Music as a Facilitation Tool – Episode 22

In this episode, Beth Cougler Blom talks with Julias Alego about how music has been a part of his life in Kenya so far, and how he uses it in his facilitation work.

Beth and Julias also talk about:

  • Considerations around choosing music for a facilitated event
  • Potential cautions and pitfalls in choosing music
  • Incorporating music, dancing, and singing in facilitated events
  • Cross-cultural differences in using music in training and facilitation, in Kenya and Canada

Engage with Julias Alego

Other Links from the Episode

Connect with the Facilitating on Purpose Podcast

Connect with Beth Cougler Blom

Podcast production services by Mary Chan of Organized Sound Productions

Show Transcript

[Upbeat music playing]

[Show intro]
Beth
Welcome, to Facilitating on Purpose, where we explore ideas together about designing and facilitating learning. Join me to get inspired on your journey to becoming and being a great facilitator wherever you work. I’m your host, Beth Cougler Blom.

[Episode intro]
Beth Cougler Blom
Hello, thank you so much for being here. This is Episode 22 of the podcast, Music as a Facilitation Tool with my guest Julias Alego. Julias currently works as the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Institute of Bankers. What he does is spearhead skills development for the Kenyan financial sector. I was really fortunate to be a participant in one of Julias’s sessions that he facilitated through the International Association of Facilitators, the chapter based in Kenya. I got so much out of the session that I thought, hey, I’m gonna ask Julias if he would continue the conversation together with me on this podcast. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. I hope you enjoyed the episode because as I listened back to it, I realize we laughed a lot in this episode. He’s such a nice person to be able to share his knowledge and his experience in many ways, but of course around using music and singing and dancing and facilitation. I hope you enjoy this show and getting to know Julias a little bit more. Here we are, myself and Julias Alego, talking about music in facilitation. Enjoy the show.

Beth Cougler Blom
Julias, it’s so wonderful to have you with me today to have this conversation. Thanks for being here on the show.

Julias Alego
Oh, thank you, Beth. It’s really my pleasure as well. And I really look forward to an engaging session with you. Thank you very much.

Beth
Me too. Me too. I was thinking that we could start to talk about maybe a little bit about where we both grew up, we are located in different parts of the world. And maybe our topic today, Music as a Facilitation Tool, maybe it somewhat depends on, you know, our backgrounds and where we grew up. Can you tell me where you grew up in the world and where you are, and maybe a little bit about how music has been part of your life so far?

Julias
I’m looking at music as something which I was born with, really, I should say that. Because I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, did most of my education, basic education in Kenya, but then looking back, music has been part and parcel of what I do as an African child, because when you’re born, that’s quite some joy. Of course, you wouldn’t know about it. But then you’d see what happens with other kids is quite a lot of joy which meant coming to sing, and that just brings in the aspect of music within yourself right from the time you’re born.

But then it picks up to, as you go to school, part of the lessons will be done using music. And I think it’s absolutely a powerful tool to use when you’re engaging with the teachers through music. And even the basic greetings would be musical, as you’re addressing the teacher and answering questions as well.

But then this then goes up to other social functions that you would attend as well. So be it celebrating any other initiation ceremonies, there’ll be a lot of music and dance. And then right now, even if you are to get into any political event, it always starts with music, so there’s quite a lot of music that you grew up with as an African child. But that is not just music, there’s music and dance as well.  So you’d expect it to accompany all this with music and dance as well. So as an African child, you grow up with the packet of music and lots and lots of music. But then we also need to appreciate that modernity also comes in because then we are in this transition of traditional music and modern kind of music as well. So that blend then comes in perfectly well, because then right now we’re talking of music which you can download anywhere and that just enriches the kind of music that you would listen to.

So I look back at myself, and I say, Mmm, I’ve been brought up with music, I enjoy music, and music is one of my passions, actually, and different kinds of music. So that’s the background I’ll share with you now. Thank you.

Beth
Thank you for sharing that. It really sounds like music has touched so many different parts of your life. You know, what you mentioned, your family and, and schooling and, you know, going into political events, it really seems like it’s been in all aspects of your life, which might be a difference for how I’ve grown up here in Canada, I think of music as being more something that my family gave me but maybe I got less of it at school. So it’s nice to hear that it was more pervasive for you in different aspects of your life.

Julias
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, that’s how we raised music right now and being in social events with no music, that will be very, very odd. Really.

