Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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Role of Joyful Music

September 18, 2020

Report from Wolf Brown

Dennie Palmer Wolf is a friend of Maine Arts Education having been the consultant in our first state wide census that was a project of the Maine Alliance for Arts Education. The Maine Department of Education and the Maine Arts Commission collaborated on the project in 2007.

In July 2020 Wolf Brown released a report for the Bernard van leer Foundation called Making a Joyful Noise: The Potential Role of Music Making in the Well-Being of Young Families. I encourage you to download the report (no matter what grade level you teach) and use segments of it to support your music programs. It is timely with the pandemic dictating parents to take a more active role in their child’s education. We know it is critical that the school and home teaching and learning be filled with balance. Not to mention the enormous benefits to the development of young children and how to support learners on the ‘human’ side through all of this.

The report highlights several areas and provides a substantial overview of why music is important to our youngest learners. It is broken down by periods of development; Pre and Perinatal Period, Early Infancy: 2-5 Months, Later Infancy: 6-12 Months, Interdependence and Autonomy: 1-3 Years, and Expanded Learning: 4-5 Years. Researchers looked closely at programs across the country and around the world. Schools with pre-school programs would find this report useful. Many of our students have younger brothers and sisters so sharing the report through school and district newsletters would help build future elementary programs.

Wolf Brown include techniques and activities for adults to guide young children in their development and joy of making music, what an emphasis on music provides young children and families, and how music impacts their well being and social emotional learning.

Interestingly enough the opening report statement on “why music matters” is comprehensive and supports why music matters for every individual and family in the world.

Find the report at THIS LINK

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Safe at School

September 14, 2020

Keeping arts ed there!

 

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New Blog

September 8, 2020

Bill Buzza

Bill at the Richard Rodgers Theater, NYC, set of Hamilton

Many of you know veteran music educator (27 years) Bill Buzza. He’s one of those people who has a warm smile and a soft voice. And, he’s such a thoughtful person that when he enters a conversation you know he’s listening carefully to what you’re saying (and not focusing on how he’ll respond). Bill is the music teacher/band director at Edward Little High School in Auburn.

Just like the rest of us he’s been dealing with the pandemic since March 13. Always one for thinking deeply Bill decided to start a blog that will document his learning and begin a dialogue.  Bill’s calling it Teaching Instrumental Music During COVID-19.

Bill says: As I think about the coming year, I anticipate many new experiences and a journey that will redefine my career of instrumental music education.

This is a great opportunity for you to read about Bill’s experiences and know that you’re not alone. While thinking about returning to school and all the details of it Bill’s been doing research on how to play an instrument with a face mask on. Yes, of course you can read all about it on Bill’s blog. Subscribe in the sidebar of the front page of the blog.

Bill earned his M.S. Ed in Educational Leadership from the University of New England and B.M. in Music Education from the University of Southern Maine. At Edward Little High School, he conducts the concert, marching, pep and jazz bands. He also teaches three levels of guitar, and a beginning band class. Bill was a Finalist for the 2011 Maine Teacher of the Year and was chosen as a Teacher Leader, phase 1, of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI). He also served on the MALI Leadership Team.

Phase 2, MAAI/MALI, Bill front row, 1st on left

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Spoken Word

September 7, 2020

Brandon Leake – America’s Got Talent

I’ve been thinking, listening, reading, having conversations and researching on how to address racial justice in my teaching and learning. I think the world works in magical ways when ‘stuff’ happens that I’m not looking for. And sometimes ‘different stuff’ intersects which, in this case, has led to this blog post.

First I want to say that my favorite podcast at the moment is Cult of Pedagogy started by a middle school Language Arts teacher Jennifer Gonzalez. Jennifer has brought together an experienced group of educators who help make the Cult of Pedagogy. If you’re looking for a podcast that will push on your thinking and curious where you might find ideas that are sometimes raw and grounded in reality combined with thoughtful educational research, then I suggest that you check out Cult of Pedagogy. Many of the episodes are Jennifer’s interviews with teachers, learning experts, parents, and other people who make things happen in education. There are a handful on the social justice topic. If you’d rather read than listen, each new episode comes out also in an email, on Sunday’s. You can learn about all that she has to offer and sign up for her weekly emails on the START HERE PAGE. An example of the podcast resources that Jennifer provides is episode #147 Why White Students Need Multicultural and Social Justice Education  from June 7th an interview with Sheldon Eakins who founded the Leading Equity Center, an online resource for educators.

I was first introduced to poetry by my 7th grade language arts teacher Mrs. Leeds. Each week on Friday we would learn about a poem, write it down in our poetry notebook, and over the next week memorize it and each student in my class would stand and recite it. I can dig into my memory today and recite Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and In Flanders Fields by John McCrae and probably a few others. Every so often I rediscover my poetry notebook and think about how nervous I was standing up in my front my class. I don’t recall actually learning how to recite poetry. We’ve come a long way in this area; now we have poetry slams, hip hop, jazz poetry, beat poetry, spoken word, and Poetry Out Loud (POL). POL is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies. The Maine Arts Commission administers the recitation program.

I’ve been curious for some time about how ‘poetry’ has, for the most part, been taught in English or language arts class. Why poetry is considered an art form yet in schools we don’t include it when we reference visual and performing arts. In our standards documents it’s not clearly defined as part of the arts. When I try putting poetry in context I explain it like this: in schools poetry is behind the English teaching door and in the real world it is part of the performance arena.

I wanted to better understand this separation so I did a little sleuthing on the internet and, of course, I start with the Greeks. From the Ancient Greek word ποιεω (pronounced poieo) which means ‘I create’. Definition: an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional and semantic content. In most poetry, it is the connotations and the “baggage” that words carry (the weight of words) that are most important. Poetry.org.

And further on about ‘spoken word’. Spoken word is poetry, and more recently spoken word poetic performance art that is word-based. It is an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play such as intonation and voice inflection. It is a “catchall” term that includes any kind of poetry recited aloud… Unlike written poetry, it has less to do with physical, on the page aesthetics and more to do with phonaesthetics, or the aesthetics of sound. Wikipedia

A focus on words, sounds, presentations and performances using poetry has become more prevalent in our society since about the 1980’s but certainly it is embedded and has been for years in many cultures and their traditions. The connection between poetry as a performance and music is closely aligned.

In fact, in Ancient Greece, the spoken word was the most trusted repository for the best of their thought, and inducements would be offered to men (such as the rhapsodes) who set themselves the task of developing minds capable of retaining and voices capable of communicating the treasures of their culture.

I think poetry’s biggest potential is to light kids up and engage them in learning about themselves and the world. If only Mrs. Leeds had someone guide her in the pedagogy of teaching poetry. A good reason to promote integrated curriculum.

Here’s where the intersection of learning takes place for me. On my phone last week a video from America’s Got Talent popped up. A powerful performance by Spoken Word Artist Brandon Leake began to help me formulate curriculum for racial justice. You can LEARN more about Brandon and the organization he established Called to Move. I suggest using Brandon’s performance with your students.

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Drumming

July 30, 2020

8 year old on the drums

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Bridge Over Troubled Water

July 30, 2020

Beautiful voices of children

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Two Songs and One Story

July 17, 2020

A light touch with meaning

In 1985 Barbara Cooney wrote the children’s book Miss Rumphius and interwoven through the book is the simple message: “do something to make the world more beautiful.” 

Last month in the DownEast magazine Virginia M. Wright wrote the article Why We Love Miss Rumphius Now More Than EverThe message is one that all Maine citizens can relate to as we drive anywhere in Maine these days and see the lupines growing. It’s an amazing site to behold and a chance to pause and consider ~what am I doing to make the world a more beautiful place? 

I sat next to Barbara Cooney on a plane in 1990. As the article says: Barbara Cooney didn’t care for sugary tales. “It does not hurt [children] to read about good and evil, love and hate, life and death,” the author and illustrator said in her 1959 Caldecott Award acceptance speech. “Nor do I think they should read only about things that they understand. … A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. So should a child’s. I will never talk down to — or draw down to — children.”

We have an opportunity as educators to read and learn and consider what action to take about what is going on in the world. If you’re looking for RESOURCES please check out the BLOG POST that is growing everyday with Social Justice resources.

Don’t Worry Be Happy

What the World Needs Now

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MMEA Statement

June 27, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Maine Music Educators Association (MMEA) unequivocally affirms that Black Lives Matter and that the horror of systemic racism and violence perpetrated against Black people must end.
The mission of the Maine Music Educators Association is to promote and advance music education for all students. Affirming that Black Lives Matter everywhere—in our classrooms and communities—is fundamental to our mission as an organization. MMEA has not done enough to address systemic racism and to support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).
Our practices and curricula must elevate the lives, voices, experiences, cultures, and histories of Black and other marginalized people. We must begin by addressing gaps in our knowledge. We are called to fundamentally transform the school experiences of our students, shifting from non-racist to true anti-racist teaching. This requires continuous and deliberate reflection and change within MMEA, as well as at an individual, school, and district level.
Effecting change is going to be long term, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable, but it is necessary. MMEA is committed to supporting music educators, students, performing artists, and community members as we begin this work.
We must listen to and amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We must do it together. In the coming weeks, the MMEA will provide resources while preliminary actionable steps are developed. We invite you to join us with this important work.
Black Lives Matter
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Tracy’s COVID Teaching Story +

June 24, 2020

Music teacher extraordinaire

Tracy Williamson

My musical career started in 4th grade when I picked up the flute in the beginning band at Metcalf Middle School in Exeter-West Greenwich, RI. My middle school music teacher, Joe Smith, was an inspiration to me and all my classmates. He was quirky, fun, and taught us interesting and different music.  It was truly an amazing middle school music experience. I would definitely say that he inspired me to be the kind of teacher I am today. 

I went to Boston University for my Bachelors degree in Flute Performance and to Boston Conservatory after that for my Masters degree in Flute Performance and Music Education. I then moved up to Maine and finished my certification requirements through USM while playing in the Southern Maine Community Orchestra and continuing to seek out performance opportunities in the area.

My first teaching job was at Marion T. Morse Elementary School in Lisbon Falls teaching K-5 General Music and beginning band. I was hired at Gorham Middle School (GMS) in 2003 when the school was built and I was tasked with developing a brand new middle school music program that had not previously existed. Currently I teach General Music to all 6th & 7th grade students, Chorus for middle school and Steel Band to middle and high school students. My amazing colleague, Rose Skillling, also teaches GMS General Music as well as the Band and Jazz Band program.

I have always been a huge proponent of educational technology and the positive impact it can have on music education particularly in schedules where we see students so infrequently. dHaving Apple devices, a large portion of my curriculum has been based in Garage Band for many years. So when our technology director announced that the entire 6th grade would be moving to Chromebooks a few years ago I had a panic attack thinking I was going to completely lose the amazing possibilities I had opened up for the students. I did some research and I found a couple of apps that would work on the Chromebooks in a similar way and thankfully administration was super supportive and on board with purchasing Soundtrap and WeVideo for every student in the 6th grade.  Unbeknownst to me, this was about to open up a whole new avenue of connections across the world for me and the students.

At the time, Soundtrap, a small company based in Sweden, was still only a few years old and not that well known. But there happened to be a Maine educator who had connected with them and taken a position as an educational consultant. I quickly connected with her, and we teamed up to present Soundtrap at the student MLTI conference the same year I introduced the software to my curriculum. From there, the opportunities for sharing student work, lessons, ideas, connecting with music educators, blog posts, and articles just kept coming. Soundtrap has since been acquired by Spotify and is being widely used by educators and musicians. In January of 2020, through Soundtrap, I connected with the Society for Online Music Education and was invited to direct a Virtual Choir project for the International Music Education Summit to be premiered in mid-March. There were a couple of other Virtual Choir projects out there that I knew about but this was to be a new vision, one that included collaboration amongst participants, making Soundtrap the ideal software to use. We had a handful of teachers signed up for the pilot project. Things were going calmly and smoothly, and then COVID-19 hit us.

With the swift move to on-line learning, every music educator in the world immediately started to seek out virtual ensembles for students to participate in. Our project was quickly populated with hundreds of teachers and students and my director position got a lot more complicated! I asked two Maine colleagues, Rachel Scala-Bolduc and Patrick Volker, to help create vocal practice tracks to support the diverse group of new participants. Another music educator who teaches full-time at a virtual school suggested I try a Zoom rehearsal for participants to help them learn the parts. She hosted a how-to-run-a-virtual-rehearsal webinar that I participated in which ended up being an invaluable resource. The edit of the recordings took many, many hours of organizing, communicating, editing, and figuring out how to make the best quality audio. At one point I was playing the tracks for my husband and he suggested just dipping the volume at a certain point and it made a huge difference! During another moment of frustration, I listened to one of Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choirs to get some inspiration and realized that reverb was a key component to blending the voices that I had yet to try. I am so thankful for this learning opportunity because it gave me a head start for what was to come with the extension of distance learning to the end of the year.

As soon as our school announced the closure in March, I set up Zoom virtual rehearsals with the Chorus classes right away. We continued rehearsing just the same as we had in school. The only difference being, I couldn’t hear them as a group and they couldn’t hear each other. We experimented together, recorded during Zooms, recorded after Zooms, talked about other apps that might accommodate multiple singers, but we just kept on our path of our end-of-year performance goals and figured out everything together along the way. The students continued learning music we had started in school and also learned new music purely through our virtual rehearsals. In the end, they have recorded six pieces of music during our time home due to COVID-19, all of which I am turning into virtual choir videos to serve as our “spring performance”. While this is certainly not an ideal scenario for ensembles to rehearse, it is temporary and it can be successful!  

Unfortunately, because the steel pans are housed at school, and the steel band program is extracurricular, that is now in a bit of a holding pattern until we know the future of getting back into the school this Fall.  I have been researching apps that could provide some type of virtual pan experience to get the students by in the meantime and I have been in communication with our facilities department about potentially holding outdoor  parking lot rehearsals for steel band next year.

General Music Class was another whole challenge when we moved to distance learning! At GMS, students have 7-9 week rotations of Allied Arts. Both the 6th & 7th Grade Music Classes were about halfway through the rotation when we moved to online classes so we had established relationships and structures ahead of time. However, the student rotation change to a new Allied Arts class was scheduled for right after April break. This meant students and teachers connecting with and getting to know each other for the first time in a new content area, virtually.  As an Allied Arts team we worked together to help our current classes connect with the next teacher through Google Classroom. In Music Class, we introduced a Tabata composition project that combined physical activity and Music to help make the Music to PE transition smoother. The last rotation has been a challenge. It has been difficult to connect with kids with the asynchronous model that our district adopted due to many class meetings happening simultaneously. I have learned a lot about what I need to change in order to effectively teach new music concepts to individuals in an online format as opposed to a full group in person where we utilize a lot of repetition and group collaboration to help support learning. Although there are plenty of other variables in a new grouping of students, there was a marked difference in the performance of the General Music students who started before distance learning and those who started purely in the online format. This summer, my colleague and I plan to meet to talk about some of these challenges and make plans for how we can better teach General Music class should we remain in distance learning this Fall.

There have been a lot of worries circulating amongst Music teachers with research studies outlining the risks of the high transmission rate of COVID-19 through singing and instrument playing in conjunction with news of music educators being laid off in districts around the country.  The best thing we can do right now is to show our communities and administrators that, despite temporary limitations, music can and should still continue in our schools regardless of whether we are in the building or learning remotely. Think of solutions that will work and suggest them to colleagues and administrators before something is suggested for you! That also requires creativity, experimenting and out of the box thinking from all music educators. During the last few months, I had an overall participation rate of about 80% in my chorus students with a couple of overwhelmed students asking to drop and a couple of students asking to join because their schedule was suddenly free to do so. I had students completing Music Class work first thing in the morning saying they liked to do “the fun stuff” first. I had parents emailing about how much fun they had helping their child compose music or how amazing it was to hear the final virtual choir recording after hearing their child singing their part alone at home. The more success stories we share, the more everyone will continue to see the value in continued music and arts education whether we are teaching in the comfort of our classrooms or through the virtual world.  

Here are the various end-products I’ve worked on with the GMS Virtual Chorus:

“I See Colors” – May 2020

Audio recorded in Soundtrap, edited in Garage Band, video collected in Flipgrid, edited in iMovie, collage and effects in WeVideo:

 

“Home” – April 2020

Audio recorded in Soundtrap, edited in Garage Band, slideshow videos of staff messages collected in Flipgrid, compiled in iMovie:

 

“Between the Bells” – March 2020

Audio recorded in Soundtrap, edited in Garage Band, stock images from pexels.com, lyrics added in Adobe After Effects:

 

“The Tiger” – May 2020

Audio recorded in Soundtrap, edited in Garage Band, video recorded in a Zoom session, compiled and lyrics & effects added in WeVideo:

 

“The Never Ending Story” – June 2020

Audio recorded in Soundtrap, edited in Garage Band, pictures from the Gorham MIddle School Facebook page, compiled in iMovie:

 

6th Grade General Music:

“Tabata Soundtrack Project”  

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Young Artist’s in Quarantine

June 23, 2020

Student’s share their stories

This is part of a series highlighting the stories of young artists in quarantine. The period of free time that many people are experiencing has led to a sense of freedom in creating– when not held back by the standards expected by society and in much of art education (or needing to prove talent/fill resumes) it’s incredible what can be done. Alone in your room with just a paintbrush or guitar has led many students to find a new independence in art when they have the ability to create just for themselves. We’re hoping that by telling these stories, a change will occur in the way we approach arts education, to focus on the growth of the individual, even after quarantine comes to an end. Thank you Robyn Walker-Spencer, 2020 graduate, Camden Hills Regional High School, for launching this series of young artists in quarantine.

This post is written by Caleb Edwards who will be a senior at Watershed School in Camden in the fall.

What instruments do you play and what is your artist medium?

  • I play violin, piano, drums, mandolin, and I sing. I draw with colored pencils.

When did you start making art and playing music?

  • I started playing violin at age 8 and picked up other instruments over the years. I have been drawing forever, but I guess I started taking it seriously in middle school.

What experiences have you had with arts education in the past that shaped your experience?

  • My Waldorf School elementary experience definitely sparked my interests in the arts, especially life drawing.

What role does art and music play in your life now?

  • Music is everything for me and I am hoping to go to college for music production and composition I’ve picked up a few more instruments one the years since I started playing the violin. I also work with Logic Pro and produce both my music and help other artists on recording.

How has quarantine changed the way you approach art (new sense of independence/freedom)?

  • I think the extra time has had the biggest impact. I did a month-long project through a media class at school which I wrote and recorded a piece of music everyday. This turned into a welcome routine in my life and the outcome is a large collection of work I can draw from in the future.

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