Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I finished--Please vote for me!

With the help of my laptop, my new software, and a random assortment of my nieces' toy instruments, I managed to complete an entry to the Yo-Yo Ma remix contest at Indaba Music while on vacation! Please listen to my entry, and if you like it, I'd really appreciate your vote. You can click the link on this widget, or go here:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I can hardly believe it's almost 2009, and I haven't updated my blog since November! Each time I start to update, the list of things to write about has grown even more overwhelming. So for now, I'll just talk about the holidays.

The LS just loves holiday music! We brought out the newly updated holiday songbooks right after Thanksgiving, and hardly a music class went by without some sing-along requests. We learned some Orff xylophone accompaniments to Christmas songs, made take-home jingle bell instruments, and had a Hanukkah celebration with a menorah, stories, songs, and dreidel. Forest and Mountain students learned "Jingle Bells" on their recorders, and some even moved on to "Silent Night," learning 4 new notes! A large number of students and their families showed up each morning for our before-school sing-alongs the week before break. I can't wait to unveil my big surprise for all LS music classes in mid-January... stay tuned!

"Music Man" is underway in the MS and I am having a blast musically directing my first CFS production. What a talented cast! Though I have to say I was a bit alarmed to find that we only have 5 weeks of rehearsal left before opening night...

Now, time to say a big THANK YOU for the generous gift certificates from LS and MS parents! Not only was I able to finish my holiday shopping in style, I purchased a tiny little camera that fits in my pocket, takes great pictures, and shoots HD video. I can't wait to use it in class! Here is my family playing their new ornament ocarinas:

I got an exciting musical gift from my family--Logic Studio, which is a full-featured music production studio for the Mac. Think GarageBand times about 10,000. Just a few years ago, it would have cost thousands of dollars to get anything close to this package. I wanted to use it right away, so on Christmas day I sequestered myself in the studio for a while to create this project. My sister-in-law commented that she had no idea her brother was married to Mannheim Steamroller. Me neither!

My dad played me an NPR podcast about one of Yo-Yo Ma's current projects, which can be found here. It's a contest to create a musical mix using Ma's cello performance of "Dona Nobis Pacem." I wish I had found out about this sooner, because I will be visiting family until after the deadline. To enter, I have 48 hours to pull a musical MacGyver--I have a laptop, a tiny MIDI entry keyboard, my orchestral flute, an iPod microphone, Christmas ornament ocarinas, and an assortment of preschool instruments to create a composition worthy of Yo-Yo Ma. If I make it, I'll be sure to post it here! At any rate, Indaba Music is a GREAT find--I can't wait to explore it some more.

I hope you are all having a safe and happy holiday and look forward to seeing you in 2009!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Down Down Baby.... all over CFS!

Indulge me... I just have to share a proud moment as a teacher. Last week I taught some of the LS a singing game called "Down Down Baby." As I was teaching, I noticed that some of the students already knew the song and the exact same motions I was teaching. I asked where they had learned it, thinking a previous music teacher had taught it. But they had learned it from older siblings and friends in the Middle School who weren't in my classes but had learned it from other MS students in my Worlds of Music class and First-Year rotation the previous week. Oral traditions in action!

So here are the words! Have your child teach you the motions, and prepare to laugh yourself silly as it gets faster and faster:

Down down baby, down by the roller coaster
Sweet sweet baby, I don't wanna let you go
Shimmy shimmy coco pop, shimmy shimmy round
Shimmy shimmy coco pop, shimmy shimmy break down!

Two big kids, sittin' on a fence
Tryin' to make a dollar out of eighty-five cents.
She missed, she missed, she missed like this.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chamber Choir Performs!

This past Thursday, my Middle School Chamber Choir performed during Toni's Dessert Theater night at the Middle School. I am so proud of them--I wasn't sure if I would be able to create 3- and 4-part harmonies with a group of just eight middle schoolers, but boy did they rise to the challenge! Congratulations Aliza, Cecily, Darius, Henry, Julia, Lillian, Maeve, and Olivia! Here they are...

Yonder Come Day

How Can I Keep From Singing

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Riu Riu Chiu

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hello from Asheville!

