Category Archives: Classroom

Using Jazz to Teach Children Literacy, Math, History, and More

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Excerpted from Jazzy Fairy Tales, A Resource Guide for Introducing Jazz Music to Young Children

By Susan Milligan and Louise Rogers

Jazz is a play-centered approach to music, and we know that young children learn best by playing. Jazz is improvisational, fun, and playful. Jazz is creative and social. Jazz is easily accessible to both teachers and children. You don’t need to be a trained musician to make jazz part of your program and you don’t have to take time away from skill building in other areas. Children learn literacy, math, music, small and large motor skills, visual arts, and social studies while they are having fun with jazz—and jazz is a developmentally appropriate way to infuse your classroom with the joy of music!

Children love to hear and tell stories. Children tell their own stories as they pretend-play by themselves. When they play together, they create collaborative stories. When you tell or read stories to young children, you get their immediate attention. As the stories unfold, children become invested in the characters and plots. Stories are their gateway to learning. Skills are acquired almost effortlessly.

Stories allow children to focus and enter into learning experiences. For example, children can learn to sing the blues almost instantly within the context of pretending they are characters who are sad. They “become” the character. It makes sense to them to sing the blues because the blues reflect what the characters are feeling. In a like manner, children can learn to sing a scale as they pretend to be characters that are “climbing” stairs in their story. Because the stairs are going up, up, up, it is easy and natural for the pitch of their voices to go up, up, up, too.

Did you know that incorporating jazz and storytelling into your classroom can help build a foundation of many necessary skills? Jazz and storytelling:

Build Music Skills

  • Vocalization
  • Pitch
  • Rhythm
  • Listening skills
  • Recognizing patterns
  • Singing together
  • Understanding that written notes represent sounds and rhythms

Build Literacy Skills

  • Telling a story sequentially
  • Listening skills
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Rhyming
  • Tapping out syllables
  • Understanding characterization
  • Understanding stories and adding to stories told by others
  • Understanding and following oral directions
  • Listening respectfully without interrupting others
  • Speaking audibly
  • Speaking to dramatize an experience
  • Taking turns speaking
  • Understanding that written notes represent sounds and rhythms

Build Math Skills

  • Echoing patterns
  • Rhythms
  • Fractions: whole, half, quarter and eighth notes

Build Socio-Emotional Skills

  • Acquiring language for building empathy
  • Sharing and identifying feelings, emotions and experiences
  • Connecting to other people
  • Listening to each other
  • Solving problems together

Build Small and Large Motor Skills

  • Dancing, body movement
  • Fast and slow
  • Loud and soft
  • Hand movements

Jazz is playing with music within a structure. Storytelling is playing with words and ideas within a structure. If you can incorporates some simple jazz basics, such as scat singing (a jazz language used by singers when trying to make their voices sound like instruments), and basic rhythmic patterns and movements, and join them to storytelling, the result can be a powerful teaching tool for young children. You do not take away time from building academic skills when you bring jazz and storytelling into the classroom. Quite the opposite, you help children learn in a most enjoyable and accessible way.

00-36596The content of this article is excerpted from Jazzy Fairy Tales, a resource guide and CD designed to bring jazz music into the classroom. The activities provided may be used to supplement an existing program or to provide a ready-made, easy-to-use, all-encompassing music curriculum. The Appendix includes music theory terms, jazz terminology, standard blues form, and notation (melody with chords) for most of the themes and songs.


Top 10 Reasons to Perform Musicals in School

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In our age of the Internet, social media, reality television and other “worthy” pursuits that can steal away our students’ attention, are musicals still worth preparing? Of course, my answer is a resounding “YES”!

