Monday, November 22, 2010

Five Fat Turkeys

'Tis the week of Thanksgiving and all through the school, the turkeys are hiding from cooks trying to rule (the roost, that is). 

In Kindergarten, we've been dramatizing a song entitled, "Five Fat Turkeys" using a Chef's hat, a plate and a spoon for props.  We learned the song by rote, we talked about the main idea and we figured out the main characters in the story. The lyrics are as follows:

"Five fat turkeys are we, we slept all night in a tree;
When the cook came around we couldn't be found
So that's why we're here, you see."

Music Connection, Grade 1, p. 217

My five fat "little turkeys" decided to hide under the piano so that the cook was unable to find them.  Too cute!

Happy Thanksgiving, Ya'll!

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All-State Elementary Chorus

On November 29, 2007, I put the final touches on my first-ever "Five Year Plan" and submitted it to my principal.  Our theme that year was "Dreams Begin Here" and I was dreaming big-time.

One of my long-term goals was to send a student from Chets Creek Elementary to Tampa, Florida to participate in the All-State Elementary Chorus.  That was three years ago.  I had no idea what was involved in the audition process, but was willing to give it my best.  I am very happy to say that my dream finally came true this fall for a very sweet young lady named Katie.

Katie and Mrs. Tamburrino

Katie is a fourth grader at CCE.  She is currently learning to play the recorder and she has a lovely singing voice too.  Last year as I was rehearsing the 3rd grade musical, Katie always sat in the same seat, right in front of the piano.  I could tell that she was able to maintain pitch and was very quick to learn the material.  She kept coming to mind over and over again as I thought about who I might audition for All-State this year.

I approached her parents over the summer and asked for permission to audition Katie.  I had never attempted anything like this before, but they were willing and I was excited to try.  Students must be able to sing "America" a cappella and as a solo, sing "Are You Sleeping?" in a round with the teacher and maintain their part and must also be fairly proficient with tonal memory (teacher plays an example on the piano; student sings it back correctly).

Over the summer, I asked my media specialist if she would assist me by downloading a free software program (Audacity) onto my laptop so I could use it to make an audition CD for Katie.  I purchased an external microphone and recorded a rehearsal CD for Katie to use to learn the required audition pieces.  Once the official "2010 tonal memories" were uploaded to the FMEA website, I arranged for an audition with Katie.  This was back in September.  We had to wait six weeks before we knew whether or not she had been selected to participate.

Katie was one of three public school students from Duval County selected to participate in the 2011 All-State Elementary Chorus.  Her family is so proud of her and we are all extremely excited about this musical opportunity for Katie! 

Her concert music arrived in my box today and I can't wait to get started on it! She will be part of a 200-voice choir that performs on January 14th and I will be sitting in the audience cheering her on.  Katie is one of those kids that makes an entire learning community extremely proud to call her one of their own!

Until next time...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Teaching the Tough Stuff

I recently had a "Purple Cow" moment when my principal came in to do my annual observation a few weeks ago.  I preconferenced with her on Monday to show her my lesson plan and explain the concept I would be teaching (syncopation).  On Thursday, she quietly entered the room, sat down in the back and made notations in triplicate while I taught.  When she finished writing down everything she could think of, she quietly slipped out.  The following day, I debriefed with her.

In my debrief this year, she made a profound statement to me that has been mulling over in my mind for several weeks.  She said, "I have nothing more to say to you.  Your lesson was flawlessly delivered and perfectly scaffolded.  There is nothing I can say to you that would make it any better."  I thanked her for her extraordinary compliment, but then she continued.  "Mrs. Tamburrino, you teach the most difficult concepts in your lessons.  99% of your students don't have the proper schema or background knowledge when they walk into your classroom to be successful.  Somehow, you manage to present the material in such a way that they get it.  It is an amazing thing to watch.  I learn something new every time I visit your classroom."  She then went on to compare what I do everyday with a classroom teacher who has struggling readers they are trying to teach. 

Struggling readers have difficulty decoding.  They don't often have certain life experiences or background knowledge to understand the text they are trying to decode.  They struggle with fluency.  Their working vocabulary is limited.  Often, they can't comprehend what it is they are trying to read.  It is the teacher's job to fill in some of the blanks by scaffolding lessons that build their schema.

Unless my students have had private music lessons, my students come in with nothing.  They are a blank slate on which I must write the music language code.  There are certain music symbols they must learn to decode in order to perform the music placed before them (quarter note, half note, treble clef, notes on the staff, etc).  They must learn to speak Italian (pianissimo, forte, largo, fermata, crescendo, etc.) so they can perform the music in a musical fashion.  They must be able to decode song lyrics and understand the history behind the lyrics (regional folk songs like "Alabama Gal," the "Star Spangled Banner," etc.).  They must be able to internalize the steady beat.  They must learn to feel it, count it, move to it, clap to it, dance to it AND read it.

I would like to invite you into my classroom to view the lesson I taught the day my principal did her observation.  I used a regional folk song entitled "Alabama Gal" to teach the concept of syncopation.  Syncopation happens when you shift the strong beat in a measure of music to the weak beat.  The syllable used to perform rhythmic reading of straight quarter notes is "tah."  The syllables used to perform syncopated rhythms are "synco-pa." 

