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Showing posts from 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

I finally read a book by John Green.  Actually, I've read two and can't wait to read the other three.   I'm going to concentrate on the most recent of his novels, The Fault in our Stars, published earlier this year. 


John Green's books have been taught in High School English classes all over the country.  I've read this book and Will Grayson Will Grayson and both books have talk about sex, sexuality, and vocabulary about sex and sexuality in them.  That being said, John Green is NOT A PORNOGRAPHER!  You need  to read the books and have discussion about them with colleagues if you are going to teach them in your music class.  It's very important that the students navigate their way through the language and scenes in the books in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

So it is pretty clear that teaching this book or any…

ASL, BSL, and Signing in Songs

If you ever need to find a sign-language definition for a word, click here.

If you can't find the right sign, just make one up, but make sure you tell the kids that you made that one up or, better yet, have them make it up.  Just don't let it turn into this.

I just performed a song with my kids using signs.  I asked a friend with a Deaf child to help me sign the song, but she thought that she'd be disowned by the Deaf community if she did.  This controversy was completely foreign to me, so I did some research.

Did you know that in Deaf culture, it is offensive and rude to have hearing children use ASL as they sing a song?  Did you know that deaf people might not be offended, but Deaf people will?  Do you know the difference between "deaf" and "Deaf"?  Well, here's a primer on sign language, song, and the culture of people whose ears work in various degrees of vibration sensitivity.

This controversy was such a shock to me that I'm still reeling …

Merry Christmas Film Festival

This long post is a series of video shorts that I've found in the past year.  I hope you will enjoy them as you prepare for Christmas.  They are entertaining, funny, touching, and just fun.  have a Merry Christmas, hold your loved ones close, pray hard and with abandon, don't put off great life delights for lack of money, live in love!

Let's begin in France!

Fans of Firefly, click here,  I couldn't embed this one. 

Key and Peele doing a duet, Rhianna and Chris Brown.

I'll only do two Key and Peele, but I could post dozens of them.  They are hilarious.  This is my favorite sketch.

For anyone who has ever tried to lose weight but thought they lost part of themselves in the trying.

Michele Obama got an advanced copy of the upcoming season of Downton Abbey.  Stephen Colbert got an even bigger scoop.  Enjoy!

Nice twist at the end.

Now for some love.

For my non-English fans.  Is this really how we sound?

This one I could not embed, click and enjoy!

This one will mess wi…

Tabuteau Numbers

This month I'm giving you a special gift.  My tidbits of learning from conservatory and memories of some of my colleagues about their most influential teachers.  As an alum of The Curtis Institute, I would be remiss if I didn't share Tabuteau numbers.  This system of explaining intensity within phrasing is the reason why musicians trained at Curtis are known for being able to spin phrases beautifully and endlessly.  It's not difficult to explain or toimplement, but for some strange reason, other music schools don't teach phrasing this way.  It's time to teach you the secret hand shake.  Tabuteau numbers!

A little history
Marcel Tabuteau was one of the founding teachers at The Curtis Institute in the 1920s.  He along with the other men in this photograph went on to teach the most regarded wind players of the 20th century.  The most famous teacher among these men was the oboist, Marcel Tabuteau.  His teaching didn't just impact his students, it made its way into c…

How to tune wind instruments

Who should you tune to?  The band director's annoying machine?  The oboe?  The piano?  The soloist? Your principal player?

My training is as a horn player.  I will write from that perspective. Well, here is a primer on tuning.  You'll learn tuning within a section, in an ensemble, and how to get initial tuning in wind chamber music.
The Initial Tuning

In a large ensemble:
If you are a French Horn player in an orchestra, you will be given an A.  If you play that on the open F horn, it will be 12 cents flat because it is the major third above C for that fingering.  Don't tune with that fingering, choose one that is more in tune.  Trigger-2 is much better because it is the fundamental of A horn.  You're being given an A, so tune to it.

If you are in a band and tune to a Bb, use and open trigger fingering.  That puts you in Bb horn.

Bb trumpets should tune to their C, likewise with Bb tubas. 

Woodwinds may have to tune the fifth as well to make sure the instrume…

URGENT: Security in light of Connecticut Shootings

Please see your administrators as soon as you can Monday and request a call to your local police department.  The call should include expected head counts for your Holiday concerts and a request for a policeman at each egress.  I just emailed my administrative team. 

May God bless all of you and may angels protect you and your students.

Principal Player

Definition: noun
A solo instrument within an ensemble or a leader of homogeneous instruments.  Each instrument section has a principal, but auxiliary instruments are also principals when they are playing in a solo manner.

For example: An English Horn player is a member of the oboe section.  When playing English Horn, they may be playing solos while the oboe section is playing supporting music with the other woodwinds.  In this circumstance, the English Horn is a "section of one".  Later, if the English Horn and oboes are playing tutti passages, the English Horn is part of the section and should tune to the principal.  

