Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holiday Pajama Run 2013

I am always looking for interesting and engaging ways to raise money for our chorus program so when this opportunity presented itself, we jumped on it.  I figured we had 48 hours to recover from our Disney trip and we were three days into our Christmas break.  Why not sing Christmas carols for runners running a 5K in their holiday PJs? And there you have it.  The 2013 Holiday Pajama Run.

This run was a 5K that was held at Metropolitan Park downtown and raised funds for the Children's Home Society of Jacksonville.  Everyone showed up in their pajamas, including Mrs. Tamburrino, and ran the race. At the one-mile mark, the race organizers had built a large gift box in which my students stood and sang carols as the runners jogged by.  There were also several additional photo frames that had been been designed with various holiday themes in mind.  You could stop, have your picture taken, enjoy a few holiday songs and be on your merry way.  At the end of the race, you received a holiday mug filled with Starbucks hot chocolate.  My students loved it and so did the runners!

Thanks for donating your time to spread a little holiday cheer!!
You are the best!!

"May your days be merry and bright" this Christmas Season.  

Until next time...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Candlelight Processional 2013

I spent the past two days with 55 members of the Fletcher High School Chorus in Orlando, Florida.

We were one of four public schools in Duval County who auditioned and were selected to participate in the Disney Candlelight Processional at EPCOT.  189 choirs from as far north as New York and as far west as Colorado participated in Candlelight this year.  It was a great opportunity for my students to work with the professionals at Walt Disney World, sing in a mass choir and spread a little Christmas cheer in the process. We performed on Tuesday, December 17th at 5:00 p.m.  Our narrator was Edward James Olmos.

Candlelight is "One of the most beloved holiday traditions at EPCOT."  The Christmas story, as written in the book of Luke, is retold by a celebrity narrator accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra, Disney's "Voices of Liberty" singers and an auditioned mass choir.  It is a tradition that began with Walt Disney and has continued for many years.

This was the chorus's 14th trip to EPCOT to participate in Candlelight. Many choirs were turned away this year because Thanksgiving was so late and the number of performances had been reduced by seven.  We were proud to represent Fletcher High School and our community at Candlelight and look forward to auditioning again next year.

Fletcher High School Candlelight Processional 2013 on PhotoPeach

Until next time...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Repair Job

On Tuesday evening, our Holiday Extravaganza performance was in full swing.  All was going swimmingly until one of my guys came to me during intermission and informed me that his button had popped off of his tuxedo jacket and he didn't know what to do about it.

As he is standing before me with open coat and button in-hand, my brain jumped to a plastic container in the closet that had essentials in it that had been assembled by the former teacher for road trips with the chorus.  I was certain I had seen a sewing  kit in the box, so I dashed to the closet and located the kit.  During intermission, I re-attached his button to his jacket and all was well.

Thanks, Mom, for sewing lessons as a kid!

The concert was a huge success and so was the jacket repair.  One never knows when life-skills will be needed.  I'm just glad I had them when I was called upon to use them.

Until next time...

Apple of Their Eyes

I was honored last week.  I received the "Apple of Our Eyes" award from the Dean's Office.  This apple was delivered during class and was inscribed with the following words....

To:  Mrs. Tamburrino
From:  The Dean's Office

"You are the apple of our eyes! Thanks for making our lives easier!"

This award is presented to teachers who do the right thing when it matters most.  I have had so many students make poor choices this year and land themselves in ISSP (in school suspension) or ATOSS (alternative to out-of-school suspension).  While they are "doing their time" so to speak, I must provide additional work for them.  I am a chorus teacher.  When a student misses my class, there is no way they can make up rehearsal time missed.  I operate "in the moment" and chorus is a participatory experience.  With chorus students, I have to be a bit creative with the work I provide for them to do. With World Music, it's a bit easier, but the numbers of students who are assigned to ISSP are triple those of my chorus students.

What the Dean's office appreciates most about me is that I place student work in a folder with the student name, their assigned date for ISSP/ATOSS, the class period they are assigned to me, and several assignments to keep them busy while there.  If it is an assignment for a grade, I make a note of that on the folder so that the work is returned to me for grading purposes.  This procedure eases the workload on the Dean's secretary and she is grateful.  She does not have to search through her records on each student to locate this information.  It is the least that I can do to ease her burden. She is doing the job of three people this year and it is my gift to her.

It would be nice if my students would make better choices and stay out of trouble so that neither the Dean's secretary nor myself would have to go through this process on an almost-daily basis, but that is not our reality.  It warms my heart to know that what I am doing on my end is a blessing to them on their end.

Thanks for the recognition, Mrs. Chisolm and Mrs. Charvat!! 

I appreciate it!!

Until next time...

Monday, December 9, 2013


I have a student in my world music class who is vision-impaired.  He is totally blind, but extremely musical. His name is Chad.

He plays clarinet in our marching band and owns a room full of instruments.  He is totally fascinated by the timbre of children's voices and likes to compare the vocal ranges of singers with various wind instruments.  He has perfect pitch and has one of the most inquisitive minds I have ever met.  

