**Opens the blog and blows off the dust** Yes...it has been quite some time since I have posted anything new here. Why? The short answer...life happened. The longer answer...*takes a deep breath*
I changed schools, changed school districts, changed grade levels (from high school to middle school), changed the county and city I live in, packed up my entire house and entire classroom and moved to a new house and new classroom. At one point, everything I owned, my personal belongings and my school belongings, was in a box all at once. It was crazy. It was insane. Oh, and did I mention that this all happened two weeks before school started.
I do NOT recommend starting off a school year that way. But, I am so VERY glad that I did! I am back making music with the middles and loving every bit of it!
I did manage to do a couple of postings here and there on Medium in my absence from the blog, so be sure to follow me there as well to read the full articles!
All good lessons start with a good plan, and it is essential for teachers to have a good grasp of writing effective lesson plans. Lesson planning can seem intimidating at times but if you keep these six tips in mind, you will have more confidence in the process. ClickHERE to read the full article.
This article is geared more towards teachers of all kinds with private students. This could prove very helpful to you as many music teachers also maintain a private studio in addition to their classroom responsibilities. The thought of relocating your private studio can be a bit intimidating at first, but these four tips can help make the transition a bit easier. Click HERE to read the full article.
(What is a teacher to do when the going gets tough? One often overlooked strategy is to return to your own teachers, your mentors, and to look to them for sage advice, leadership, guidance, and a listening ear. Click HERE to read the full article.
PLEASE follow me on Medium, read my posts there, and show me some love by clicking on the little green hearts. If YOU are on Medium, let me know so I can follow you!
I love coffee. Period. I can't really pinpoint when I started my coffee dependency, but once I learned about those magic beans, I was hooked for sure! Roaming the halls of most schools, you will come across teachers with coffee mugs, travel cups, Starbucks cups, bowls, sippy cups - basically, anything that will hold liquid - filled with our magical juice of the coffee gods!
Easy summer iced coffee *or* summertime teacher fuel
1/2 cup of your favorite ground coffee
3 cups water cold water (divided)
1/2 cup sugar/sugar substitute (I like my Splenda, but use whatever you like!)
1/2 cup half & half OR your favorite flavored coffee creamer, chilled
Whipped topping (optional)
1. Brew the coffee with 1 & 1/2 cups of the water
2. Combine the hot coffee with the sugar in a carafe or pitcher; stir until the sugar is completely dissolved
3. Stir in the remaining 1 & 1/2 cups of water and the chilled half and half / creamer; refrigerate until ready to serve
4. Pour chilled coffee mixture over ice into the glass or mug of your choice. Top with whipped topping if you like.
As I mentioned before, this probably serves 4 regular cups, but there is NO judgement on you if you drink more. Sometimes I do...because...COFFEE.
Pair your iced coffee with my apple for the teacher cake because...#Treatyourself
So...make the coffee, have some cake, and comment below on how you plan to fuel the rest of Summer 2016! And if you have a great idea to make the Summer Teacher Fuel Iced Coffee recipe great, then PLEASE share that in the comments, too!!!
As the school year winds down, we hit the time of year where teaching is hard. The weather is turning nice, my seniors are picking up their graduation materials, the standardized testing is in full swing, and everyone is ready for school to just be over. However, it is during this time of year that one of my favorite activities happens - end of year awards. We have worked and grown all school year and now I have a chance to recognize them for all of their awesomeness!! Of course, student recognition is done in bits and pieces throughout the school year, but the end of the year awards are the icing on the cupcake!
For my music classes, awards day is an informal event held in class close to the end of the school year. Some of my awards are teacher-given and some are superlatives awarded by student vote. For student-vote awards, I hand out a voting sheet (be sure to keep reading to snag the freebie voting sheet and teacher cheat sheet!) However, the descriptors on the voting sheet only give students half the story. For example, one voting statement says 'The student that is always willing to help others." In actuality, the award is called The Life Saver Award and includes a pack of Life Savers candies!!
A couple of random bits about end-of-year awards.
