Friday, February 5, 2016

Brandon J. Lesando

I have been blessed through the years to work with incredible people.  Some of these folks are artists, musicians, media specialists, drama teachers and dance teachers.  All of us are known as resource teachers.  It is our job to enlighten young minds in all things artistic.  I have worked with some of the most creative, innovative teachers who are masterful at their craft.  It is a gift I do not take for granted.  One of my dear friends told me that she "loved zinging with me!"  That is artistic-speak for creating beauty all around us - whether it is heard, seen or experienced - someone has to create it.  I have learned so much from my colleagues and my newest colleague, Brandon J. Lesando, is a musical force with which to be reckoned.

This young man (he is 25 years my junior) is one of the most talented, insightful first-year teachers I have ever met.  He has more energy than anyone in our department.  He is the new band director at my high school.  I live next door in the chorus room and I was assigned to mentor Mr. Lesando through his first year as a professional educator.

It is my job to make sure he understands how to function within our Performing Arts Department.  It is my job to make sure he meets deadlines placed upon him by the school and by the district.  It is my job to make sure that he is well-supported through his first year of teaching.  Statistics show that most teachers entering the workforce these days leave within their first three years.  They can't handle the demands placed upon beginning teachers.  They are easily overwhelmed.

Teaching is not for the faint-of-heart.  It requires a great deal of patience as you learn to navigate the system.  It also requires a passion that runs deep, so that when you are at your wits-end, you can remind yourself of the reason you chose this profession in the first place.

I have mentored many "teacherlings" over the past 12 years.  Some were pre-interns who were just there to observe my teaching.  Others were interns in their final year of teacher training at college.  I have also worked with elementary education majors who were learning how to incorporate visual art and music into their curriculum.  I LOVE working with "teacherlings."  I love to watch them grow and learn as they navigate through their first year in the classroom.  I love to watch the students grow to love them over time.  I love to watch them teach, teach and re-teach so that everyone is successful.  It is like watching a flower doesn't happen overnight.

Because Mr. Lesando is a rookie in the classroom, I am required to do two observations on him this year.  We completed the first one in early November and his final observation yesterday.  He is masterful at classroom management - the best I've ever seen.  He has good teacher instincts.  He scaffolds well.  He teaches "in the moment."  If something does not go according to plan, he makes adjustments and repeats the process.  He plans, prepares and executes with great precision.  Some of that is his naval training; some of it is just how he's wired.

It has been such a pleasure working with Mr. Lesando this year.  My former band director told me before he left that I would love this guy.  I do!!

Until next time...

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Gray or Grey?

Gray or Grey?

I guess it depends on whether your cultural roots are British.  I have asked several artists this question and they cannot answer.  They say it is spelled both ways.

When I prepare to spell that word, my mind immediately rushes to a lanky dog on the side of a coach bus.  I traveled to and from college on one of those buses, so I tend to go with "grey."

As I prepared to lead my choristers in their afternoon rehearsal, I scanned the classroom and realized that over half of my students were dressed in grey.  I found that quite fascinating and took their picture.  I don't believe it really matters how you spell it, as long as you are able to recognize it.

The dude on the left photo-bombed my shot.  The gal in the back who is wearing black has worn grey for days on end.  The one day she didn't, I decided to take a picture.  I told her she could be the centerpiece.  Grey is her new favorite color.  (or is it colour?)

Until next time...

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Piano Class

In addition to being the Director of Choral Studies at Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School, I am also the piano teacher.  I have never really considered myself a pianist.  If anyone asks me if I play the piano, my response has always been, "I play AT the piano."  I play well enough to run choral rehearsals but not accompany my choirs.

I have four choirs this year and two keyboard classes. My keyboard classes are primarily made up of beginning piano students who want to learn to play an instrument.  It takes approximately 3 years to get a student up and running on the piano.  Playing the piano engages multiple areas of the brain at the same time.  It is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.

When one learns to play any instrument, it requires lots of patience on the part of the instructor and due diligence on the part of the music student.  It takes time, dedication and a willingness to practice.  As the saying goes, "Practice Makes Permanent."  Most people run out of steam several years into the process and never reach their full potential on the instrument.  Those that continue to play for more than a decade are the ones who gain the most enjoyment out of the experience and their brains develop in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.

