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....

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The 5th Bass

Last night, I was given the incredible honor of playing  "The 5th Bass" with my school's drumline. 
Now, for the back story....

I always wanted to be a percussionist in the marching band.  My dad said, "Drums are for boys!" and refused to allow me to play.  My entire childhood was spent at the high school football field every Friday night.  I watched my aunt play flute, my cousin play the tenor drums, my sister play flute/piccolo and my baby sister twirl flags with the colorguard.  And there I sat.  Wishing.  Hoping.  Longing to play percussion and march with the band.  I had to settle for sitting next to the band at every game, working in the concession stand at the game or chaperoning the band on trips after I graduated from college.  It was the best I could offer.

This is my fourth year at the Fletcher High and my third band director in four years.  Every one of these guys has honored me by allowing me to march in a parade, clang a cymbal, shake a tambourine and play The 5th Bass. 

To be honest, I did not know what that meant, but I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream.  The fellow that was on the drum graciously stepped aside so I could play his part.  The 5th Bass is the largest drum they had on the line.  I had the time of my life and a few minutes of glory as part of an actual drumline.

I missed out on the parade last year because of a broken toe.  They asked if I would march again this year.  My answer is and always will be a resounding "YES!!!"

Until next time....

Friday, September 2, 2016

Top-Notch Customer Service
George's Music Jacksonville Beach, FL

If you ever need a hand stocking your classroom with sound equipment or instruments, may I recommend George's Music Jacksonville Beach, FL.  I was desperate for more keyboards and keyboard stands which my principal said he would purchase AND HE DID!!

My keyboard classes are large.  In one class, I have 33 students.  In the other class, I have 27 students.  The problem is that I only have 18 working keyboards in my room, so my students are doubled-up on them.  This is both good and bad.  Since "Middle C" sits in the center of the piano, neither student is actually playing where they should be playing on the keyboard.  What they are reading on the staff is not where they are actually playing on the piano.  This could be cumbersome later on if they choose to continue their study of this particular instrument, but for our purposes in a semester course, we manage.

The good news is that being paired with another student allows them to help each other.  I cannot always circulate through a classroom filled with a grand piano, digital keyboards, students, and backpacks, etc.  Peer-tutoring has worked really well in our learning environment and I have maintained that protocol from the beginning.

This year, my administration added a new twist and placed a handful of Keyboard II students within my Keyboard I classes.  This model fulfills the mandate for "differentiated instruction" because both groups are in different places in the curriculum and I am teaching both simultaneously.  I work with one group and ask them to practice independently while I dash to the keyboard at the front of the classroom to work with my Keyboard II students.  This is definitely not ideal, but I'm making it work because I am "Super Teacher" and that's what I do.

The sales representative above is the brother of a student I taught in elementary school.  He's getting ready to head to Nashville to live his dream.  I was fortunate enough to speak to him first at the store and he saw my purchase through to the end.  He allowed me to pick up the keyboard stands before the keyboards arrived.  He even volunteered to deliver the keyboards to the school so I did not have to return to the store to pick them up.  The folks at George's Music Jacksonville Beach go above and beyond to make certain your shopping experience is a great one. I highly recommend them!!

George's Music is located at 912 Third Street South, Jacksonville, Beach, FL 32250.  904.270.2220.
Give 'em a call.  Tell 'em Mrs. Tamburrino sent you.

Until next time...

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Music Filing System - Finally!

Projects.  I love them.  I love tackling a project and seeing it through to completion.  I am driven and very task-oriented.  My "To Do" list is always full.  I even have a notepad by my computer at school that says, "I love lists!"  I know what you're thinking.  And yes, I am a bit OCD when it comes to being able to function in my corner of the world.  I am a woman with a plan.  Always.

For three years, I struggled to figure out how to move 800+ titles of choral music out of six broken down filing cabinets that had been in use since the school opened in 1962.  That's 54 years' worth of stuff.  My classroom is smaller than most choral classrooms, so it was quite a challenge.  Then, I had to procure the funding for a filing system that would serve our purposes and fit along a wall in my classroom.  I did several internet searches looking for just the right system and then approached my principal.

After negotiating with my principal for 3 years, he finally purchased a new music filing system for me.  My choral librarian from last year helped transfer all of the files from the filing cabinets into the new system before she graduated.  My choral librarian this year helped me catalogue all of the music in the new system so that the company could create labels for the system and simplify the process of locating music.