This week I am participating in a retreat in Asheville on Mindfulness Coaching for Educators. Charlie is assisting our leader, coach Doug Silsbee. Also here from CFS are Mary, Alex, Rachel, Willy, and Guillermo.

The retreat is being held at Bend of Ivy Lodge, which is owned and operated by Doug and his wife. It is a completely transformed old barn... a metaphor for the transformation that can take place within the lives of those who visit.

I never expected to feel so peaceful on Nov. 4.

Who wouldn't feel revitalized in this setting?

Yesterday, Rachel tried her hand at building a rock sculpture:

I look forward to seeing everyone Thursday! I hope some of you can make it to hear the MS Chamber Choir perform at Toni's Dessert Theater show Thursday evening at 7, at the MS building.

And today, of all days, stay calm...

Friday, October 24, 2008

The last couple of weeks... and school song audio!

Oops, so much for my resolution to blog at least once a week! It's been a great month for technology at CFS, as we had our tech-focused staff development day Oct. 9 and now many of the staff are maintaining blogs, wikis, and all sorts of other fabulous technological goodies. I had a blast leading a YouTube/TeacherTube class followed by a blogs and wikis workshop. As a parent, I especially appreciate the many ways to keep track of what my daughter is and will be doing at CFS.

Many parents have asked me for the tune of the song based on the school's philosophy, so I recorded each LS class singing a verse last week. The day after I finished this, I received my spiffy new USB microphone, so I'm afraid this is recorded at very low quality through my laptop's built-in mic. Stay tuned for gorgeous hi-fi recordings! Click here to go to the song. Here is the order of verses, all pasted together with GarageBand:

Chorus: River 1
"Silence": Sky 1
"Spirituality of Life": Mountain 1
Chorus: Sky 2
"Peace": Forest 1
"Simplicity": Mountain 2
Chorus: Mountain 2
"Uniqueness": River 2
"Truth Continually Revealing Itself": Forest 2
Chorus: Forest 1

Forest and Mountain were very excited to pick out their new recorder colors last week. Unfortunately, the recorders are on backorder and may not arrive for another week or two. You wouldn't believe the hard time the kids are giving me about this. :-)

In the Middle School, the first trimester is nearly over! Our World Music wiki is really shaping up. We will be adding our last information and polishing it up during the next two weeks.

The Chamber Choir sounds incredible, singing in 4-part harmony (with only 8 singers). We tested out my new microphone, but I promised the choir not to post a recording to the blog until they are performance-ready. That will be soon, as we're performing at Toni's Dessert Theater show November 6.

First-year music rotation is rounding out the Melody unit by composing pieces for xylophone and assorted instruments/voices. I recorded and videotaped some truly inspired performances, to appear later. A class of talented musicians... and comedians! Next week we will be starting 3-ball juggling (we've all gotten very good at two balls). I will be sure to provide that promised post about why we're juggling in music class before the trimester ends.

The Middle School is buzzing with excitement over the upcoming musical, The Music Man! I am delighted to be musically directing my first show at CFS, and look forward to working with Henry and Toni. Auditions coming soon!

Finally, I just found out that the newest issue of Health & Healing in the Triangle has hit the stands, with an article I wrote on practicing mindfulness with children. Health & Healing is free at many health care locations as well as some restaurants and other places you find free periodicals.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More singing and playing

The first week of music, I promised Forest and Mountain classes that they would be singing some songs in at least 3-part harmony by the end of the year. Well, here is half of Mountain class singing a 3-part round plus vocal ostinato. And it's barely October!

Mountain class sings!

I love this song. It's called "Dance For the Nations," and here are the lyrics:

Round and round we turn, we hold each others' hands and
Weave ourselves in a circle.
The time is gone, the dance goes on.
The first three weeks of Middle School First-Year Rotation were devoted primarily to rhythm. Now we're focusing on melody and harmony. Right now we're working on our technique on the xylophones, learning to play some melodies, and figuring out harmonies to familiar songs. Here they are working on cross-hand technique. To keep track of the rhythm, they're thinking "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers."
First-years play "Peter Piper"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Middle School Monkeys

The first-year music rotation students were so interested in the Balinese Kecak (see video in previous entry) that I found some resources to help us create our own monkey chant. We read an abbreviated version of the story from the Ramayana that is depicted in the Kecak, then tried out a variety of vocal parts to creating our own interlocking monkey rhythm. To try our hand at some gamelan-style playing, we then transferred our parts to percussion instruments.

