Refreshing…

I am currently sitting in my hotel room in the world renowned A Hotel in Colorado Springs, CO. The Broadmoor is a 5-star hotel in the gorgeous foothills of the Colorado Rockies and is the annual host of the Colorado Music Educators Association Clinic Conference. Between the pine trees and beneath the “purple mountains majesty,” educators gather to learn strategies, share ideas, and determine the future of a grand profession.

It has been almost three years since my last professional conference. When I attended the Nebraska Music Educators Association Conference in Spring of 2013, I was a super-senior who had just finished my student teaching assignments in Lincoln and York Nebraska, respectively. At the time, my mother was undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer back home in Denver, CO. On the last day of the conference, my mother was scheduled to undergo a mastectomy to remove the quickly growing tumor.

Around the time of her surgery, I wandered into the convention hall, where vendors, universities, repair shops, and lots of other groups were set-up. While there, I purchased a Mollard conducting baton that I used throughout the first year and half of my teaching career.

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My CMEA 2016 Baton!

Today, in a similar conference hall, I purchased another Mollard baton. This time a 14″ baton with an oak handle in a tear-drop shape. Between the last baton and the first, so much of my life has changd: professionally and personally.

Three years ago, I was a student at a conservative Christian university finishing a degree in Music Education and Vocal Performance. Today, I am a third year teacher at an urban school teaching Instrumental Music to students from 100 different countries. Three years ago, I had hopes for my professional career as a choral director or vocal performer. Today, I am uncertain of the path that lies ahead. Three years ago, the educator that stood on the street in Lincoln, NE, worried about his mother’s surgery 800 miles away, could not have predicted the subsequent events that would bring me here, to this gorgeous place at another conference.

In my teaching assignment, I am responsible for all instrumental music activities including wind, brass, percussion, and string instruments at a large comprehensive high school serving 2300 students. Our student body is diverse in culture, language, and economic status. While not officially a Title I school, we meet the requirements and are held to similar standards of accountability. Working at a school like this is no easy task. To say I was unprepared for the job does not begin to cover it, but I do not fault my university education or my student teaching mentor teachers.

Nothing can truly prepare you for the first time a student confides in you about being homeless or LGBTQ. I was not prepared to bear the emotional burden of teaching students who rarely have enough to eat, climate-appropriate clothing, or adequate housing. I was not prepared to teach students who knew only a refugee camp in Southeast Asia before moving to the United States in hope of a better life. A better life that may never be accessible to them.

No. I was not prepared. I still don’t feel prepared. But I have everything I need. I have the courage to be vulnerable with my students. To connect with them on a human level through the music we perform and through the bonds we create. I have the compassion to sit with them while they struggle through a break-up. I have the creativity, ingenuity, and drive to create experiences for them that will build their character, excite their hearts, and enrich their minds. edication. They deserve compassionate and dedicated teachers who care about them and their lives. This work matters: for my students, but also for me

Three years ago, I didn’t believe this. In fact, I’m not sure I believed it three months ago. And that’s the main thing I will take down the mountain with me tomorrow afternoon: though the job is certainly difficult and time is fleeting, you can achieve it. I can do it. My student musicians deserve my talent, my work, and my dedication.

On Monday, I will return to my classroom and step on my podium in front of ensembles ranging from beginners to advanced players. I will be a better teacher than the one that left them on Wedesday afternoon. I am refreshed and ready to take on the challenge! I hope you’ll follow along!

Music Ed iPad App Roundup! From a friend to a friend!

One of my very best friends in the whole world will begin her first teaching position at a high school in Green Bay, Wisconsin in a few weeks teaching band and choir as well as teaching at a few K-8 schools in the area. The school has given her an iPad to use in the classroom and she asked me for my favorite music education apps! So here we go!

Apps for Teaching

forScore  $6.99

forScore is a powerful music-reading app that allows musicians to annotate, record, rehearse, and share their scores in performance and rehearsals. It’s a wonderful app that I used throughout student teaching and I think it really helps with managing scores!

unrealbook $4.99

I haven’t used unrealBook, but it offers some features that my current favorite doesn’t that might be of use to you! The biggest one could be very useful in 1-to-1 classrooms where the teacher’s iPad could be established as the host iPad and all of your page turns and annotations are pushed instantly to every students device! What a great way to teach students how to prepare a score for performance!?

APS Tuning Trainer $2.99

This app has some of the most potential for success with students in middle school and high school in promoting careful listening and pitch sensitivity. It plays a note and then another note within a specified range away and you simply tell it whether the note is sharp or flat. The app gives suggestions for a training system to improve your intonation in 4 weeks! I think I’ll start tomorrow!

smart music free with subscription

You know all about Smart Music on the computer, but MakeMusic is working hard to bring our favorite music practice and assessment tool to mobile devices. I for one would have loved to used the mobile version when struggling through the french horn unit of my Brass Techniques class!

garage band $4.99

‘Nuff said!

