Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Middle School Teacher and Music Teacher Linky Party!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

From my Kitty....Merry Christmas!

And, here is my kitty.  ...and of course, it has nothing to do with teaching sight singing or middle school, but I thought it might bring a smile to some faces!  My mother always said, "You don't own a cat".  So true.  ...and if we remembered that in our daily lives in so very many ways, we would save ourselves a lot of stress!  Merry Christmas!  



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Sunday, December 22, 2013

MILESTONE! Last lesson for 2013!

Happy to have followed through with my plan this year!  This is the finally lesson of 2013!  Starting with Lesson 1 and ending with Lesson 18...well, if you do it, I think your young beginners are going to be great sight singers who enjoy the process!

...and January is a wonderful time to start the program!

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Link to the final Sight Singing product of 2013! Get started on the program! January is a great time to start! Check out my blog!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lesson 17-SKIPS! Part 2 is Released!

My latest Sight Singing Lesson is released! January is the time to start!
It's a three day lesson that is the final step we take before we launch into the MILESTONE of Lesson 18!

It's progressive!  My little ones are doing great.  January is a great time to start the program.
Let's help them become literate musicians!

Happy Holidays!


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Monday, December 16, 2013

The bullseye!

Another visual to use with your students when doing Sight Singing and Ear Training!

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Solfege Ladder

  Those half steps between MI/FA and TI/DO can trick them up!  A little visual always helps their ears!

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Are we Robert Shaw?

"I would never use an accompaniment track with my students".

 Oh, the purists. I've heard and read this for years.

 People who criticize the use of accompaniment tracks in choral concerts and talk about how it is terrible for kids because they don't learn to follow us...it isn't LIVE...and on and on...

 Well, I absolutely disagree. Haven't we all had a horrible accompanist? One who rushed or dragged your beat? Nothing puts a drag on a great performance faster than that. We have to TEACH them to follow us. They are in middle school! They don't know who to follow unless we TEACH them HOW...whether it is an accompaniment track or live accompaniment, there is no getting around the importance of teaching our kids. In fact, I think that using a combination of tracks and real accompanists provides us with many teachable moments about the differences between the two and how important it is to follow us no matter what! The conductor is the glue.

 I have taught middle school for 22 years, and I have always used a mix of tracks and real accompaniment in concert settings. I have 300 young lovelies in my choir, most of whom have very limited background in singing choral music when they come to me, and they all follow me just fine. In fact, we just did our winter concert in a GYM of all places.........no risers for some of the students because of the large size of the chorus...and they did beautifully well!

 The only time I make sure never to use a track is in an adjudicated festival.

 When we say "I would never use a track anytime, anywhere", we are limiting ourselves a bit, I think.
 A track can create quite the dramatic effect for some songs, and our students love some drama...especially in middle school...and that drama can attract students to our programs. The predictability of the track actually increases the chances of a successful performance for our young students. They do better when they know what is coming.

With a purist attitude ("no tracks ever...they are horrible!"), we are also reducing the number of great teachers who might choose to be chorus teachers because their piano skills are limited. "I can't teach chorus because I can't play...". We have to remain open.

 We need to be careful about being purists about this and other issues related to choral music, and keep our minds open as technology continues to present us with so many new ways to give our students an awesome choral experience and make them excited about singing.

 We are not Robert Shaw conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. We are middle school teachers who are trying to attract new members of society to the art of choral singing. Throw them a bone with some well-made tracks to songs they enjoy singing and then have them sing the Brahm's Requiem once they have fallen in love with making music in the choral setting! That is our job.

 Here is my product designed to help our beginning choral students learn to follow us no matter what in all circumstances!

Click link for "Keep Your Eyes on Me"! A product designed for middle school teachers and early elementary teachers of choirs


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Twas the day before the holiday concert....

Tomorrow, they sing.  ...All 300 of my little middle school students singing at once in this unbelievable venue!  Um...no, it isn't the one you see in the picture.

I took that screenshot of the Laguardia High School Choir because that is the type of venue I'd LIKE to have for my students one day, but tomorrow's event will be in our gym.

I am very excited.  They are singing a few new songs this year as well as the traditional pieces we've done for years.  Alumni get to come up and sing the final number "Light the Candles All Around the World" by Teresa Jennings!  Yep...we actually light the candles!  ....very, very carefully!  :)

It's been insane as always in the days preceding the concert.  On Friday, Monday and tomorrow (day of the concert), I was/am missing a portion of the 7th graders due to field trips.  Today was our only "real" full day of rehearsal filled with plans for lots of musical corrections and critical last minute instructions.

...And, of course, today, there was one interruption after another.

While I was teaching 84 girls, the following things happened within the first 10 minutes:

a)  a parent knocked at my door to return a piano they borrowed for an assembly.
b)  a security guard came to the door to find a student.
c)  the secretary "beeped" me on the intercom two different times looking for various students.
d)  The phone rang and no one was on the other end.
e)  ...and one of my students had a seizure.

This particular child is a special education student who spends the entire day in the resource room except when she is in chorus class with the 84 other girls.  She has been the most awesome student.

