopoulos came up with the idea of inviting me to do a series of writing workshops with the students. She explained that in a way, the students' lives are "on pause." So I asked whether there is a musical term for a pause -- and it turns out there is one -- CAESURA. And that's how the name of our project was born!

I'll be doing six workshops in all -- three with Grade Ten students, and three with Grade Elevens. At first, the plan was for me to work with two classes, but it's turned out that all the Grade Tens and Elevens are participating -- which gives me about 200 students to work with! And to add to the challenge, I'm presenting in both English and French. The Caesura project gets even better because when I've finished the writing part, the students will get to work with a professional musician and set their literary creations to music!

So here's a confession. After 35 years of teaching, I never feel nervous before a presentation -- BUT I DID TODAY. So many kids! Two languages! And all of them experts in music, a field I know little about. But guess what? We had our first workshop at eight this morning and I had a blast. (I'm hoping the students did too, and that they learned a thing or two along the way.) They'll each be writing about what the caesura has meant to them... and the best pieces will be published in an on-line book that I'll be sure to share with you, dear blog readers.

I didn't see the students' faces today, but I did get to read their comments in the chat box. A student named Alison commented, "Can we write about what we miss?" To which I answered YES YES YES. Such a beautiful topic! And a student named Karla asked, "Can we write about what gives us life?" OH SO BEAUTIFUL. There was also a student named "Claret" -- whose name I plan to steal for a future book! And on one of the teachers' screens, I spotted the words "Le jour silencieux" (the quiet day, for those of you who don't speak French). What a perfect title. I want to read what music students have to say about a quiet day. What does it sound like to them?

You know what makes me super happy? LEARNING. Even at sixty years old, I am still learning -- and this makes me feel lucky. I hope the music students at F.A.C.E. will learn something from me about writing. But if there's one thing I know for certain it's that I'm going to learn a lot from them. Thanks to everyone who took part today, to Ms. Stathopoulos for coming up with the idea, and to ELAN ArtistsInspire and the F.A.C.E. Foundation for making these workshops possible. And grand merci -- thank you -- to the kids for being exactly who you are!


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Tuesday, 05 March 2024

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