Harmonica from Home - with Alex Lacquement
With so much learning having to happen from home I've been thinking about ways that young students can still acquire musical skills from home that will set them up for success in making social music. Having spent over a decade teaching beginning string players I know that keeping a violin, viola, or cello in good condition, having to learn how to tune the instrument and the mere cost of having to own/ rent one are all big barriers in successful home education and growth on those instruments.
Here enters the harmonica and why there are many pros to group harmonica classes! The instrument is: small, affordable, doesn't require tuning, has an easy barrier of entry to melody and melody and chord playing, provides embouchure and breathing techniques related to playing other wind instruments and... the instrument has a unique place in the history of American music due to the innovative styles of playing thanks to American Blues Music artists, like DeFord Bailey who was the first performer to be introduced on the Grand Ole Opry.
Since October, I have been teaching a "Harmonica from Home" course designed for students in grades one through three through a local Baltimore arts organization, the Creative Alliance, and their Out of School Time program. I have been loving this experience with my students and fellow educators. I've created a curriculum that spans an entire academic year from October to June. This curriculum can be adjusted and shortened into a two~three-month long plan or even for an eight week extra curricular program. I have been teaching these classes via Zoom and have been providing students with: audio play along tracks, accompaniment backing tracks, sheet music, and harmonica tabs.
If you are interested in bringing this "Harmonica from Home" course to your school we can craft to fit your students needs. Classes can be scheduled on a weekly basis or twice a week where all students could meet. During weekly classes, students are able to learn from and perform for their peers through un-muting, performing a-long with backing tracks, and providing and receiving feedback from their peers and instructor.
While the harmonica is quite different from the string instruments, the skills that I have been teaching will be able to be applied to social music making with others in the future. The factors and need for social distancing brought on by COVID 19 make distanced learning on string instruments much more complicated at home. So, I am proposing this "Harmonica from Home" course as a creative an innovative way of bringing instrumental music to young and growing musicians. I have been playing the harmonica for roughly seven years now and love the peculiarities of this miniaturely sized instrument with so many possibilities.
Here's a link to a clip of me performing on the harmonica at The Strathmore Mansion with one of my musical collaborators, Brad Kolodner. Find the harmonica music at 25:25
If you're interested in implementing this new concept in your community or school for regularly scheduled distanced-learning please reach out.
- Alex Lacquement