Friday, January 21, 2011

Kimber has a choir!

Saturday, January 22, 2011 11:45 AM

Goodness gracious! There are simply too many things to write about! I can’t take enough pictures or type enough to keep up!

I just finished leading over 100 Baan Unrak kids in some vocal exercises and the round “Row, Row, Row your Boat.” It was, to say the least, exhilarating. About now some of you may be thinking, “woah…what?! When did Kimber get her own choir?” and if that is what you’re thinking…you’re thoughts about match mine.

I merely mentioned to Didi yesterday that I was interested in starting a children’s choir. She seemed interested and said she needed to talk to the kids, and move a few schedules around, but that we could probably work something out. I was happy that she seemed interested, but figured it would be a week or more before anything could be organized.

When I arrived at work this morning, I was informed that Didi had called a mandatory meeting at 10:00 for all Baan Unrak children in order to introduce me and invite them to be in a choir. I was surprised, but not as surprised as I was when I showed up to the upstairs “Ba-ba room” (a large open tiled space where they practice meditation and hip-hop/yoga routines) a few minutes after ten and realized I was the only adult in sight. There were kids EVERYWHERE-- yelling,lauging, running, pushing, painting fingernails, sliding across the floor on their backs, and bobbing their heads to some very loud hip-hope music playing from a large old speaker in the back of the room. I suddenly had kids holding my hands, my legs—any part of my body that was reachable to them. I observed them all quietly for about five minutes—smiling at some, reaching out to tickle others—but when Didi still did not come, I decided to take matters into my own, unprepared, hands. I tried to quiet them all at once—“All right, everyone! Come, sit! I want to talk to you!” But that was a pretty fruitless effort. I approached a group of older girls who were sitting in a corner painting each other’s fingernails a shiny green and asked them to help me get the kids to sit and be quiet. The leader of the group, Chandra, nodded, shouted something loudly, and then went back to painting fingernails. Yeah….that didn’t help either.

Finally, I started gently grabbing kids by the arms and pulling them to the front of the room, saying “Come, sit down! Come, sit down!” I smiled a lot, and coaxed a lot, and when I had about thirty kids seated, I started a clapping game. I would clap a rhythm, and then invite them to do the same. After awhile, the claps spread to even the corners of the room, and I FINALLY had a bit of attention. I didn’t waste a moment, “Hello! My name is Kimber. I’m a new volunteer here at Baan Unrak, and I would like to put together a choir. How many of you like to sing?!”

A few girls and small children raised their hands.

“Do YOU like to sing?” I pointed to a shy girl who was leaning on a pillar, and got a small nod in return.

“Do YOU like to sing?” I pointed to a boy in the back corner—I think his nostrils may have flared…

I asked a few more happy looking children and got a better response =)

About this time, Didi showed up. I didn’t know if she wanted to take over or not, but I was on a roll….so I just kept going. “Who knows what a snake is? Raise your hand if you know what a snake is! Good! Who can make a snake sound? SSSSSSSS…..” I wiggled my arm around as if it were a long reptilian creature attached to my shoulder and “bit” a little girl in front of me with my fingers. When I had them all hissing and smiling I asked them to practice breathing in for four counts and then hissing like a snake for eight. After doing this a few times, I had them pretend to be sirens—they thought this was great fun. Especially when I signaled for them to keep sirening higher and higher. There is something very liberating about making obnoxiously loud noises with a large group of people, I think.

I led them in a few five-note and then eight-note scales using English numbers after practicing counting up to five or eight and then back again to one. Even the little ones picked everything up incredibly fast—I was amazed. As my grand finale, I asked if they’d heard of the song “Row, Row, Row your boat.” They had. We sang it together with gusto once through before I divided the room in half and we sang it as a round. The children all have beautiful strong voices—and there pronunciation was only mumbled through the “life is but a dream” line; in fact, I don’t think any of them knows what to say there. It sounds something like “Why did butter scream?”

I cheered enthusiastically at the end of our performance, and dismissed them with a grand wave of my hand. Almost all had scampered out of the room by the time Didi told me she had wanted them to sing “The Baan Unrak song” for me. Woops. I had completely forgotten about Didi. She ran out to call them all back, and this time, I sat demurely on a floor matt as she took over.

Their song was beautifully sung in both English and Thai while my newest English student (La Choy) accompanied them on his guitar (he wrote the song himself, if I’m not mistaken). I clapped politely and said a few loud “Wahoo’s” which they thought was humorous and some of them started mimicking me. When I had finished applauding, I looked to Didi for further instruction. It didn’t appear she had any to give. I asked her permission to dismiss the kids (which she gave) and told the children that we would let them know when we would be meeting next.

I walked and talked with Didi before going back to the office. She and I agree that it would be good to have an older group and a younger group of students for me to teach, and she would like for me to teach a few times a week—which I happily agreed to. Leading a choir sounds much more appealing to me than writing grants for funds. I also told her that I would be happy to teach as many private violin and voice lessons as are in demand. She laughingly suggested that I teach her to sing, but before I could agree, she assured me that she was too busy.

I taught my first violin lesson to a girl named Chandra this morning, and I will teach another to Camala in about half an hour (I will be teaching her voice lessons as well). I feel so happy. I love teaching—and it’s exciting to have kids that are just as thrilled about learning as I am about teaching.

Suddenly, six months doesn’t seem like a long time at all.


  1. Beautiful! You are a natural with age-old wisdom of keep them busy and entertained and they are bound to learn something! Wish you could have taped the whole experience. I would love to hear their voices!

  2. OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!
    That sounds thrilling. And I wish that I could have been there. I've always wanted to watch you teach--I think that it would be so fun. I had so much fun just READING it, let alone being there. :) (Can I tell you that I'm grateful that the posts are more readable in length? I'm loving reading them, and feeling like I can actually keep up:) .)

    Did you bring your violin? I had forgotten that.

    I'm smiling. It makes me really happy to read this. cool.

  3. Kimber, that's completely awesome...I would love to see a recording of this somehow. Will you have the capability to record the concerts that I'm sure will be coming?

  4. No, I didn't bring my violin--they actually have one here that someone donated.

    I have recorded some things since I've come here, but it takes far too long to upload videos--(hours....days as far as I know, since I've never had internet long enough to complete uploading a video). But I'll record more choir stuff to show you all when I get home =)