We also created a Monkey Chant in our World Music class, as part of our study of the gamelan. Check out some of our jams!

First-year Monkey Chant

First-year Monkey Jam on instruments

World Music Monkey Jam on instruments (same rhythms, very different sound!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rhythm in MS First-year Music Rotation

First-year music rotation has been all about rhythm this week and last. We collaborated to form complex rhythms in drum circles and a "vocal drum circle," created our own rhythm instruments out of found objects, learned to read and write some basic rhythmic notation, played rhythm games, and learned some lopsided Dave Brubeck rhythms.

Yesterday, I showed the class parts of three videos from YouTube showing some rhythmic traditions of Asia. The students asked me to post them to the blog so they could watch the whole thing and share them with their families. They really are fascinating!

The first is excerpts from the Malaysian World Drum Festival of 2008. This one caught my attention because my husband Jos just returned from a trip to Malaysia. There are unfortunately no captions describing the different groups, but you will see an incredible variety of percussive performances!

Here is an example of a Balinese gamelan, known as gamelan gong kebyar. Gamelan is a primary form of Indonesian traditional music. The gamelan consists of many instruments always played as an ensemble. Traditionally, the gamelan is sacred and may house spirits. Gamelan gong kebyar is performed on gamelans of primarily metal instruments, and is characterized by rapidly changing tempo (speed) and dynamics (volume).

Finally, an impressive performance of the Gamelan Kecak, or Ramayana Monkey Chant. This is a vocal gamelan tradition from Bali that is based on stories from the Ramayana. There are no instruments used--just voices!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Canoe Song!

This week, I've been (re)introducing all the LS classes to the Orff instruments. We start with just a few bars on the instruments, and gradually add more notes as the year goes on. Today, my Forest 1 group had four different instrument parts going while singing a three-part round! It was so exciting that I pulled out my laptop and made a Garageband recording, which you can listen to here.

The song is "Canoe Song," sometimes called "Land of the Silver Birch." Here are the words:

My paddle's keen and bright
Flashing with silver.
Follow the wild goose flight
Dip, dip, and swing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

School philosophy song

Here is the song we sang at LS all-school settling in this morning. I wrote it to help lower schoolers understand and remember the main points of the CFS philosophy, which can be found here in its entirety. It also represents my first venture into songwriting since college... thanks for the inspiration, CFS staff retreat!

Silence, peace, simplicity,These are the things that we believe.
Equals in spirit, each one of a kind,
We search for the truth as Friends in the light.

Silence is golden, or so they say
Well, we use our silence every day
We use it to center, to settle, to calm
To help us feel peaceful and get along.

Spirituality of Life
All life is precious on this, our green earth
We all share seasons of life, death, and birth
Despite all our differences, this we believe:
The light within you is the light within me


If all life is sacred, it's easy to see
That if I hurt you, it also hurts me.
We can end war, if we start right inside
Be kind to ourselves, and let love be our guide.

The things that we own can get in the way
Of friendship and truthfulness, learning, and play.
So when we have gifts, it's better to share.
Just look in your heart--your true wealth is there.


Each one of us has our very own way
Of seeing the world, of living our days
But we come together in one community
To learn from each other in sweet harmony

Truth Continually Revealing Itself
Truth can be found wherever we look,
Sometimes in nature, in friends, or in books.
Some find it in dancing, in music, in art--
And within ourselves, if we search in our hearts.

Here are the chords. If you are a LS parent or staff, your kids should be able to sing you the melody!

D Em
A7 D

D Em7
Em D A7 D

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Welcome to school!

