Jul 1, 2012

Musical Vibes

This is an art lesson that I've repeated again and again in my 6 years of teaching. I'm always really pleased with the results and invariably the children are too. I've employed this lesson or a slight variation of it with every year from 2 to 6. It has been continually refined from the day I picked up this Jazz Café – Latin compilation CD on my way out the door before school one morning.

After lunch that day I had the children create their own musical scene based on the cover art. I was so taken with the students' resulting work that I had soon made a larger laminated copy of the CD cover and also collected a small number of photographs of musicians playing instruments as inspiration. I now carry these with me to use whenever a day allows for some art time. More recently, with smartboards in most classrooms I have also been able to quickly and easily introduce the children to the other great musical scenes that Paula Cox created for the entire Jazz Café series. You can view them all here.

The lesson begins with some appreciation of the Latin percussive scene as depicted by Paula Cox. Together the children recognise (occasionally with some prompting!) big bold shapes, the limited amount of colours, minimal use of fine or intricate details, as well as the way the scene fills and bleeds out of the frame. There's obviously more to discuss, and they often pick up on more, but these are the foundations. I convert their observations into a checklist on the board. The students then create their own vibrant musical scene from any genre or culture based on these guidelines.

I use a square piece of paper and always have the children plan out their scene lightly in pencil. Some students need a number of reminders that although they are really good at making very detailed and accurate drawings, they need to practice a different kind of art here! I make a few quick sketch options on the board as inspiration. Although some children end up simply copying these, many create their own scene entirely. 

I will definitely continue with this lesson and post the results here again in the future. I only wish that I had recorded all the other great musical scenes the children have created previously!


  1. These are wonderful! I love the bold colors and graphic shapes. I can imagine it was tough for some to keep their drawings so minimal. They did a great job!

  2. Thanks Mary! I've just been admiring your own students' Matisse inspired Apples : )