Saturday, May 26, 2018

Andrew Simon

Mr. Simon working with Women's Glee

Mr. Andrew Simon came into my world in mid-December, 2017.  It could not have been a more timely entrance.  I hadn't had an intern since 2009.  When I was approached by his Music Ed professor at the University of North Florida in October, there was no way I could have known what was heading my way.  I agreed to take him on and I am so thankful that I did.

My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October, 2016 and had been in remission for the past 18 months.  In January, 2018, her cancer returned with a vengeance and she opted not to treat it.  We were told she would be gone by June.  Mr. Simon was such a gift!  He covered my classes when I had to be away supporting my mother.  He bonded with my students and they learned so much from him.  He lifted my spirit when it was at it's lowest point and we were nearing the end of this chapter in our lives.

I told Mr. Simon that I was going to have to plan for the worst and hope for the best.  Although I had given him Women's Glee as a laboratory choir, he learned all of our music for the Spring concert in case my mom passed away and I could not be there to conduct.  He had such a good attitude and assured me he would see me through this and he did.  My mother died two days after our concert.

Mr. Simon graduated from UNF on Friday, April 28th and I know in my heart of hearts we will be forever friends and lifelong colleagues.  My heartfelt thanks go out to Dr. Timothy Groulx, Professor Jane Palmer and to Andrew Henry Simon for being my support system (either directly or indirectly) over the past 6 months.  I would not have survived this experience without you.

And to my sweet Momma, who will always be in our hearts....

Jo Ann Nader Abdullah
October 16, 1934
May 3, 2018

Until next time....

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Our Mascot

My mother is in the fight of her life with a dreaded disease that will eventually take her from us.  She desperately wanted to attend my spring concert on May 1st, but knew she would not have the strength to do so.  I told her we would "Face Time" her with the chorus and she could watch them perform on the computer.  That wasn't good enough.  She said, "You tell the kids that's what we're gonna do, but mark my word, I will be there in person to hear them sing!"

It took 3 caregivers and a wheelchair, but she made it.  It was the most precious time I had ever experienced with my mother.  She considers herself the official mascot of the Fletcher High School Chorus and wasn't going to miss this opportunity.  She knew in her heart of hearts, it would be her last.

I may be an absolute mess at our concert on Tuesday, but the concert has been lovingly dedicated to my mother and the kids will give their all for her.  That's just the kind of kids I am blessed to teach.

Until next time....

Sunday, January 14, 2018

FMEA 2018 Artistry:Teaching and Performing

FMEA 2018

I recently returned from the Florida Music Educator Association's Professional Development Conference which is held in Tampa, Florida every January.  The theme this year was "Artistry: Teaching and Performing."  It was a special year for me.  It isn't every year that you have both current and former students performing in All-State ensembles all at the same conference. I had FOUR former students and ONE current student perform this weekend.  It was a weekend filled with music-making and I could not have been more proud of each of them!

Thursday, January 11th (7:30 p.m.) - The Stetson University Concert Choir performed for conference attendees and TWO of my former students were in the ensemble!  This is the top auditioned choir at Stetson University.  

The youngest graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and is a freshman at Stetson.  I taught Amber D. at Chets Creek Elementary School.  [ I could not catch her after the concert to take a picture :(  ]

The eldest was my student his senior year at Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School, the school where I currently teach.  His name is Jack S.

Jonathan Maerkl (Band/formerly at FHS); Dee Dee Tamburrino (Chorus at FHS)
(Jack played tuba and sang in the chorus)
Currently a performing member of the Stetson Concert Choir
and is graduating in May, 2018 (music major)

Friday, January 12th (6:00 p.m.) - The All-State Men's Chorus performed in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Waterside.  My current student, Jack R. spent 18 hours in rehearsal this weekend and countless hours of private study prior to his arrival in Tampa on Wednesday evening.  He was representing Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School and our choral program at All-State this year. 
Jack R. and Mrs. Tamburrino
All-State Men's Chorus 2018

Grand Ballroom - Mariott Waterside
Tampa, Florida

Saturday, January 13th (9:00 a.m.) - The All-State Treble Chorus performed in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Waterside.  This performance received 3 standing ovations!! What an incredible experience for my former elementary student who is now at LaVilla School of the Arts.  She also sings with the Jacksonville Children's Chorus and recently returned from Rome, Italy where she was privileged to sing for Pope Francis!!