I hope everyone's had a great start to the school year! It has been a little overwhelming having my first new school year in two units at once (not to mention my own daughter starting Early School)... but it really helped that LS specials and MS electives didn't start until week two. I was able to hop around both units during the first week of school and get to know everyone a little better. A big surprise for me was that in the Lower School, I'm now part of Forest class! Fortunately, long-time Forest teachers Michael and Amanda are there to help Lisa and me learn the ropes. In the Middle School, I especially enjoyed our day at Camp New Hope. The day included a beautiful Meeting for Worship in which the first-years, most of whom I know from last year in the LS, were matched up with their new fourth-year mentors.

This past week saw the start of music classes in both units. Here are some highlights of our week:

In the Lower School, we had fun echoing each others' silly rhythms, played name games, and decorated name sticks that we'll use throughout the year for a number of activities. We also learned the chorus of a song that distills each of the six points of the CFS philosophy into easy-to-remember words. I've put the words to that song below, in case you'd like to try it at home (or use it as a cheat sheet when anyone asks you what makes CFS so special)!

Forest and Mountain classes learned about the connection between rhythm, focus, and tossing beanbags. We took the first steps toward a major project for the year... learning to juggle! Doesn't sound very musical? More on that in an upcoming post...

My biggest project in preparation for my first year in the Middle School was to clean and organize the Music House. Though some of that was less than pleasant, it was well worth the effort to uncover all kinds of goodies from music teachers past! Thanks to all the teachers and students who offered help--especially the students who signed up for the Theater Improv Games playshop, only to find that our first game was moving large cardboard boxes to the recycling dumpsters in the style of criminals running from the law.

It's great to see all familiar faces in this trimester's First Year Music Rotation. This week, we discussed the definition of music (not as simple as it might seem!), listened to a variety of music from other cultures, started learning to juggle (with the lofty goal of 3 balls by November), learned a silly round (see below), and had our first drum circle.

Chamber Choir is an advanced choir, an audition-only follow-up to Matthew and Ida's wonderful Middle School Chorus last Spring. Auditions were held during the first week, and we have eight wonderful singers. This week, we went through some possible repertoire and started learning two songs--"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and a beautiful a capella arrangement of "How Can I Keep From Singing." On request from our singers, they'll be receiving audio recordings of their parts to help practice at home. 3- and 4-part harmony is challenging stuff!

Finally, Worlds of Music is my 7th period introduction to world music. Music of other cultures is a real passion of mine, so I am very excited to be teaching this class! In our first meeting, we recorded our personal reactions and observations of ten completely different pieces of music from ten cultures, then learned how a person from that culture might experience the music. Then we came up with a definition of music that can transcend cultures. I am pleased to report that we will be able to start our big project--creating a world music wiki--next week in the library computer lab!

Now the words to the two songs mentioned above:
Round to the tune of the famous Tallis Canon, used by MS 1st-year rotation. The words are supposedly based on an actual gravestone:
Here lie the bones of lazy Fred, who wasted precious time in bed.
Some plaster fell upon his head and Lord be praised our Freddie's dead!

And, the chorus to the song the LS learned this week:
Silence, peace, simplicity
These are the things that we believe
Equal in spirit, each one of a kind
We search for the truth as Friends in the light.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What I've been doing this summer, part one

Welcome to my new blog! This will become a much more active space with the start of the 2008-09 school year. I'll be using it to reflect on our various musical experiences at school and provide additional resources for families making music together at home. For now, I'll be recording some summer adventures.

Anyone who has been to my house knows that I have a slight addiction problem... to musical instruments! One instrument I have always wanted to play but seemed the least practical of all is the harp. In the past, affordable harps have pretty much been "furniture quality" instruments with poor tone and tuning that won't last through a song. Well, recently the Wm. Rees harp company has started making small, affordable lap harps called "Harpsicles." My favorite Durham music store, High Strung, has just started renting Harpsicles by the month and will even apply your rent towards the purchase of any harp in the store. So I am now the proud renter of the Harpsicle you see above.

Being a pianist gave me a head start with learning the harp, but I am a long way from gigging! Mountain class got to hear my harp the day after I got it in June, and I am proud to say I've improved a bit since then. Here is me playing Greensleeves, with sounds of post-dinner cleanup in the background.