2016 Colorado Music Educators Association Day 3

This will be the last post in my CMEA 2016 round-up! You can find the the other posts here:

What About Us? Teacher Wellness Strategies

Presented by Dr. Margaret Berg from Colorado University in Boulder, CO, Dr. Berg offered a new perspective on the often maligned “work/life balance.” In contrast, she suggested striving for satisfaction in all areas of your life: professional, emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual.

She referenced the work of two researchers in two divergent areas of study.  The first is Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction by Matthew Kelley. Kelley’s premise is that there is no such thing as a work-life balance. Due to unique priorities, schedules, and life circumstances of each person, your “balance” might be different at different times of your life, the year, or even your week! Kelly advocates instead that people seek satisfaction in their personal and work lives.

The second book is The Power of a Teacher by Adam Saenz. Similar to Off Balance, Saenz encourages a focus on teacher well-being in multiple facets of their life. There was also an emphasis on priorities here as well.

I have not read either of these books, but they are on my Want to Read shelf on Goodreads! I will make sure to update when I have read them!

Colorado Music Education Conference Round-Up

Thanks for taking a look at what I learned at the 2016 Colorado Music Educators Association Clinic Conference last weekend in Colorado Springs! If you have questions or would like to talk to me about any of the ideas I learned, I’d love to share the resources and wisdom I learned from the conference!

2016 CMEA Round-Up Day 2

The “IT” Factor in School Orchestra Literature

Dr. Gail Barnes, from the University of South Carolina runs a program called The String Project, in which undergraduate music education string students have an opportunity to teach students from 3rd grade through adulthood. In this first clinic I attended with Dr. Barnes, she presented ideas that promote an affective approach to selecting school music literature. She argued that students do not stay in music because of the skills and knowledge they acquire through our courses, but through the emotional connection they make to the music, to each other, and to their directors. She also demonstrated the ways in which composers use intervals and other compositional devices to evoke musical expression and emotional connection.

Dr. Barnes also quoted one of my very favorite books about teaching music, Shaping Sound Musicians by Patricia O’Toole. Shaping Sound Musicians emphasizes incorporating affective goals into the planning process for music teachers. It is not enough to teach them the skills they need to play it or the information about the composer or composition. We must actively engage in teaching our students the emotions of the piece and providing them opportunities to express and explore their own connections to a piece of music!

Hey CMEA… What if we…?

This session focused on providing feedback and ideas to the state music education organization on how they could better support teachers and provide opportunities for music teachers to improve their craft. Primarily, our discussion centered around the role of non-traditional performance ensembles and ways of musiking. What I really appreciated was the emphasis on the “Both/And” approach: traditional large ensembles and alternative musical ensembles (rock band, mariachi, ukulele ensembles, etc.) can and should coexist in schools!

It was a really interesting discussion! As the profession opens up for new and diverse ways of music making, I think it is important to keep educational equity in mind! Ukulele ensembles, guitar ensembles, and other ways of music making cannot just be the second-tier option for schools without the resources to build large musical ensembles. Such a two tier system would simply widen the opportunity gap between students at affluent schools and students living in poverty.

Incorporating Composition in the Classroom

This was, hands down, the most fun I had at a session all weekend! A violist from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra presented a composition model used in the education outreach arm of the Orchestra. Basically, the teacher guides students through a composition process that doesn’t rely exclusively on traditional notation, and with the help of other musicians, bring the students ideas to life!

What I really liked about this model was the emphasis on story-telling, musicianship, and creativity! It is typically used in the primary and middle grades, but it could be adapted for a high school classroom really well! The most interesting part of this process is immediately playing

Posture, Pulse, Pitch…and Praise (and Persistence!)

I have a confession to make. Well, that’s not completely true… I confess that I am not a string player! That’s right! While I teach strings every day, I am still struggling with many of the fundamentals of string playing. I grew up a clarinet player in the band and took a few years of private lessons when I was younger and again in college. And while I enjoyed my instrumental experience, I fell in love with singing at a very early age – just ask my parents!

And while I also played guitar, I was worlds away from non-fretted string instruments! And so I’ve done my best over the last two years to delve into string teaching and pedagogy, but have not been great at actually picking up the violin! So, inspired by the conference, I’ve decided to rent a violin and start practicing violin playing daily at school!

Total Program Success

This was another big favorite of mine! Jeff Young from the Carmel High School marching program in Carmel, Indiana presented a system to evaluate and redesign a program for total success. This seems like a lofty goal (especially for a guy that teaches Anatomy and Physiology), but by applying principles of leadership, entrepreneurship, and what we know about goal-setting and organization psychology, Jeff and his program Dynamic Marching, laid out a usable format for rethinking a band program.

Truly, though, this system could be used by any school organization looking to reevaluate their vision and goals! I learned a lot from this class and intend to use the principles taught to reimagine my program and where I want to go. To be honest, I’ve been feeling very directionless at school as I work with my students. Certainly, I have short term goals for my program and my students-concerts, performances, festivals, etc. But I have not had long-term goals that I am working towards. Even worse, the department I chair does not have long-term goals that we are working towards together.

To truly be successful, both my program and my department need vision, goals, and the work ethic to achieve them. I hope to take the course that Jeff and his team have developed in order to better design  a way forward for me and my students. Professional satisfaction won’t land in my lap from nowhere! I need to take the necessary steps to make it happen for me and my students! We deserve nothing but the best!


Part 1 of the 2016 CMEA Round-Up Series


Between the World and Me – Required Reading

25489625This morning I finished my first read-through of Ta-Nehisi Coates 2015 book, Between the World and Me. This long-form letter written from father to son exposes the systemic racism and system of prejudice in the United States for what it is: the active and bloody destruction of black bodies. Our society, our dreams, and our national pride are built upon the historical otherness of blackness; and our individual participation in what Coate’s describes as “The Dream” perpetuates that violence.

I will read through this book again and again and again. While I have a long way to go in grappling with my own whiteness and racism, this book has really opened my eyes to the ways in which our current society continues the sins of our fathers through racist policies, policing, criminal justice, and countless other practices.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the book here, because I think you should read Coates’ own words on the topic. So stop whatever your doing. Put your other books on pause for a while, and read this book. I think you’ll close the book a different person than you opened it, and that is — in my estimation — the sign of a great piece of art.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates