Saturday, October 10, 2009

The first month of school--Middle School

Actually, it's the first 6 weeks of school... we are already halfway through the first trimester! Here are some highlights from my three Middle School electives this trimester.

First Year Music Rotation–This class is required of all MS first-years, and it serves as a bridge between the LS and MS music programs. With just ten or eleven students each trimester, it's a great opportunity for individual attention to students' interests as we explore the world of music through a variety of projects. We started the trimester by listening to a list of ten "mystery songs" from around the world. We discussed how our cultural background colored our own experience of the songs, then learned a little about how the songs would be perceived in their own culture–often polar opposites! Favorites included Tuvan throat singing, the Bulgarian Women's Choir, and the Drummers of Burundi. We then had a lively debate about how to create a universal definition of music. It was not an easy task, and in the end, the only thing everyone completely agreed upon was that music required sound waves! We went on to study rhythm through some drumming experiences of our own. Our first project was to create musical instruments out of found objects. Each student created two instruments, an idiophone and a second instrument that could be a chordophone, membranophone, or aerophone. Most recently we have been studying melody and harmony through our classroom xylophones. On Monday, students will be sharing their original compositions which show off the techniques we've been working on.

A Cappella Choir–Sixth period is the Middle School's first genuine a cappella choir! 15 girls and 1 very enthusiastic boy make up this sweet-sounding group. Creating three- and four-part harmony is a challenge at any age, and these tweens and teens are really rising to it. So far, we've learned an arrangement of "Hey Jude" and we're working on "Blackbird" and the ever-popular "Under the Sea," as well as some beautiful rounds. Stay tuned for a recording!

GarageBand–Another first in the Middle School, in the GarageBand elective we are going past the basics of dragging and dropping loops and learning to use GarageBand as a real tool for creative composition. After an exploration of the many features of this versatile program, we've started exploring style and genre through short projects. So far, students have composed the calm opening music for an imaginary show on yoga and meditation, and a soundtrack for a one-minute clip of an exciting soccer game. Now we're making our own real videos and experimenting with how our music can color, or even completely change, the emotional impact of a scene. You can listen to some of our completed projects at our wiki.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The first month of school--Lower School

I can hardly believe it's already October! The kids are bursting with energy from the cooling weather and the anticipation of Halloween, and they are full of enthusiasm for new projects and activities. Watch out for approaching storms--just today there was a poetry tornado in the Lower School!

Here are some highlights from our first month of music classes in the Lower School (I'll be posting about the Middle School separately):

  • Third-years in Forest and Mountain (as well as our new fourth-years) have received their new recorders! We've already learned to play our first three notes--B, A, and G--and are starting to read those notes on the staff and work in our new music notebooks. Fourth-years have been reviewing their recorder notes and are starting to work independently in the music notebooks. I'm hoping to soon film a few recorder tutorial videos similar to my ukulele tutorial videos so that interested students (and parents!) can refer to them at home. Stay tuned!
  • River and Sky classes have been playing our Orff instruments (xylophones) each Monday. They've learned to play lots of different accompaniment patterns to simple songs, and have had fun making up their own patterns and improvising tunes. Today, we reviewed a favorite song of the second years--"I've got a dog as thin as a rail..." Ask your child to sing it for you, complete with barks!
  • Forest and Mountain have also had their first class of the year playing the ever-popular ukuleles. River and Sky will get to this soon.
  • All classes discussed musical instrument families. We had a stringed instrument day, in which I demonstrated my harp and violin, and the students helped to figure out exactly how the sounds were produced and what all the parts of the instruments were for... plus, why it is that a violin costs so much more than a ukulele even though they both have four strings, and why you can't play a violin directly with a horse's tail no matter how friendly the horse.
  • We have all had our first music sharing day. In each music class, up to eight students signed up to bring in an instrument, recording, or other musical item or performance to share. We have quite a lot of talent in the Lower School, and I look forward to our next music sharing days in a couple of weeks!
  • River and Sky classes are learning the CFS Philosophy Song (you can hear it as sung at 2009 Springfest at our new website) We're discussing and singing one new verse each week. Soon your child will be able to explain to you exactly what CFS is all about, in rhymed verse!
Tomorrow, we'll start learning a beautiful song from our songbooks which your children are sure to sing at home, "Shady Grove." The older classes will learn to sing and play an ostinato (repeated pattern) during the song. This American folk song appears in many versions, some more appropriate for Lower School than others. The standard verses about getting married are sure to get a big "eeeew!", so here are the ones we'll be using. The song can be performed with just two chords, D minor and C major.

Shady grove, my little love
Shady grove, I know
Shady grove, my little love
I'm bound for the shady grove

Singin’ bird in the tree
Singin’ out so sweetly
Singin’ bird in the tree
Sing your song for me

Some come here to fiddle and dance
Some come here to tarry
Some come here to fiddle and dance
Whether sad or merry

Wish I had a fiddle string
Made of golden twine
Every time I played on it
Made music that was mine.

(lullaby verse)
Go to sleep, my little love
Go to sleep, my darling
Go to sleep, my little love
I'll see you in the morning.