Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Recital - End of my First Semester Teaching

Friday was a big celebration day at Arctic Village School. We were celebrating the end of Music Week with a special Christmas recital for the community; we celebrated the Christmas holiday with a big feast; and it was the end of our first semester of school. Only one more to go.

Mike and I served the community.

Everyone chowing down.
A student practices her "G" chord before the recital.

The middle school/high school Arctic Village band.
An elementary student sits in for a couple songs on her fiddle.
Trimble in the fiddle "First Chair", leading the fiddle and Gwich'in parts.
The next generation of guitar pickers tuning up.

After a week of group and individual music lessons the kids sounded great. I'm still awed by how engaged my students are with music. My challenge for the new year is to continue the music program and have instruments in my students hands at least 1-2 days a week, hopefully more. Belle, is very excited about coming back to Arctic Village and recording an album with the students.

More Arctic Dayz

Yup, its cold.
Here are a couple photographs taken during my quick walk home during lunch yesterday.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Music Camp

Arctic Village School Music Camp 2010
For the past five years our school has celebrated the last week of the quarter, before Christmas, with Music Camp. Belle Mickelson and her son Mike, traveled from Cordova t0 run the camp. Belle is an Episcopalian Minister, and Mike a fisherman formally of the band "BearFoot". The music camps are Belle's ministry bringing folk and bluegrass music, along with dance to rural Alaska. The camp is called "Dancing With The Spirit". She has several teams of equally infamous Alaskan musicians and Ministers that travel to schools throughout bush Alaska.

Its quite beautiful. Music has become as much a part of the culture in Arctic Village as Caribou and subsistence living. The village claims several skilled fiddlers and guitar players that often travel and play throughout the interior of Alaska.
Local Elder, Second Chief for TCC, and our own Minister, the Rev Trimble Gilbert on the left. One of my students in the middle, and Mike on the right. (a couple of my students got ACU pants from someplace, its funny to see them wearing them to school, especially with the traditional canvas snow booties this student is wearing- and no bush kids wardrobe is complete without a black hoodie)
During music camp we have Reading, Writing, and Math in the morning- then spend the entire afternoon, roughly 3-4 hours playing music, dancing, and learning songs in the traditional Gwich'in language.
Belle takes the group of fiddlers for a group lesson.


Mike takes the guitar pickers for a group lesson.
We always conclude the day with a collaborative "jam" in my classroom.
Two of my students- sisters, on the fiddle.

In the morning Belle and Mike do sing-alongs with the Elementary kids. Some of the Elders fluent in music love coming to the school and participating. Here village elder Gideon helps Mike teach the kids some Christmas songs for Fridays program.
On the left- I let one of my students borrow my personal acoustic guitar for the week. He does it a lot more justice playing than I do.
I think one of the greatest gifts I've seen so far this Christmas is the joy on Trimble's face playing music with these kids. He was supposed to be traveling for work this week. After spending all day Monday at school playing with the kids he changes plans. He called me first thing Tuesday morning and said he would be here for the rest of the week, there was no way he was going to miss this experience with the kids. You really can see this man light up when he's in sessions with students playing classic folk songs.
It is amazing how music engages these students. I have students I can't get to focus for more than two minutes in class- yet they sit still playing music all afternoon. I love it!

Tonight (wednesday) we're going to have an evening worship service at church and play carols. Then Friday is our grand finale music program for the community with Christmas dinner to kick off the holiday break. I'll try and post photographs from both events.

Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching and that is obvious from the sights & sounds around Arctic Village. We're on day three of music week, kids are practicing carols for the program Friday. The church is holding daily practices for the annual Christmas Pageant.

Here are a collection of shots from around the school and around town.

Our Christmas tree decorating the front entryway of the school.
My middle school students made these wreaths in Art class.
There are two things Arctic Village students love more than anything- making chains and coloring. During the holidays we keep them well stocked with designs to color and pieces of construction paper to link together. Traditionally they have a competition who can staple the longest chain. They usually wrap around the hall ways and gymnasium showing off the holiday colors.


These are some of my middle school students Christmas lists. The bulletin board is in a bit of disarray after gym night.

I'm going to capture a photo of the church today on my way home from work- it looks stunning.

Arctic Dawn & Dusk

Winter solstice is just a week away. We're at that time of the year where essentially we never see the sun, but that doesnt mean I live in pitch black darkness. Quite the opposite- the 3-4 hours of dawn and dusk are beautiful. The frozen landscape is illuminated with all shades of blue and purple. At periods of greatest illumination the sky is aflame with pinks and reds, its glorious. Each day I sneak away from school during my lunch break to capture what daylight I can on film.
According to the online weather station sunrise is 1:52pm, and sunset is 1:52pm.
Along with the lack of light, we've experienced some real cold snaps. The lowest temperature I've recorded so far at the house was around -38. For some reason the airport weather station (also feeds online data) is always about 8-10 degrees colder then my house. I don't know if thats from location, or just quality of instrumentation.
Sunday, the moon rises over Old John Mountain, looking almost due East from Arctic Village School around 1:30pm.

Sunset over the village. Brings light, but not warmth.
This is how I have to dress when its over -30, walking back and forth to school.


Sunset, Tuesday.