Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Paper Violin Process: A Venezuelan, Scottish & Alaskan Blend

Glacier Valley Teachers, Susie Denton and Susan Sielbach, Refine Paper Violin Process

One way to help realize Dr. Abreu's wish of bringing El Sistema initiatives to the US and the rest of the world is to document and share what we do.  The Paper Orchestra is just such an example.  As I mentioned in my last posting, the teachers at La Rinconada Nucleo generously shared how and why they developed the paper orchestra.  When I traveled to Stirling for a month last spring to intern at Sistema Scotland's Big Noise program,  Jennifer Nicholson, a violin teacher there, shared how Big Noise had adapted the paper orchestra process to meet their needs.  Now back in Alaska, we are also adapting the process to respond to time constraints and available materials.  We'd like to pass the gift along. 

Here's the process:  A Blending of Ideas Venezuelan, Scottish and Alaskan Style

We used the same cardboard construction process as our friends in Scotland, but rather than cover the violin with copper wrapping paper, we covered our cardboard with recycled brown packing paper dipped in a glue, paint and glaze mix.   This concoction came from the creative and collective minds of Glacier Valley teachers, Susie Denton and Susan Sielbach.  Together they created a mixture that gives a beautiful golden wood-like hue to our paper violins.  For thirty 1/4-size cardboard violins you'll need to mix together (approximately) 8 cups glue, 4 cups water, 1/2 cup brown tempera paint and 2 oz. of bronze glaze. 

All of the following pieces were precut, so that families could tape together the main violin pieces and cover the violin body and neck in the paint  mixture within an hour's time. 

Step1:  Your template depends on the size of violin.  We made 1/4-size violins.  Measure and trace the violin you'll be using.  Big Noise Tip:  Make sure that the cardboard strips are cut with the corrugation going vertically.  Also loosen or bend the strips along the edge of a table before taping so that they can conform easily to the curves of the violin. 

Step 2:  The traced violin body is on a folded piece of paper.  The crown piece at the bottom right-hand corner covers the neck (with the crown point connecting to the back of the violin body. 
Step 3:  With Step 2 pieces cut-out and violin taped, you're ready for the painting process!
Step 4:  Strips are dipped in the glue/paint mixture and molded along the violin edges.  Big Noise Tip:  You may need to clip along edges of overlap for a clean fit.
Step 5:  To make sure that your violin body cut-out doesn't tear, we recommend painting directly on the top of the cardboard violin, then place body cut-out and then paint over it.  Repeat the same process for the back.  Then let it dry.

Step 6:  What would we do without duct tape! 
Step 7:  After the violin has dried, you can begin adding parts.  We added parts as kindergartners mastered certain skills.  For example, once they learned the violin standing positions, they received the paper violin with a chin rest.  Big Noise Tip:  The recyclable apple containers make great chin rests.  We painted ours with black tempera paint and used duct tape.  Little pieces of cardboard are glued under the tailpiece and fingerboard to give it a lift.
Step 8:  Each week, a new piece is added to make meaningful connections to learning and skill level.
Step 9:  Final product!   Have an adult string the instrument.   Big Noise Tip:  Use an open-eye needle to string the holes made by a bookmaker's awl (or thumb tack) for the bridge and tailpiece.
Thank you, Josbel Puche and Veronica Useche of La Rinconada in Caracas, as well as Jennifer Nicholsen and Alan Govias of Big Noise Sistema Scotland for sharing your paper orchestra with us!  I also want to thank Susan Sielbach and Susie Denton, my teaching partners at Glacier Valley Elementary School, for giving this process an Alaskan twist!


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