Something happened today in class that was so spontaneous, I had to capture it.  

We had a little extra time at the end of class, so I gave the students an opportunity to pull out their electronic devices, read quietly or chit-chat with each other until the bell rang.  I was trying to set up for a dress rehearsal this afternoon and needed the extra time to prepare.

Garrett decided to disregard what I said and sit down at the piano.  He began playing "Lean on Me" and was doing a very fine job.  Next thing I knew, Chad had made his way over to the keyboard and was playing along with him. It was the coolest thing! Garrett and Chad working together in this spontaneous moment was absolutely magical.  If you knew these two guys personally, you would know just how magical that moment really was.  (You will have to trust me on this one.)

I never know what Chad is going to do or say.  He views the world through others' conversations, tactile experiences and a gazillion questions.  His classmates are totally fascinated by him and so am I.  I've never had the privilege of teaching someone with a severe handicap such as Chad's, but it is refreshing to know that I can.  I have learned a lot from Chad this year and am looking forward to wherever this journey takes us.

Chad and Garrett

Until next time...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mr. Ugly 2013

Class of 2014

It's been 35 years since I attended a "Mr. Ugly" competition, but I'm so glad I went Thursday night.  I had four senior men who are in Chorus competing against each other that evening and I had to be there!!

Mr. Ugly was always one of my favorite events during the school year when I was a student at Fletcher.  Only senior men can compete and it is billed as a "spoof on the Miss Fletcher Pageant."  I represented Chorus in Miss Fletcher (back in the day) and I know how much work goes into an event such as this.  You must prepare for a talent competition, street-wear competition, be ready to answer a question for the judges and show up for the fun.  I even had to show off my culinary skills and won the "Best Cook Award" for making baklava!!

My guys were hilarious....and I commend them for their efforts.  I was desperately in need of a good laugh, and they delivered!!  Two of the four placed in the competition - Phillip was selected "Miss Congeniality" by "her" peers and John Michael was 4th Runner Up.  Congratulations, "Ladies!!"

Logan "Hot Mess," John "The Hot Blonde," Brad "She Bad," and "Phillip "Queen of Sass"

Until next time...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fall Play 2013

On Friday evening, I had the wonderful opportunity to sit in the audience for a change and enjoy a program. 

Being a performing arts educator, I am usually in the "hot seat" on performance nights praying that all goes well with the technical side of things, no one faints under the lights and that everything we've worked so hard to accomplish comes together when it matters most!!

It was a stress-free evening for me as I sat and watched ten of my chorus students show off their versatility as actors.  I don't always get to see that side of them, except for Phillip, who is always very dramatic and quite entertaining.  The dynamic in our classroom will never again be the same once he graduates.

I've never been a fan of horror flicks.  They frighten me and I have nightmares, so I tend to steer clear of them.  However, this shtick was pretty funny.  I am certain that I would have understood the jokes and appreciated the nuances in the script more if I had seen the main characters - Dracula, Frankenstein and Swamp Thing -  in their various roles on the big screen.  Background knowledge is critical for a truly enriching artistic experience and I came up a little short on Friday night.

The set was very elaborate and so were the costumes.  Mrs. Fallon did a fantastic job with the costumes and make-up.  Just watching the show took me back to my days in college when I sang in the Opera Chorus at FSU.  Stage make-up, sets, costumes, lights, song....very sweet memories.  I was part of something bigger than myself and that's what made it so exciting!!  Matter of fact, I was a bit envious sitting out in the audience and would have loved to don a costume and make-up again.  Maybe Mr. Ming can work me into his next show.  I'd love it!!

My heartfelt congratulations to everyone who was involved in this production!! I can't wait to see what they drum up for the Spring musical.....

"The Return of Dracula's Return Part VII - Retirement Bites"
Written, Produced and Directed by our very own Thomas Ming

Until next time...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Roger Takes the Crown!!

Friday, November 8, 2013 is a day I will remember for many years to come.

We experienced an unusual temperature inversion yesterday.  The high temperature for the day was recorded at 12:05 a.m.  It was 71 degrees and balmy.  The low temperature for the day was recorded at 7:05 a.m.  It was 54 degrees with a wind chill factor that made it feel much colder.  Weather in Florida in the Fall and Spring is extremely unpredictable.  Voting for a school's Homecoming King and Queen can be just as unpredictable...

This was my first Homecoming as the Director of Choral Activities at Fletcher Senior High.  I graduated from Fletcher and have attended numerous Homecoming games over the years, but last night was very special.  Several years ago, I sat in the stands and witnessed something that touched me to the very core of my being.  A young lady was crowned Homecoming Queen.  The crowning of a queen is part of the pageantry, however, this young lady had Down's Syndrome.  I was deeply touched by the choice the students made that year and was extremely proud to have been part of Fletcher's legacy.  The students were able to look past this young lady's disability and honor her in this way.  It was a beautiful sight to behold.

