Top Ten Tuesday 17/05/11

Favorite Choral Warmups – in scale degrees

These are  scalar warm-ups, not to be confused with warmups for actual choral repertoire. These are just my favorites to sing!

1. 1, 121, 12321, 1234321, 123454321, 51 (major)

2. 1,3,5,8,7,5,4,2,1(major)

3. 123,345,54321 (minor)

4. 1,2,7,1 (major)

5. 123454321,234565432,345676543,456787654,56789765,54321 (major)

6. 1,2,3,2,1,7,1 (minor) ascending chromatically

7. 1,3,5,8,5,3,1 (major) (Where are you going tonight?) ascending chromatically

8. 5,3,4,2,3,1,2,7,1,1 (on syllable me-a) (minor)

9. 1,8,8,8,5,3,1 (major) (ascending chromatically on syllable ya)

10. 12345,5,54321,5,1 (minor) (on syllable oo)

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… where people are encouraged to connect with people who are doing the same

Part 4- Creativity Series

Today will be the last post of the Creativity Series. This post features how I encourage students to connect with other creative students during regular music classes.

1. Integrating other arts and subject areas in class activities. Students engaged in music activities can play for a class who is responding to music using art. A choir can sing for a class studying lyrics of a particular song. Math students who are learning a song to remember math facts can relate it to their musical activities.

2. Informal performance (informance). I will often have classes perform their music informally to other classes. Sometimes this is at the beginning of their creative process (when they have just begun learning a song) or near the end when they are preparing for a performance. They also enjoy showing administrators or other school staff where they are at in a particular piece. I have been doing some research on the topic of informances for presentation to parents instead of the traditional performance. I would love to hear from anyone who has invited parents to an informance to share some ideas.

3. Connecting with other schools and community groups. An important part of playing in a wind band is performing at festivals. Most high school students perform at a music festival yearly and it is sometimes part of a band trip if one is not available nearby. Festivals are not only a great avenue for performance, but also to hear other groups perform. I think we can also brainstorm ways to go beyond this… perhaps meeting for lunch with a group who performed the same selection as your group and discussing the qualities of each performance. Taking students to area concerts or hosting them at your school is also a way to forge links with community groups and discuss musical and creative ideas.

4. Link to faraway schools via webcam and snail mail. I very much like the idea of a music program havina a partner school somewhere else in the world. They can bounce ideas off each other, perform their music for a different audience, get to know each other’s musical customs and experiences, and connect to other musicians.  A webcam is incredibly helpful to arrange meetings with the partner school, but I think it is also important to communicate on a more individual level. Pairing students up and sending individual postcards or letters is a way to reach this goal and have students discuss their musical development and creative ideas.

I hope you enjoyed reading this Creativity series as much as I enjoyed writing it. Come back soon for more posts on similar topics.

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… where people are encouraged to learn from failure

Part 3- Creativity Series

As part of the Creativity Series, today I will feature how I encourage students to learn from failure during regular music classes.

1. Encouraging students to play passages in front of their peers. Students play short passages or test passages in front of their peers on a regular basis. As they get used to class performance, they learn to ignore small failures and celebrate large successes. Students are always given two attempts at playing a passage and are encouraged to always play passages twice to try and improve from their first attempt. Other students are encouraged to give constructive criticism and we spent quite some time learning what is constructive and what is not!

2. Improvisation. Students are rarely confident in their first experiences in improvisation. I like to tell students that every single time they improvise, they improve. They learn which notes sound best in each chord change, which rhythms are most engaging, which patterns should be repeated, how to begin and end a segment.

3. Encouraging students to display effort. In my opinion, students most often experience failure because of a lack of effort. For example, students who do not perform as well as others can attribute their “failure” to a lack of practice or concentration. A good tool in this case is the recording device (like the H2 Zoom) to show students how they sound when they perform something in a sight-reading capacity before they have had time to practice. Then, you can give them 10 minutes to practice on their own, and record them as a group again. They will almost always notice the difference and with some prodding, can identify that practice was instrumental in their improvement.

