Sometimes unexpected things happen in the music room. Today was one of those days. One of my young students asked if he could sing a song for the class. I love to encourage my students to share the music-making they engage in both in and outside of the classroom so happily agreed. With the students settled in, he opened his mouth to sing and the most beautiful sound filled the room. Have a listen and judge for yourself!
We love folk-dancing in the music room! It's a wonderful way to connect with friends, get some exercise, enjoy some wonderful music and have some fun. Folk dancing is also a wonderful way to help students build an understanding of form and structure in music. Here are our grade two students enjoying some polka!
We play with rhythm a lot in the music room. One we do that is to create/use poems and turn them into body percussion rhythmic pieces. Watch some of our littlest students perform this poem complete with their chosen body percussion movements and make sure you pay attention to the rests at the end of the phrases - you can see these little guys really "hearing" and "feeling" the spaces/silences that make rhythm so exciting. Respecting the rest/silence in music is not always easy for our littles but these students demonstrate it beautifully!
The Massachusetts Music Educators Association is made up of school music teachers from across the Commonwealth. Eastern District encompasses the city of Boston and 29 surrounding cities and towns. Every year, students in grades 3-8 are invited to participate in a General Music Festival. This is an opportunity for students to come together for a day of singing, creating, and instrument playing under the direction of some of our finest music educators.
This year's festival took place on November 4th at Avery Elementary School, Dedham where some of our grade 3 Wheelock students learned, had fun, and got to interact with students from all over the district. The clinicians for the day, Ken Trapp, Eytan Wurman, Kayla McGarr, and David Piper, taught Ukulele, Bucket Drumming, Singing, and Folk Dancing.
We are so grateful to our own Medfield Music Association for kindly sponsorign this wonderful opportunity for our students.
September is all about beat and rhythm in our lively music room and there's been no shortage of movement activities to help reinforce the rhythmic experience. Our grade two and grade three students have been exploring beat and its many iterations and examining its relationship with rhythm as they explore a variety of ways to move around the classroom. We have used both creative movement that is more free-flowing as well as hand clapping games and dances. Both grades have been creating rhythm patterns (improvising) and playing them on drums or body percussion. We've also been exploring the different sounds we can make with our voices.
In the clip below our grade two students clean the music room but notice what happens when the music changes......! It's dance party time! Students are growing in their ability to notice form and organisation in music and after their dance /cleaning experience we discuss how music is organized in sections that are sometimes the same and sometimes different.
What an incredible night we had at Fine Arts Night, 2017. It was so exciting to share our student’s successes in art and music . The result was an amazing work of creativity. All the props were created by grade 2-3 students under the supervision of Ms. Babin where students volunteered artistic and design ideas. One of our favorite quotes came from a student who remarked with joy a few weeks ago to Ms. Babin as she was busily working on a prop...: “I think it’s cool how you and Mrs. Stover work together to make this happen. That’s just what you teach us to do.”
"Our Wheelock students ... on a path for a lifetime of meaningful participation in the arts!"
It’s not just in art that our students demonstrated creativity, they created music too. Our students lived and breathed the Aztec folktale ‘Musicians of the Sun’ and it was a wonderful jumping off point for lots of imaginative and musical play - exactly where our young students need to be. Each of the dances were imagined, created and refined by students. They also created some of the instrument parts; made decisions about instruments to use; wrote lyrics for certain songs; made decisions about how to structure and organize each piece all while following the artistic process of imagine, create, refine and analyze. And it all started with a story almost as old as time itself….. Ms. Babin and I are confident that the skills our Wheelock students have learned this year have set them on a path for a lifetime of meaningful participation in the arts.
A few weeks ago I got a phone call. It was from my cousin. She was calling to let me know that her father was dying. "It will be soon. He is at home. He is comfortable." she said. Within a few days I was driving north to bid my farewell. I am fortunate to sing with a Threshold Choir in Rhode Island. Threshold Choirs sing at the bedside of those transitioning from life to death. To learn more about Threshold Choirs view the video on the right or visit https://ThresholdChoir.org
Reflecting in the car I fondly recalled how much he had loved his Irish heritage, and his faith. I caught myself humming bits of songs from old Ireland as I drove. Ballads about emigration, stories of the old ways of life, songs reminiscent of family and faith and friendships and old loves all competed for my attention as the miles rolled by...