Several weeks ago, a young man came to me and said, "Mrs. Tamburrino, you have to make sure that Roger gets on the Homecoming ballot.  He can win this thing and he deserves it."  I said to this young man (who was also a senior and I was fairly certain he would be running against Roger), "I am sorry, but your request is out of my control.  It is up to the chorus students to nominate our candidates." Needless to say, Roger was nominated to represent Chorus along with another very dear student, Maggie.  I taught Maggie in elementary school and she is one of the most hard-working and dedicated individuals you will ever meet.  I felt that they would represent our organization well and was pleased to place them on the ballot.  The part that not everyone knows is that both of these students have learning disabilities that they must work hard to overcome on a daily basis.  I admire their courage and I admire their tenacity.  They work so hard and are such an integral part of the Chorus, I am honored to be their teacher.

If you have attended a Fletcher football game in the past four years, you have seen Roger.  He positions himself on the outside of the track right in front of the Fletcher Dance Team.  He knows every routine and he dances the entire game.  Last week was his final opportunity to dance with the girls. With 5 minutes left in the game, I watched as the dance teacher made her way down to Roger, reached into her gig bag, gave him a pair of purple pom-poms and opened the gate for him to walk out onto the track and dance in the line with the dance team.  I burst into tears.  It was one of the most touching moments I have ever witnessed at a football game.  Roger was beaming with excitement and I thought nothing could top this.  I was wrong.

Last night, the students of Fletcher Senior High School did it again and Roger was crowned Homecoming King 2013.  Candidates are not allowed to campaign for this honor, so the outcome really lies in the hands of the student body.  I was so proud of Roger and so proud of the students at Fletcher.  Their ability to look outside themselves and choose to honor a peer in this way is something very special.  When they announced his name, the crowd went wild I was so grateful to have been a part of it!

Fletcher Homecoming King 2013

Roger with his trophy
(the young man who came to me and asked me
to make sure Roger made it on the ballot is 
standing in the background in his tuxedo 
with that HUGE grin on his face.)

Parade around the track

I would also like to honor several nominees who were placed on the ballot by other clubs and organizations. These students sing in my top vocal ensemble and deserve to be recognized here as well.
  • Phillip
  • Brad
  • Sara
  • Logan
  • Ellie (stand-in)
  • Jack (2nd Runner Up)
I am so proud of each of you!!!!!!

Until next time...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Veterans Day Ceremony at San Pablo

Today, my Vocal Ensemble traveled to San Pablo Elementary to participate in their Veterans Day Ceremony.  Principal Kim Bays shared her thoughts on why we should honor our Veterans and she included thoughts on the matter from several former presidents as well.  

The little guys, decked out in red-white and blue, were waving flags and singing patriotic songs.  The Fletcher Middle School Band played an Armed Forces medley and the Fletcher High Vocal Ensemble sang "Battle Hymn of the Republic."  Our very own James Lanier closed out the ceremony with the playing of TAPS.

Honored guests from the Navy were visibly moved by the presentation and my students shook their hands at the conclusion of the ceremony and thanked them for their service.

Thank you to Principal Bays and to Jarika Olberg (music teacher at San Pablo) for coordinating this event.

Vocal Ensemble performing "Battle Hymn of the Republic"

Thanking honorees for their service to America

Photo Op

Good times.....

Until next time....

Sunday, November 3, 2013

All-State Auditions 2013

On September 21, nine of my advanced chorus students spent most of their Saturday at La Villa School of the Arts auditioning for the 2014 All-State Chorus.  This was by choice.  They sat for a written exam, which was then graded on the spot.  If they scored enough points on the written exam, they were called in to sight-sing for an adjudicator.  If they read a certain number of measures correctly, they would then be asked to learn audition music and vocal exercises for a Vocal Quality audition on Saturday, October 26th.  The selection process is both complex and nerve-wracking (for student and teacher).  Of the nine that participated in the first audition, six made the cut.  I could not have been more proud of their efforts.

They spent the next four weeks learning music and practicing specific vocal exercises that would be used in the Vocal Quality Exam on October 26th.  Each student is competing against other high school students from across the State of Florida for a coveted spot in either the Mixed Chorus, the Women's Chorus, the Men's Chorus or the Sight-Reading Chorus.  Each chorus has approximately 200 participants and will perform at the Florida Music Educators convention in January, 2014,  in Tampa, Florida.

The Vocal Quality exam is recorded and then shipped out to choral music educators who will grade each audition.  We are hoping to have the results by mid-November.  Once the results are in, I will update that information in this blog post, so stay tuned...

Pre-audition rehearsal in the cafeteria

Working together on the men's part
Aren't they a good-looking bunch????

Until next time....

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Picnic in the Park

The Fletcher Chorus Family Picnic was held today at Jarboe Park in Neptune Beach.  The weather could not have been any better for some good, old-fashioned fun in the sun.  We ate, played games, shared conversation with one another and just enjoyed being in the great outdoors!  It was nice for me to get to meet some of the parents who have entrusted their children to me and to spend time with my students outside of our classroom.

Thanks to all who made this event possible today....the FHS Choral Booster Board who bought the food and prepared it for us, the Chorus Student Officers who organized the games and coordinated the event and the City Council of Neptune Beach for allowing us to use the facilities at the park.  

Tom Altice - Grill-Master

Time to Eat!

Dining al fresco

Duck, Duck, Goose

Girl Power!

Until next time...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fletcher Fall Choral Concert 2013

As the weather begins to change and football fervor is in full swing, fall concert season is upon me.

On Tuesday, October 15th, the Fletcher Senior High School Chorus will take the stage for its first concert of the year.  I can hardly believe it! In just a few days, 104 chorus students will don concert attire and present a concert that has been seven weeks in the making.  The purpose of this concert is to get the students dressed in concert uniform and up on the stage singing.  For many of these students, this will be their first public performance.

Since the school year started, I have discovered that running a choral program is like running a small business.  Its success (or failure) lies in the hands of its leadership.  I am blessed to have a Choral Booster Board of hard-working and dedicated parents who donate time and talent to help our program succeed. They have been instrumental in helping me transition to my new position and I am forever grateful for their support.  My student officers have worked hard behind the scenes also. They have offered words of encouragement when I was feeling completely overwhelmed by my "to do" list, held leadership meetings, designed chorus t-shirts, created spreadsheets, stamped music, cataloged our music library, organized a family picnic - you name it, they've done it! They are an awesome bunch of kids and I am so pleased to have the honor of working with them this year.

As I reflect on what has been accomplished since school began on August 19th, I have auditioned singers to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" at our home football games, submitted an audition DVD to Walt Disney World for the Candlelight Processional in December, volunteered at a 5K to raise money for our program, escorted nine students to All-State auditions, fitted students in concert uniforms, rehearsed with instrumentalists, worked with an accompanist, completed one fundraiser and am in the midst of another, handled publicity for our concert and am in the process of writing program notes and technical notes for our concert....and all of this in just six weeks! Reflection is a good thing.  It helps put everything in perspective.

As you can see from the photo above, the Fletcher High School Fall Chorus Concert is Tuesday, October 15th at 7:00 p.m. in the school auditorium.  Tickets are $5.00 each.

I look forward to an evening of music-making with YOU in the audience!

Until next time...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dawn Patrol

In my household, "dawn patrol" translates into an early morning surfing excursion with my youngest child.  I usually sit on the beach and watch the sunrise while he surfs.  He says that the best waves always happen in the morning!

Today, "dawn patrol" took on a very different meaning.  Sixteen chorus students and three parents crawled out of bed to volunteer at a 5K on the beach this morning.  As the chorus sponsor, I had to be at the Seawalk Pavillion at 5:45 a.m. to greet my students.  I had been up since 3:30 a.m. working on school work and doing laundry.  (I figured I might as well get some work done while the house was quiet.  I do my best work before sunrise.)  

Preparing for the Zoomarun

Working the registration table

My "security team" got to wear official t-shirts

On-site registration and trouble-shooters extraordinaire!

I would like to publicly commend my students for their efforts today.  Although many were sleep-deprived, they showed up and kept their commitment.  The race ran without incident and they played a huge part in making it a great experience for all.  They did such a fine job, the race coordinator asked if we would do it again in January.  I could not have been more pleased.  They are truly the "Pride of the Beaches!"

Until next time...

Monday, September 2, 2013

So this is High School...

You may be wondering how I am adjusting to my new teaching position at the high school level.  I can honestly say that this has been one of THE most difficult transitional periods of my entire life.....

In the past three weeks, I started a new job.  My husband started a new job.  My eldest child headed off to college.  My youngest son started high school AND my 90-year old father-in-law moved in with us.  Can we say STRESS?????????

I have come to the conclusion that being a chorus teacher at the high school level is like running a small business.  Most of your time is spent doing administrative tasks - organizing fundraisers, meeting with the booster organization, behind-the-scenes preparation for the Disney Candlelight Processional audition, receipting money, attending meetings of the Florida Vocal Association, making photocopies, creating "month-at-a-glance" calendars for 103 students, fitting concert uniforms, meeting with student officers, planning fall picnics.....and on.....and on....and on.

It has been quite an adjustment for me.  It is probably a good thing that I am neurotically organized and extremely linear.  I'm always thinking about things that are looming on the horizon.  That makes it difficult to "live in the moment" on most days.  With 222 students in your care, there is not much time for anything else.

I have greatly enjoyed a 3-day weekend.  I allowed myself to sit by the pool for four hours on Saturday and swim in the ocean for several hours today.  My work is done for the night and I must retire.  My clock will awaken me at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow and I will begin the process all over again.  Welcome to my world!

