Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spirit of America

Last night, I witnessed one of THE most spectacular patriotic presentations I have ever seen in my life!!

My family attended the U.S. Army's "Spirit of America" program and we were blown away by the extravagant sets, costumes, live animals, extraordinary musicians and singers, drill teams, soldiers, multi-media presentations, etc.  I am at a loss for words to describe what we saw, heard and felt last night. 

The tickets were free.  The place was packed.   Our country's history was presented in living color.  The Department of the Army completely outdid themselves.  It was so moving it is still hard to describe.

In the first hour, we were taken back to the days of the Continental Congress and brought right up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There were hundreds of veterans in the audience and I hope they felt honored by what they saw and heard last night. We sang patriotic songs that brought all of us to our feet.  We were moved to tears.  We cheered and cheered.  We celebrated America and what it means to be an American in a grand way.  It was awesome!!


The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
Official Escort to the President

U.S Army Drill Team

The U.S. Army Orchestra

The orchestra opened the show and in the second hour of the presentation, we enjoyed outstanding music from The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own), The U.S. Army Band Downrange (contemporary group) and The U.S. Army Concert Band.  I wonder if the Navy and the Air Force have a show like this? I'd love to get a glimpse of America's history through their eyes. 

Kudos to all the parents and teachers who brought their children to this program.  It was truly outstanding!

Until next time...

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Making of a Memory

My PE coach sent me an e-mail asking if she could "borrow" my 5th grade classes for several days last week.  I was told "it's a secret" and then she asked if she could use the music room for rehearsals. 

It seems that she was putting together a Flash Mob dance that was going to take place during our school-wide flag raising ceremony on September 16th and our principal was not to know about it.  She had asked two former students to choreograph the dance to "I've Got the Power!"  All fifth grade students that wanted to participate learned the dance via video presentation in my classroom.  They were told to bring a pair of sunglasses to flag-raising on Friday.  The sunglasses were to enhance the "cool factor" for the dance.

We are a collegial bunch of educators and wholly supported this effort.  The Art teacher and I helped with crowd control and technology support.  Coach Bailey told the kids, "Hey - it's either this or ballroom dancing! Take your pick!!"  They opted for the Flash Mob.

Coach Bailey giving instructions

Learning the dance

It was a Mob, alright!

Free Dance!!

They may not remember their FCAT scores a decade from now, but they will certainly remember the making of this memory.  Bravo, Coach Bailey for thinking outside the box!!

Until next time...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Laundau Eugene Murphy, Jr.

Over the last several months, children all over America have discovered a new music vocabulary word - CROONER.  A crooner is hard to define, unless you've actually heard one.  They are so "old school."  The likes of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Tony Bennett and Andy Williams have basically disappeared from the music scene.  It is a rare thing to hear a current singer "croon."  The only guy that comes to mind is Harry Connick, Jr. - and he doesn't get much airplay these days.

And then...there was Landau.

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr., to be exact.  He stole the competition on "America's Got Talent" this season.  He was a humble man of humble means who is now a millionaire and will headline a show in Las Vegas next month.  What an incredible journey....

Until next time...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

All-State Auditions 2012

In order for any of my students to audition for the All-State Elementary Chorus, I must pay my dues.  They must be paid on time and I must attach myself to the elementary component of my professional organization.  Only then can the audition process begin.

The parent organization is the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).  The Florida Music Educators' Association along with its component affiliations (Florida Vocal Association, Florida Bandmasters Association, Florida Orchestra Association and the Florida Elementary Music Educators' Association) is the hosting organization that provides the All-State experience for our students.

Each January, thousands of music teachers from across the state of Florida converge in Tampa for professional development.  Development opportunities are targeted towards your area of expertise.  There are classes for string teachers, band teachers, chorus teachers and general music teachers.  While we are taking classes, our students are working with clinicians in large ensemble settings preparing for a performance with several hundred other students.  The performances occur at the conclusion of the conference.  The All-State experience is a life-changing experience for its many participants, myself included.

Thirty-five years ago, I auditioned for one of those coveted spots in the chorus.  I auditioned every year beginning in 8th grade and was selected to participate every year through my senior year in high school.  It was a distinction no other kid had in Duval County.  I truly believe I am doing what I do today because my music teachers believed in me and were willing to "pay their dues" and work with me.  I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Last year, I decided it was time to honor my former music teachers.  I selected one student.  I had heard her sing during third-grade musical rehearsals.  She had a bell-like quality to her voice and a good sense of pitch.  My gut told me she would make it.  I contacted her parents and they were very supportive.  We put together an audition CD for her and mailed it by the deadline and then waited six weeks for a response.  She was one of three Duval County Public School students selected for the chorus last year.  She is now singing with the Jacksonville Children's Chorus and is planning to audition for La Villa School of the Arts next year.

Last week, I auditioned three young ladies for the All-State Elementary Chorus.  I put their audition packet in the mail on Thursday.  Now we wait.

Until next time...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Intentional Teaching

We would all like to call ourselves "intentional teachers."  What I mean by that is that we teach with a certain outcome in mind.  Sometimes our students get it; sometimes they don't.  It is our job to figure out why they didn't get it and what I could have done differently to reach my intended outcome with my students.

In fifth grade, I am currently working on an Orff piece entitled, "Tideo."  The name doesn't ring any bells with me because it is a folk song from Texas (I grew up in Florida).  The lyric is a lovely rhymed text, but it doesn't make much sense.  The melody is quite catchy and singable for 11-12 year olds, but it won't win a Grammy.  Let's take a closer look...

Pass one window Tideo;
Pass two windows Tideo;
Pass three windows Tideo;
Jingle at the window, Tideo.

Tideo, Tideo
Jingle at the window, Tideo;
Tideo, Tideo
Jingle at the window, Tideo.

My intent in teaching this piece is to re-acquaint my students with several elements of music including Time Signature, AB Form, Mi-Re-Do in the A-section, Mi-Sol-Do in the B-section, a rhythmic motive on the words, "jingle at the window, Tideo" (tika tika ti-ti ti-ti tah) and finally the transferrance of that information to body percussion and then to the Orff instruments in the back of my classroom.

You might ask, "How did you pull all of that out of 8 lines of text and a half-dozen pitches? "  It is not easy, but this year in particular, I am having to teach the same content with much less student contact time.  I am learning to make every minute count.  There is no time to waste.  The expectation has not changed; only the amount of time I have been given to move my students forward.

This year, I will intentionally choose material that will present several concepts at the same time. This year, I will stick to the elements of music because that is what they are tested on in second and fifth grade by the district.  This year, I will use an "exit ticket" on which my students must respond to an "essential question" at the conclusion of their unit of study.  This year, I will produce two musicals in half the rehearsal time.  This year, I will teach recorder using a classroom set of instruments and teach three pitches instead of six.  This year, I will do everything in my power to help singers make it to the All-State Elementary Chorus.  This year, my students will learn because I will teach with the end in mind.

Until next time...