I am very happy to report that at 4:20 p.m. today (3 days before school officially opens), we finally finished the project.  I am still waiting for the roll-top doors to be installed, but that's another blog post for another day.

Music Filing System

Title, Composer/Arranger, Voicing

Yay Team!!

Until next time...

Friday, June 24, 2016

How I Spent My Summer Vacay

New Chorus books!! Thank you, DCPS!!

As I scroll through friends' Facebook postings, I see folks traveling the world, hanging with family, visiting new places, hiking, swimming, fishing, going to the movies and attending various camps during the summer.  Well...this is how I spent my summer vacation.  At CAMP TEXTBOOK!!  

They arrive from the School Book Depository (the SBD) on pallets by the hundreds.  Each book is new, untouched and boxed in a cardboard cocoon.  I am responsible for attaching a 2-part barcode to each book - one on the front cover and one inside the back cover - in case one of the covers go missing with repeated use by students.

I work with the drama teacher on this little project every summer.  The Assistant Principal in charge of textbooks cannot complete the task alone, so we volunteered to assist so that books would be available when school reconvened in August.  We did this last year.  We came back for more this year.  It is a mindless task that keeps us "Type A's" busy for weeks.  We look forward to it. 

The Assistant Principal was heading out of the country for a week and left us a 3-page instruction sheet on what she needed done while she was away.  In two days, we completed every task on the list.  We will get a new set of instructions when she returns.  By then, there will be more pallets and more books to barcode.

When I was in elementary school, I distinctly remember writing an essay at the start of every school year entitled, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." My essay is now complete!

Until next time... 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"It's a Wrap!" 2016

Another school year has come to an end.  There are days you think you'll never make it to the end.  And other days, when you think, "where has all the time gone?"  The older I become, time seems to slip through my fingers much more quickly.

Teaching is an interesting profession.  It is the only profession I know where the employee has to set up their workspace at the beginning of the year and break it down ten months later.  We are asked to remove everything off the floors and walls so that our summer custodial crew can prepare the building for the next year.  We turn in our keys, even though we will be back in 54 days.  After 12 years of teaching, I still find this a rather odd practice.

For the record, I had multiple projects unfold simultaneously in my classroom this year.  My classroom is small for a chorus room.  There is limited storage space in my classroom.  For three years, I have been working on re-arranging, re-organizing and making my workspace functional, inviting and user-friendly.  Since I have been at my school, I have purchased hundreds of dollars worth of new music and had nowhere to store it.  I had 6 defunct filing cabinets in a tiny space that were cram-jammed full of music.  Some of the music was so old, it cost $.20 for an octavo.  Most octavos nowadays cost $1.95 each.

My music filing system has been a three-year, ongoing project.  Funding had to be secured.  The System had to be purchased.  60-year old cubbies had to be removed.  The System had to be installed where the cubbies used to live.  All of the music had to be transferred from 54-year old filing cabinets into the new System (Thank you, Stephanie!!)  The entire process broke down when the doors for the System were damaged by the freight carrier who delivered them back in April.  This project would have been completed before the end of the year had this not happened....UGH!!

As you can see in the bottom photo, the new doors are still resting in their shipping coffin and sitting on the floor waiting to be installed.  I made several attempts to schedule the installation before the final bell rang this year, but I couldn't make it happen.  FRUSTRATION!!

In the meantime, I decided to clean out the keyboard closet and move the old filing cabinets out so we could figure out a way to install racks on which to hang 21 keyboards.  Another unfinished project....SAY IT ISN'T SO!!

If you know me at all, you know that I need closure in my world.  I am not at rest until the compartments of my life are packaged up nicely and neatly with a red bow on top.

My school year still has a gaping hole in it.  Doors on the floor.  Keyboards on the floor.  At this point, I'm not sure when or how my little projects will be completed.  The custodians cannot strip and wax my floors with the doors in their final resting place.  Drama Dude said he'd figure out a way to hang the keyboards.  So now we wait.....

 Keyboard closet where music was formally filed.
No more filing cabinets!! YAY!!

 Electronics covered.
Bulletin boards refreshed for next year.

New Music Filing System (doors on the floor).
Classroom stripped down for custodial crew.

I would like to thank Brandon Lesando for his assistance yesterday with the filing cabinets.  I could never have accomplished this task without his help.  Drama Dude will come through; he always does.  At this point, I cannot vouch for the installers.  Unfinished business.  My least favorite thing ever!

Until next time...

Friday, May 20, 2016

Grandma's Mini Concert

Sometimes in life, we are called upon to look beyond ourselves and bless others with the gifts we have been given.  This could mean something as simple as paying for the person's order in the drive-through behind you or mowing a neighbor's lawn because they are not able to do so themselves.  I must share a story with you that speaks to a deeper level of humanity not ordinarily exhibited by teenagers and restores my faith in this generation affectionately dubbed "The Millennials."

What I am about to share is a true story that occurred in my classroom yesterday.  I teach high school chorus.  My class creed hangs on my wall - "Great Music, Better People."  I was witness to an extraordinary outpouring of kindness towards another human being by my students yesterday and my hope is that this experience will remain with them for many years to come.

Our Spring concert was last week.  It was our final concert of the year.  This was one senior's last opportunity to sing with his high school chorus prior to graduation.  His grandmother had been in the hospital all week and was extremely ill.  She was devastated that she could not attend her grandson's final concert.  This young man pulled me aside and asked if there was any way his grandmother could come to school one day before the seniors left and listen to the choir perform one song.  Just one.  I looked at my student and said, "If she is physically able, have her come.  If she is not physically able to come, we will go to her.  Is she still in the hospital?" He told me she was recuperating at home.

At 1:00 p.m. yesterday, this young man's grandmother and grandfather walked into our classroom.  She was wearing a portable heart monitor.  We sat them down in a chair and my beautiful choir gave an encore presentation of their music that was sung at our concert last week.  At the conclusion of our mini-concert, the grandmother was weeping.  I knelt down beside her and gave her a hug.  She said, "Thank you for doing this for me.  No one has ever done anything like this for me before."  Then I began to weep.  It was one of the most touching experiences I've ever shared with another person.  You could feel the joy in the air as my students witnessed the blessing of giving the gift of music to another human being.  It was a treasure that only they could give; only this group at only this time.

 Men's Ensemble performing "Vive L'Amour"
which means "Long Live Love!"

I shared this story with 96 people who attended our chorus banquet last night.  It was fresh and it was beautiful and I had to share it.  So many people were touched by this story that I had to share it here as well.

To my students who blessed this woman beyond measure - THANK YOU! You are the reason I get up in the morning, get dressed and show up for another day of music-making in a public high school.  I am extremely proud to call you my students.  You have become "Better People" in the time that I have known you.  May your legacy live on long after you graduate.

Until next time...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Teacher of the Quarter

O.K., Folks.  Today has been an awesome day.  It isn't everyday that an entourage of family, friends, an Assistant Principal and several PTSA Board Members storm your room and shower you with blessings.  I was completely taken by surprise when they announced the reason for their visit.

My students voted me the new "Teacher of the Quarter."  They gave me flowers, a plaque, a prime parking space, lots of hugs and a $100 gift card to Outback Steakhouse.  It was just as good as "Teacher of the Year" and I didn't have to complete the ominous packet to compete with everyone else!!

My heartfelt thanks go out to my students who make my job interesting, exciting and filled with music everyday. 

O, Happy Day.......

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Week That Was

I knew it was coming.  I prepared mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually during Spring break which was the week prior to "The Week That Was."  This week actually began on Tuesday, March 29th - our first day back from Spring Break 2016.

I have decided that Spring Break is just a tease....a big tease, in preparation for summer break.  Waking up without an alarm, chilling with friends, hitting the beach, fishing on the pier, reading a good novel -- this is my idea of an awesome Spring Break.  I'm always too tired to travel.  The thought of packing a bag to go anywhere does not excite me.  By this time of the year, I am tired.  Really tired.  Spring Break is the week I use to re-charge my batteries.  I'm top-tier when it comes to "doing."  I'm lower than pond scum when it comes to just "being."  Spring Break is my time to just "be."