Beth
Yes, where here, it’s probably more commonplace. And, you know, some of us are trying to integrate it more. And that’s part of why I wanted to talk with you today, because I feel like we could be using music more in our events, our facilitated events in North America. And maybe we can learn from African cultures around how pervasive it is and how you use music. So I’m looking forward to learning more from you about how to do that.

Julias
[Laughs] Thank you, that would be quite nice. Thanks. I really appreciate that.

Beth
As you grew up and started working, was music then part of what you did at the workplace as well and did it as you became a facilitator, was it then just a natural thing for you to do to integrate music into your work?

Julias
Well not quite initially, because as a professional, you would imagine our workstations would be very serious places to work and engage in. So there would be no music. And even then, when I was growing up, we didn’t have all this kind of current music with headphones and all of that. That was not permissible. So the best we could get is perhaps a radio somewhere.

But then, when I got into my facilitation journey, I was quite impressed once when I attended a training program and music was quite at the centre of everything. So we had a gentleman who was running a program, which was on pastoral effectiveness. I just loved the way he used the music because then, not only did he play very nice music, the sound system was good. And on top of that, he would then have very, very good debrief as to why he was playing music.

So I saw the effect that the music had in terms of just running the session. And I picked it up from then on and I said, this is something that I would want to integrate into part of my facilitation going forward.

So that is what initiated me into loving music and using music as a facilitation tool. So I think for me is a wonderful story really to look back. And I have since then been using music one way or another as a facilitation tool. And I think the effects have been absolutely great.

Beth
I love those moments, when you look back at something, you don’t necessarily realize at the time that it’s so impactful. But it sounds like that particular person was impactful for you, in hindsight as you look back, because it sounds like he even was saying, here’s why we’re using the music in the session.

It sounds like a good role modeling for you to kind of connect maybe the two worlds. You already had music as part of your background. But maybe he was the link that helped you connect that to your facilitation?

Julias
As you say that yes, that is truly what he did. He was able to provide that absolutely link and was able to make me look backwards and say, Okay, we have been playing music, and we’ve been dancing ever since traditionally, but then linking it up with something you’re doing professionally, that to me was the aha moment to say, okay, music is absolutely powerful. And I think it’s something that we can use to engage our participants going forward. That was a very, very powerful moment for me.

Beth
As you think about your own facilitation, what are some of the reasons why you would use music? Are there different purposes for why you would bring in music and/or dancing? Or maybe, I guess, I guess I should say, and singing? Do you consider dancing and singing and playing recorded music [Julias laughs] as kind of all the opportunities within music as a facilitation tool?

Julias
Oh, yes, certainly. I think for me, the main purpose for music is just to create a mood and atmosphere in the learning environment. And I think music, if used well, will uplift the mood and loosen the atmosphere. And I think, looking back as to how I’ve used music, so ordinarily, it would be, as we start the session, I would have what we call the arrival music. So where the volume is kept low, but audible, and yet reasonable to have a sense where, as the participants walk in, they can have conversations with each other. So I think that helps to loosen the atmosphere. And I think it’s absolutely important to do that. On the kind of music I would play at such a session, with arrival music would be instrumental music. So basically, it is basically just instruments, [inaudible] and such. And that also helps me to gauge the level of the participants as they walk in. And I think it also just helps to brighten the mood as I said earlier.

But then as the day progresses I would, having looked at the nature of participants that we have, changed the kind of music and playing. So from instrumental to something perhaps a little faster. And this would be driven mainly by what I see the participants appreciating more. But then there’s also an opportunity to engage with them, because then I would, at one point, perhaps ask the participants if there’s anybody with different kinds of music would want us to play. And inevitably, there’d be somebody who’d do that.

But one thing that I just want to share with you, as early as now is the fact that even as the participants do their own introductions, what I’ve seen within our local environment is that you will inevitably get one or two participants who would say that they enjoy music, and they enjoy dancing, as well. So that always just sets the mood because if there’s somebody who enjoys music and dancing, so they would not, in most cases be easy to tap into in terms of sharing the music and also leading a dance as well. So as things stand, you would use, yes, you could play some music, but as well, at a later point during the program, you’d as well engage the participants in a dance as well.

And also if, time permitting, you also engage them is a bit of singing. So in some programs, you will do all the three, but most often than not, you’d stick to playing music, and as well on occasion, some bit of dance. So there’s quite an array of how you could use a music and I could use music in a learning environment.

Beth
Oh, there’s so much in what you said. Okay, so let me think about the first thing. I love how you’re talking about the progression perhaps, or the arc of how you might use music throughout the the event. And that you’re specifically choosing instrumental music so it doesn’t impact with people’s conversations. I really like that. I’ve never I don’t think I’ve thought about that where…it actually would be true for myself as well. I love music, but I also find too much auditory input can be distracting for me, especially if someone was singing because I would tend to someone to sing along [laughs], even in my head, that it would it would be hard to connect with the other participants as we were walking in the room because it would almost overpower. So I like how you’re thinking about music being an accompaniment but not taking over at that beginning point. But you’re progressing them throughout the session to then maybe doing it themselves, creating music themselves later on.

Julias
Absolutely, I think that’s, that’s absolutely important because on the record I’ve just mentioned, I certainly consider music as a weapon of facilitation, really. Because on one end, it could really just uplift the mood and loosen the atmosphere. But on the other end, it might as well be very destructive and a nuisance if not used effectively. So there’s quite some middle ground there and some very, very creative balance that needs to be done. And I think to me, that becomes very important we can use that through observation and all that.

One of the things that I see a lot in different venues, and this happens, mainly, when you have you got some training. So let me just call them workshops. In hotels, they would, by nature, also be playing some background music as you walk in. So they’ll have chosen that by themselves and yeah. So it’s also just good to check with them to know that what kind of music they’re going to be playing and if they’re playing some music that you don’t consider to be very effective, then you might as well ask them to change. So it’s also quite a bit of coordination that needs to be done.

Beth
And some pre-thinking. You’re right, hotels like to play we would call it Muzak. The kind that you just hear in elevators as a background, and it can be quite blah, or quite annoying at times, too.I love how you’re thinking to just get ahead of that, and talk to the hotel, and be intentional about them playing it or not.

Julias
Yes, absolutely. [laughs]

Beth
The phrase you said that music could be a “weapon of facilitation”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say that before related to facilitation in general. That something could be a weapon in facilitation is quite an interesting and also a concerning topic. So it’s a cautionary tale that you’re telling us a little bit that we can’t just say, Oh, well, let’s just add in some music and all will be great. That there are definitely cautions around that. Are there other things that you think we should be concerned or caution ourselves around how music could be a weapon in facilitation?

Julias
You need to be, in my view, be very guided by the participants and their backgrounds. Because what I’ve seen and what I’ve seen within our local environment, particularly so, let me just mention Kenya, there is this tendency of playing a lot of religious music. We are predominantly a Christian nation with a small population of Muslims and other religions. Even within the Christianity, there are people [who have] various levels of devotion. The tendency I see a lot more is to start a session with some religious kind of music, and without appreciating the background, and sometimes I see this rubbing some of the participants completely wrong ways. Because if you have devout Muslims in the program, and you insist on playing some Christian music, then you can imagine how that would affect the position of what they’re going to go through. So that kind of thing is absolutely important to have at the back of your mind.

And then I think as well just appreciating the quality of your sound system as well becomes important. Because you might have the greatest of music but if the sound system is horrible, it’s not producing the right sound of music, then as well it does become a distraction. And you better not just play it. I’ve been in sessions where participants have directly just tell you, you know that your speaker system is horrible, just do away with that, or I’ll bring you some better music system the next day or something like that. So I think it’s also very, very important to look at it from that perspective.

Then also as well to think about the volume you’re going to be using for music. So as I said, with the arrival of music, yeah, the volume is moderately low, so that you can engage people differently. But on the other hand, if you having music and you expect people to dance, then as well, you might have some good volume, is the volume. So it’s a question of just being very, very adaptive to the situation that is around you and ensuring that you walk along with the participants. And I think that becomes important.

The other issue as well is the type and genre of music that you’re going to be playing, Because then different generations would appreciate different kinds of music. So you just also need to be very adjustable to engage them. And one way to address that is to you can engage with them to ask for the kind of music they want to play. And it’s easy because you’re using our phones as storage facilities for music that we play. It’s easy to get the kind of music or the type of music that to address most of the participants. We may not address all but at least most of the participants.

And I think for me, the other thing which is also very, very important, is for you to appreciate  that their lyrics are sometimes…we have this background that you know, if the music is nice, and it’s okay with me, then it should be okay with everybody else. That may not be the case. So it’s just as well you need to appreciate what the lyrics are about. I’ve been talking about facilitation in a Kenyan perspective or an African perspective. We are made of very different nationalities, very different ethnic groups. And the kind of music that you play, you might be enjoying it, but the lyrics would be presenting something very, very different. They might be political, may be religious, and that might just not sub to build some unity, or some inclusivity, but makes up to just exclude and be very offensive to others. So I think as well, those are some of the risks that you need to be aware of as you’re choosing any kind of music to play.