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Going the Extra Mile

Today is DAY 3 of pre-planning.  I walked up to the front office for just a moment and upon my return, walked into one of the most beautiful teaching moments I have ever witnessed.  Two band students were in the chorus room working together as one.  It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  These were my thoughts as it was happening...

I am in my office while a blind clarinet player is working with his mentor in the chorus room.  He is in our marching band.  She records his part for him and he learns it by ear.  He cannot see the music, but he can hear it.

She is trying to help him learn the marching portion of the show by placing a flip-flop between his legs so he can march "corps style."  It is an awesome thing to watch.  There is a metronome beating audibly.  She sings while he plays so he knows where he is in the music and what foot he should be on at any given time.  I can't wait to go to the first football game to watch him perform.

It reminds me of Patrick Henry Hughes at the University of Louisville.  If you don't know Patrick's story, click on the link below and grab a box of tissues.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Choral Panorama 2013

I have just returned from a 2.5 day whirlwind trip to Choral Panorama and the Florida Vocal Association's Summer Conference (affectionately dubbed "pre-school").  The first half of this conference is sponsored by Head's House of Music (Tampa, FL) which has been hosting this event for 43 years.  Head's is a family-owned and operated music retailer who specializes in vocal music (as opposed to band/orchestra music).

Panorama is basically a choral educator's reading session "on steroids."  I attended all TEN reading sessions which covered all genres of vocal music for both middle and high school choirs. This means that in the past few days, I have read through 127 pieces of music from 14 different publishers. 38,100 pieces of music were collated and stuffed into 2700 teacher packets which were used during the sessions.  I sat and read through music for approximately SIXTEEN hours from 9:00 a.m. on Thursday to noon on Saturday! My brain is absolutely fried.  My voice held up fairly well, for which I was extremely grateful.  I am also very grateful for 127 reading copies of newly published music from which I can build my choral library.  Heads House of Music hosts this free event each summer and sends us home with bags of free music.  We love Heads!!

Late night session with Dr. David Childs from New Zealand

Our clinicians this year included Laura Farnell, Mary Goetze, Mac Huff and David Childs.  Dr. Jeffery Redding shared his insights as a choral educator in a fabulous interest session Thursday night.  He was awesome and is someone I could only hope to emulate in my classroom at some point in my career.

At noon on Friday, the Florida Vocal Association began their portion of the conference with interest sessions on the All-State audition process, the "End of Course" exam project for "hard to assess" content areas (Race-to-the-Top) and, yes, more music reading - middle and high school All-State music for the FMEA conference in January, 2014.

Did I mention that it was a whirlwind of a weekend? I do believe that my summer break has come to a crashing halt.  If you're looking for me next week, you will find me in the chorus room at Fletcher doing my best to be ready for students on August 19th.

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cleaning My Classroom

Anyone who knows me knows that I have respiratory issues and cannot survive long around dust and dust mites.  My former classroom was spit-spot.  I "swiffered" and vacuumed everything in my classroom several times a year.  I tackled dust like it was my worst enemy.  You could have eaten off of my floors!

When I walked into my new classroom several weeks ago, an invisible hand grabbed me by the throat and I knew I had entered a space that was occupied by high concentrations of dust.  It was unbearable and I began to hack and cough.  My throat closed off and I knew I was in trouble.  Upon further inspection, I realized that the room had not been adequately cleaned or dusted in at least a decade.  I also knew that I would need reinforcements.  There was no way I would be able to tackle this project alone.  Thank God for my family who was willing to put their own health at risk to assist me.  I owe each of you a huge debt of gratitude.

Last week, my sister (who is on vacation from New York, my husband and I) armed ourselves with Zyrtec, masks and cleaning supplies to enter the "Dust Mite Zone."  We worked in there for four hours.  I paid the ultimate sacrifice and am still sick because of it.  That was "Operation Deep Clean - Phase 1."

Denise scrubbing away in my office

Steve vacuuming the carpet on the walls

This is me, knowing I would pay dearly for this later

"Operation Deep Clean - Phase 2" happened yesterday.  My sister returned for Round 2 along with my son (we needed his brawn to move furniture and filing cabinets).  We spent two more hours in the "Dust Mite Zone" trying to finish what we started last week.

This was the room before we began.
That gray stuff on the walls is not the light reflecting on the carpet.

Every photo collage on the wall was removed and wiped down.  Every chair was wiped down.  Risers were swept and mopped.  Filing cabinets were moved and wiped down.  Equipment was rearranged and wiped down.  Furniture was moved and wiped down.  My office was vacuumed and baseboards were wiped down.  Never had I seen so much dust in one room before.

It is hard to believe, but there are still areas that need to be wiped down in this classroom.  However, Phase 3 will have to wait...  My respiratory system needs time to recover from Phase 1 and 2.  

Until next time...

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Week After...

