Mary Knysh - Teaching

Sound Bites: A Q&A with MfP Program Director Mary Knysh

In Blog, Teaching Music Improv by jan_mfp

Mary Knysh
Mary Knysh

As the world enters its second year of COVID-19, educators are looking for ways to reinvigorate classroom learning. Music for People (MfP)’s Mary Knysh believes that music-inspired play can help—not just in the band or choir room, but in any classroom. 

“This past year has been difficult for students, families and educators,” says Knysh, a world-renowned group facilitator and music educator. “I want to share ideas and activities that can enable teachers to end their year on a high note and then use the summer to enrich their lesson plans for next year.”

Knysh is the genius behind MfP’s first-ever Innovative Educator Series, a three-part online program for aspiring and practicing teachers. The series, she says, offers fun, practical ways to infuse creativity into the K-12 classroom. 

A proponent of multimodal instruction, Knysh is presenting two music-related workshops—one on April 25 involving social-emotional learning (SEL) and another on May 2 about experiential teaching. “We’ll draw on many of the tools and techniques that Music for People has been teaching for more than 30 years,” she adds. 

Learn more about the Innovative Educator Series, including videos with the presenters.

Mary Knysh - Teaching

We recently caught up with Knysh, a multi-instrumentalist who doubles as MfP’s program director, to find out more about the interactive series, which is drawing attendees from all over the world. 

What is the role of music in the classroom?

During the pandemic, students have lost their connection with their peers and their communities. We feel that music is one way to regain and strengthen this connection.

Our series provides creative arts experiences that can be easily integrated into your curriculum and adapted by students of almost any age. For instance, we’ll teach you various “brain breaks”—brief musical activities that can connect students, create a sense of community, and promote self-expression and social-emotional learning in the classroom.

What do you say to people who claim they are non-musical?

These activities are for musicians and non-musicians alike. In MfP’s “Musical Bill of Rights” [authored by MfP Co-Founder David Darling], we state that “musical self-expression is a joyful and healthy means of communication available to absolutely everyone.”  

Students and educators need a way to reduce stress, decompress, reconnect and experience joyful play together. This is what the Innovative Educator Series is all about.  

This Sunday, you’ll present a workshop titled “Engaging Rhythmic Strategies for Classroom and SEL.” Would you say more about it? 

After a long, challenging year of virtual teaching and social isolation, I am reaffirming my commitment to social and emotional wellness in the classroom. I’ll share a number of interactive and accessible strategies designed to get—and keep—students focused, engaged and connected.

What about your “Explore-Create-Discover” workshop the following week? 

I’ll discuss tips, tools and activities for integrating the creative arts into the classroom. Here, the focus is on group projects and original compositions. After some 30 years as an international teaching artist, I am honored to share my most popular projects and processes. They’re also my all-time personal favorites. 

What do you hope people get out of the series?

If you teach in a way that nurtures the unique genius of each student, you will experience the joy and wonder of learning and self-discovery alongside them. It’s an exciting, two-way street that can be life affirming and life changing.  

Author: Robert Enslin