Beth
The lyrics were definitely coming to my mind, because it makes me think about when I hear songs in English, even, you know, songs from when I grew up, you know, for me, it was sort of 1980s pop and rock songs. Even it’s in my language, I don’t know what the lyrics are. You know, so often, we haven’t really paid attention to the lyrics, we paid attention to the melody, or the music. And so especially if I think about, well, what if I came to Kenya, Julias, and I thought, Oh, well, I’ll just find some Kenyan artists. And I’ll play that. No, no, no, I can’t do that can I? [Julias laughs.] I really would have to, it’s such a trap I could fall into. I would have to talk with someone like you or, you know, the client that’s asked me there or something to say, what music should I play? What do I need to…you know, I, because it could be not even in my language. But even if it’s in English, I don’t necessarily know all those contexts of what could be offensive, and what could be appropriate. Any suggestions for let’s say, we came to your country, what would we do as we were coming in preparing to choose music for our events?

Julias
I look at it from a very technical perspective. So first of all, just do a Google search on the lyrics of the music. And more often than not, they’ll be translated into English if they’re in a local language. So that to me would be the first thing to do. But then it will also be important as to check with all of the participants as part of your pre-training events, what kind of music and if the kind of music we had in mind would rhyme with the participants, and you’d get quite some good feedback on that as well.

But then maybe it doesn’t stop there. You can even take it a step further. As you start engaging with the participants on playing a bit of music, it also important just to check with and observe how receptive they are to the kind of music you’re playing. Granted, of course, that not everybody will be thumbs up. There could be one or two who might not appreciate your kind of music. But then I think that will give you a general orientation as to how they think about your music and how they appreciate your kind of music.

Allow me just to share with you the short story, which happened to be some time back. So I was working with this financial institution. And so what I’ll do, as the lead facilitator, more often than not, is to play some bit of music, particularly after lunch, knowing the risks of having had a heavy lunch, the participants will perhaps start dozing off and all that good play some bit of fast music, and I engage them in a dance or something like that. And even with the dance, I would mainly just turn it round to them. If there’s a participant who say they enjoy dancing, get them to the front, play the music, and they would lead the dance and the rest will just follow.

So I remember once doing something like that, and one participant just said, Sorry, I’m not gonna dance. And so I was keen to find out so why aren’t you dancing? He simply told me no, that’s because I only dance to religious music. Okay, that’s it. Okay. That’s appreciated. So, for this, you pass, and then the rest have done. So you can see that even in certain kind of environments where the rest are having fun, there would be one or two who perhaps would just say no, don’t do it. So we appreciate that and you move on. And I think that then works pretty well.

Beth
Yeah. I like that.The right to pass. You know, we do that when we have, you know, speaking opportunities for people. So of course, we give it to them with music or dancing opportunities as well. Yeah.

Julias
Yeah.

Beth
And it was comfortable for that person? Like you create an environment, I assume, where it’s okay for them to say, you know, I’d rather not dance. And that’s fine.

Julias
Yeah. Yes. Absolutely. Yes, in fact, they really appreciated it, because they liked the fact that you asked, but yet I’m not gonna do it. And they appreciated that. They really did come across and tell me Yeah, that was pretty good.

Beth
I would say here in Canada, I have never seen anyone dance [laughs; Julias says Oh!] in a facilitated situation, probably ever. Isn’t that a difference between our two cultures? Does that shock you? [They both laugh.]

Julias
It does shock me a lot. I have had some bit of experience facilitating in Southeast Asia. And perhaps one of the most embarrassing things you’d expect a participant to do is to dance in front of others. Very, very difficult to do. But yet in Africa, one of the jokes we have is that, you know, this thing we do, we contract in a class that we start at a particular time. And in the event that you break any of the contracts, there’s gonna be some sanctions. One of the most common sanctions is what? If you come late, you’ve gotta dance. If your phone rings, you gotta dance.

Beth
Really? [laughs]

Julias
Yes. We talk about it. I’d say I mean, people break the rules in order to dance.

Beth
So they start coming later and later, so they hope to get the dancing punishment? [They laugh]

Julias
It’s never a punishment really. So people just enjoy it.

Beth
Yeah.

Julias
They’ll not break any sweat to dance. It’s easy and they enjoy it as well.