Here are my top 10 reasons for doing a musical once, twice, or even three times this year (and in years to come). And they’re based not only on my personal experience through the years, but what I’ve heard from countless others over the last three decades:

  1. The Event Factor. Since musicals aren’t performed on a regular basis, whenever they are performed, they’re an event. They can build excitement and a real positive “buzz” in the classroom.
  2. Dramatic Impact. There’s no question we live now more than ever in a fast-paced, visual world. Drama—especially when connected with music—offers a way to tell a story that can leave an indelible impact on its performers and listeners.
  3. Greater Depth. A musical offers a longer time to “plumb the depths” of any given subject, so the potential impact on students is exponentially increased.
  4. Growth. Musicals tend to offer healthy musical challenges that students might not experience otherwise. This can contribute to a growth in confidence and musical understanding.
  5. Outreach. A one-time special event musical is a great excuse to invite friends, family, and community members and showcase your student’s hard work.
  6. Bonding. An event tends to “rally” a classroom together and generate excitement among students. Everyone becomes part of the musical ‘team.’ If there are a few extra rehearsals to pull the musical together, those offer an opportunity for greater bonding between the teacher and students.
  7. Wider Involvement. A musical offers a chance for parents and even more students to get involved, too! They can help with design, building or painting (if there’s a set); audio/visuals (sound, lights, PowerPoint, and/or video); costumes (if there are any, of course), and more.
  8. Encourages Participation. There’s no question that, in general, musicals sometimes take a recruiting process to get students to audition. Use the audition process as another means of outreach to excite students to be a part of the fun!
  9. Dinner or Dessert Theatre. Who doesn’t love the mixture of food and musicals?! Contribute to the ‘event’ factor by offering some appetizers and baked goods. Another great avenue to get the parents involved!
  10. Memories. Students will fondly recall the time they were the singing sidekick or a belting baritone! Memories are another way to help share the joy of making music for years to come.

Bottom line: Musicals—when carefully chosen, prepared, and performed—can create a lasting impact on those who experience them. And that is worth “the roar of the greasepaint, and the smell of the crowd!”

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Mark Cabaniss is a music publisher, producer, writer, and educator. He is President/CEO of Jubilate Music Group, based in Brentwood, Tennessee. Two of his elementary musicals (Tom Sawyer & Company and Gilbert and Sullivan Rock!) are published by Alfred Music. www.markcabaniss.com


 

 

Tools to Help You Build Rhythmic Reading Skills

By Sally K. Albrecht

Tools to Help You Build Rhythmic Reading Skills

It’s never too early to integrate rhythmic reading activities into your curriculum, and it’s important to teach and reinforce musical concepts in a variety of ways. For rhythmic reading, try clapping, tapping, chanting, and playing classroom instruments. Alfred offers a wonderful variety of reproducible publications to help!

Rhythm Workshop
575 Reproducible Exercises Designed to Improve Rhythmic Reading Skills
By Sally K. Albrecht
This is an excellent resource designed to encourage and enable students to develop solid rhythmic reading skills! It features 100 pages containing 575 rhythm exercises in a variety of time signatures with concepts introduced and combined together to challenge and motivate your students.

Ready to Read Music
Sequential Lessons in Music Reading Readiness
By Jay Althouse
Just like you need to know the alphabet in order to read text, you need to know the symbols of music before singing or playing! Includes 4 sequential units of 8 lessons each. A very good place to start!

Schoolhouse Raps
8 Educational and Energetic Speech Choir Raps
By Sally K. Albrecht & Melinda B. Smith
This popular and innovative collection of 8 speech choir “raps” is ideal for interdisciplinary study and rhythmic reading!

Let’s Have a Musical Rhythm Band
15 Unique Studies and Arrangements for Rhythmic Reading
By Phoebe Diller
Play rhythm band instruments along with the music of famous classical composers.

Shakin’ It Up!
10 Unison Songs with Rhythm Instruments
By Sally K. Albrecht & Jay Althouse
Each song features a different rhythm band instrument. Some students play, some sing . . . then trade!

Rhythm to the Rescue!
10 Unison Songs in 10 Different Rhythmic Styles with Optional Rhythm Band
By Sally K. Albrecht
Combine clever songs with rhythmic reading and stylistic concepts. Learn the rhythms that go along with the different styles of music. A great way to put all your knowledge together, plus these songs make an entertaining 15-minute performance program.

Playfulness Is an Attitude: A Practice That Revitalizes Teaching and Learning

Peggy D. BennettBy Peggy D. Bennett
Professor Emerita of Music Education at the Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College

With so many restrictions, constrictions, and curricular demands made of educators, your classes and lessons can seem not your own. It can feel as if your aliveness in your classroom has been systematically eroded. And, if you feel depleted of vitality, your students may feel that also. Reviving the passion and enjoyment in teaching and learning is key to offering your best teaching to your students. And, I believe that imaginative playfulness is an extraordinarily effective way to revitalize your energy, your passion, and your enJOYment for teaching.

Playfulness is an attitude. It is a twinkle in the eye and an open, encouraging (sometimes smiling) face to accompany open-ended questions: “I wonder what would happen if …” “Describe what you see …” It is a loosening of rules in order to welcome spontaneity and surprise. Playfulness is the tapping of imaginations as students contribute images and ideas for a rhyme, song, or instrumental recording. It is inventing ways to elicit imaginations and verbalizations as we lead children to study and perform music. It is demonstrating the inflected speech, conversational curiosity, and spontaneous delight that we would like to see in our students as well as ourselves. In short, playfulness can make music come alive for both children and teachers.

To play with nursery rhymes, consider asking these kinds of questions: “Why did that mouse run all the way up to the top of the grandfather clock?” “When the mouse looked down from the top of the clock, what did it see?” Questions such as these help prepare children to create a scene from their own imaginations as they explore the nursery rhyme “Hickory Dickory Dock.” Children can also be “plopped” into the story by giving them a first person voice as the scene unfolds: “Brandon, you are the little mouse. What caused you to run all the way up to the top of that clock?” “Katie mouse, when you looked down to the floor and spotted that cat, were you worried? Why not? How did you know that cat?”

Imaginative play with music masterworks helps children embrace them as beloved treasures and pave the way for listening again and again. Floating down the Moldau River with their friends on a beautiful boat and stopping along the way to describe what they see on the riverbanks can keep children engaged in “performing” Smetana’s symphonic poem about that river. “Oh, my goodness. Look at that crowd of people over there near the Moldau River. What do you think they are doing?” As Americans in Paris with the teacher as the Tour Guide, children stop when Gershwin’s music pauses and the guide tells them about a famous Paris bakery that makes delicious food. “What will you buy when we go into that bakery? … Oh, what kind of cake is your favorite?” The Americans in Paris can also encounter the wild Paris traffic as they try to cross a busy street with very fast drivers, drivers who are also amazingly safe and skillful because they rarely cause a collision.

Tapping into children’s imaginations through playful questions and story-making creates a unique experience with a song, rhyme, or masterwork. Stories give songs, rhymes, and instrumental works meaningful context, especially when the story is created (or partially created) by the children. The images and stories your students create are uniquely theirs for that song. Singing “Skip to My Lou” with “little red wagon painted blue,” one class may decide that the red wagon was painted blue because they didn’t have any more red paint. Another class may decide they painted the red wagon because blue is their favorite color. In answer to “Where are you taking your newly painted wagon?” Joshua may answer “to the store to get some candy.” Kaeli may answer “to my friend’s house so we can take our dolls for a ride.”

Follow-up questions and comments are especially important for energizing imaginative play. To follow up with Joshua’s trip to the candy store, you might ask “What is your favorite candy? … Oh, I like those, too!” “Do you plan to share it with anyone when you get home? … Is it your sister’s favorite candy, too?” “How much do you think it will cost? … That seems like a bargain to me!” With Kaeli, you might continue with “What is the name of your doll? … What an interesting name!” “Where did you get your doll? … Wasn’t that a nice birthday surprise!” “Where will you take your dolls in your wagon? … Be sure to be safe and watch for traffic as you take a trip around your neighborhood.” Frequently interspersing story-making with repeating the song, rhyme, or recording is critical to these questions energizing rather than bogging down the pace of the lesson.

Playfulness does not necessarily involve playing a “game.” But, when playfulness sets the tone for the plans we make, the questions we ask, the inviting facial expressions we display, the trust we show in venturing into a new way of interacting, and the spontaneous decisions we make based on students’ verbal, physical, and musical responses, teachers and students can regain vitality, their sense of liveliness for learning and teaching. And, when we infuse a song with context of meaning by giving it an imaginative story, we sing the song with meaning: we sing it more musically.

You may be wondering how you will find the time to be playful with music activities, given your schedule demands. My experience with infusing imaginative play into songs, rhymes, and classics has convinced me that a brief investment of story-making can transform our experience with the evolving study of the music. I most often hear an energized expressiveness in singing, speaking, and moving as a consequence of children’s creative responses to my open-ended questions. And, when I hear expressive, fluent singing and speaking of songs and rhymes, and see energized, sensitive movement to recordings, I know that we are making music musically.

Activities cited here are published by Alfred Music and may be found in:

Bennett, P.D. (2012). Playing with the Classics: Music Masterworks for Children, Volume 2.

Bennett, P.D. (2011). Playing with the Classics: Music Masterworks for Children, Volume 1.

Bennett, P.D. (2010). RhymePlay: Playing with Children and Mother Goose.

Activities may also be seen at SongWorks for Children: A Video Library of Children Making Music

http://www.oberlin.edu/library/digital/songworks/index.html

Alfred Music Joins Peaksware To Help The World Experience The Joy of Making Music

Andrew Surmani

By Andrew Surmani
Chief Marketing Officer, Alfred Music

Alfred Music is excited to announce today that it is joining the Peaksware Holdings, LLC portfolio of companies. This group includes MakeMusic, Inc., the developer of Finale and SmartMusic, bringing together the leaders in educational music publishing and music technology.

Both Alfred Music and MakeMusic will continue to operate independently. By sharing resources within the Peaksware group, additional investments and innovations will provide additional content and distribution channels for both companies. Specifically, this relationship will not change MakeMusic’s long-standing commitment to work equally with all publishing partners to provide the highest level of quality content for musicians and educators within SmartMusic.

“We are excited to be working with MakeMusic. Alfred Music truly believes in the MakeMusic products which is why we took over exclusive North American and UK distribution of the Finale suite of products in 2013. We also believe strongly in the SmartMusic platform, evidenced by the fact that we are one of its leading content providers. This partnership provides the resources needed to significantly enhance Alfred Music’s mission of helping the world experience the joy of making music,” said Andrew Surmani, Chief Marketing Officer of Alfred Music.” “We are combining the leading music education publisher with the industry leader in music technology to benefit everyone, from our music publishing partners, to music dealers, composers, arrangers, educators, students and independent musicians.”

MakeMusic owns some of the most advanced and patented technology solutions to support the composing, arranging, teaching, learning, and playing of music. Regular updates and innovations to Finale make it the industry standard for music notation software and the trusted creation tool for composers and arrangers around the world. With more than one million students and 20,000 teachers, SmartMusic is at the forefront of interactive learning technologies for the classroom. And, with their recent acquisition of Weezic, an Augmented Sheet Music innovator, SmartMusic will now be available wherever musicians are – on the web, Chromebooks, iPads, Mac and PC.

Alfred Music’s customers, dealers, and industry partners should expect business to continue as usual with no immediate changes. Alfred’s main office will remain in Van Nuys, California and additional offices will stay in their current New York, Miami, UK, Singapore, and Germany locations.

To stay current with further developments, visit the SmartMusic blog or follow Alfred on Twitter and MakeMusic on Twitter.

Character Development

By Michael Souders, Composer and Teacher

Michael and Angela Souders

I once heard a television host say, “If we could just teach our children two things—to be honest and to do what they say they’re going to do—it could transform the future of our nation.” This thought moved me in such a way that I decided to start writing songs to support the teachers in our schools who are educating their students about character.

Of course, character training begins and ends at home, but teachers are with their students for many hours per week. Our influence in their lives is undeniable. Peter Parker (Spiderman) was once told these wise words by his uncle: “With great power comes great responsibility.” As teachers, we are given much power and influence in the development and maturation of our students. And to truly prepare them to interact with the world as adults, it is not only valuable to develop the next science genius, literary superstar, or musical prodigy, but it is incumbent on us to chime in when we are able to support and encourage healthy and strong character development in our students.

Good character qualities (such as good judgment, kindness, courage, perseverance, responsibility, self-discipline, integrity, and respect) are often difficult to define. Sometimes the best thing to do is to talk/sing about situations in which someone would demonstrate a particular trait. This is a moment in which a song can be amazingly powerful in supporting and enhancing the subject! In each verse, there is time to develop a story or a situation that will clearly demonstrate the particular character quality. The concept can then be reinforced through a catchy and repetitive chorus.

Catchy songs are very effective in helping students “gain, retain, and engrain” information. And Alfred Music’s new musical Character Street is chock-full of them. This 30-minute musical is a great vehicle for teaching important life lessons. It’s a resource for music teachers and classroom teachers alike, as you seek out new and fun ways to help students learn and grow in their understanding of what good character is all about.

’Twas the Month Before Christmas

Andy BeckBy Andy Beck, Director of Choral Designs, Classroom, and Vocal Publications

’Twas the month before Christmas, a busy time at school,
But so far I’d managed to maintain my cool.

With extra rehearsals, and concerts, and such,
I started to think, “Have I scheduled too much?

Nursing homes, rotaries, gigs at the mall—
I honestly hope we can handle them all!

There are costumes to alter, and props still to get,
And that’s not to mention, we still need a set.”

Now, being optimistic, I knew we’d get done,
But started to doubt it would be any fun.

It was a typical Friday, at 10:54
(My ten-minute planning, I wish I had more),

With lists all around me, and feeling quite stressed,
I sat down to get some “to-do” things addressed.

When out on the stage, I heard such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a large group of kids from my choir that year.

They weren’t on the risers, just gathered around,
And my instinct at first was to say, “Quiet down.”

But then, when I realized what they’d come here for,
I wasn’t so eager to scold anymore …

Without my instruction, or cues, or a thing,
Suddenly, all of them started to sing.

The altos were flatting, the sopranos were, too.
The very best boys were at home with the flu.

The tempo was dragging, the dynamics were worse,
And most had forgotten the words to the verse.

But despite all the errors, the wrong notes, and flaws,
This beautiful moment, it gave me a pause.

As every last student sang deep from the heart,
I saw very clearly that I’d done my part.

For what could be better than teaching the joy
And the power of music to each girl and boy?

Listening more gave my spirits a lift,
And I’ll always remember this meaningful gift.

Though I was the teacher, my students taught me,
Which may be the best Christmas gift there can be!

Selecting an Elementary Musical for December

Anna WentlentBy Anna Wentlent

There are many factors to consider when selecting a December musical or program: music, script, overall length, specific casting requirements, ensemble size, and—probably the most important—subject matter. As we see it, you have five options: Winter, Santa, Multicultural, Traditional, and Sacred.

Winter

To avoid all mention of the holidays, choose a musical about winter. The choice is especially appropriate for the month of December, when everyone is hoping for the first big snow fall (and snow day). An excellent example is Bring On the Snow!, a variety show of songs and sketches for a “snowlarious” winter. Skits include a pair of wisecracking reindeer, a snowflake ballet class, and a directionally-challenged family of geese. Songs include “Blizzard on the Way” and “Hot Chocolate!”

Santa

A Santa musical will appeal to almost every member of your audience by highlighting the secular aspects of the holiday that we all loved as children—Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the rest of the gang at the North Pole. Crazy Christmas is a series of nine Santa-themed songs that can be programmed individually or staged as a complete program using the optional script. Songs include “Santa’s Job Is a Snap” and “The Reindeer Rock.”

Multicultural

A multicultural musical in an inclusive and educational option for December. This choice allows you to acknowledge the “reason for the season” in a broad way with an overview of all of the holidays—Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. The plot of December Nights, December Lights centers on a group of young students who learn about the ways that people celebrate with their families in different cultures. Songs include “Light the Candles (For Eight Nights)” and “La Fiesta de la Posada.”

Traditional

If you teach in a conventional school district in a predominantly Christian community, consider programming a traditional musical that tells the Christmas story with an educational (rather than worshipful) approach. Our Annual Christmas Pageant is a classic story about the frantic final rehearsal and last minute auditions before the annual Christmas pageant. The score is comprised of traditional carols, such as “Silent Night” and “We Three Kings.”

