Ms. Julia Chanin is a P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist who teaches music to students from TK – 2nd grade. We love her intercultural approach to music education and how she encourages students to express themselves through singing. We interviewed Ms. Julia about her techniques and ideas and what she’s learned as a P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist. Find out more below!
Tell us about yourself and your art discipline.
My name is Julia Chanin and I teach TK-2nd grade music. I’m a jazz saxophonist and singer and I love to learn about people and cultures around the world through music. I’m especially interested in the social nature of music. I’m a huge fan of the Orff Schulwerk approach to music education; I especially appreciate the ways in which the Orff approach celebrates playfulness and encourages us to learn music through our bodies.
What does your current teaching setup look like? What are some tools that are essential to your virtual classroom these days?
I teach music class on Zoom every morning. My new classroom is in my garage! As you can see it’s a tight space, and I make a mess of it each day. One of my favorite things about virtual school is that we find and make instruments from items in our homes; as we do so we discover new ways of making sound. I’ve been using a pot and spatula as a drum, a bag of popcorn kernels as a shaker, and a cheese grater and chopstick as a güiro.
Share a “magic moment” you experienced teaching in the last year (an inspirational experience as a teacher or with a student).
I love to share the song “Funga Alafia” at the beginning of the rotation to welcome each other to music class. The lyrics to the song are in two African languages: Yoruba from Nigeria and Vai from Liberia. There’s an English version that goes: “With my thoughts I greet you / With my words I greet you / With my heart I love you / There’s nothing up my sleeve.” And there’s a coinciding dance, of course (I love to dance). Last spring, right after everything had shut down, a second-grade student had the idea to send out little gifts through the dance. So now as we bring our hands to our foreheads, we collect loving thoughts, and then send those thoughts to the class, the world, and anyone who may need the love. We do the same with our words and our hearts. It is such a sweet gesture, and it has given the song that much more meaning and power. I get a little teary every time I sing the song now.
Who is an artist you are currently inspired by?
I’m a big fan of the group Rhye. The lead singer, Mike Milosh, has a hauntingly beautiful voice that washes over you like waves. Rhye’s new album, “Home,” touches on so many of the themes, events, and feelings of this past year – from wildfires, to social and racial injustice, to isolation. I’m inspired by Rhye’s genre-bending and peaceful yet fierce music.
P.S. ARTS celebrates our artistry and our artistic identities and encourages us to be creative in everything we do.
How has teaching for P.S. ARTS shaped your practice as a Teaching Artist?
Where to start?! P.S. ARTS has shaped me and my work as a teacher in so many ways. First of all, being a part of a community of educators whose talents span the artistic disciplines creates an environment of creative expression that is so rich and dynamic. I’m constantly inspired by the work of my colleagues.
I believe it is essential that as teaching artists we are always developing our own artistry. The more I practice my craft the more able I am to center music and musicianship at the heart of what I do with my students: art begets art. P.S. ARTS celebrates our artistry and our artistic identities and encourages us to be creative in everything we do.
At P.S. ARTS, we have been having many meaningful discussions about how to create learning environments that are equitable, empowering, and just. Our training has helped me to become more aware of my unconscious biases. As a community we challenge and support one another to decolonize our thinking. This is hugely important in the classroom, and I am so grateful to the P.S. ARTS community for nurturing a culture of respect, curiosity, and personal growth.
Thank you for sharing with us, Ms. Julia! We appreciate your work and love what you do!