Beth
I like that. I maybe I shouldn’t say I’ve never seen that here. I have actually led a couple of virtual dance things, you know in the time of COVID when we…I mean I still do a lot online, but just to have a virtual dance party. But I do give people the option to not have their video on. And some people take that some people are even sitting in their own space, you know, in their own computer or home or work or whatever, they are embarrassed to dance, it’s not really the same. Mostly, I think many people would approach dancing here with embarrassment, [Julias: OK] which is kind of sad, you know. How do we take a baby step into these kinds of things? Do you think there’s something that I can do to have people enter into dancing in facilitated situations that would be comfortable for them?

Julias
I think exchange programs would do, where we have got some bit of rich, rich, rich exchange, where we can then appreciate. I do appreciate what you’re doing here, because this is in fact, to me a big step, just to realize that perhaps if I’m facilitating something in North America, that’s a totally different culture. I would not be driving my agenda of dance today, very much. So for you as well, if you are to come to Africa, and there’s no music, there’s no dancing, okay, perhaps a good number will excuse you from where you’re coming from. But inside they will be yearning for some bit of yeah, some bit of an excitement, a bit of engagement. And music as it is just adds to whatever they’re doing. But I think it’s a very, very wonderful plus to have.

Beth
I like that you said that they would be yearning for that. And actually, I would say many of us here in my country actually like to dance. But when we combine the idea of dancing with working, work environments. As you said that, you know, you mentioned your your previous work environment where it’s it’s not as done, certain types of music or dancing, or it’s not as incorporated. Maybe we have that going on a bit here, where in people’s personal lives, they might be going out and dancing in you know, weddings, or clubs, or whatever but to integrate into work is is a challenge, I think. [Julias laughs] Yeah. So I love the idea of exchange programs between Kenya and British Columbia here. [They laugh]. We can integrate more dancing and music into our work.

Julias
Mmm that would be nice.

Beth
You mentioned before to walk alongside participants in this aspect and I really liked that phrase that you’ve mentioned. Both doing preparatory work to choose what the music will be and your intentionality around music, but then you’re really mentioning a lot around being flexible in the moment and paying attention to what’s going on with participants and their feelings towards what’s happening with music and dancing, and so on. So I like that that phrase that you’ve said, walk alongside.

Julias
Yeah, and I think it works out pretty well. Because with something like music, particularly because you’re doing music, I mean, you’re playing music to add value to what you’re learning. I mean, basically, I think as we begin our programs, one of the, as I said, we do a lot of contracting. One of the things I often add is let’s have fun and learn as well. Okay, so those two must go together.

And that kind of just gives me the right to engage, and I earn their acceptability to play some music, and then get them dancing and all that. But I think at the end of the day is also just to appreciate that people have fun in different ways and music could be one of that, dancing could be one of that, and singing as well. But then there are different other ways you could inject all this having fun. But at the end, the end result you also want to appreciate is that there is quite a bit of learning that you’re driving out of all this. So that then you’re not just playing music for the sake of playing music, you’re playing music to create the atmosphere, to create the mood, but as well, to ensure that the learning environment is correct, as well. So it’s always just for you to be aware, and true to the fact that there is something else you really want to achieve. And that is you’re there for purpose, music is going to be a tool that you’re going to use to achieve it.

Beth
Yeah, thanks for bringing us back to that. That we’re really there, if it’s a workshop or a course, we’re really there to help people learn and, and we hope that integrating music will do that. But you’re right, when we create fun, engaging environments in whatever way – music is just one of them – that we do hope it helps people learn because they, they’re more comfortable, and they like being there and they maybe want to come back for day two or that kind of thing.

Julias
Exactly! [Laughs]

Beth
[Laughs] They don’t take off to the washroom and try to avoid the things you’re doing.

Julias
As you’ve just mentioned, I think that’s another dynamic to consider a lot more. If you’re having a one day program, then perhaps ues, you play some bit of music, leave it to music only. I mean, that’s that’s how I look at it. But if you’re having a two day or three day program, we’re going to get people within an environment for much pretty long period of time, then getting all those concepts on. I mean, I’m just looking at you gonna play some bit of music because it’s a bit of dancing, there gonna be some bit of singing as well, so that you’re able to inject all this at the appropriate time to make sure that yes, participants are looking forward to coming back the next day. They’re looking forward to the next session. They’re looking forward to the next module. And I think that just helps in building up the kind of atmosphere that you really want to create. So that we uplift everybody and the entire program is really charged and really engaged through learning. So I think that’s a very, very important aspect just mentioned there.

Beth
Yeah, that we might do different things or kind of progress the use of music differently depending on how long we have with people.

Julias
Yes.

Beth
Yeah. Do you also play musical instruments? Do you bring in things and play them live with and for people? Or do you mostly use recorded music?