Apps for the Teacher

While all the above apps are great for teaching and making the most out of student’s access to technology, there are a ton of apps to help teachers better improve the quality of their instruction!

twitter

No. Really. Twitter is my first stop for all things Professional Development. Whether it’s checking in with my favorite education tags  (#musedchat #edchat #ipaded) or looking for the latest news on the Common Arts Standards, Twitter is the best place to go! Currently, I’m using Twitterrific which is currently 50% off in the App Store, but really any twitter client will do! Just make sure to take advantage of the power of tracking tags and building your Personal Learning Network!

Feedly

Sometimes, teachers have a lot more to say than just 140 characters. Find tons of blogs to follow and keep up with them easily using Feedly, a great replacement for the now defunct Google Reader.

Apple TV or Airserver

Not an app, but still a really important part of using the iPad in the classroom. Unless you want to be tethered to the wall (you don’t), you’re going to need a way to let your iPad communicate with the projector. Apple TV works seamlessly, but my favorite is AirServer, which I’ve tried out, but not used on a consistent basis. AirServer provides all of the features of Apple TV (mirroring, audio, video, etc.) and adds some features Apple TV doesn’t include and is perfect for a classroom where you already have a computer hooked up to the projection system.

Finally, if you’re really serious about using the iPad as either a teaching device or in a 1-to-1 setting (I can’t remember which my friend is in…), I’d encourage you to look at the work of Dr. Russel at techinmusiced.com. The work he is doing in converting entire libraries of choral scores to digital formats for dissemination to students is really amazing, and I think he has a lot to offer anyone looking to expand their teaching repertoire using the iPad in meaningful ways.

I hope this list helps, but I am always here to help! Also, if you find another app you think I would love, tell me about it! I love finding new apps to try and think about how they might fit into my classroom workflow!

From the Stage to the Classroom: Reflection on Patty Oeste’s MEJ Article

I’m not even sure we have one of these in this little college town!

I love getting mail! Unfortunately, 4 times out of 5 my mailbox is filled with credit card offers and flyers from the SuperSaver that got my address when I tried to win a big flat screen TV at their grand opening. Yesterday, though, I was happy to find this quarter’s edition of the Music Educator’s Journal published by NAfME. Usually, I scan through these and read one or two articles and let the rest sit, but this issue is packed full of great material and I’ve been totally absorbed in it for the last two days.

I loved Patty Oeste’s discussion of why she left the stage as a performer and became a music educator.

“Every student who enters my classroom is a story being written, and I am allowed to contribute a page or two. My pages are important, and I do not take this responsibility lightly. … I see the power of music in action every day. My students thrive. They learn to listen, and they learn to be flexible in their thinking. They take risks, and gladly. And what is truly amazing is that many students who enter my classroom don’t always shine in other classrooms. But, we can revel in their many successes in music. We laugh. We talk. We sing. We create.

I would have to say that I am not hear to teach music, but to surround my students with the beauty they may not find elsewhere.”

This description is exactly why I love teaching music! Teaching music is about giving students the chance to experience beauty that is not found elsewhere. We prepare them to encounter the world’s beauty wherever they might find it.

I also loved Ms. Oeste’s description of what leaving the performing stage was like:

“I found that the perfection and discipline demanded on stage is even more important in the classroom setting.”

Riga, Latvia after one of our last collegiate performances ever!

Riga, Latvia after one of our last collegiate performances ever!

The last five years I spent working toward my performance degree was not wasted. It trained me to be disciplined, to seek perfection, and to build an attitude of excellence that I will bring to my future classroom every day.

 

Live and In Person! The Transcendence of Experiencing Live Art

Live and In Person! The Transcendence of Experiencing Live Art

Think of those experiences that have inspired you to want to be better, to be a part of something bigger and greater, to transcend limits and to touch, if only for a moment, something divine. Then start searching for ways to create those experiences for your students and inspire yourself in the process!

Live-and-In-Person

When I was touring with my college’s choir through Europe, I noticed that there was something different in the crowds (even if they were small) that gathered to hear us sing. There was a sense of reverence or attention that I didn’t really notice when traveling in the United States. I noticed it in Spain four years ago on the previous choir tour.

I believe that as a culture we have lost something. Now I know this sounds like a nostalgic plea for the good old days that I was never even alive to witness, but I really think we’ve lost our sense of awe and wonder in the face of great art. Not everyone, mind you, but a lot of us. I know that my experience of the transcendent nature of art is often stymied by my cynicism and envy of a performer’s virtuosity.

