Blues For Leadership and Teambuilding
Innovate your next professional development
Dr. John Gerdy & Greg Orth
Blues is a wonderful teaching tool as it touches not only on music, but also history, cultural issues, geography and values such as teamwork, personal responsibility, respect, sharing and listening. And used in this way, Blues provides virtually unlimited opportunities to teach all of the lessons learned in any team activity.
Yes, for kids and adults alike. Trust me, your professional development team has never seen anything like this.
Meet Dr. John Gerdy's Other Side
Willie Marble periodically teaches a Blues class to students from grades 1 – 6 at the New School of Lancaster. Classes are divided into groups of between 12 and 16 students. Classes meet one time per week for 30 minutes for six weeks.
The course begins with “Willie” shaking a giant, old-fashioned hard bodied suitcase full of various percussion instruments. Naturally, the kids can’t wait to see what’s inside. Once they see the 30 percussion instruments of all persuasions, they can’t wait to get their hands on them. They immediately move closer to get a better look. But before they start grabbing, Willie says, “Woah, wait! You can’t begin playing the Blues until you know what the Blues are about.” Willie then explains the four basic Blues principles that apply to this class. “The Blues are about respect, sharing, participation and most important, the Blues are about having fun.”
Satisfied, they inch closer. And once again begin to reach for the instruments. “Hold on!”, cries Willie. “There’s one more rule. Before you can take an instrument, you have to come up with your stage name.” That stops them dead in their tracks…for about fifteen seconds. Willie tells them the story behind his stage name and begins asking them what their stage names will be. And there have been some great ones, such as “Lightning Bolt”, “Dog Fish” and “Frankie Thunder”. As they are handed their instruments, they are also informed that they will have to come to an agreement on a band name.
Over those six weeks, each group writes and arranges an original Blues song. And in the culminating seventh session, they perform that song at an all school assembly that is open to their families and friends. Willie puts together a small combo for the performance and each “band” of kids plays along with percussion shakers and sings their songs. As a final touch, they all wear shades for the performance.
It’s a hoot!
Blues is a wonderful teaching tool as it touches not only on music, but also history, cultural issues, geography and values such as teamwork, personal responsibility, respect, sharing and listening. And used in this way, Blues provides virtually unlimited opportunities to teach all of the lessons learned in any team activity. As a fairly straightforward genre, it’s not difficult to break the song writing process into four or five simple decision points. In other words, it’s not as hard as you might think to coax a group of second or third graders into writing a song. And they have written some great ones, including “Cold Pizza Blues”, “The Road Kill Blues” and “Homework Blues”.
After years of utilizing the Blues in this way with children, it begged the question. Could a condensed version of this same process work with adults? And if so, what adult learning environment and for what purposes could it be applied to? How about corporate and organizational team building and development?
YES, FOR ADULTS
I pitched the concept to a friend who does corporate team building and development for a living and to my great surprise, he loved it. He agreed to give it a shot with some of his clients. We’ve now done two of these sessions. Each was a resounding success. Corporate team building exercises are all about placing people in a “zone” where they may feel a bit uncomfortable and presenting a task and a framework for each team to work their way through that task.
It’s funny to see the look on the adult faces when the session begins with an announcement. “We have an hour and 45 minutes. During that time, each of your groups is going to write, arrange and perform a Blues song. You are also going to choose a stage name and agree on a band name. It’s also very interesting to see how differently each group (consisting of between 5 – 7 people) approaches the task. The results have been so positive that my friend is going to incorporate the program as a regular feature of his practice.
So any of you out there who are looking for a fun and very unique team building and decision-making exercise for your company, organization or management team, you know where to find Willie Marble.