Saturday, May 16, 2015

Miller and Me

I am fairly certain most folks have heard of the book entitled, "Marley and Me." Or if not, maybe you saw the movie.  That particular book had a rather sad ending; this particular story does not.

This is a story about "Miller and Me."  Our story began when Miller was 4-years old and singing in my children's choir at church.  Miller was a beautiful child, inside and out.  Miller loved to dance, but had not yet found her singing voice.  It was my job to help her find it and use it "for the glory of God" for as long as she was in my choir.  She stayed two years.  At the time, I was unaware that her mother was an elementary school principal.  All I knew was that Miller had a tough time sitting still and that she had severe food allergies. I related with this particular parent; my son had the same problem.

When Miller turned 5, she began kindergarten at one of the top-notch elementary schools in Northeast Florida.  This was the same school where her mother was principal.  My baby was two years behind Miller in school, so when it was time for him to start kindergarten, I decided to look for work as a music teacher in the public school system.  I had been teaching music at a private pre-school and was hoping for a full-time job the following school year.  The headmaster at the K-8 school that was attached to this pre-school had interviewed me and wanted to hire me as their full-time music teacher.  My heart was very unsettled on the matter, so I could not commit to her offer.  It wasn't until several weeks later, that I discovered why....

The bass player on our church's worship team played at a wedding one Saturday night with the music teacher at an elementary school in Duval County.  He informed me that the current teacher's wife had been transferred and he would be moving at the end of the school year.  Not ever being one to waste time, I did an online search only to discover that the principal of this particular elementary school was Miller's mother.  And, so it began.  The story of "Miller and Me" and our musical journey together.

Her mother hired me part-time my first year with the understanding that as soon as she could, she would move me to full-time. This was at a time when music was being cut at the elementary level all across the district.  My mom and I spent two weeks over the summer in "my" classroom cleaning it up and getting it ready, although my paperwork had not yet been finalized.  I even showed up for work at the start of the school year - I worked two full weeks - and still had no idea if I actually had the job.  Towards the end of the second week of school, I was passing through the cafeteria during lunch to check on my own little kindergartener and the principal smiled at me from across the cafeteria and gave me a big "thumbs-up."  I knew at that moment, God had intervened and it was official.  I was an elementary music teacher at the best school in the system! And my kids got to go with me!!

I remained in that teaching position for the next nine years - the longest I had ever held a position in my entire life. I was Miller's music teacher until she moved on to Middle School.  Last year, Miller and I reconnected when I accepted a position as the Director of Choral Studies at my former high school.  She and I have spent the last two years together in chorus - I as her teacher, she as my student.  At our Spring Concert, it is tradition to celebrate our seniors.  There she little Miller....on the stage proclaiming to the world that she would be attending Clemson University in the fall and performing with the Tiger Dance Team.  That was a very proud moment for me.  Her mother stood at the edge of the stage with tears in her eyes thanking me for being such an incredible part of her daughter's life-journey. 

This time of year is always bittersweet for a teacher.  My seniors graduate and move on in their life-journey.  Some will come back and visit; others will not.  This particular student will forever be a part of my life and emblazoned on my heart.  So will her mother.

Miller, you now have permission to call me by my first name.  That is what grown-ups do.  Congratulations on graduating from high school and making the Tiger Dance Team!!  I am so proud of you!!  Wishing you the best, now and always.  Love you - Mrs. Tamburrino

Mrs. Tamburrino and Miller
Until next time...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Opening of the Beaches Parade 2015

90 degrees and sunny, with a decent breeze blowing (depending on which way you were facing).  I forgot to ask someone to take my picture while marching, so you get the preparatory pix.

Purple shoes.......check.
Workout gloves........check.

Warming up at Wells Fargo

We usually go first in the line-up, but they changed that this year.  We finally stepped-off at 2:15.  Thankful it didn't rain on our parade, although, it may have been refreshing at the 1-mile point.

Saw a couple of chorus kids and one keyboard kid on the parade route.  Always fun to see folks you know lined up along the street.  It's nice that they come out and cheer on the band.  After all, we are the "Pride of the Beaches."

I told the band director that this was the 69th year this parade had been held and I bet I was the first ever to march with a tambourine.  It is fitting.  My last name is Tamburrino!!

Until next time...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Recruiting for Chorus

Today, we made the mad-dash across Seagate Avenue to join the FHS Drum Line and Color Guard on their annual recruiting trip to our feeder school.  Although we were missing quite a few seniors because of Grad Bash, we decided to go anyway!

The chorus teacher at the middle school invited us over early to warm-up in the room where she was teaching a 6th grade chorus class.  We sang several vocalises for them and my Ladies Chamber Chorus sang "Cantate Domino."  We finished our time together by singing a medley of Disney songs from "Beauty and the Beast," "The Jungle Book" and "Mary Poppins."  The kids seemed to enjoy the experience and it was good for my students to step outside of our classroom and share their gift of song with others.

We then made our way to the gymnasium for an 8th grade assembly.  We sang, the Color Guard twirled and the Drum Line wrapped up the event for everyone.  At the conclusion of the program, two of my boys from the elementary school where I previously taught came flying off the bleachers and ran across the gym to give me a hug.  It was awesome!! I hadn't seen those boys in years and they were so excited to see me.  That made my day!!

This is the very room in which my choral conducting career began.....
(circa 1973)
Good times.....

Friday, April 10, 2015

Seniors 2015

Wednesday was a spectacular day to take a senior photo on the beach!!  