But every once in a while, we encounter that feeling again. For me, those moments have come when listening to a children’s choir in Naperville, Indiana, a symphonic band from the University of Nebraska – Omaha, or even while performing at a beautiful round wooden church in Riga, Latvia. The arts have the potential to give students experiences that they will not find if we do not offer them.

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Inside of the Jesus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Riga, Latvia. Taken by Holly Saalfield

It is my goal as an educator to first provide them with the learning environment for them to grow and build their skills as musicians and as human beings. Second, provide them with performance experiences as both performers and listeners so that they might share in the human experience of transcendent artistry. These two goals, artistic skill/perspective and artistic transcendence, are the ways in which the arts build self-knowledge, community, and growth that we want each student to find as they embark on their life as learners.

 

Strawberries in Wittenberg

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I’ve been home from a 24-day 8 country tour of Europe with the Concordia University A Capella Choir for about a week now. The picture above was taken in the Cranach Square in Wittenberg, Germany behind the apothecary where Lucas Cranach, a Reformation painter and engraver, worked and lived. I was enjoying some alone time and had been looking for gelato (okay, it’s just ice cream) when I saw these extra-red strawberries at the stand and just knew I needed to eat the whole package.

Sitting there in the sun, I thought about my five years as a student at Concordia. I especially considered my five years in the choir and my four years in the band, and the countless hours I spent practicing, in classes, and time spent with friends becoming the person and musician I am today.

I have now said goodbye to the band, the choir, and the school. I am officially an unemployed college graduate looking for work! Mostly, that’s absolutely terrifying. But I’m also excited for what comes next. The opportunities that await me to be the great teacher I know I am and find ways to continue building my personal and professional life.

Music and music education will continue to open doors and provide me with opportunities I never could have dreamed. Opportunities like traveling to Europe, meeting people from all over the world, and creating something beautiful that will stay with me for the rest of my life. And those experiences, international or not, are what I hope to provide to my students. Connecting with people, making beautiful music, and experiencing life in new ways.

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

Sugata Mitra talks about self-directed learning and students using computers to find information for themselves. He has a lot of very interesting ideas about how schools could be run and the overall purpose of education. I’m not sure I agree with his total goals, but there are certainly concepts that need to be incorporated into traditional education.

How can we better use student motivation and student-led learning in music education? When introducing instruments how much could students learn of the fingering on their own if given the chance? How much music theory could students learn on their own if given the chance? How much music history?

The closest thing I’ve seen in my own teaching experience is with planning learning activities using Understanding by Design.

Anyone have any other ideas about how to design learning experiences like this? I’m still not convinced that this is as hands-off as Sugata Mitra describes, but I’m sure I overestimate how much I really need to do in the classroom!

#etmooc Digital Story Telling Experiment: Animated GIF v. 2

Here’s a “prototype” gif for teaching students how to draw treble clefs, and learn the order of sharps and flats. Not perfect, but I think it has potential!

I know it is not a story per se, but I think it is a really interesting way to teach a concept like this!

I created this with the iPad app Moquu.

What other concepts or ideas could be taught using this kind of media?

EDIT: Here’s another one teaching intervals in the key of C!

Infographic: The Psychology of Music

Really great info graphic about the psychology of music!
I’m hesitant to link music education with academic success and social skills. One, they are correlations, that is they are linked, but one does not cause the other. There are a huge number of other social factors that impact these claims.
Two, music education does not exist to promote these other skills. I’m happy if my students perform well in their other classes, to be certain, but my purpose is a music educator is to teach students music. To teach them how to create and express through music is the highest calling of the music educator.
Great graphic, but many music ed folks cringe at the correlations as arguments for music education in schools!
The Psychology of Music

 

#etmooc Digital Story Telling Experiment: Animated GIF!

I haven’t ventured into creating my own content for an animated gif just yet (I’m still tossing around ideas), but I thought I’d try making a gif of an awesome video with music by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra.

I love this video because of how perfectly the staff syncs with the music and how the animators chose to highlight the drama of the music with the intensity of the rollercoaster.

If I was an animator as well as an educator, it would be awesome to animate student performances! Maybe make it an after concert project option? So many cool ways to go with this!

Anyway, here’s the gif! I had a really great time making it, and it was very easy!

I followed Jim Groom’s super easy to follow tutorial on making gifs using Open Source Software which can be found here!

Check out my other digital storytelling experiments here and here.

For all my other #etmooc (Educational Technology Massive Open Online Course) postings, check out my ETMOOC category here

Five Card Flickr Story: Many Paths

All of these images reminded me of taking a journey, and all of the new and invigorating experiences that come with that.

 I think it would be interesting to create a specific classroom version of this game. Maybe have students select photos around a certain topic specific theme and compile them into a database and then have students write their own stories based on the pictures they get or choose pictures that best represent a piece of music.

How would you implement this in your classroom to promote storytelling skills within music education?