Young people are a big part of the volunteer movement here in Nashville. They bring a fresh perspective, endless energy, and a “why not?” attitude to many of Middle Tennessee’s most pressing issues. (To see some of this energy in action, take a look at these photos of this week’s Hands On Spring Break.)
In the spirit of this month’s Global Youth Service Day Presented by Starbucks, when Nashville youth will join millions of other teens around the world in a day of powerful volunteerism, we bring to you April’s Volunteer Leader feature: Tiannan Zhou, a sophomore at Hume Fogg.
Ask her how she came to serve as the HON Volunteer Leader at Backfield in Motion’s Saturday school, and the answer is quite simple: curiosity. “I had never volunteered before, and I really wanted to try something new,” she says. Plus, she’d heard from friends who had volunteered before that it was fun, so she decided to jump in.
Each Saturday, you can find Tiannan and other teen volunteers working on math and reading with the inner-city boys served by Backfield in Motion. While Tiannan has helped the boys with multiplication and addition, she’s been surprised to find that she’s learned some good things from them, too. “Attitude is often the most important thing. A smiling face and readiness to learn is what matters the most,” she says.
Music is one of the most beautiful forms of art and communication we have. It is something that can be shared between friends, loved ones, or even teacher and student. The beautiful thing is that it can connect two very different types of people together. I have formed a unique and close bond to these children I teach at Salvation Army. They have brightened my Tuesday afternoons countless times, without even one dull moment!
It has been my goal for these kids to realize that they can express themselves in a whole new way. I always encourage the notion that there is no right way to say how you feel. One way I helped them do this was by analyzing how artists communicate with audiences through their lyrics. We listened to pop songs such as Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” They had so much fun discussing what they thought each artist was saying. We even had an impromptu game of “freeze dance” where I attempted to dance, but only managed to embarrass myself and have them laugh at me.
I also wanted them to experience all ends of the musical spectrum, so of course, they had to be exposed to classical music. We listened to excerpts from Glazunov’s Seasons: Autumn and En Bateau by Debussy. Both of these compositions contain grand imagery. I had them draw a picture of the scene they imagined in their head when I played these songs. I ended with themed music and showed them how music could make a movie scary. They had to draw a picture of that too. I saw many monsters and knives and blood. It was a great breakthrough for me seeing how integrated the kids could get with the music.
Other projects I have done with them have involved making homemade instruments. I hoped that with the actual making of the instrument, they would have a more intimate idea of where these instruments came from and how they were made. One lesson I did was musical instruments of antiquity where the kids made Greek panpipes. We also made rainmakers one day. By the end, my students all appreciated the materials we usually take for granted and had a bigger view of where instruments evolved. Not only were they exposed to a variety of cultures, they also learned that music tied people together even in the earliest of times.
Jenny Sai, a sophomore at Hume Fogg High School, is one of 12 HON Youth Volunteer Corps Interns, serving in the inaugural 2011-2012 class. Each month, she plans and leads an arts- and music-focused activity that engages the children served by the Salvation Army’s after-school program.