Although teachers ended their school year on Tuesday, June 11th, I spent the next three days packing up my classroom.  By 1:00 p.m. on Friday, June 14th, nine years of memories had been removed, boxed up and loaded into my 1997 station wagon I have lovingly dubbed, "The Big Red Whale."  I never realized just how much of a person's personality hangs on the walls of their classroom.  When I was finally finished, it was stark, drab and extremely sterile-looking.  It was also painfully empty.  I cried as I ate my lunch out in the hallway.  The A/C had been shut off to conserve electricity.  The only place I could breathe was out in the hallway.

Once the car was loaded, it was time for me to turn in my classroom key.  My principal happened to be covering the front desk when it was time for me to leave.  I had bagged my key in a plastic sandwich bag (I use sandwich bags to collect teeth from my little guys when they drop out of their mouths in class.  The Tooth Fairy is still rather important at this age.)  I had written my room number and name on a bright green piece of paper and stuffed it into the bag with the key.  As I handed the bag to my principal, her bottom lip drooped and she said, "This all seems so final."

Yes.  I guess it is.

I'm still debating whether or not to begin a new blog that chronicle's my life as a high school chorus teacher or continue what I began here four years ago.  I guess I still have some time to think about it.

Until next time...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Time to say "Goodbye"

This post is going to be a tough one.

For the past nine years, I have served as the lead music teacher at Chets Creek Elementary.  During that time, I grew as an educator, became Board-Certified in the process, taught thousands of children, was blessed to have students in the All-State Chorus, LaVilla Side-by-Side and the First Coast Honors Chorus, established a Recorder Club that performed all over the city, developed budding musicians many of whom are still singing in choirs and playing in bands throughout the district, etc. The list could go on and on.  I recently found myself at a place in my career where I could have chosen to coast until retirement or finish what was started many years ago.  I chose the latter.

As a child, I grew up in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  I attended Seabreeze Elementary, was bussed to a 6th Grade Center located in a part of town we rarely frequented during the height of integration, attended 7th-9th grades at Fletcher Junior High (now Fletcher Middle School) and 10th-12th grades at Fletcher Senior High School.  Thirty-seven years ago, I entered the chorus room at FHS and the rest is history.  While at Fletcher, I sang in the Varsity Chorus, the Madrigal Ensemble, the Pop Ensemble and was the official Student Conductor.  I was the only person at that time to have made the cut for the All-State Mixed Chorus every year that I was eligible (8th through 12th grades).  Sweet memories....

Five years ago, I was made aware by the current choral director at Fletcher that she would be retiring at the end of the 2012-13 school year.  For the next five years, I shadowed her all over the state of Florida trying to get a handle on what life is like as a choral educator at the high school level.  For the past two years, I have paid professional dues for both the Florida Elementary Music Educators' Association AND the Florida Vocal Association so I could follow their e-mails and track with them throughout the course of the school year.  I did everything I could think of to be well-prepared when the time arrived for her to retire after 35 years of service in music education.

I have no idea how many applicants applied for her position, but God chose me to take her place.  I am humbled and grateful to her for having more faith in me than I could ever have in myself.  I am thankful to my music teachers who invested time and talent into helping me become the very best I could be.  Many of them have passed on, but my heart tells me that somehow they know.  I must trust that my Daddy knows too.  He would be extremely proud of me.

I will spend the summer practicing the piano and running scales with my voice so I will be ready.  I am registered for Choral Panorama and have met with the chorus officers for next year.  I have asked a very capable high school chorus director in our county to mentor me as I walk through this first year, and he has graciously agreed to do so.  It isn't often one gets to return to their roots nearly 40 years later and relive the experience from the other side.

It's a brand new work with a new principal, a new performing arts team, a new group of students and a new teacher tool kit.  The mission is the same; the mission field has dramatically changed. As I told my current principal, "I love living on the edge!"  She smiled.  She lives on the edge much of the time herself.

I will dearly miss my principal, my team members and my colleagues at Chets Creek Elementary.  I promised at our faculty luncheon last week that I would open a FaceBook account so that we can keep in touch.  I received word today that there is a Resource Team meeting scheduled tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. and I will not be present.  I'm having a difficult time wrapping my brain around that one...

I leave you with a quote from a rather famous children's author.  "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."  (Dr. Seuss).  As I move from one season of life into another, I would like to say "thank you" to those of you who loved, supported and encouraged me over the past nine years.  I could not have done it without you!!

Until next time....

Monday, June 3, 2013

Flag Retirement 2013

On Friday, May 31, Chets Creek Elementary retired all three flags that had been flying over our school for the past 10 months.  Our flag-retirement ceremony is a solemn occasion.  The principal addresses the audience each year and explains what is about to happen.  The patrols share pertinent information regarding the flag of the United States of America - what it symbolizes, what it represents and why we give it this kind of honor once it has been tattered and torn from the elements outside.  It is a great educational experience for everyone.

My job is to audition singers who will honor our flag by singing the "Star Spangled Banner" during the ceremony and locate a trumpet player who can navigate "TAPS" without issue.  Ordinarily, I go for the "cute factor" and choose little guys (first through third graders) to handle the singing and borrow a trumpet player from one of our high schools to handle the trumpet part.  This year, however, I was fortunate enough to use all of my own students (both past and present).

