Merry Christmas to you and all of your families!
December is the season for Christmas Concerts, Winter Concerts, Holiday Concerts, Seasonal Celebrations, or whatever you want to call them.

For the music teacher it can be a time of both angst and excitement. There's so much hurrying and last minute preparation that needs to be done. We have to prepare music, find props, choose soloists, and finalize all the details. However, when the first downbeat begins music making is culminated in all of its wonder.

I don't know about you but I am always surprised during concerts. Some things go better than expected and some don't. You never know. Regardless of the "musical result" I am always filled with joy. There is something very special about watching students perform. Look into their eyes and see their excitement. Listen to the buzz as they come into the room. Watch them with their families when the concert is over. This is what makes it special.

When it's over... Smile! Celebrate! It is now time for your long winter's nap.

And I'm sure it is much deserved...

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

I know it has been forever since I've updated this blog but I'm still around. It is my full intention to keep updating. Just like everyone else, however, life has been full and exciting!

I need to go back and update my link pages but the last time I checked everything was still current. I hope they've been useful to you.

Here is a link I came across recently about the importance of music in education -
The Psychology of Music

Below is just one statistic that it reports. It is well worth your time to go read the whole article and send it on to other people!
Holding the mallets - Pinch and wrap. I remind them that fingers and thumbs should not be sticking up.

Taking xylophones bars off - Use 2 hands, one on each side of the bar. That way pins don't get bent or broken and rubber pieces last longer.

Taking glockenspiel bars off - Pop & slide. They pop from the top and slide the bars out from underneath the disks at the bottom (if they have them). 

Taking bars off - I've heard a lot of different ideas but the one I use is to call out what key we are in and have the students respond with what bars need to be removed. For example, the teacher calls out "C pentatonic" and the students respond "no F's, no B's."

Magnetic Orff instrument - I keep a big version of the xylophone bars on my whiteboard so that I can use them as examples as needed. They stay up there with magnets attached to the back. They are cut proportionally and labeled with the letters. Students can also use them to show me the correct bars to take off. 

One of my biggest struggles is getting students to play with their weak hand. We practice on our laps with both hands and things go fine. I even make it a game and tell them how good musicians play the Orff instruments. It just takes time for them to develop that skill.

What are some of your favorite tips?

What are some of your struggles? 

How about your biggest successes?

Here is a fantastic online version of Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra."

I like this because it is interactive. The full audio is on this site and the instruments pop up as the music goes through each section. There is also a written listening map off to the side to follow along with.

Check it out!

Someone on another chatboard recently posted a great question about male music teachers modeling properly for their kids. Here's what I do:

First, I try not to sing with them. I only model for them. In the early grades I do all of my modeling in the upper register, their range. FYI, proper support is crucial! Without proper support you will damage your voice. What I can't model comfortably I play on the recorder. I try to play it on the alto recorder if I can because it  resembles their timbre more closely.

In higher grades, after they are comfortable matching pitch, I explain the difference in the male voice and then make it a bit of a game. I will take a song they are very familiar with and sing it in my range. Their goal is to echo it in their range. Call and response songs and echo songs work well for this also. This helps significantly but, to be honest, I never fully get out of singing in their range. I just choose when I do it, how I do it, and never talk/sing over them.

One other thing that I do is let the kids hear voices modeled in their range. I will play some of our songs on the computer and let the students hear a female voice model it for them. That seems to be helpful because then they don't just have me as a model.
I love this idea for how to get students to remember what an ostinato is (repeated patterns)! Follow the link to find the creative idea and then use it!
UPDATE: Here is a rough recording one of my classes performed.
File Size: 538 kb
File Type: mp3
Download File

What a cute little book! I don't know if you've ever read it or not but it is worth the 2 minutes. It is an easy read of course. This book, by Joy Cowley, is perfect for the  pre-k, kindergarten, or first grade student.

I read to my music classes regularly. When I do, I try find musical elements within the books. This is one book I just couldn't pass up! Who wouldn't want to watch kids explore as they play in the mud like a cow, pig, or duck? Plus, hearing them make the sounds of the animals (or the mud) makes me smile every time.

The thing that clinched it for me was listening to my oldest daughter create an ostinato as I read to our youngest daughter at home. She couldn't resist the "wishy washy, wishy washy" in the story. That's when I knew it was destined to be a classroom piece.

And I couldn't resist coming up with 2 other ostinatos. Notice that I is 2 beats, II is 4 beats, and III is 8 beats.

If you wanted to, you could turn III into a call & response piece using the sounds of the animals: cow (moo), pig (oink), duck (quack), mud (squish).
Process: I did a quick read of the book with my second grade classes and then taught them the ostinatos after they explored the sounds and movements. After they got comfortable with each of the ostinatos I divided them into groups and added a second and then a third. Within 10-15 minutes the classes were ready to make a rough recording. 

The recording process was really good for the students because it recreated a performance kind of atmosphere. In addition, it gave me a good starting point for the year. I will have to upload one of the versions later on.

I plan on trying this with my first graders down the road but it is way too early right now! Hope you enjoy.

UPDATE: Here is a rough version of the ostinatos together 
File Size: 538 kb
File Type: mp3
Download File