Ahhh, recorders.

February 26, 2008

Those little darlings of the elementary music world!  Give me a B-A-G and I’ll give you some hot cross buns, baby! So, I have some students that (for whatever reasons) simply cannot get those three notes straight in their heads or their fingers.  Today I primed everybody up by announcing we would be adding (pause for dramatic effect)*percussion* to the group!  (Gasps all around, and outstretched hands reaching for the hand drums.) I placed two lines of symbols on the board.  One had a big fat zero followed by three Xs; the other had three big fat zeroes followed by a snaky looking line.  It took them no time at all to figure out that the zeroes meant “ssh” and the Xs meant drums play and the snaky looking line meant shake the tambourine. Everybody played on time.  Together.  Happily.  And they sounded (as they told me) just like a “real” band.  Smoke on the Water, anyone? 



February 8, 2008

So obvious, yet so often forgotten! Kids don’t know how to breathe.  They pick up their instrument and buzz or blow, bless their hearts, and wonder why the sound is as muffled as a mouthful of cotton candy.  

Nor is it enough to say “breathe.”  Not even “Don’t forget to breathe.”  No, breathing must be taught.  Even using a spaghetti breath (pretend you’re sucking in the world’s longest piece of spaghetti) or a swimmer’s breath really doesn’t get the point across all the time.  

Well, let me share my success story!   Demonstrating how deep the breath should go wasn’t enough of a visual, so I said “If you take a deep enough breath, you should be able to walk completely around the bandroom playing one note.”  That has led to eager students showing up for lessons saying “Can I do my laps?” and learning how to control that diaphragm muscle till the very end when they push out that last remaining breath.  We measure how far they get, cheer their results, and get them motivated to breathe even deeper next time.  

Of course, they’re always so surprised when they suddenly have more air to play the same music that was giving them trouble earlier.  Light bulb moment! 

Am I replacing myself?

February 8, 2008

So I have this great idea (after attending an iPod workshop at Rutgers) of posting my instrumental music lessons online.  This allows the kids that didn’t get it the first time (or, let’s be honest, the 10th time) to access the same material at home. By using a video podcast, the kids can see how to put together their new instrument, how to hold it, place reeds correctly, use the proper fingerings and embouchures, and hear the actual sounds they should be making.However, am I making my time in the classroom obsolete by doing this?  Will I just be taking myself out of the classroom and only teaching via the screen?  What about kids who don’t have internet access at home: will they be at a further disadvantage? Yes, I’m full of questions!