Ashlei, Conor and Lily - my trio who sang the National Anthem

Tori - a former student, now a 6th grader at my feeder school

I was extremely proud of my students who practiced hard and performed well.  They had been preparing for this ceremony for many weeks and I know their parents were proud of them also.  The weather was fabulous and everything came off without a hitch.  That's a really great day in my world!!

Until next time...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Blast From My Past

Today I visited my elementary school.  Seabreeze Elementary School in Jacksonville Beach, Florida is celebrating its 50th birthday.

Although I did not spend my entire elementary career there (I started in the 2nd grade and both of my boys attended 2nd grade there), I felt compelled to stroll down memory lane with fellow "Seabreeze Seahorses" wearing my school colors (blue and white).  Seabreeze is one of the last true "neighborhood schools" left in our district.  Scores of children have passed through its doors since it opened in the early 60's and I am proud to be one of them.  Enjoy the photos from my visit today.

Dee Dee Abdullah Tamburrino

My lunchbox

John is third from the left on the bottom 
(Second Grade, 2002-03)

Zac is the snaggle-toothed, curly headed one in the middle
(Second Grade, 2006-07)

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Peas, Porridge Hot

This one absolutely blew me away!

A parent sent me this picture today.  The smile says it all.  The text in the e-mail stated, "Bella is teaching me music."  That was it.  THAT WAS HUGE!!!

Bella is one of my precocious little second graders who is mesmerized by everything we do in music. As of late, we've been working with poems - counting syllables, determining how the "rhythm of the words" align with the rhythmic notation, when to use a "tah" and when to use a "ti-ti," patting the steady beat with both hands, playing the rhythm of the words using alternating hands, etc.

Apparently, she has been showing her mother what we've been working on in class.  She correctly wrote out the poem and added the rhythmic notation above the words in the poem - just like we did in class.  It is a perfect rendition - even with quarter rests in all the right places!! I am beaming with pride.  My own children never did anything like this and I am absolutely flabbergasted.  What a special gift from a very special little girl!

Bella - I had a rather stinky day today at school, but your work has brought a HUGE smile to my face and to my heart!  Thanks for sharing your love of music with your mom.  Joy - thanks for capturing the moment and sharing it with me.

Addendum...I was told in a separate e-mail that she also used shish-kabob skewers on the floor to lay out rhythm patterns for her mom to practice.  (I used rhythm sticks in class!)  I am still laughing a day later.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Curriculum and Assessment Writing Team

"So how did you spend your Spring Break?" 

I wish I could say I took a cruise to the Caribbean or hiked the Appalachian Trail.  Unfortunately, that is not even close to how I spent my spring break.

I was supposed to travel to Orlando and spend several days with my former roommate from graduate school.  She traveled down from North Carolina with her choir to participate in a workshop.  I was so sick, I couldn't get up off the sofa.  Needless to say, I didn't make it.

That "break in the action" was supposed to gear me up for what was looming ahead....writing curriculum guides and test items for elementary music teachers in our district.  I was one of twelve teachers selected for this project.  The amount of work required to meet the deadlines is unbelievable.  Our group spent two entire days together writing during Spring Break.  We will reconvene for two more days next week.  In between, I am supposed to deliver curriculum guides for Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 along with a minimum of ten test items for review by our testing expert.

Can you guess how I'll be spending the rest of my Spring Break?

Good times......

Until next time...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

First Coast Honors Chorus 2013

As my principal so elegantly stated in her blog post today, I am overwhelmed much of the time as well.  I am a woman, wife, mother, teacher, professor, swim instructor and everyone of those family members she mentioned in her post on the female side of the house....

However, today I was blessed to witness the culmination of weeks of preparation - rehearsals after school, rehearsals at home, more rehearsals today at UNF - all of that hard work came together in a fabulous concert for eight of my students that participated in the First Coast Honors Choir presented by the Jacksonville Children's Chorus.

It has been 3 years since I recommended any of my students for this choral enrichment opportunity.  For the past two years, I have been working three jobs year-round and did not have the time nor the energy to stay after school and properly prepare the students.  My experience has shown that they cannot learn the music at home with a rehearsal CD alone; teacher involvement is critical.  So, this year, I threw all caution to the wind and recommended the maximum number of students I am allowed to recommend.

I am so proud of my students from Chets Creek who worked diligently over the past several months and sang their little hearts out on the stage tonight.  The music had to be memorized and they performed four songs, two of which were in a foreign language.  A culminating work such as a choral concert is such a point of pride for me as their teacher. From the looks on the faces of their family members tonight, it was a point of pride for them as well.  Thanks, parents, for affording your children this opportunity! You're the best!

First Coast Honors Chorus 2013 on PhotoPeach

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hand of Blessing

Last week, one of my students left a gift for me in the front office.  Although it was Valentine's Day, I was not really expecting gifts from my students.  I have 47 classes attached to me and it is a rare thing for students to consider me when they are pondering a random act of kindness.