My class periods are 50 minutes long.  The edited video you are about to see is 10 minutes long.  Much of the scaffolding I presented in the actual teaching of the lesson had to be cut.  You will notice that I laid the foundation for teaching syncopation during the "Introduction to Rhythmic Reading" segment at the beginning and closed out the lesson with a melodic rendering of the song at the end.  I used a map to show where Alabama was located, I gave students the opportunity to choose body percussion to write a rhythmic composition, we enjoyed lengthy discussion on several topics as the lesson progressed - most of which was edited out.  You'll have to use your own schema to fill in the blanks.  Enjoy!

Alabama Gal from athby tamburrino on Vimeo.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Making of a Musician

Each Thursday, a group of Duval County music educators comes to Chets Creek at the conclusion of their work day.  They've been "in the trenches" all day long and they are here for a rehearsal.  They come from across the district, their educational backgrounds are varied, but the one thing they all have in common is their love affair with music.


From left to right:  Amanda Loos, Lisa Weindorf, Steve Gonzalez and Lorraine Roettges

This ensemble is playing recorders of all shapes and sizes.  From the sopranino (think piccolo) to the bass (think tuba), they are filling the music room with beautiful music.  It is not everyday that I am privileged to enjoy my own personal concert by a consortium of highly educated and musically talented adults.  It's like being transported back to Elizabethan England (c. 1600).

I asked each teacher to provide a brief bio for you to see what goes into the making of a lifelong musician. 
Their music careers began at about the same age as the students they currently teach.  Many years later, they are still extremely dedicated to their art form. 

Amanda Loos is an elementary music teacher in Duval County. She first started playing piano in 3rd grade and by the end of elementary school had joined the string program playing violin, handbell choir, and choir. She started playing her principal instrument, the clarinet in 7th grade. In high school she played in the All-State and All-County bands and joined the Brevard Symphony Youth Orchestra.  Amanda went to Stetson University to study Music Education and graduated in May 2009. At Stetson she played in various ensembles including Band, Clarinet Choir, Quintets, Quartets and Trios. Since her graduation she has played with Southern Winds and joined a recorder quartet.

Lorraine Roettges has been teaching in Duval County Public schools for four years. She is a classically trained flutist/piccoloist and has performed with numerous groups throughout her career such as the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Savannah Symphony, the Sarasota Opera Company, New York Gilbert and Sullivan, and the Eastern Music Festival Orchestra. She has promoted arts in education through numerous initiatives including the founding of Project Listen for Riverside Fine Arts Association. She was nominated for the Jacksonville Cultural Council's Individual Art Award for her work while maintaining the position of Director for Riverside Fine Arts Assoc. She has also held administrative posts as Associate Director of Development for the JSO, Symphony Guild Coordinator, Young People's Concert Coordinator, and Coordinator for Guest Artist Relations - all with the Jacksonville Symphony Association. Adjunct teaching positions have included Jacksonville University, the Bolles School, and First Baptist School of Music. She has been an adjudicator for competitions in the State of Florida: solo and ensemble contests, flute and piano contests; and as an adjudicator for the prestigious Canadian Young Artist's Competition. She recently won Teacher of the Year for Atlantic Beach Elementary School.

My name is Lisa Weindorf. I was born in Toms River, New Jersey. I attended college at Jacksonville University on an instrumental (flute) and vocal scholarship. I was involved in many musical ensembles including orchestra, band, Chamber Singers and Concert choir. I was also a member of the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus and Masterworks Chorale for many years.   I received a BME and Master’s in teaching K-6 from JU, magna cum laude. I am currently certified in Music Education K-12 and Elementary Ed K-6, as well as Orff levels I and II.  My teaching experience includes 18 years as music teacher (pre-K-8th grade) at Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School in Jacksonville. My performing groups included a recorder ensemble, Orff Ensemble and a huge choir.  During that time I was also the Director of music for the church.  I am currently the music teacher at Englewood Elementary School. This is my second year teaching at this school and in Duval County. I love teaching and I love my job. I teach with an integrated approach, always trying to make as many connections to other subjects as possible. I believe in using a “hands on” approach and that children should experience and create music themselves (Orff instruction).  I am currently a member of the Duval County Recorder group, MENC, NFOC, FEMEA, NPM, Mu Phi Epsilon and Kappa Phi Kappa.

My name is Steven Gonzalez, I was born in Jacksonville, FL, but spent most of my life in Naples, FL. My father played trombone in the U.S. Navy and studied voice at Jacksonville University. With much exposure to brass instruments, I picked up the tuba in high school after becoming proficient on trumpet and baritone. Since High school, I've performed with the Florida Allstate Musicians on Mission (1998-2000), Center Stage Theatre Company in Naples, FL (1998-2002) The Florida Baptist Singing Men (1999), Jacksonville University Orchestra (2000-2005), Jacksonville University Wind Ensemble (2000-2005), Jacksonville University Concert Choir (2002), Jacksonville University Jazz Band (2004), Jacksonville University Brass Quintet (2002-2004), and the First Coast Wind Ensemble (2000-2003). I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Tuba Performance from Jacksonville University in 2005. I am currently in my sixth year of teaching at Beauclerc Elementary School and Central Riverside Elementary School. I love my job, I love music, and I love playing the Bass Recorder, Tenor Recorder, Soprano Recorder, and Sopranino Recorder.

I often wonder what will become of the students I am currently teaching. Being privy to this ensemble's hard work and dedication gives me hope that the seeds I am now planting will one day take root and grow into something more wonderful than I could ever have imagined.
Until next time...