Wind, string and brass instruments play in a single clef.  The higher pitches are usually written in treble clef (G-clef) and the lower pitches are usually written in bass clef (F-clef).  Learning to play the piano requires that you read in both clefs simultaneously and pedal with your feet.  Playing the piano challenges your mind to think on multiple levels at the same time.  It engages your eyes, your ears and your sense of touch.  Your perception of rhythm is also activated.  Motor skills, literacy skills, aural skills, hand-eye coordination all come into play.  It is a full mind-body workout! Learning to play the piano is not for the faint of heart! Have you ever tried it?

Below are pictures of my students during an independent practice session.

Beginning Keyboard Class

I have written a grant proposal requesting $2,000 so that I can purchase new keyboards and stands for my students.  We don't have enough instruments for each student to have their own keyboard and I hope to use these funds to enhance our class piano program next year.

Please take 5 minutes and watch the video below.  It is entitled, "How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain" by Anita Collins.  You will be enlightened and hopefully inspired to give it a try. 

Until next time...

Monday, December 28, 2015

"Teaching Music" Article

Back in September, I received an e-mail from a junior editor at "Teaching Music" magazine who had stumbled upon a lesson I created back in 2010 and posted here on my blog.  He said he was fascinated by the fact that I used literature to teach rhythmic patterns to young children and wanted to interview me.  He stated that if his senior editor liked the piece, it would appear in the January, 2016 edition of the magazine.

Well...lo and behold...the magazine arrived in the mail last week and the interview appears on page 55 of the magazine.  This is a publication of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and is published quarterly and distributed to all members of the organization.  This is a big deal for a music educator who is a very small fish in a really large pond.  Had it not been for my blog, this would never have come to pass.  [Thank you, Melanie Holtsman!!]

I am grateful to Paul Sigrist for contacting me and allowing me to elaborate on a lesson I created for use in my classroom 5 years ago.  I am no longer teaching elementary music, but my legacy lives on and it is truly humbling to know that I have made a difference - not only in the lives of children, but also with my colleagues from across this great nation who will read the article and, hopefully, implement this lesson into their own elementary music classrooms.  Happy Rhythmic Reading!!

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holiday Fest at Airport 2015

I was so disappointed that it was raining when I headed to school this morning.  I don't like it when it "rains on my parade."  Fortunately, I have resilient kids and they took it all in stride.

We traveled to Jacksonville International Airport today to perform at Holiday Fest.  The airport does this twice a year - once during the December travel rush and again in May when thousands of travelers head to Ponte Vedra Beach for The Players Championship (PGA Tour golf).

It's always fun to watch people as they exit the plane and proceed to baggage claim.  Folks slow down; some stop altogether to listen.  There are rocking chairs for weary travelers to sit back,  relax and enjoy the music-making and a Starbucks nearby, just in case.  It is a great experience for my students and we look forward to it every year.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ready, Set, Go!

Our music folders are shared between four different choirs and get pretty beaten up between August and December. I decided that this was the week they needed to be replaced.

We performed three holiday shows this week.  Yesterday, we had a 3-hour wait between the time school let out and our bus showed up for our final performance.  One of my students didn't have any way back to school if she left campus, so I recommended she remain at school and volunteer in the chorus room.  She spent the entire 3 hours emptying music folders and sorting holiday music for me!! What a gift!!

I've ordered some of the music for our Spring concert, but not all of it.  At least I know that when it's time to stuff the folders, we'll be ready!

Thanks, Katelynne, for your dedication and for your due diligence yesterday.  I appreciate you!!

Until next time...

Savor the Season 2015

The Singing Senators traveled to Regency Square Mall last night to spread holiday cheer to the shoppers and restaurant personnel in the food court.  We were joined by a dance troupe from FaithBridge Church and an acoustical guitarist from Riverside Presbyterian Church.  We sang several pieces from our holiday show, took a photo with Santa and dined at Wendy's on the way home.  Our final gift of music this week was a flash mob of "Carol of the Bells" as a thank-you to the folks at Wendy's for handling such a large crowd of teens with such grace!

We travel to Jacksonville International Airport on Tuesday, December 15th to perform at their Holiday Fest! See you there!!

Until next time...