The joint was jumping and the jive was swinging as students in INTL’s Upper School German Program learned about blues, boogie woogie, and how to communicate without words. Internationally-recognized jazz pianist Frank Muschalle, along with a representative from the German Consulate, visited our Willows Campus to present a workshop on these very topics.
Delivered almost entirely in German, the workshop began with an overview of the origins of the blues in the African-American communities in the Deep South in the late 1800s. Frank explained that it was a style of music created by the poor for the poor. Primarily featuring a single musician, the style spread throughout American and eventually Europe as well. Frank played several examples of blues music to illustrate some of the defining traits of the style. Once that was set, he moved into an exploration of boogie woogie, a style of blues music that focuses on dancing. Which is when the students got up and started boogying.
Frank then delved into one of the common languages of music, rhythm and time. He explained the different beats and rhythms that span the various schools and styles of music. Asking for volunteers with no musical experience, he asked them to sit by him at the piano and start playing. The students started simply with one or two keys and Frank would respond with a riff off of their sequence. Then Frank would play something and the students would respond musically. Frank explained that if you know the basic beats, you could make music with anyone. He then played an unrehearsed session with INTL music teacher, Matthieu Roques, who accompanied him on the drums. The two seamlessly switched back and forth between them, despite never playing together before. Frank’s visit was sponsored by the German Consulate and made possible by INTL German Language Dean Claudia Gruber and INTL Upper School German Language and Literature Teacher & German Curriculum Lead Julia Neumann. Julia had this to say about the visit:
"The experience for our students was very valuable, having a German musician come to our school to do a workshop with them in their target language created an authentic learning experience. But, Frank Muschalle also taught them a very valuable life lesson which they can transfer to many other subjects: Try things! While Frank taught them about boogie-woogie, he also encouraged them to try out new things, students who never played an instrument tried themselves on the piano or drums. They improvised, felt the rhythm, and just like that, music happened. So, I am happy to see the confidence grow in our students, understanding that you do not have to be a master to create something great. Hopefully, this will have a lasting impact on our students."
Language is a vital part of human connection. Language allows us to share our ideas, thoughts, and feelings with others. This workshop illustrated how music is in fact universal, existing in every society. Along with other forms of art, it is a common language that spans cultures and continents.In addition to his visit to Willows Campus, Frank took part in a very special ceremony a few days prior on September 25th for the "German Stars" event at East Bay German International School. A delegation of INTL students and families attended the event as they all received their Deutsches Sprachdiplom (DSD) certificates after yet another year of successful exams that certified their German on a level of at least B1, or DSD II certifying C1 on the CEFR. It was an honored day for all the students as they received their certificates from German General Consul in San Francisco, Oliver Schramm, and German language advisor from German Schools Abroad, Gabriele Maiss-Minkler. Alongside of the certificate presentation, the crowd was gifted with the chance to hear Frank play with special guest, and our very own, Yarah H. accompanying the world-renowned pianist.