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Improvised music helps children tell their own story

Children from KidsAbility for Child Development in Guelph will learn to use improvised music to tell their own story at the “Play Who You Are” workshops series that runs August 16-17 and September 4-5. The series culminates in a performance that will open the Guelph Jazz Festival Community Tent on Saturday, September 6.

This is truly a community-based project. KidsAbility, the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice research project, and the Guelph Jazz Festival are working together to present the programming to a group of 10-16-year-olds from KidsAbility, which caters to those with special needs due to developmental delays and/or physical disabilities.

Canadian musician Rich Marsella is facilitating the workshops with international guest artist, saxophonist Matana Roberts. Ms. Roberts specializes in the presentation of personal narratives via structured improvisations. The workshops and concert will develop participants’ personal and community narratives.

“Our kids loved working with Rich when he led an introductory workshop in July,” says Denise Watson, program manager at KidsAbility. “We’re very excited to see what comes out of the workshop series and concert.”

The workshops are supported by a grant from the Artists and Community Collaboration program of the Canada Council for the Arts.

The Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice project, funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Major Collaborative Research Initiative grant, will conduct observational research during the workshops and concerts and will maintain archives of the events. The data will contribute to research on improvisational pedagogy and the relationship between improvisation and social justice.

The concert is on Saturday, September 6, 11:40 a.m., at the Guelph Jazz Festival Community Tent, Wyndham Street, Guelph, and is open to the general public.

Improvisation implies a deep connection between the personal and the communal, self and world. A “good” improviser successfully navigates musical and institutional boundaries and the desire for self-expression, pleasing not only herself but the listener as well.

– Rob Wallace