This morning we were invited to go to a team meeting for the missionaries, but I decided it was better to stay in and rest. We need to be well rested, because we teach for four hours a night with no air conditioning and not a day this week is supposed be below 100 Fahrenheit. I am sad that the team will not meet all the missionaries, but since last night was our first class session, and we have 35+ students rather than the 10 originally expected, we have to adjust our lesson plans to the situation and the skill levels we now know of our students. And we have to rehearse and prepare for worship as well. These workshops are also intense and I want these guys to be well rested and prepared. That's more important than a fellowship time. The other reality is the meeting is across the border and the travel would take an extra two hours or so.
But we will take a break to go out to lunch and do some shopping today. We also will have a prayer time together and perhaps even devotions. It is good to get to know my own Worship Director better. Ryan McMillen is a nice guy and very patient and gentle. But he also can be more reserved and quiet than I am (I know everyone's thinking how great that is). This is a chance to get to know each other better as people and as musicians which will help us to serve Chesterfield Presbyterian Church better when we return.
And Jacob Tilton is so talented. I hope I get the chance to worship at his church, Fort Worth Presbyterian Church, again. We visited there last May for a BEAMM team meeting related to Mexico, and it's a great location and nice facility, but Jacob happened to be gone that week. Jaxob is also a great guy and fun musician for Ryan and I to partner with. Both Ryan and Jacob worked hard to learn songs in Spanish and we are each trading off leading songs like "Lord I Lift Your Name On High," "Forever," "Open The Eyes Of My Heart," and hymns as well.
Last night I asked Ryan and Jacob to play two famous Mexican songs sight unseen to demonstrate to students how important it is to know music theory. They did well playing "Mexican Hat Dance" and "La Cucaracha" though I know Jacob felt like he didn't overwhelm. It was not about showing off musical skill as much as showing off the value of music theory knowledge, and both demonstrated that well. The songs were recognized and the students smiled and clapped. Here are two songs similar in this culture to our own "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" or "Old McDonald" which everyone knows. Of course, my team might have heard them, but had never played them. So for them to play them off the sheet music so well the first time, made the point I wanted made well.
We had a large group session, post-worship, in Music Theory and I raced through the basics in an hour. Most of the students did not learn it this way, of course. A few already knew things. But the idea was not to teach it as much as get them familiar with the symbols, words, and concepts they will need to learn this week. I think that was accomplished, but I also hope we wet their appetite. I am going to tell them that if they want it, I can come back and really teach music theory. And we'll see what happens. It would serve them well.
After that session, we broke into four classes. Basic Guitar, Basic Keyboards, and Advanced Guitar and Advanced Keyboard. Ryan had two Advanced Piano students and Jacob had around eight in guitar. We had 17 basic guitar and around 15 basic keyboard students. Jacob said he got through more than expected. I felt the same. Ryan felt he got through exactly what he planned. So that is a good first day.
I am having to teach differently than I would normally approach things at the request of the missionaries. They want the students to learn how to play basic chords. But teaching basic chords without the building blocks of notation, scales, etc. is very difficult. Add to that the fact that I have never taught piano before, and I need your prayers. I am winging it big time. But I am just committing it to God and letting him lead me, and the students learned 3 of 7 major chords last night. They also learned the intervals and steps needed to find any major chord. We'll test their retention today, but that is good progress.
Add to that the fact that the terminology is Spanish, which we don't speak. And some of the translators are not always aware of musical terminology. Another challenge for the classes is that we have a mix of ages. We have kids who may well be 10 years old and we have adults in their 40s. That is both exciting and challenging. But we are very thankful just for the opportunity. It is such a blessing to share with these people. No culture clashing so far that I know of, other than perhaps a few organizational things. But God is with us and all will be well.
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