1. My awards days are informal, so we feature some serious awards and some funny awards, superlative style. No one knows your kiddos like you do. If you go the superlative route, make sure no one is going to leave with hurt feelings. After all, this is supposed to be FUN, but not embarrassing.
2. *Personal soapbox ahead. If you don't like soap, hit the bypass!!** I don't care for the 'everyone gets an award just because' type of events. I have attended these types of events and it feels fake, forced, and devalues the whole point of getting an award. First of all, in life everyone does not get an award. Secondly, done wrong, this direction can lead to more harm than good. If awards are meant to be valuable and exclusive, giving everyone an award just for showing up diminishes the value.
With all of that said, here is a list of 28 fun, cool, awesome awards to consider for the end of the year! Scroll all the way to the bottom for your voting ballot and teacher cheat sheet *Freebie*
Superlatives determined by student votes
1. Most likely to take music class selfies
2. G.O.A.T Award: awarded to best piano player/singer/percussionist, etc.
3. Mr. & Miss Congeniality
4. Office Max Award: student who always has paper and pencil to lend out to others (throw in a pack of paper and pencils along with a certificate!)
5. Loudest Student
6. Lisa Frank Award: most likely to blog about kittens, rainbows, and unicorns
7. Clean Plate Award: student always trying to eat in class
--The following awards are candy themed, so thrown in some sweet treats!--
8. Snicker Award: student with the most unique laugh
9. Jolly Rancher Award: student always telling jokes or making others laugh
10. Mounds Award: student always having 'mounds' of fun
11. Lifesaver Award: student always willing to help others
12. Mint Award: for the student 'mint' for greatness
13. Starburst Award: for the student who is destined to be a star
14. 100 Grand Award / PayDay Award: for the student most likely to appear on a music reality show
15. The Whopper Award: for the student who always has a story to tell
Awards Given By The Teacher
16. Early Bird Award: student who usually arrives to class first (throw in some gummy worms because the early bird...well...you know!!)
17. Club 100: students who maintain a 99-100 GPA for the entire school year in music class
18. Repeat Offender: students who have spent multiple years in a class/ensemble OR in more than one ensemble (I had several 'repeat offenders' this year who were enrolled in both my piano and chorus class)
19. Senior Citizen Award: award given to graduating seniors
20. Rookie of the Year: awarded to an outstanding freshman OR first-year ensemble student
21. Survivor Award: student who stuck with it when it got hard (musically, academically, or personally)
22. Most Improved Musician
23. Always on Time: students with no (or very few) tardies
24. Section Leaders
25. Attendance Awards
26. Excellence in Musicianship/Sight-reading/Sight-singing
27. Participation in a special event, such as a volunteer performance or community service.
28. Mid-State/All-State/Solo/Ensemble performers
Wait! Don't forget your **FREEBIE**
Give your students the award ballot for their votes and keep the cheat sheet for yourself! Enjoy! Feel free to edit the document so you give only the awards you want to give :-)
What are some other awards you give your students at the end of year? Sharing is CARING! Comment below with your ideas!!
**Disclaimer: I was NOT compensated in any way for providing this review. I simply found something I loved and wanted to share because sharing is all the way caring! **
This week's posting is not my usual music education piece, but sometimes something hits you in all of the feels and you just can't keep it to yourself.
Part I: Background Information
This review is of the musical production The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses that I attended January 21, 2016 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, TN. This was my first time having an opportunity to attend...and I LOVED it! As someone who has enjoyed the various Legend of Zelda games first-hand, I wanted to attend this program and, thanks to a wonderful Christmas gift from my family, it happened. First, there is the wonderfully talented Nashville Symphony alongside the Nashville Symphony Chorus - both of which are PHENOMENAL ensembles. Under the direction of KELLY CORCORAN, all of the musicians worked together to create an event that pleases both gamers and musicians alike. However, you don't have to be a gamer to enjoy this production. The music can stand on its own. The music, coupled with the action shots from the games, is truly an event for the ears, the eyes, and the inner self - a spiritual, musical, and magical experience!