When I went down to check my box in the mail room during my lunch break, I found this lovely tube of hand cream that had been decorated by one of my students in a most creative way.  There was a tracing of her hand on each side and what she wrote was beautifully expressed by a 10-year old.

It said, "Mrs. Tamburrino, you deserve a hand!"
(which I gratefully received!)

The other side said, "High Five for being the world's best teacher!!!
Disclaimer ("Mostly in music")

Now, I'm all about integrating the Arts into the core curriculum and it happens regularly in my classroom.  My students scratch their heads when I begin teaching a mini science lesson, social studies lesson, math lesson or ELA lesson in the midst of their music lesson.  They would faint if they knew how many years I spent in school to be able to accomplish this feat!

Last week, a parent shared with me that her kindergartener exclaimed "Mom -- did you know that Mrs. Tamburrino can read?" at the dinner table and was very surprised by that fact.  I incorporated a book into my lesson that day and it evidently shocked her.  In a third grade musical rehearsal, I threw another curve ball while explaining the history behind the Revolutionary War, where Cumberland Gap is located, why Old Joe Clark was telling everyone "fare-thee-well" and concluded with a discussion on the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s.  Leave it to a medley entitled, "America Goes West" to spark historical conversation in the music room!!

Teaching music is an all-encompassing task.  I love it when I can deviate from what is expected and teach the unexpected.  It grabs them every time!!

Thanks, Abigale, for your random act of kindness towards me.  I greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

FMEA 2013

Our theme this year at the Florida Music Educator Association's (FMEA) professional development conference was "Uniting Music Education: Models for Collaboration."  In case you were unaware, I am the Queen of Collaboration.  Chets Creek has certain traditions that are to be maintained at any cost each year.  Here is the short list (grade level events)...

I collaborate with the Kindergarten team during their annual Pow Wow celebration in November, I collaborate with the Second Grade team on their Multi-Cultural Holiday Program and Multi-Cultural Day in December, I collaborate with our First Grade team on their "Sleepover" event (a study of our galaxy and all that is within) in March and finally, I collaborate with our Third Grade team and produce a patriotic musical that celebrates America in May.  If you stay at Chets Creek long enough, you'll get to collaborate with me on all of these collaborations!

Back in July, 2012, I received an invitation to present my work at our conference last week. I was one of a dozen teachers from across the state of Florida who was asked to do so.  I was asked to create a display board which would be "on display" during the Curriculum Fair on Thursday.  I was to "man the board" for an hour to answer any questions with regard to my collaborative effort. I was stoked!

I purchased the largest display board I could find, enlisted two very capable photographers to shoot photos of our holiday musical and multi-cultural day events in December, asked my scrap-booking sister to make it pretty and off I went.  I took the board, the musical scores from all three musicals ever produced by me at CCE, a CD player and the professional recordings that come in the kit.

I must say that my display board was the largest and most colorful board on display at the Curriculum Fair.  My sister did an awesome job - much better than I could ever have done.  Lots of folks stopped by and we exchanged ideas with one another.  Most of them loved the concept and vowed to duplicate it at their schools.  Of course, they want my art teacher (Mrs. Jennifer Snead) to come and paint their backdrop for them.  She is an awesome artist and the creative genius on the visual side of things.  
An excerpt from my handout...
From Custodian to Conductor: A Concert in Collaboration

              Our 2012 production of “December in Our Town” was a huge hit!  The plot follows a group of school-age children throughout their town as they collect food for those less-fortunate. In doing so, they stumble upon various holiday celebrations going on in their community which are then explained in the show.  We chose to partner with the Grocery Fairy ( for our “Season of Giving” project and collected non-perishable food items to distribute via “Blessings in a Backpack” and also through a local food pantry.  We felt this was an appropriate tie-in with what was happening in the plot and it made the experience much richer for the students.

            One week later, we celebrated Second Grade Multi-Cultural Day.  This is a day that is designed by the classroom teachers in collaboration with the resource team.  A passport is provided for each student as they travel through various centers throughout the day.  They receive a passport stamp before leaving the country they are studying.  In the Music center, they learn about Hanukkah, play the Dreidel game and dance the Hora.  In the Art center, they make Mkekah Mats using the colors of Kwanzaa.  In the PE center, they learn about Parranda, a Puerto Rican holiday celebration which includes the roasting of a pig and Christmas caroling through town.  To conclude their day, each classroom teacher provides a unique learning opportunity for students in their own classrooms. 

My Display Board "on steroids"

Answering teachers' questions about the project

More questions...more answers

Conference Program and my "Presenter" Badge

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on my work and to share it with others.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to so many who were part of this collaborative effort.  It began in August, 2012 and culminated at FMEA in January, 2013 and I certainly hope I inspired at least one music teacher to step outside of her comfort zone and give it a try.  It is a huge undertaking, but the memories created by such a project will be remembered for a lifetime by all who take part in it!

Until next time...