The concertmaster of an orchestra is the principal violin, but they are also principal player for the entire orchestra. Think of them as pope and the other principals as cardinals.  Auxilliary players are bishops, and then the rank and file are priests.  They all make up the clergy of the symphony orchestra.  Of course the conductor thinks he's Jesus Chris…

How to repair Orff Instruments

I noticed that many hits to the site were searches looking for "Orff instrument repair."  I also noticed that there is not a lot of information out there about the topic and it is a topic which all music teachers need to address in their classrooms.  So, here goes.  We'll cover

mallet repairbuzzing barsAnnual bar maintenancefelt and bumper repairpin repairtubing repairother percussion repair

Fixing the Mallets
Elmer's wood glue
sand paper
lemon oil
linseed oil

Rough Head:  Sand the head with medium grit sand paper then fine grit.  If it still splinters, replace the mallet.

If you had a slightly shiny but unvarnished original, rub lemon oil into the mallet head.

I suggest you not varnish the mallets if they were not originally varnished. If you desire the mallet to be varnished, wipe it with linseed oil and let dry.  Dip the mallet in varnish and allow to dry.  This MUST BE DONE IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA.  DO NOT DO THIS IN SCHOOL because the fumes ar…

Politically Correct Christmas

Nicholas was bishop of Myra in Asia Minor at the beginning of the 4th century.  This is uncontested fact.

He was known for anonymous giving and standing up for justice.  In his youth, Nicholas, who was raised by Christian parents, was imprisoned under Dioclesian for his faith.  He suffered torture while in prison.  He was released under the Emperor Constantine and named bishop of Myra without even being a priest.  These again are historical events, not only matters of faith.

Saint Nicholas died on December 6.  Christians believe that when a holy person dies, they are entering heaven, so their death day is a celebration day.  For this reason Saint Nicholas is celebrated on December 6.  Again, facts.  Information about religious beliefs is not proselytizing, it is just information. 

For 1700 years people, inspired by the anonymous giving of Nicholas, have given in secret and often in Nicholas' name.  When you give to someone in need without expecting to even have them know your na…

John Green's Ted Talk

John Green is an author of young adult fiction and half of the vlogbrothers with the other half being Hank Green.  Knowing about them makes me feel very cool indeed.  They are a secret that is quickly getting out.  Here is John's recent TED talk. 

John and Hank have been vlogging for several years now and they've captured the intellects, imaginations, and hearts of millions.  I proudly acknowledge myself as being part of nerdfighteria and hope to "diminish world-suck" as a teacher, wife, mother, and friend.  I hope you enjoy them too.  Here are some of my favorite Green videos.  After viewing them, you too will want more. 

The Murray Volumes: Volume 1 retrieval

Carl Orff and his fellow composers wrote a series of volumes with Orffestrations (orchestrations using the Orff instruments).  These volumes were edited and modified to suit American and British folksong.  The American volumes edited and largely written by Margaret Murray and are known as "The Murray Volumes" by American Orff teachers. 

Now that I've been teaching a decade, I finally know why Kodaly and Orff do the things they do.  I am now creating a retrieval system that actually works for me.  I'm going through my Kodaly books, but I'm also going through my Orff books.  I learned a few works from the Murray volumes during my Orff level courses, but certainly not more than 2-5% of them.  Looking at the Orffestrations is very daunting and I've avoided them for years.  This year I'm going through each piece and really thinking how this piece can be presented or the elements used in the delivery of curriculum.  I'm finding that the written notes are …

Lighter Side: Gangnam Style

YOU WANT TO KNOW THIS SONG AND BE AWARE OF THIS DANCE! This post will tell you what Gangnam Style is, why you should know it, how it became so popular, and why Americans are loving this song.

I first heard this song on Dancing With the Stars.  I first thought it was "Gangland Style" which reminded me of Los Angeles, but I was very surprised that it was a very silly dance and loads of fun.   More about that later.  This is the original Dancing with the Stars dance.

Why should you care about Gangnam style?  It's THE MOST POPULAR SONG IN THE WORD!  It's #1 in 34 countries as I write.  There are more than 600,000,000 hits as I write, and I expect Psy (the artist who raps and stars in the song/video) to top 1Billion by Christmas.  Here's the original video.

Appropriate for School?
Not really.  There is "Eh, Sexy Lady" in English, and that's a bit objectifying.  The Korean seems awesome!  Here's a link to a translation.  What you really need to kn…

Lesson Plan Template

Your lesson plan template is the form on which you write your plans for an individual lesson.  Loads of people just jot down their plans on a sheet of loose leaf paper, but I like using a template because it tightens up my practice, gives each lesson a solid grounding in a curriculum area, reminds me of essential questions, and is a document I keep and refer to if a parent, teacher, or administrator has a question about a lesson.

This template is the result of several that I've been given over the course of my studies.  I've tweeked it to my needs.   The red dotted line shows the change from using the footer to the main body of the word document.  It may be helpful when you create your own template.  I hope you find this helpful.

The red type is words that are not on the template but comments on why an element is present.

Lesson for Grade_________________ Essential Questions: How do we make music together?What is the history of music?What is good singing? How does my body …