Emmie H. 
All-State Treble Chorus 2018

Saturday, January 13th (6:30 p.m.) - The All-State Middle School Band, High School Concert Band and High School Symphonic Band performed at the Tampa Convention Center to a packed house.  I taught this young lady in elementary school as well.  She is currently a student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts where she plays flute in the band program.

Ashley S. (3rd chair flute)
All-State Concert Band 2018

It was a true blessing for me to take part in FMEA this year and witness the "fruit of my labors" in such a profound way.  I do my best to instill a love of music-making in all of my students and it is very exciting to see so many of them continuing to pursue their musical passion as they matriculate through K-12 education and move on to college.  It is truly a gift for which I am extremely grateful!!

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

MetHD Program

OPERA.  Mention the word to high school students and noses wrinkle, eyes roll and heavy sighing ensues.  This is a common occurrence in many settings. However, because of the work of so many and a collaborative effort between Duval County Public Schools and Opera Jax, my students get excited and sign up to attend the opera!

As a choral educator, I am actively involved in the MetHD program in my school district.  This is my third year in the program and it has grown each year since we began attending.  In order for me to take a group of students to the opera, I must attend an educator's training in the fall.  This is required by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, our parent organization, who provides training materials and a 4-day workshop to a cohort of teachers from our district.  Our district sends several teachers to the workshop and they come back and share their insights with us.  Teachers from all academic disciplines are invited to participate in this program.

Opera is a culminating art form which incorporates music (both vocal and instrumental), acting, movement/dance, theatrical aspects of lighting, sound and set design, puppetry, extravagant costuming and libretti that are far-reaching in their scope.  When this program began 10 years ago, students were dropped off at a local movie theatre to watch the performance which was streamed "live" from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.  Several years ago, Mr. Lawrence J. DuBow provided funding for an upgrade to the theatre at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts so that we could take our students to DASOTA to watch the opera.  The upgrade was approved by the Metropolitan Opera House and we are the only school district in the nation to have our own designated HD theatre for this purpose.

Bus transportation is costly, however, I wrote a grant which was funded by the Woman's Club of Jacksonville last year for $1,000 to help defray the cost of procuring transportation to the opera broadcasts.  This year, my students will travel to DASOTA to see "Tosca" and "Cendrillon" (the French version of "Cinderella").  We completed our teacher training in early December and I am excited to be able to offer this opportunity to my students in January and in April, 2018.

My heartfelt appreciation goes out to the Arts Office of the Duval County School Board for their vision, OperaJax who coordinates our teacher training, LaVilla School of the Arts who hosts our training every year, Mr. Lawrence J. DuBow and his foundation, the team of teachers who traveled to NYC to bring the training back to us and to the Woman's Club of Jacksonville for helping us with transportation costs to travel to the opera broadcasts.  It is such a collaborative effort on the parts of many and we are most grateful for this opportunity.

 "Tosca" - MetHD - 2018

 "Cendrillon" - MetHD - 2018
Until next time...

Monday, June 5, 2017

FHS Hall of Honor 2017

Mrs. Jane Palmer
Mrs. Dee Dee Tamburrino

Today was a very special day.  I had the privilege of celebrating a master teacher and my mentor with our faculty.  Our lives have been very similar.  She was one of five sisters growing up; I was one of four.  She began her teaching career at the elementary level and moved up to high school, where she remained for fifteen years.  I did the same.  I taught for nine years at the elementary level and am now a high school chorus teacher.  She taught for 35 years; I'm hoping to reach 20!  (I'm a late bloomer!)
Jane G. Palmer, formerly the chorus teacher at Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School (where I am currently teaching) was inducted into our "Hall of Honor" today.  She will receive a plaque to take home and her name will be added to a plaque in our front office.  The PTSA has will also donate a brick in her name at the school.

Jane is a 35-year veteran of Duval County Public Schools.  She retired in June, 2013.  At Fletcher High School, she was the Performing Arts Department Chair, Teacher of the Year and a dedicated musician who instilled a love of choral music in thousands of students.  Her award-winning choirs performed in the Florida Vocal Association's Music Performance Assessments, annually at Disney's Candlelight Processional in EPCOT (Orlando, FL), at the White House in Washington, D.C. and at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 2012.