Julias
I mostly use recorded music. But then on occasion, I’ve had two different programs where you now inject music, singing, and dancing as part and parcel of a modular, this is a module of the program. So let me explain this, you’d ask the participants perhaps to create a song about a particular concept they’ve learned and present it before others working in groups. And that creates of course a bit of fun as well. And creativity. That goes on very, very well. So they would create their own musical systems, they would create their own instruments. And they’ll come in and present the kind of music that they’ve chosen. And I think that helps in terms of building up some bit of learning as well.

So if you’re looking at, perhaps you want to engage them in being creative, and just view them as an activity, I want you to think of a song, which you wanted to share with everybody else.

Think of musical instruments you’re gonna be using, I want you to think of, create your own musical instruments. But on top of that, I also want you to creatively think about traditional attire that you would create using basic materials around that are generally present to them. This would be just so the generally newspaper cuttings, some bit of tape and all that.

And what I did that I look back on, it’s yeah, there are two programs that I did that injected some bit of music, and there’s quite a lot of buzz around it, and a lot of fun that goes with it. Yeah.

Beth
I like that you said that. Because I was thinking in the back of my head, whether you just incorporated music and dancing, as in and around the technical learning parts of a session, but you’re saying you really build it into the activities of the workshop. That yeah, go and create a song using found instruments, basically, and bring back a song that demonstrates your learning. I like that. I like that a lot.

Julias
Absolutely. I mean, if I’m particularly so let me give you another perspective to that. If you’re having a residential training, the participants are the same environment could create it as an evening activity that they’re going to be doing. So think about what kind of music they’re going to present the next day to the entire class. It’s lots and lots of fun, I will tell you, as the evening gets in, you see different groups rehearsing and doing the practice and yeah, in readiness for the next day. And that creates a bit of excitement. And people looking forward to the kind of engagement they’re going to be having the next day. And I think it just brings out a different perspective for them.

Beth
I would love to be the facilitator and walk around that area [Julias laughs], you know, where everyone is working in different rooms, and you were kind of going between and listening to them. And actually, it reminds me, I did do something like this, I was part of a choir for a number of years here in my town. And it kind of stopped during the pandemic and I haven’t started again, but we did have that kind of activity suggested to us, we did it with our choir director, you know, suggested and asked us to do this where we got into small groups, I think he did bring kind of tiny little easy instruments, you know, just like tiny little things that would make sound and we got to grab a collection of stuff and went throughout this church, which had a number of rooms, and we – it wasn’t religious, but that’s just where we were having the event – but we had, I think we had to create something like eight or 12 bars or 16 bars or something like that of music and come back and present it to the rest of the choir in our small groups.

Julias
Wow!

Beth
It was fun and it also was stressful. [Julias laughs] I feel like they were kind of nervously laughing a lot of the time about what we were doing because it was so foreign to us. But when we went to present, there was a lot of laughter and a lot of fun. Because, of course, we did it in small groups so we had that safety that we could rely on each other in our little team, you know, playing the songs. But it was very different. And it was a choir so it was natural for us to do something like that. I haven’t seen it as much or at all in other…when the topic is something else other than actually being in a choir together. But yeah, it was nervous laughter [laughs] for a lot of it for sure. But, very fun.

Julias
No, I like that. I like it because it injects the moderate stress that you’d want with the team to make sure that they the next day, they’re really working hard to add something. The next day, they’re really coming up ready to present to everybody else. And that’s pretty of course a bit of buzz and fun. That’s good.

Beth
Yeah, I think it brings the group together. Certainly you get to know those people in your little team a little bit better doing that and just relying on each other. Yeah. And then to be able to celebrate each other when you go back to the main group to share back was really fun.

Julias
We use that a lot in team effectiveness, particularly so as I say it is residential. So yeah it’s  lots and lots of fun and it also gives the participant an opportunity to learn each other, because that’s the purpose, why they’re there. So can we see the other side of boss or my colleague, something else. And through this activity just helps you to break some barriers that have existed and I think it’s just, done well, it just becomes very, very powerful.

Beth
Yeah. That’s a nice piece that you said there. Just done well, I mean, you’ve given us the sensitivities around the thought around that, but done well, it is really exciting and fun and brings people together. I have been part of a residential program, I’m remembering. We have something here called The Art of Hosting. Do you know Art of Hosting? Do you have that where you are?

Julias
No.

Beth
I probably won’t do it justice to explain it but it has a number of facilitative methods that are taught within that program. And it is a resi…I think it was two or three days. Anyway, I went and you know, stayed somewhere else and took this. And in the evenings we would get together and people who they would have brought up guitars or ukuleles. And we would, we would sing and play together and be actually I know how to sing and I like to sing so I like that kind of thing. And it was probably one of the only times I’ve ever seen that happen in the evening, because we were all staying at the same facility.

