Showing posts from 2011

Ramadan Song

Tala Albadru 'Alayna (O the White Moon Rose Over Us) is the story of Mohammed bringing the Koran into the city of Medina.  To learn more about why he was in Medina, click here.  If you want to know more about Islam and the month of Ramadan, click here for a series of videos.  It's enough to say that Ramadan, a month of fasting, concludes with the celebration of Mohammad coming into the city of Medina.  Children climbed into the palms to get a glimpse of Mohammad and his many followers arriving from Mecca.

The lyrics of the song are told by the children, clinging to the tops of the palms, waiting for Mohammed with anticipation.  Tradition holds that this is the actual song sung to The Prophet 1400 years ago! Here is the first verse.

Tala'al-Badru 'alayna, 
min thaniyyatil-Wada' 
wajaba al-shukru 'alayna, 
ma da'a lillahi da' 

O the White Moon rose over us 
From the Valley of Wada' 
And we owe it to show gratefulness 
Where the call is to Allah 

If you want…

Buying a Sound System for Your School

As a musician and a music teacher, people look to me as an expert in all things auditory.  Well, I'm NOT!  But I don't need them to know that!

If there's one thing that is common to all successful and influential people, it is that they know when to ask for help!  And they know who to ask.  That is what I'm doing.

November 10, 2011
With $100 from my benevolent administrator, we are hiring a consultant to come to our school, look at our current system and figure out the best way for us to meet our needs without breaking the bank.  He's arriving in two weeks.  I'll keep this post updated and let you know what is going on.
November 22, 2011
Recording engineer, Jeremy Sarna from New England Conservatory came to consult with me and see our set-up.  He recommended the Fender Passport 300 Pro.  He thought it was a good, sturdy unit that was easy to operate and met our needs well.  Click here to see the features and price.

He had some ideas for portable mics for us.  W…

Do Schools Kill Creativity

I enjoy Ted Talks.  I came across this one that speaks to arts education and creativity in all areas of education as a must.  Enjoy!

Music, the brain, and science

Middle School Diana Deutsch lesson
I just taught this to my older students and I've got to tell you about it!  When I did some work for The Boston Symphony, I contacted Diana Deutsch of the University of California, San Diego.  I never used her work on the modules for the BSO, but I continue to be intrigued by her research.  This lesson is especially exciting when you mention to the children that Audacity is a shareware (free) opensource program that they can download and do these experiments themselves.

I used this information as little snippets within a choral lesson.  I'm introducing some holiday pieces and, each time the students sang particularly well, I gave them some "ear candy" in the form of a new aural illusion or example.  For example: we began rehearsal for "Come Follow Me" by Linda Spevacek.  Students learned the A section on solfa and sang it in tune with proper syllables and a good, strong voice.  Their reward was to hear the phantom word ill…

La Vaca Lola

This song is soooooooo fun!  You can teach the Spanish and then do some Latin dancing.  I just stumbled upon this song via youtube and my Middle Schoolers wanted to know what the fuss was about.  They would like to learn the song!  I am definitely going to teach this in preschool.  Vamanos!

Thinking Inside the Volumes #6, Street Song

My Middle Schoolers performed Street Song in Volume 3 of the Murray Edition Orff volumes.  It was their graduation performance number and they pulled it off really well!  Here is what they sounded like a few days before graduation.  I was not thrilled with some of the distracted performances, but the kids had just gone to an amusement park and participated in loads of end-of-year parties.  The actual graduation was not recorded but it was amazingly clean and tight.  Nobody forgot where we were in the pattern, all rhythms were either on time or rushing slightly.  They sounded amazing and the audience was really impressed.  As you listen, remember how well kids can take notes, right up to the very end.  This is a very scary piece to put together because so much can go wrong.  We did this with 9 students.
Street Song better
What was is it like for them?  This is what they had to say.  Street music interviewsWhen I hear these young men speak, I hear the pride and confidence in their voice…

Lifelong Stress Management

Many professions are stressful.  People deal with this stress in various ways.  Some drink, others have secret personas, still more get abrupt and isolated, many get divorced, have heart attacks, become socially isolated depressed.   What about singing?  What about playing the cello?  What about dancing? What about acting?

I've come across some videos that you might find motivating as you rest and prepare for your next school year.  These are people in high stress jobs who use the arts to bring joy, fun, camaraderie, intellectual satisfaction, and humor into their lives.  Some videos are appropriate for all age levels, always use caution when sharing with students or colleagues.  Enjoy!

Thinking Inside the Volumes #5

Volume V
page 114
Chorus from Sophocles' "Antigone"
Greek chorus

I don't know of anyone who doesn't get a rush from listening to Carmina Burana, Carl Orff's most famous work.  The orchestration is simple, but very thick.  A huge orchestra blankets the stage.  The battery slugs our souls with gongs, drums, clanging cymbals, and sharp xylophones.  The enormous chorus floods us with sound, primal modes course through us.  We are entranced in a primal frenzy of ancient sounds!  

This feeling is possible to capture in the classroom.  There are some skills the students must have first though.

They must know how to respect and care for all the instruments usedThey must have experience with movement and dance in performanceThey must have modal music in their ears from songs, improvisations, or creative movementThey must embrace the text for the Greek chorusThey must have a sense of community, and be capable of working together as a group While the Sophocles excerpt on page …

The Lighter Side

Wow!  Harry Potter 8 has opened and it is AWESOME.  Here's the trailer.

It's a shame to see Mr. Potter die, but that's the story.  It ain't American, it's British.  Oops, spoiler!  Tee hee

My latest addiction is the Jason Isaacs suspense, thriller series The State Within.  Here's a clip from the first show.