"Can I sing to him?" I asked upon arrival. With just he and I in the room I shared my musical reminiscing with him. He wasn't conscious but I trusted he could hear me. After all, science tells us that hearing is the first sense to be developed in utero and the last sense to go at the end of life. I held his hand and sang...softly, quietly. It was an intimate sharing of a common musical heritage, nothing dramatic, nothing "performance-worthy" just he and I and the notes - hanging suspended around us in a profound moment of sacred grace. I watched his breath as he labored - in and out--, in and out, the rhythm uneven between the out and the in leaving me wondering and watching to see if each was to be the last...
Two days later I received the word. "He's gone," she said. "It was peaceful. He just slipped away in the middle of the night. It was what he would have wanted..."
Days later I was on the road again...this time to a funeral, or a celebration of life for his was a life to be celebrated. The church was full for he was a man who had touched many people's lives. "Can you sing for him one last time? Sing for us?" she asked. At the appointed time I took my place and looked out at those grieving faces yet all grateful for having known him. I closed my eyes and summoned forth an old Gaelic hymn sung in the old language and in the old 'sean nós' style, mournful and healing all at once and in that strange way that music and song move us I heard the sobs and the tears as the grief was unlocked bringing much needed emotional release. We were singing him home...and singing each other further along our own journeys. We were unified and satisfied and comforted in our communal musical experience.
As a music educator this is what I want to make possible for my students... that they may own the songs of their culture and heritage; that they may have the confidence to share their voice with others in all kinds of life situations; that they can sing to celebrate a birthday, win the heart of a loved one or to rock a baby to sleep; that they may know how to use music as the soundtrack of their life to unlock those deep feelings and emotions that sometimes need coaxing out of even deeper places; and that they can sing their own loved ones home when the time comes.
This is why we do it. This is why it's important. Come sing with me. We'll sing each other home...
I had my first "formal" cello lesson last night (although I've been noodling around for a while). Apparently I now have a new nickname... "Yo Yo Mom"!
Being back in the role of student is a breath of fresh air for me. My cello instructor must be twenty years younger than me and she tentatively leaned close to me and said with delightful earnestness "is it okay if we just work on bow hold for now? I thought I should check in because I don't want to overwhelm you with technique right away...." My immediate response was "Are you kidding me...I am soaking this up - don't stop!" (I think we're going to get on great together!) I also got the message loud and clear that my bow technique needs a lot of work!
Being on the other end of the student-teacher relationship I was struck by how powerful my instructor's analogies were. Her images were clear, relatable and made so much sense. "Think of the relationship between the bow and the string as if you are cutting down a tree. Go with the grain for the least amount of resistance." A small adjustment of my bowing arm and immediately my tone was SOOOO much better, (not Carnegie Hall better of course - progress is, after all, relative!).
It makes me think of the imagery I use in my own classroom with my students when they are struggling to completely cover the holes on a recorder; or to find just the right amount of air to channel through to make a sound that doesn't hurt one's ears; or trying to coordinate the intricacies of fingering and articulation. As elementary music educators we are tasked with building musical understanding; developing students' ability to "converse" musically; as well as with developing singing skills; instrumental skills; and music literacy. It is no small feat and overwhelming many days given the sheer number of students we see and the amount of time we have with them.
But my new identity as "Yo Yo Mom" reminds me not to forget the power of the relatable analogy, and that skills take time to build..... and that joy is a welcome guest in an effective classroom.
I'm a toe-tappin, guitar-pickin', hummin' 'n drummin' spouse, and mom to three kids. I love being in nature, kayaking, travelling with my family, tending to my beehives and chickens and walking and training my crazy dog. Engaging with the world musically is very important to me. It's where I get my joy! Contact Mrs. Stover at firstname.lastname@example.org
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