Part II: The Show
The music...I can't say enough good things about the music. The production is split into 4 movements: Act 1, Interludes, The Symphony, and Act 2, with a special encore at the end (No spoilers! Just go see it!) With titles such as 'Gerudo Valley,' 'The Creation of Hyrule,' and 'Temple of Time,' you will find music that spans the almost 30 years of the Legend of Zelda franchise. Haven't played the games? No worries! You will still enjoy the music and the visuals that run alongside it. With each tune, there is a video that plays in time with the music that features scenes of game play and story cut scenes. It is all so enchanting and fascinating, like watching an action movie with live symphony accompaniment. My personal favorite is 'Boss Battle Medley.' As a gamer, I spent many hours - sometimes days - trying to tackle those dreaded bosses. Hearing the music from those battles brought back a lot of fond memories of triumphant victories and devastatingly crushing defeats! The brief video commentary from Koji Kondo and others between movements creates an atmosphere of excitement and expectation and definitely a lively time in the show!
The energy behind the music was equally matched by the audience. The crowd was ELECTRIC! Audience members were encouraged to dress as their favorite Legend of Zelda characters, and there were quite a few awesome cosplayers in the audience of ALL ages. There were various manifestations of Princess Zelda and Link all over the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. I should have dressed as Princess Zelda. My daughter would have thought I was a crazy woman, but it would have been a ton of fun! There was also such a mass camaraderie within the audience as people exclaimed 'Ooooh" 'Ahhh' and 'Yesssss!' in unison response to songs and action scenes on the big screen.
Part III: Final Thoughts
Living in Nashville has allowed for me to experience music in so many ways, and I have played video games for as long as I can remember. The music of Symphony of the Goddesses brought back so many fond memories of the characters, scenery, and story lines that I engaged with as a young kiddo playing the day away on my Nintendo console. My daughter has never played a Legend of Zelda game (sad, but true). However, she DOES play the violin. For me, taking her to this production was about more than enjoying video game memories - again, she's never played a Zelda game. However, as a violinist, she was intrigued by the thought of going and it gave me a chance to educate her on the ways of the Triforce. The music not only impressed her, but also inspired her to want to be a better musician so that she could one day play the music she heard that night.
Video game music has evolved over the years, and Koji Kondo, known for both the Zelda and Super Mario Bros. musical scores, played a huge part in this evolution. Video game music became more than just static, filler noise in the background. It became the equivalent of a soul-stirring movie soundtrack, evoking moods, emotions, and visuals all throughout. Would I see this again? ABSOLUTELY!
Have you seen the show? Let me know in the comments what you thought! Planning on going? Share your pre-show excitement or questions!
**UPDATE: This show is not longer traveling the world *insert sad face* BUT...if you missed it, there are several YouTube videos and recordings online**
Many of today’s choral music educators are packing up our outdated libraries and making changes for the better, searching for repertoire that properly reflects our students, our communities, and our world. I firmly believe that a diverse program of music is essential to the livelihood of today's choral program.
As teachers, we want everything we teach to connect to students, and singing is an extremely accessible avenue for cultural exposure. We can sing the songs of all types of cultures and only need a room full of voices to do it - no special equipment required! This is a great way to approach introducing and exploring different cultures to your students. You may be wondering: how do we start the process of ensuring our choral programs and repertoire are diverse?
Before we assess our repertoire, let us first define what diversity is. For the purpose of this posting, diversity is considered to be any type of music outside of classical, Western-European styles. Let us now explore four main points that further aid and drive us in our quest to create diversity in our choral programs.
1. Abandon the idea of diversity being the same as world music. The term ‘diversity’ among many choral music educators carries a connotation of music from foreign countries. World music styles do make up part of a diverse repertoire, but we do not have to look outside our borders to find diversification. Consider the genre of jazz and the variations within that one style as we see it in Chicago, New Orleans, and St. Louis. How about women in jazz? How many of us teach and perform songs that represent Native American communities? Diversity in choral music does not have to mean music from a faraway land. There is diversity all around us right where we are!