We returned to school on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, we took our Senior Photo at the beach in full concert regalia, then headed back to school for a 2-hour rehearsal for State Solo and Ensemble with our accompanist.  Thursday, we had a 4-hour technical rehearsal for our annual talent showcase.  It would not have lasted that long, but the breaker blew while our lighting designer was recording light cues for the show and had to start all over.  Friday, April 1st - our "Fletcher's Got Talent" talent showcase took the stage!! I was at school from 6:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. yesterday.  Today - I took a bus load of 25 students to see a "live" stream of "Madame Butterfly" in HD.  Yes...24 high school chorus students, one keyboard student and two chaperones on a Saturday to see an opera.  It was awesome!! 

Seniors - 2016

Talent Show Crew - Student Officers

 The Metropolitan Opera House - New York, New York
1:00 p.m. matinee "Madame Butterfly"

"Live" Stream in HD at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts
1:00 p.m. matinee - Jacksonville, Florida

Intermission 1 - Pizza!!

On Tuesday, April 5th, I will take 11 students to compete in the Florida Vocal Association's North State Solo and Ensemble Music Performance Assessment...and thus will end my "Week That Was."
Until next time...

Friday, March 18, 2016

National Association for Alternative Education

Spring Break began today and I spent the early morning hours with one of my students who had agreed to sing the National Anthem at the general session of the National Association for Alternative Education's annual conference.  Teachers from all over the United States converged upon the Sawgrass Marriott this week to share ideas and gain a better understanding of how we can help our students finish their high school years and receive their diploma.  If we, as educators, can help them understand that "the tassle is worth the hassle" and if they complete the task, their lives would be forever changed.  No one can ever take away your education.  That is one thing in this life you can hold onto forever.

The path to this invitation was rather circuitous.  It was brought to the attention of my current principal by the school's former principal.  The invitation then traveled through me (chorus teacher) to my student, Sammie.  Her family postponed their trip out of town so she could sing today and I am so grateful for their support.

Sammie played the lead role of "Dorothy" in our spring musical ("The Wizard of Oz") several weeks ago and did a beautiful job.  I knew she would represent our school well today, and she did.

I told Sammie that this was the "first of many opportunities" for her to represent Duncan U. Fletcher Senior High School in this way.  She is a freshman and I am thrilled to have her for another 3 years!

Thank you to Mr. Dane Gilbert, Mr. Don Nelson, Ms. Jackie Whitt and the NAEA Board for this opportunity.  Now that this performance engagement has been fulfilled, here's wishing all of my students a safe and restful Spring Break!!

Until next time...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Birthday Blessings

Yesterday was my birthday.  I had an awesome day!!

Lots of FB posts, text messages, e-mails, telephone calls, cards, flowers and gifts.  AND the Dean's secretary (who also happens to be my cousin) sang to me over the intercom.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

Even the band honored me by writing my name on their monthly calendar!!

I love bulb flowers of any variety.  My sister sent me a brimming bouquet of irises and tulips!!

I am blessed beyond measure and I'm "feeling the love."  Thank you everyone!! 

Until next time....

Friday, February 12, 2016


We are very fortunate to have an organization in our area known to all as the Beaches Fine Arts Series.  This organization brings in top-tier performers from around the world to share their musical gifts in our community.  EVERY concert is free.  Many of the artists do masterclasses and workshops with local elementary school children and concert choirs at the high school level.  Last year, we were invited to a masterclass with Chanticleer and it was an awesome experience. 

This year, my Ladies Chamber Chorus was invited to participate in a masterclass with a trio from the United Kingdom.  This group calls themselves "VOICE" and boy, do they each have one!!

The trio worked with my treble choir for over an hour today.  They sing all of their music a cappella, which means that there are no instruments involved in the process.  They establish the key with tuning forks and have incredibly good pitch and tone production.  Their sound is bell-like with very little vibrato.  My students had never heard anything like that before and the trio's sound was enhanced by the "live" acoustics at St. Paul's By-the-Sea Episcopal Church which is made of coquina (sea shells and mortar). 

By the end of the hour, my girls had learned several canons, sung in 3-parts, worked on "floating the sound," practiced proper breathing techniques and enjoyed a musical adventure from three lovely ladies from another country.  I don't think the girls realized the gift that was given to them today.  We will de-brief on Wednesday when we return to school.  I am anxious to hear what they have to say about the experience.  Big "THANK YOU!!" to Kathy Wallis and the Beaches Fine Arts Series.

 Ladies Chamber Chorus with VOICE

 Mrs. Tamburrino with VOICE

 VOICE Trio (United Kingdom)
Until next time...