Middle school children can be so mean, but when someone like this child is in the room, it changes them.....and me.  Her presence brings out the best in all of us.

She's doing just fine, but we all were very concerned about her.

It pulled us together.  It helped us all snap out of our "it's rainy, early in the morning and I'm ready for Christmas break" mindset that we all had before she had the seizure.

We get so caught up in whatever the latest musical concert preparation is that we don't always stay in touch with what is important.

This day...that is what is important...and living it....and recognizing the very special gift that it is....and laughing during that day...and connecting with people eye to eye...and being grateful for how good we have it.

...And tomorrow they sing.

I am sure there will be at least 10 crazy unexpected things that happen during our final dress rehearsal in the gym at 2:20 PM tomorrow, but it will all be just fine.

...and hopefully, the people in the audience tomorrow will have at least one moment of goose bumps, laughter or tears...and hopefully, they will leave with just a little bit more holiday cheer in their hearts than when they rushed into the gym to see their children sing.

Happy Holidays!

My Sight Singing Program for Middle School Teachers...Click!



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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Why can't I get the words to this song right?!

I'm a chorus teacher, and I never get the words right to my student's songs.  They laugh at me when I screw them up.  Maybe it's a learning issue?!  Who knows...Anyway...I remember, as a child, singing the words to songs for years, and then, when I finally saw the words on paper, I thought to myself, "That is what they were singing?!"

Oh well....I miss the words, but I definitely don't miss the pitches and rhythms!  That's what I always tell my students!  I have no idea what the words this song are because I am so totally focused on singing the pitches and rhythms correctly!  I hardly look at the words!

That's probably part of the reason I've become a Sight Singing specialist!

Yesterday, I confirmed with the editor at Choral Director magazine that an article I submitted on Sight Singing for Middle School children will be published in their January issue!  YEA!  Very excited about that!  It's my first published article on the subject.

Also, remember...on January 23rd, I'll present the NAFME webinar on Sight Singing.

I am getting lots of good and helpful feedback on S-Cubed!  Successful Sight Singing for Middle School Teachers and their Students.  I am super excited about the long-term potential.  I hope the unique offering will serve lots of people in their classrooms.   As I am over halfway done developing the 2-part version of it, I see it as a workshop-slash-progressive set of usable lesson plans for the teacher and her/his students.  I am working to make sure it is something that I would have love to have had when I started teaching in the chorus classroom....Lessons with teaching tips and teaching examples that I can learn from and use over and over without spending more and more money to replace books!

Lesson 17 is in progress and should be published next week.  Then, during the last week of school, I will be working on getting one to two more lessons out.  This way, folks who start the program in January with their students will have lots to work with between January and the end of the school year!

Click to see the latest offering in S-Cubed!
Have a great weekend!
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Middle School Classroom Management-Holiday Concert

This time of year is crazy.  Holiday shopping, parties, family get togethers...it's like we try to squeeze the whole year into 2 weeks.  Wouldn't it be simpler to just do some of these things all year and spread it out a bit?

It is what it is....and it really is wonderful...especially with some good planning.

Chorus teachers have to squeeze the execution of one of the biggest events of the year into this already crowded calendar:  the holiday concert.

My holiday concert is next week.  With over 300 children in my chorus, I have to do some very careful planning to pull it off.

The famous Julie Andrews line is "Let's start at the very beginning...."  Well, actually, for my big events, it's the opposite.  I start by visualizing the end.

How do I want it to go?  What will it look like?

I want it to be as seamless as possible.  Everyone is busy, so I want it to start on time.  I want it to be a well-planned and well-executed use of time for the parents and the students who are in attendance.   I want the audience to leave wanting more, not less.   I want to take them on a journey.  I want them to laugh a little and cry a little.  I want them to hear good choral singing.  I want the students to know what to do before the event and after the event.  I want everyone to leave happy.

I want to leave happy.

So, to that end, with more than 300 children for whom I am responsible, I plan.  I plan every little detail as carefully as possible so that I can achieve the "end" I described above.  I plan the extra rehearsals that are needed.  I make sure every custodian knows well-ahead of time what I need them to help me do.  I reach out to parents for extra support with sign-in procedures and distribution of candles, flashlights, costumes, etc.

The planning is enormous, but it is so valuable.

...and in about 45 minutes, the concert is over.

...but I hope it is something they will all remember and take with them for a lifetime.  Positive, warm memories...that are the result of careful and methodical planning....that brings out the best in our middle school children.

That is our job.

...and right after it is over, I start planning for the adjudicated festivals!  My beginners are currently focused on skips and chromatics in their sight singing!  They are singing the skips very well in their sight singing examples, and, today, they sang the chromatic scale.  I did my exercise called "Score the Scale" with them using the Chromatic scale.  They scored over a 9 on the ascending scale.  They got in an 8.2 on the descending scale.  There is work to do!

I am including my latest sight singing lesson below!  January is coming!  It's a great time to get started on the program!

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/SKIPS-S-Cubed-Lesson-16-Successful-Sight-Singing-for-Middle-School-991184  Lesson 16! SKIPS!



As you work on your holiday concerts, take care of the details...and then, take a deep breath and enjoy the rewards of your planning!


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