2. Being diverse does not mean the removal of classical styles. Instead, it is the seamless inclusion of all styles. Thinking back on my days as an undergraduate, I remember my choral literature class where we studied what I like to call The European Choral Lit Hit List. But, what about more modern choral samples? I sometimes refer to my students as the “Glee Generation”. This does not mean that I exclude classical choral repertoire, but it does mean that I cannot deny the culture of my own students. Students should be able to see themselves in our programs. As long as the music has an educational purpose and meets our standards for rigor and excellence, why exclude it from the performance repertoire? Through the singing and studying of a variety of music from varied sources, students can learn more about their own sense of musicality and cultural awareness. Students can also better understand the concept of culture and of music as a cultural component if steps are taken to utilize diversifies music.
3. There is a difference between performing a song that sounds authentic and a song that actually is authentic. Diversity in choral music education is best appreciated when the repertoire is genuine. Students respond to authentic learning in all content areas, and within choral music education, that authenticity applies to our repertoire selection. A song with known roots to a specific African or Latin American country is going to produce an authentic response when compared to a song that only imitates the perceived sounds of the country instead. It is always beneficial to research the background and context of the music we select.
I have found the internet tremendously useful for this, but oftentimes my students and their families are my greatest resource. We performed a lovely song from Mexico one year for a spring program. One of my students, a soprano originally from Mexico, took a sudden interest in the song and mentioned, under her breath, that the English text at the bottom was not a translation of the Spanish at the top. I encouraged her to not only properly translate the text, but to also help teach the class the proper Spanish diction. Singing a song from her native country allowed her to become a leader and the class expert on that piece. Before this experience, she had been uninvolved in the class. However, after this experience, there was a noticeable increase in her overall engagement and interest. She later confided in me that she loved to sing at home, but was never interested in singing at school because she felt that the music she enjoyed at home was treated like a novelty item and not accepted as ‘real music.’ Now, she has a connection to the class and curriculum because she was invited to be a part of the learning process.
If an in-school resource is not available, music publishers such as EarthSongsChoralMusic.com and WorldMusicPress.com focus on authentic multicultural choral literature and often offer diction practice tracks and other valuable resources. Consider reaching out to local cultural centers and international organizations. Volunteers are often very willing to help with translations, create diction tracks, and educate us and our students on the context of the music we share. It is a beautiful experience for our students and the community.
4. Approach diverse music as an inclusive concept, instead of the exclusive ‘our’ music and ‘their’ music. We strive to unify our ensembles through the inclusion of a variety of musical styles and concepts, but our approach cannot be ‘ours vs. theirs’ which can inadvertently come across as ‘right vs. wrong.’ It is all music and a diverse repertoire showcases our uniqueness without promoting one to be better, worse, right, or wrong. I once read an article that proposed introducing music alongside the various awareness months, such as spirituals in Black History Month and Spanish-language tunes during Hispanic Heritage Month, but this approach is still exclusive because spirituals have musical value outside of Black History Month. Cultures intermingle in the world while maintaining their identities, just as musical diversity should be in our choral classrooms. Our students should see variety in the full curriculum, not singled out as being relevant for a month or two.
Addressing these four points may take some time, but it is so rewarding. There are large amounts of music waiting and ready to be explored if we set aside the time to think globally as we function in our local capacities. We can show our students and communities that all are welcome to take part in the musical art form of choral music. The choral music classroom is a safe place to sing, share, and connect as part of a cultural exchange that we, as choral directors, help facilitate. We cannot always take our students to see the world, but we can bring more of the world to them through the music we share.
Goodkin, D. (1994). Diverse approaches to multicultural music. Music Educators Journal, 81(1), 39-43.
Miralis, Y. (2006). Clarifying the terms ‘multicultural,’ ‘multiethnic,’ and ‘world music education’ through a review of literature. Application of Research in Music Education, 24(2), 54-66.
Shaw, J. (2012). The skin that we sing: Culturally responsive choral music education. Music Educators Journal, 98(4), 75-81.
Article originally published on http://www.LeadingNotes.org
Looking for some sure-fire ways to set up your programs and utilize your diversified repertoire? Be sure to check my post HERE with some awesome concert themes! Be sure to snag the FREE printable, too!!
In the meantime, leave me a comment and let me know what you use in your own classrooms! I love to share ideas because I learn so much from you all here!
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