Julias
Yeah. [laughs]

Beth
So we had nowhere else to go, you know, so we could just get together and hang out and play music. And it did bring us together as well. Very lovely.

Julias
Well, I’m gonna need a lot more on that Art of Hosting. I think it’s something I would really take an interest in. Thanks.

Beth
Yeah, I’ll put it in the show notes. And then everybody can find out.

Julias
Yeah, sounds good.

Beth
Now you and I met, Julias, through the International Association of Facilitators, the IAF Kenya based event. Well, it was online, but it was about music as a facilitation tool. If I can take us to kind of wrapping up and thinking about why people would want to use music as a facilitation tool, and you’ve told us a lot about how, why was it important for you to create that event to have facilitators talk about this? Where did that come from and do you think it served your purpose holding that workshop for everyone?

Julias
As I said earlier, I love music personally, I’ve been exposed to quite different ranges of facilitation, as a facilitator myself, but also, as a participant. And I’ve seen occasions where music is used effectively and the impact it has. But I think I believe in the adage that music improves memory so I think it’s absolutely important to have that in the back of the mind. But then, used incorrectly, I also just doesn’t serve the purpose, and it becomes a nuisance.

So the purpose of that workshop on that kind of sharing was to present actually the great advantages that music can offer. But also, on the other hand, to share with the participants that, you know, if you don’t use it correctly, it might just as well not serve the purpose and might be destructive. So the purpose of doing that was to share those perspectives, and also as a facilitator as well, just to learn from everybody else. And I think when we had that virtual meeting, there’s quite some rich sharing that I personally got with that that was absolutely good. And I believe other participants were also able to add value to their perception of music and how they could use music subsequently.

But then I’m also looking back at the kind of experience that I’ve had as a facilitator. I thought as well, it would be good to just share what that journey has been like. Yes, that’s been great. I’ve had some bit of successes using music. But then as well, as I shared earlier, I’ve had some bit of pitfalls as it is. Where, looking back, perhaps the kind of music I played wasn’t quite right and there’s some learning, some lessons which are there, which again it’s also important to share with everybody else to know that you have to strike the balance pretty well when using any kind of music. So that’s the way I look at it.

Beth
Yeah, I thought it was a wonderful session. I really appreciated being able to go to another continent’s session through the IAF, so I encourage everybody to go. I mean, it was full of valuable learning for me and I pulled out my learning journal, you know, I was trying to participate and take a lot of notes at the same time, because it was so important for me to hear people’s perspectives from a culture that I don’t live in. And I found it very rich in learning. And I love that you ended with a song! I’d never experienced that, that we sang together?

Julias
Oh yeah! [Laughs]

Beth
And people were just…I thought, oh, you know, the stereotype, these Africans are going to really knock this out of the park. [Julias laughs] And everyone was kind of embarrassed laughing. But it was really, really fun. And actually, it turned out to be a song that I knew, which was amazing to me as well. Yeah. Do you often do that, is end with a song to sing together?

Julias
Yes, yes. I mean, let me put it into perspective as well. One of my clients that I engage have an organizational anthem. So you would imagine before we start anything, you must start with a song, with that anthem. So starting with music becomes very, very important. Each day, by the way. But then on the other hand, like the singing that we did, I would use that depending on the class that we’re having and the subject we’re covering. So if it’s something around team effectiveness, that’s a very, very important song. And the song was Lean On Me. So lean on me, if it’s trouble and all that. That big, just goes very, very well with building a team, within a working environment to check out on each other, to lean on each other as it were, and help sort out issues that they have. So I would use that selectively, depending on the program that we’re running.

Beth
I love that we are in two different countries, two different continents, and yet the song you chose was something that was also accessible to me as a sort of, quote unquote, outsider, although I know there were people from other countries there as well, but lots of people from Kenya itself. Yeah, very lovely. Yeah. And now I know, it was even more meaningful, you intended it to be so much more meaningful than even I thought in the time. You know, it was fun, but there was an extra level of meaning there. I like that you’ve expanded my thinking around that too.

Julias
True, true.

Beth
Any last comments, Julias, as we think about, you know, wrapping up our discussion about music? Anything that you haven’t said that you really want to make sure you say?