I have known Jane for many years and it was an honor to celebrate her today.  Without her dedication and support, I would not be where I am today.  Thank you, Jane, for your for your friendship.  I congratulate and celebrate you today!!

Until next time...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Teacher Appreciation 2016-17

The collection....

As I gaze across my classroom trying to decide where and how to begin my day, I see a memorial of sorts.  These are gifts my students have given me over the past several months.  

They include a framed photo of one of my senior girls in her Chorus T-Shirt.  She's been with me in chorus for the past four years and wanted to wear her t-shirt in her senior photo session. I was honored by this.  It is truly a gift.

Another is a white teddy bear with a Hershey bar and its companion book, "Why You're the Best Teacher Ever" completed in a student's handwriting.  It is a fill-in-the-blank book in which she did an amazing job reminding me of why I teach in the first place.  I was blessed to glimpse into this child's heart through her writing.

The next is a black and gray monkey with a heart in his hands.  This came from a student I have taught since elementary school.  He comes from a large family and has very little money.  Over the years, I have fed him, clothed him and covered his chorus participation fees.  I have done this with a cheerful heart and "as unto the least of these." He is such a blessing in my life.

Today, one of my 6'5" boys rode his skate board to Duncan Donuts to buy me coffee on his way to school.  The outside of the cup was completely covered in coffee from the sloshing which occurred on his way from the store to the school.  I didn't care.  This was such a thoughtful gesture on his part and I was touched by his kindness.

Yesterday, my principal came into my classroom to do my Formal Observation.  I had prepared my students for this and explained that "I only get one shot to prove myself as a teacher every year and I chose you to help me be my best.  Please be here, be on time, be in the moment and responsive to anything I ask while I'm teaching.  I am counting on you to support me in this."  The energy, the love, the support, the connection between singer and conductor was astounding.  They stepped up and made me shine!  There were lots of teachable moments.  I am forever grateful for their effort yesterday. 

Teaching is tough.  These "random acts of kindness" by our students are what get us through the day sometimes.  There are days when I am struggling in the classroom.  There are days I am questioning myself and wondering if it's time to hang up my "teacher hat."  I wear many of them and it is exhausting.  When I am really down, I read a "gratitude board" in my office filled with thank-you notes from students and colleagues.  On occasion, will scroll through my blog and be uplifted.  This is one of those days.

Until next time...

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Catching Up With 2016

Fall Semester has flown by.  I enjoy blogging because it gives me an opportunity to reflect.  It is evident from the date of my last post that I haven't had much time for reflection lately.

Reflecting is important for teachers.  It is grounding.  It helps us center ourselves when the world is swirling around us.  It is validating.  It is an opportunity for an "atta girl" in the world of academia.  It affirms that I am making a difference in the lives of children daily.

So with this in mind, I am going to do what "Life" magazine, "People" magazine and "Time" magazine do.  Present our "year in pictures," thus far....

Selling "Spirit Bandanas" at home football games

Road trip to Douglas Anderson School of the Arts
to preview film on the life of one of our greats!
Robert Shaw, Conductor - Atlanta Symphony Chorus
 Edda's Bundt Cake Fundraiser!!

Fall Concert - pushed out two weeks
due to Hurricane Matthew

Performed at the Duval County School Board Meeting
and bumped into our former principal!
 Rehearsing in the FHS Amphitheatre

Chorus Kids in "Romeo, You Idiot"
Fall Drama Show

Jonathan - Our very own "Mr. Ugly" winner!!

 Touring the Rhoda L. Martin Cultural Heritage Center

Caroling at the Rhoda L. Martin Cultural Heritage Center
Holiday Fun!

"Holiday Extravaganza 2016"
In-School Performance

"Holiday Fest" at the
Jacksonville International Airport

 Jacksonville International Airport

 Jacksonville International Airport

 Jacksonville International Airport

Jacksonville International Airport
Blaze Pizza - River City Marketplace
Gotta feed 'em!

Caroling at Harbor Chase Memory Care Facility

Interact Fundraiser - Slider's - Neptune Beach

Destinations Unlimited to DeLand and Tampa

 Stetson Mansion - DeLand, Florida

 Performance at Stetson Mansion

Tour of Stetson Mansion

Christmas Town - Busch Gardens, Tampa

Busch Gardens - Marrakesh Theatre
December 22, 2016
Until next time....