4. Developing skills in self-compassion, kindness, understanding and acceptance. Students are often harder on themselves than we are on them. This is why punishments that are devised by students are often ten times more harsh than we would have created ourselves. All this to say: what some students perceive as failure is merely experimentation. They need to have the self-confidence to accept that perfection on the first attempt is nearly impossible, and be kind to themselves and each other.

I hope you are enjoying reading this series on Creativity. There may be an interruption between Part 3 and 4 for other content and I would like to remind everyone that I will be away from the blog for a few days early this week.

As always, thank you for reading!

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Planning for a business trip

My career at Long and McQuade officially begins this Sunday, when I go on a trip for a 4 day training course. I will not be posting on the blog so expect a few days of absence with a return late next week. I will however, be posting Part 3 of the Creativity series tomorrow. Look for it then and I hope to hear your comments!

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A new career venture

Great news to share!

I will be working at Long and McQuade Music as their newest Educational Services Representative! I will be the liaison between music educators in this province and the store; running recruitment nights, advising on repertoire selection, ordering instruments and supplies and everything else music and school-related. I am very excited about this new career step. I will be continuing on with the blog here, but in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to note that I am no longer a practicing music teacher. I will still be posting my experiences and thoughts on education and music in elementary and secondary classrooms. My new experiences at L & M will also be featured.

Long & McQuade

Thanks for reading and please look for Part 3 of the Creativity series soon,


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A new twitterer and an interview

I have finally joined the ranks of those on Twitter and thus the 21st century. 🙂 If you are also on twitter and would like to be notified of new blog posts here, you can follow me @cvnsh.

In other news, another interview today! This is for a position at a music store, as an Educational Services Representative. This basically translates to being on the road working directly with band directors and would be a wonderful opportunity. Fingers crossed!

Look for Part 3 of the Creativity Series early next week.

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… where people are encouraged to try partial ideas

Part 2- Creativity Series

As part of the Creativity Series, today I will feature how I encourage students to try partial ideas during regular music classes.

1. Using the classroom as a forum for sharing of questions and thoughts. Students need to feel comfortable to ask questions at any time and share their observations. For example, I ask students to turn to the person beside (in front, behind) them and share one thought about how the band sounded on the last excerpt. With the exception of when my arms are raised on the podium and the band is playing, students may put their hands up at any time to share a comment. I often have students who will put their hands up to share when they play a passage correctly/perfectly for the first time, or when they make a connection between the two pieces of repertoire we are playing, or share how this section reminds them of something we played as a group last semester.

2. Encouraging composition and improvisation. Students are given opportunities to play a call-response pattern with their neighbor, section or the entire class. I sometimes have students provide the models for class-wide echoes as part of our warm-ups. Students are encouraged to experiment with melodic fragments on their instrument, notate them, perform them for me after class and combine them with a friend’s ideas to make a composition. Young students enjoy developing their own rhythmic patterns, improvising melodies over an ostinato, or making up song lyrics.

3. Asking open-ended questions instead of obvious response or leading questions. I will admit that I often use leading questions to guide students toward a new musical discovery or towards making musical decisions as a group. However, it is also important to ask open-ended questions to stimulate creativity. For example: Why do you think this performance was better than the other day’s? How could you change the whole feel of the piece by altering only one thing? Why do you think the composer chose the trumpet to play the melody here? What can you tell me about the accompaniment at measure 22? How would you compare this piece of music to the one we are learning in class? If you could describe this piece of music in one word, what would it be? Can you imagine a scene in a movie where we could use this piece?

4. Problem-solving in the music classroom. Problem-solving allows students to be creative in that they devise their own solutions to issues and also find several different answers to the same question. For example: How many different sounds can you make on the tambourine? Here is a musical scale with one note missing, which note is it and how do you know? How can you play a song that is not written down? Group work is very conducive to developing problem-solving skills where students share creative ideas with one another. Small groups can be challenged to: perform a passage in a country-western style, compose a short piece based on one sentence from a literary work or one postcard picture, compare the qualities of music to an object such as an umbrella or kite, etc. I would encourage the groups to begin the process by brainstorming together and sharing any ideas, no matter how small. Students could also keep a journal where they note down any interesting ideas that come to mind.

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