Sacred

For Christian schools and churches, a truly sacred musical is appropriate. Funny yet touching, Miracle at the Christmas Café tells the Christmas story from the perspective of Polly Porkchop at the Christmas Café in Bethlehem. Songs include “Everlasting Light” and “The Hope of All the World.”

As you make your decision, remember that one of the reasons for producing a December musical is the feeling it will bring your students and audience members. What type of musical will leave a smile on their faces as they walk out into the snowy night after your performance? You know your own school or church community. Choose accordingly!

Additional Recommended Musicals for December

Winter:
Freeze Frame!
The Big Chill
Snow Way Out
Stormy, the Singing Snowman

Santa:
Broadway Santa
Santa’s Rockin’ Christmas Eve
Santa’s Stuck in the 50’s
A Christmas Line

Multicultural:
Fiesta! The Legend of the Poinsettia
A World of Christmas
December Gifts

Traditional:
The Christmas Dove & the Woodcutter
The Shiniest Star
A Minibeast Christmas

Sacred:
Noel Critter Motel
The Christmas Cobweb

Planning a Concert with Your Audience in Mind

By Jan Farrar-Royce

Jan Farrar-RoyceWhen my ensembles play at a concert, I want to hear a band parent say they enjoyed listening to the orchestra’s performance! I think that when we are choosing pieces for our presentations, we should consider not only the educational aspect of the program but the entertaining aspect as well.

Familiar pieces, especially those with lyrics, allow every listener to become invested in the performance. If you decide on a familiar piece for a concert, you might even include the lyrics on an insert in the printed program. Maybe members of your audience will want you to play that piece a second time so that they can sing along!

You can also monitor your students’ research of pieces and composers to create program notes for the printed program or, better still, have different students speak to the audience before each piece. Talking to the audience puts a friendly and accessible face on your performance, and you may discover that one of the players from the back of a section may be a wonderful researcher and/or speaker!

Another way to encourage your audience members to be active listeners is to tell them an interesting musical or historical fact about each piece or something the musicians learned by playing this piece. John Feierabend of The Hartt School calls this approach to performing an “informance.” Pointing out something in the music that the audience might listen for can be a lot of fun. Plus, it is good education for everyone, great PR for your string program, and a more fun approach to performing!

You Want Me to Teach What? Transitioning to the Elementary Music Classroom

By Mari Schay and Michael TolonSchay

You’re a secondary instrumental or choral specialist, newly assigned to the general music classroom. What now? First, take a breath, calm down, and then read this book. Two experienced teachers who conquered this challenge offer practical advice with great care and wit. Chapters of the book address attitude, school environment, classroom management, curriculum and assessment, and student performance. Read on for an excerpt from the opening chapter.

Director/Conductor vs. Teacher

Many middle and high school music educators refer to themselves as “director” or “conductor” as in, “I’m a high school band director” or “I am a middle school choral conductor.” When you move to elementary school, though, you become a teacher. The key difference between a director/conductor and a teacher is that a director is refining existing skills and working toward beautiful performances, while a teacher is developing new skills so a director can eventually take over.

Elementary music is not just pre-band, pre-orchestra, or pre-choir training. Your primary job is to instill a love of music, as well as to develop musical skills, in kids who may walk in the door with no musical experience whatsoever. Singing a simple song may be a completely new experience. Keeping a steady beat may take time. This can feel overwhelmingly slow to a teacher used to conducting nuanced ensemble literature; however, if you plan well and deliver lessons with joy and enthusiasm, the kids will love music … and, as their music teacher, you will begin to see the necessity of a great teacher in the early years.

The importance of professional development cannot be stressed enough. I will admit that as a high school band director, I did not seek out colleagues or attend my state music conference often enough. I learned the hard way that by skipping professional development opportunities, my effectiveness as a teacher was lessened. Not only did my skills suffer, my standing with my fellow directors was hurt. My sense of isolation was of my own doing.

The ability to attend a conference, find professional development opportunities, or simply sit and share with another colleague will become vitally important in helping you gain new skills, sharpen old ones, and meet fellow music teachers. Ah! Yes, young grasshopper, you are not alone in the universe. Inspiration will come in many, many forms.