ArkMEA Fall Inservice 2015

I had a wonderful time seeing new and friendly faces at this year’s ArkMEA Fall Conference: “Legendary Leaders.”  I attended sessions on Friday and listened to several different presentations as well as observing some awesome rehearsal technique with the youth choir.  Read on for more detail 🙂

My first session was with Dr. Cynthia Taggart from Michigan State University presenting “Developing Critical Thinkers in Elementary General Music.”  She is all about our students claiming ownership of their musical knowledge and developing skills that will last with them for a lifetime.  Dr. Taggart emphasized including physical movement to reiterate a concept.  For example, when teaching ABA form, she had us doing body movements that reflected what we heard in the music, thus making it clear when the music returned to a section we had previously heard.  She also had us divide into groups and compose new pieces in ABA form using body percussion.  This allows students creative liberty while also enabling them to work within the framework of form.  Another teaching method she demonstrated was holding the numbers 1, 4, or 5, communicating with us whether to sing do, fa, or sol as chord roots while she sang a song.  This activity trains ears to recognize harmonic function, which helps with more difficult activities such as song composition and improvisation.  Dr. Taggart emphasized letting the kids experience something before labeling it.  She believes in this process: do, generalize, create and reflect.  She believes that kids learn most effectively when they can take previous experience, label it with musical terms or ideas, create their own version of the new information, and reflect on what they have learned or created.  This process helps create a well-balanced music classroom and prevents a program from being totally performance driven with no ownership of knowledge, or totally content driven with no experience performing.

The next session was also presented by Dr Taggart: “Helping Students Develop Part-Singing Skills.”  She had broken down part-singing into a specific series of skills.  First, students must be able to audiate, then have a sense of meter, steady beat, and consistent tempo, and then they must be able to hear the “harmonic underpinnings” of the songs they are singing.  In the handout, she gives specific exercises for enhancing these skills (e.g. singing tonic drone, then ostinato, followed by dominant and sub-dominant, examples of partner songs, etc.).  One thing she emphasized was that the teacher must let the students be the musicians.  If the teacher is always singing the same part, students will be imitating rather than audiating and learning.  Also, this allows for a fair evaluation of the students’ skills.  Another piece of advice was to teach melody/harmony before words.  She believes kids hang on to words first, so to ensure they are thinking musically rather than only verbally, she teaches the musical aspects first.

After a great lunch, I observed the youth choir rehearsing with Stephen Roddy, founder and director of Houston’s Children Chorus.  Wow. What a guy.  He was highly energetic and fun and fed off of the kid’s energy and enthusiasm and vice versa.  While I was observing, he began an incentive system.  If a student was demonstrating the following desirable behaviors- using their north/south mouth, standing tall on their Olympic platform, focusing on Mr. Steve’s hands, without fidgeting- they were rewarded with a large marshmallow stuck in their mouth by a few appointed teachers.  It was a unique way of rewarding good behavior and it seemed to be very effective.  Overall, he was great at working on the kid’s level and using lively, imaginative language to communicate with them.  I hope they know how lucky they were to be working with such a great director!

I finished the day with a session about Orff, Kodály, and Feierabend with Dr. Becky Morrison from Ouachita Baptist University.  She began with a general history of each man and their method of education and then jumped right in with activities.  She wasn’t able to give us copies of music because it is copyrighted and the resources only come with certification, BUT if anything, that just inspired me to invest in my own post-graduation musical education through these certifications.  We danced and sang and had a ball of fun 🙂  I remember wondering if other professions have this much fun at professional conferences…. I seriously doubt it.


Rethinking Music Education

  1. Taylor, R. (2015, September). Rethinking music education in the 21st century. Segue, 28-30.
  2. In “Rethinking Music Education in the 21st Century” (September 2015), Rod C. Taylor emphasizes that music education should be engaging, active, and collaborative between the teacher and the student.
  3. –     A new student is not a “beginner” at music, but learning to express it in a new way.
  • Students shouldn’t dismiss previous musical knowledge because each genre of music informs another
  • Play as much as you practice J
  • Students learn best through activity and interaction.
  • Emotional and psychological condition affects how and why we play music
  • Honest reflection is key to pedagogical improvement
  1. I appreciate so much Mr. Taylor’s willingness to continue improving himself and his own teaching methods. This is key to being a continuously growing musician and educator. His priority on education is inspiring and is evidence of how imperative it is that we whole-heartedly invest in the future- our kids. This article has challenged me to continue investigated this ever-changing audience of students and to learn and implement engaging and proven methods of instruction. I know myself well enough to know that I don’t like things messy. I’m not good at thinking outside the box or coloring outside the lines. In my teaching, I must be willing to get messy and creative to inspire my kids to love and create music. Something that challenged me personally was Taylor’s idea that practicing does not equal playing. It is a sad thing to be pedagogically accurate but totally passionless in making music.
  2. “Students should actively participate in their own instruction.” (page 29)

“The ability to listen to others is perhaps the most defining characteristic among successful musicians.” (page 30)

Rollin’ in the BoomWhackers!

Rollin’ in the Deep

♪ Rollin’ in the Deep ♪

  1. Hello everyone! (Smile- it’s going to be a GREAT day!)  Today we’re going to start by warming up our rhythm! Repeat these patterns back to me…  Demonstrate different rhythms using body as percussion.
  2.  ____, will you demonstrate a rhythm, then go find a purple BW? Call students up to get BWs (A, C, E, G, B, D, F) after creating their own rhythmic body percussion.
  3. Have students practice the chord changes.  Kiddos, practice playing not only the note name listed on the board, but also the two other notes that are in that chord as well. 
  4. Play the song!!

In this lesson, the student will:

R.8.3.1  Describe the use of dynamics in the performer’ interpretations to reflect expressive intent.

P.4.3.2. Recognize music form, in this case recognizing the difference between chorus and verse.

CR.1.3.1. Improvise more complex rhythmic patterns


“I Bought Me a Cat”

 Meet Alfred. He’s an interesting fellow.


Here’ s another book all about cats:

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

Oftentimes, literature influences musicians to write something new.  This book in particular inspired several different composers.

“The Naming of Cats” by Alan Rawsthorne

Did you know there is a musical all about cats?


by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Cats are also featured in many renowned artists’ works.

Woman with a Cat (above)

Portrait of Juliet Manet (below)

by Pierre Renoir

Cat Portrait

Still Life with Cat and Lobster by Pablo Picasso

Arthur “Cat” Heyer

You’ll also meet an interesting fellow in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf

The Cat Theme