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Showing posts from 2014

The Irony of Fate

This movie is the on Russian TV every year for New Year's Eve just as "Miracle of 34th Street," or "It's a Wonderful Life" is in the US at Christmas. It's called "The Irony of Fate." I heard about it on NPR and found these youtube videos of it in two parts. It is my New Year's gift to you. I love this movie. I know you will too.

This film could not have been made in the US. It pokes fun at so much that is Russian but it's just subtle enough to make it past the Soviet censors. A great work of art and a fabulous entertainment.

The Ultimate Secret Santa

I love Secret Santa. It's an American office tradition that our school embraces. It's fun. It's sweet. It builds camaraderie. As a school music teacher, you're running around like a newly decapitated chicken in December. Here are some fun and easy ways to be the best Secret Santa EVER!

Portable North Pole (PNP)

Go to this site, fill out the information, and have your personalized message delivered from Santa to your co-worker. It's free! 

Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are great fun when your intended audience is up for it. There are a couple ways to proceed with the clues: multiple choice answers, where the wrong answer is a dead end but the right answer is the next clue and random clues and places, in which fun facts are followed by the location of the next clue. I usually do the multiple-choice version, but this can be quite annoying for your quarry. I suggest the fun facts.


My first secret santa give-ee was Elaine. I like the name so I did a scavenger hun…

Autism Music Bootcamp

A colleague is about to start a new job. She's nervous, excited, and scrambling to research autism. You see, She'll be teaching four days a week at a public, special-needs-integrated preschool, and will teach the class of autistic students DAILY.

Oh my gorshk!

By this time next month, she'll be up to her eyeballs in social stories, accommodations, triggers, etc. Her old school had very mild special needs students, but nothing that required consistent intervention. She needs to bone-up on her autism awareness.

This article is for her, but, since the diagnosis of autism is becoming ever more common, I bet lots of you will appreciate boning up on your autism knowledge. Here is a great resource I've found.

22 Tips for Teaching Children with Autism

Read this article. It's great. Print it out and keep it with you. Skim it before seeing your students on the spectrum. Did you read the above paragraph? I used the term, "bone-up" twice. It's an idiom, and an au…

Middle School first lesson of the year

Stuff I need to cover:

how to put away instruments and clean up after classwhat to do when you first come in the room (desk work)Amani Utupe introduceThis is Halloween introduceour school song, go over and review (brainstorm how to make their verse rock with only seven kids)Peace Peace (partner song for Silent Night) introducequestionnaire for the beginning of school  How to begin?
I think the kids need to start with an activity that is going to scare the hell out of them but leave them with a sense of accomplishment. I also think fun should be involved. Hmm. What to do? 
(5 minutes) I'm going with Amani Utupe. I don't have boomwhackers, but clapping and doing call and response to get pronunciation and mood is all I need at first. 

I'll hit the ground running. Sing. NO introductions, welcomes or anything else. Let's have some mystery here. That and I've known these kids since Kindergarten. Let's shut up and have a little body percussion call and response!

It ne…

Beginning of the Year Gameplan

Okay, we just had our Integrated Arts/Administration meeting to begin the year, and many changes are afoot. Last year we got a new headmistress. Since my tenure, our school has had a variety of policies regarding religious songs, Halloween, soloists, popular music, and class size. It's enough to make the days before school fraught with sleepless nights and bound up bowels!

Now, finally, I have some concrete information to move forward into 2014-2015 school year. Here's what's new.

We're having a Halloween festival the day after UN Day (my first major performance of the year) on October 24. Middle Schoolers are expected to have a more rigorous academic program. If you are going to be assigning homework however, you need to set that expectation AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR so that parents can be ready for it. Decide now!We have a new pre-school classroom. It's okay for me to commemorate the 1914 Christmas Truce by teaching children "Silent Night" in German …

Crisis of Children Crossing US Borders

A letter to the editor of the Conservative paper, The Weekly Standard. 

Dear Mr. Kristol,

Not so long ago, a country in the Americas made its people suffer conditions so dreadful, thousands fled north. Most to successfully cross the border were under the age of 25. (I've read hundreds of fugitive slave ads. I know.) What were American slaves escaping? Were they enticed to emigrate by the thought of superior Canadian politeness, unlimited maple syrup and all those free meals on the Underground Railroad?
I really don't think the problem was that our slaves were flooding Canada. I think the problem was that they were slaves.
Now, in 2014, conditions in Central America are so desperate, that parents are parting with their children. Somehow, sending their kids off with human traffickers is preferable to the conditions of home. (And please don't tell me that it's a mass misinformation campaign. Perhaps some people are conned, but certainly not all. We cannot deny there is …

The Power of Quiet.

I'm a brass player. LOUD has always been a hallmark of my musical perspective on the world. I got a rush whenever I played Fanfare for the common man,

the Olympic Fanafare,

and even a spirited brass section in a symphony,

but I only started to really become a musician when I learned how to play softly. My first foray into pianissimo didn't happen on the French Horn, it happened in chorus. There's nothing as glorious as a chorus who sings a well-supported forte, but when that forte is off-set by a pianissimo that has the audience straining to hear, the music just sparkles.

As I consider how I want to begin this next school year, I think I shall addict my students to the beauty and power of their pianissimo.


Well, let's look at a third grade lesson.

We'll have to sing and play songs that help students demonstrate their awareness of loud/soft. Always begin with something fun that has a strong physical element. That organizes the children's nervous systems, c…

Coming Out

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm a writer.

Of course I've been writing this blog since 2007, and you've been kind enough to read all these years, but I write other stuff as well. This is my official coming out as a writer of non-music education related articles. I write fiction. I write poetry. I write Stuff for kids and stuff that is NOT for kids. I write because I love to, and I write every day. I would be honored if you would read my other works, the first of which was published just last week. This is the first of many items I'm publishing under my maiden name.

Please go to this site, like it, share it, post it, send the link to friends! 


TEACHING MUSIC TO STUDENTS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM May 9-10, 2014 (a Friday afternoon and a full Saturday) The Boston Conservatory, 31 Hemenway Street - Studio 401, Boston, MA 02215

Park anywhere, but the most convenient place is on Boylston Street. Budget $20-30 per day if you bring a car!
$65 tuition 12 PDPs Includes a nice lunch (last year was Panera, yum)
An innovative new program for public and private school music educators, "Teaching Music to Students on the Autism Spectrum" is a two-day conference that will address important topics such as:

o             An Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder o             Applying Behavioral Teaching Strategies to Individual and Group Music Instruction
o             How Autistic People Learn and Perceive Music
o             Working Effectively with Students on the Autism Spectrum and their Families Featuring industry experts Dr. Stephen Shore, Dr. James Ellis, Dr. Rhoda Bernard, with teaching demonstrations by music instructors fr…