This series is just amazing.  I call it, "24, only good."  It's 7 episodes of sheer genius.  You can instantly stream via Netflix.  Don't expect everything to be neatly tied-up and resolved or clear good and bad guys.  This is British, not American.  Enjoy!

An Interview with Composer Ruth Elaine Schram

Ruth Elaine Schram interview

Clips of choral music provided courtesy of BriLee publishers and Ruth Elaine Schram.  They include

Song of the Open Road (opening song)

In a Gadda Da Vida

All for a Baby (not the song mentioned, but a similar Christmas song)

Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind (words by Shakespeare)
   I love this piece!  It's so simple, easy to play, and the lyrics are the star.  What an inspiring piece of music.

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, my arrangement (not available in print or mp3, clip at )

Youtube performance of Walk In Jerusalem, a Rollo Dillworth song with a tough and rockin' piano part

How Can I Keep From Singing (end credits)

Ruth Elaine Schram wrote her first song at the age of twelve, and her first octavo was published twenty years later, in 1988. In 1992, she became a full-time composer and arranger and now has over 1,700 published works.  Over sixteen million copies of her songs have been purchased in their various venues, and she has been a recipi…

Patriotic Songs

If children do not learn patriotic songs from us, they don't learn them at all.  You need to have this in mind when you approach your learning for the year.  Let's look at several patriotic songs and analyze them.  It will help you place them in your curriculum and plan your concerts well.

The Star Spangled Banner
(Grade 4+)
Previous knowledge:

singing a 10th in tunesinging semitones in tunepartner songs in tuneternary formquestion and answer phrases"head voice" vocabulary"dipthong" vocabularyso-mi-do able to read at sight in stick and staff notationNew Challenges for the Song range of a 12th (octave plus a fifth, do-so')changing vocal placement between A and B sectionsdiction can be toughmemorizing words and unlearning previous mistakessinging in a pressure situationOctavos? Here is a treble option.  Note the intonation problems with women singing in their chest voice (lower).  Also, the diction sounds like they are British, not quite the best for the Amer…

Making up Games

Authenticity is part of the code of Kodaly.  If the game is not authentic, don't do it.  Games that are folk games are easier to learn, more logically married to the music, and ultimately, more fun.  I whole-heartedly agree with this,but, what if you come across an awesome song that is just screaming for a game?  What if that song is too short to stand on its own?  What if the game is not in any sources you can find?  What then?

Adopt a game that has no song.

Where do you find these games?

Watching children play at recess

Asking teachers what kind of games the children naturally play for indoor recess.  Finding out what kinds of board and card games kids are doing so that you might adopt the structure of the game to a known rhyme or song.

Example:  Shoo Turkey
This classic song is from Step it Down.  Traditionally it is sung while students crouch and gracefully sweep the turkeys away.  I adopted it for preschool so that two songs are linked together into one game.  I saw childr…

Just for Fun

The blog readership has gone down considerably as we approach the end of the year.  You all are way too busy to be reading the blog every week.  I'll work on articles for July and August, when you are studying and prepping for next year.  Until then, take a moment to see a cool video here and there in June.  Here are some neat selections that I love.

Elementary School Musical

Rules to avoid burn-out and provide musicals for your students'performance needs.

My very best friend, the woman who suggested that I become a music teacher some 10 years ago, is currently a heap of burnt ash after her spring musicals.  I said, "well at least you got the extra cash to help the family."  There was silence.  "What?  You didn't get paid extra for this?"

I write this article for her and anyone else in her position to refer to BEFORE they say "yes" to next year's musical.  The goal here is to love your kids, your job, and to instill love of music in the performers.  If you overextend yourself, you become resentful and burnt out!  I would like to teach the children of my current students.  In order to do that, I need to construct my work environment so that it is humane to me.  Nothing inspires children like a teacher who is excited and passionate about her work.

1. Calculate the rehearsals you'll need, include auditions, dress…

How to buy a guitar

If you have one, why not use it?  If it's too big, your child will have trouble getting his/her arms around it.  In that case, you should probably get a smaller guitar.  My favorite way to get a guitar is at pawn shops or flea markets.  Here are tips to apply while shopping.
How can you tell if a guitar is really good?

Look into the hole of the guitar.  There should be wood that joins the top and bottom flat pieces to the sides of the guitar.  It looks like a snake of scored wood.  Look here at this photo of a restoration for a vintage Gibson guitar.  Do you see the snake of wood?  That is the mark of a really good guitar.  Such a guitar is worth a few hundred dollars.  I got mine at a pawn shop for less than $200.

When to get an expensive guitar

If your child is 10 or younger, I suggest you get a child's guitar and spend no more than $80.  See if the child gets excited and practices with dedication.  After a year or two you can look into a guitar.  It will be appreciated and tr…

How to buy a piano

The following is a primer that I give to parents of beginning piano students.  When parents do not follow this advice, they tend to spend buckets of money and have an unsatisfactory buying experience.  Please use this to help your students have good experiences with beginning piano!

Buying a Piano

DON'T! There are so many kids who take piano and drop it after a few lessons, that there are hundreds of pianos available for free throughout Massachusetts. Wait until you've taken piano for a few years and develop a devotion to it before you invest the thousands you'd need for a great piano or keyboard. Here are some tips.

Go to Piano Adoption's website.  There you'll find free pianos in every state!

See the piano and feel the keys under your fingers. Make sure that the touch of the piano is comfortable. Make sure that the keys have the same volume at every key for the same amount of pressure. Broken strings, felt on hammers, and other small repairs can be fixed by a pian…