Julias
Well, no, I must appreciate your  interviewing techniques. You’re pretty, pretty solid and you made me feel very much at home and covered almost everything that I had. I think the other thing that I might reiterate is that, yes, indeed, music can help facilitate learning if used well, but on the other hand, if used incorrectly then it disrupts a learning environment. And I think it is something we need to be very much aware of. But on the other hand, as we said, it’s good to be very adaptive to what you’re seeing and to the participants’ needs, so then you are able to engage with them. Even as you’re playing any kind of music and engaging them in dance or singing, that then will be of a lot more value to that entire program than just doing things out of your own liking because then that’s a trap that we need to avoid all the time. With music, particularly, it’s very, very easy to go out there and play music which is to your liking. And that would be the annoyance sometimes to a majority of the participants, and just, you need to be aware of that. And I think that to me would be a message I’d like to share. Thank you very much.

Beth
Thank you. Yes, there’s so many things to be hopeful about and to use wonderfully in this vein, but you’ve really given me so much more to think about in terms of the cautions that I might not have thought of before. So, so important to really look at it broadly when we choose music for our events. So thank you. Thank you for everything that you’ve shared with me today. I really appreciate you being here.

Julias
I really appreciate it, though. It’s always a pleasure. Thank you so much Beth. I really enjoyed this. And thanks for the opportunity. For the first, having a podcast, you’re kind of audience out there. And it is indeed a blessing if I put it that way for me to have met you through that session that we had in Kenya. And I look forward to more engagements going forward now that we are linked. I am looking forward to learning a lot. I’m gonna see what this Art of Hosting is all about. And I think this continuous let’s keep sharing and see how things go.

Beth
I would love that. Thank you so much.

Julias
Thank you so much, Beth.

[Episode outro]
Beth
Oh, it was so great to chat with Julias and I hope you enjoyed listening to our conversation. I certainly had fun having it with him. And yeah, so we just laughed so much thinking about the differences between our two cultures. And wasn’t that idea about maybe doing a Kenyan/Canadian exchange or, you know, let’s think about other countries that we could exchange back and forth with in facilitation, would that be such a great idea if we could do that? Maybe the IAF will pick that up and help us do that, around the world. The one thing that I’m really resonating still with what Julias said about music as a facilitation tool, was when he talked about that music could be considered potentially a weapon of facilitation. Just that turn of phrase, as you heard me say, in the episode, I really hadn’t heard someone use the phrasing that way before, around, basically anything we do in facilitation. And in this context, we were talking about music, he said that, of course, it can help us uplift the mood, it can help us loosen the atmosphere. But on the other hand, it might as well be very destructive, and a nuisance if not used effectively. And you heard the examples, some of which could be very, very concerning, and destructive to an individual to a group. And so it’s a great thing for us all to realize we don’t enter into the decision making around using music in our facilitation lightly, do we? We again come to it with very purposeful decision making. Of course, we don’t want anything we do to be considered a weapon in our facilitation, that is absolutely not our intention. And so the more intentionality we bring to the choices around music, and other things we’re doing in our facilitated environments, the better off we and our groups, of course, will be.

Talking with Julias really made me want to go to Kenya! I don’t know if you felt that way too. But boy, does it ever make me want to go and be a fly on the wall in their room. Well, maybe more than a fly actually! I want to go and sing and dance with Kenyan participants and Kenyan facilitators and anyone else around the world who creates that type of environment. I’m going to see what I can do to in my own facilitation here in Canada to try to move groups in that direction to have a little bit more fun, get a little bit less serious, maybe with some of our topics and use music as a facilitation tool. Thank you so much, Julias, for helping propel all of us in that direction.

In the next episode of the podcast, you will hear me talking about building community online. Even though many of us have been online for years and years, long before the pandemic hit, I think there are still many, many people out there who are searching and wondering how to do the things they need to do as designers and facilitators of learning to be able to build communities online with their participants. I’ll be talking mostly about the virtual sphere in platforms such as Zoom or Zoom like environments. So join me next time on the podcast for thinking about and talking about building community online. We’ll see you then.

[Show outro]
Beth
Thank you for listening to Facilitating on Purpose. If you were inspired by something in this episode, please share it with a friend or a colleague to help them expand their facilitation practice too. To find the show notes, give me feedback, or submit ideas for future episodes visit facilitatingonpurpose.com. Special thanks to Mary Chan at Organized Sound Productions for producing this episode. Happy facilitating!

Follow and listen for free on your favourite podcast listening app!

Join our newsletter

Sign up for updates about learning design and facilitation about every 6-8 weeks.

Check your inbox for the link!

Join Waitlist We will inform you if a space becomes available in this session. Please leave your valid email address below.