Last year, we suffered through a nor'easter to try to get a photo taken and it was pretty funny.  If I placed the students with their back to the ocean, their hair flew perpendicular to their faces and it was hilarious.  We had to settle with the condos along the coastline as our backdrop for the Senior plaque in 2014.  Real bummer!

This year, we had a much better opportunity and I am grateful to Hannah for taking time out of her busy day to assist with the annual photo shoot.  My choice for the plaque is the shot in which a seagull photo-bombed the chorus members, but this one is the groups' "Class of 2015" shot.

See their hands?  2 - 0 - 1 - 5

And, of course, there has to be a goofy one...

I would post the one I'm going to use on the plaque, but would like to keep it a surprise as long as possible.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Choral MPA 2015

Yesterday, 60 students from Fletcher Senior High School traveled to Mandarin High School for Choral MPA.  MPA stands for "Music Performance Assessment" and this is our "district sing-off" so to speak.  Just as sports teams have their district play-offs, so does the Florida Vocal Association have their district festival.  I took both of my advanced choirs to festival yesterday and was so pleased with the way they represented our school and our choral program.  These are some of the finest young men and women at our school and I am so blessed to have them in my program.  They are smart, witty and talented.  They can also sing!!

It was a pleasure to prepare for Choral MPA this year.  I loved the songs and they worked well for both choirs.  I am sometimes frustrated by the FVA requirement of having to choose one of your performance songs from the FVA list or the Texas List.  I felt like I chose well this year and there was a nice contrast between the songs.  Ladies Chamber Chorus sang, "Cantate Domino" by Giuseppi Pitonni and "Grace" arranged by Mark Hayes.  Vocal Ensemble sang, "Ching-a-Ring Chaw" by Aaron Copland and "Stars I Shall Find" by Victor C. Johnson.

Each chorus prepares two songs and must sight-sing for a cumulative grade.  The rating scale is a 5-point scale - Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent and Superior.  The judges were very consistent in their ratings for each choir.  All three judges gave ratings of "Excellent" this year.  Ladies Chamber Choir nailed their sight-singing example and received a "Superior" rating.  Vocal Ensemble's was a bit more challenging and they received an "Excellent" rating.

I could not be more proud of my singers for showing up to sing yesterday.  As the old saying goes, "An Excellent is an Excellent!"  Students - hold your heads high and continue working.  Our Spring concert will be awesome!!

Combined Choirs of
Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School
Neptune Beach, FL

 FHS Ladies Chamber Chorus

FHS Vocal Ensemble

Until next time...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?

Ah, yes....The Spring Musical. 

It's that time of year again where the dividing line between Chorus Student and Drama Student becomes blurred.  Because it is a musical and not an actual play, lots of my chorus students audition and many of them make the cast.

This year, I had five chorus kids who played leading roles in the musical "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" If you attended a Catholic school as a kid, this musical would definitely resonate with you.  You would laugh your socks off!! The rest of us get most of it, but not all of it.  We don't have the background knowledge or the first-hand experience, but we can appreciate it for what it is - good musical theatre!!

Tylor, Jacob, Jesse, Rachel, Jonathan

The Spring Musical is a collaborative effort between a very talented group of people:

Tina Fallon - Director
Shelli Long - Musical Director
Cindy Kidder - Choreographer
Tom Ming - Technical Director
Tom Fallon - Technical Support/Set Design/Props

Congratulations on another fine Fletcher High School Spring Musical production!!

Until next time...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Chanticleer Master Class

Chanticleer.  Anyone know the reference?

Chanticleer was the rooster that crowed with attitude in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales."

Chanticleer is also a Grammy-award winning men's a cappella choir that performed at St. Paul's By-the-Sea Episcopal Church on January 25, 2015 as part of the Beaches Fine Arts Series concert season.  This phenomenal group of singers has toured the world celebrating the gift of fine music-making.  They are masters of the Choral Art and we were blessed to experience first-hand what it is like to sing with an ensemble of this caliber.  These guys "sing with attitude!"


The Ladies Chamber Chorus of Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School was invited to participate in a Master Class the day after their concert.  We were joined by the University of North Florida Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Cara Tasher.  What an incredible experience for my singers!

Each choir was asked to come with 1-2 pieces of music that were "performance ready."  Each choir would have 30-minutes to "workshop" their pieces with four of the singers who had remained behind for this "Artist in Residence" experience.  My girls were nervous about singing in front of these guys.  They weren't sure what they would say about their sound.  They are young singers, but they have a lovely sound.  The first words out of Kory's mouth were, "Girls, you have a lovely sound.  Now, let's see if we can make music with the sounds you are producing."

 Master Class facilitators from Chanticleer

 Ladies Chamber Chorus - Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School
Neptune Beach, FL

They spent much of their time trying to help the girls understand that it is their job to communicate the song to the audience.  Their faces must reflect the text and their bodies must support the sound so that the audience engages in the aesthetic experience.  Their job is to move the audience to another place; a place where beauty overtakes them and they resonate with the sound and the message of the song.

St.. Paul's By-the-Sea is a spectacular venue for choral singing.  The church is built out of cocquina - a mixture of concrete and small shells - a unique form of building material used primarily in coastal cities.  The acoustics are excellent for ensemble singing and the concert series is free.  It is a "win-win" for choral music afficionados in our area.

I would like to thank the men from Chanticleer for enlightening my students and building their confidence in their own abilities as singers.  I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to Kathy Wallis, Executive Director of the Beaches Fine Arts Series, for bringing Chanticleer to Jacksonville Beach and providing my choir with the opportunity to experience their music both at the concert and in our workshop the following day.  It was an awesome experience that will resonate with my students for many years to come.

Until next time...