Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I have a HUGE thank you to all of you!!!

Back toward the end of December the Libertyville and Washington Elementary students presented their Winter Program.  I announced that night that we were trying to stream our program live for friends and family that were not able to be at the program.  We tried to make improvements this year in an effort to make it work much better than before.

First I would like to thank all of you for your patience as we tried to bring this technology to fruition.  Our first attempt was successful in the fact that we did get it out there live, however the quality of our feed was affected by many different things and the feed was basically unwatchable.  This prompted some changes that our tech department helped work out, so I need to say thank you to them also.  In the end, we had a much better feed this year and the attempt was much more successful.

How successful was this year's attempt?  How big of an impact did this technology have for our community?

These were some questions I had as the concert came to a close.  This is what I found out.  That night, as soon as the concert was over, I checked the website that hosted our video feed.  There were 216 connections to our live feed during the concert.  Some of those connections were single people, but I have students who have told me that they had as many as 5 people watching on one computer.  With the numbers in attendance in the auditorium as well as those that watched online, we probably had about 1000 people watching our program.

The next question I had was...."How far away were people that logged in?"  What I found out when talking with my students, we know that people in at least 5 states other than Iowa had friends and relatives watching.  Families had friends and relations watching in Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Texas and Washington D.C.  There may have been other states with people watching, but these are the states that my students told me about.  I thought that was pretty cool.  Then, I had two students tell me that they had relatives watching from Brazil and Spain!!!  That means that our little Winter Program in Fairfield, IA was seen by friends and relatives INTERNATIONALLY!!!!

That makes me want to say THANK YOU to all of you for passing on the information so that more people could enjoy the work of your students.

Then to top it all off, I was told yesterday about one student who has a brother in active duty in Iraq who was able to login and watch his brother sing the concert live.  That gave me the chills to hear.  It made me feel that all of the effort that has been put into trying to make this work was worth every minute of it.  These are all people that couldn't make it to hear their loved ones perform because driving across states or flying across the ocean just isn't a real option.  :)

Lastly I would like to thank everyone for their continued patience as we continue to improve this technology.  Last year we had problems with the quality of the stream, but this year we seemed to improve that.  There was a glitch this year that I had not anticipated that allowed only the first half of the concert to be broadcast.  This will also be fixed as we move forward with this technology.

In an effort to improve the delivery, I think we will be broadcasting the High School Pops Concert in the next few months, then we will also try to broadcast the 3-4 Spring Program.  Hopefully each experience will improve.

Thank you again for all of your support and patience.  Together we will try to bring smiles to friends and family all over the world!

~Mr. G

Monday, December 24, 2012

Successful Winter Program!!!

This year's program transported the family and friends of our K-2 students and 4th Grade Ensemble students to Santa's Workshop!  Some even traveled there from Texas!!! (More on that later)

For our program this year, we took at peak to see what happens when Santa gets really tired and happens to fall asleep just days before the big delivery date.  The program started with the Kindergarten students singing a song that announced the arrival of Santa himself.  Then, as he sat down in his favorite, comfy chair, three "elves" from the 4th Grade Ensemble brought him some cookies, hot cocoa and a blanket.  The 4th Grade Ensemble then sang him to sleep with a lullaby while some of the other "elves" held up signs to encourage the audience to be quiet.  This was followed by the entire K-2 ensemble singing about the fact that Santa was asleep and we shouldn't wake him up.

Now is when the fun and chaos began.  After falling asleep, all of the "toys" came to life and began singing songs.  They sang about Betty Beautiful coming to town, Toy Soldiers marching about and decorating with Trains and Engines as the Fantasy World came to life!

Once the toys demonstrate their fun and enjoyment for the season, and once the train had come through, the soldiers marched, the Betty Dolls danced and the Jack-in-the-box popped out, Santa woke up to know that something had been up.  He wished everyone a Merry Christmas and quickly fell back asleep.

It was an awesome show and all of your students performed awesomely!!!  I am proud of the hard work they put in and very proud of the music they presented.  Hug them all and tell them Thank You from Mr. G!!

Now for the other exciting news that came from the concert.  We have been working hard to find ways to involve the community and extended families more with our programs.  This year we took a step closer.  We still have some work to do to perfect the idea, but we are getting better.  Using the HD camera that was purchased for me by the Education Foundation last Spring, we attempted another live stream of the concert.  Last year we were able to do this, however the image was so jumpy that although the audio was pretty good, the video was unwatchable in my book.  We made some adjustments this year and things improved.

I have to first apologize for the fact that the live stream was about 30 minutes long, and about 15 minutes of it was the auditorium and the students filing in and taking the stage.  Once the show got underway, the video quality as well as the audio quality seem to be pretty good.  I was not able to watch it live (I was a little busy directing), so maybe the quality wasn't the same and I didn't know it, but then end quality is really pretty good.  If you wish to check out the live stream archive, please visit here to watch.  I have plans in place to improve on that portion for the next concert which I expect will be the High School Pops Concert.

What is even more exciting about the live stream is this...We estimated that there were from 600 - 700 people in attendance at the concert in person.  As soon as the concert was over, I checked the website with the live feed and saw that there were 216 views of the live stream.  Not all of those would be a single person, but instead, maybe a Grandma and a Grandpa.  So considering that, I would say that our concert touch somewhere between 900 and 1000 people!!!  We can't fit that many people in our auditorium and yet, they were able to see our students LIVE!!  I think that is very cool!

I was also told by some of the parents that they had people as far away as Texas who were logging in that night.  So not only did we have almost 1000 audience members, but we also had audience members from literally all the way across the United States!  We will be working hard to continue to improve this technology.  I sincerely hope that you will have patience as we grow into this new technology.  Also, if you happen to see anyone that you know is an Education Foundation board member, please thank them for providing technology to help make this happen.

Once again....Thank you for your students and your support.  I am extremely proud of the hard work they put forward and the program they performed.

May you all enjoy a special holiday season with your loved ones!

~Mr. G

Spreading Christmas Cheer

Earlier this month I was contacted to provide some holiday music for the residents at CALU Apartments in Fairfield, IA.  After talking with the students in the 4th Grade Ensemble at Washington Elementary, I had about 20 students volunteer to sing some of the music they were preparing for the Winter Program.

Right after school, these students were delivered by their parents to the apartment building where we gathered to sing the music we have worked on as well as some general carols to put everyone in the festive mood.  The residents were invited to sing along and we could definitely hear them joining in.

After the students sang, the residents were treated to a holiday feast that looked so good that the students began to drool over the pie.  :)

I was extremely proud of how well the students performed and everyone in attendance seemed very appreciative of their talents.

Thank you to all of the students who were able to make it to spread some Christmas Cheer!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

That special time has arrived once again!!!

That time that several students look forward to has once again arrived!!

Next week Tuesday, December 18th, is the Washington and Libertyville K-2 and 4th Grade Ensemble Winter Program.  The program will be presented at the High School Auditorium at 7:00 PM.  Please have your students arrive at the High School commons between 6:30 and 6:45.  This will give them time to gather by class and line up to begin the concert at 7:00.

At the conclusion of the concert, please allow a couple minutes for the students to exit the stage and hall, then please pick them up in the commons area from their teachers.  The only exception to this will be that the 4th Grade Ensemble students will stay in the auditorium and be dismissed with their parents from the auditorium when the younger students have left the area.

We are planning to try once again to LIVE STREAM our concert this year.  Last year was only a partial success.  We did get a live stream going, but I felt that it was so jumpy that it was unwatchable.  We have made some adjustments this year and hopefully we will have a much better experience for anyone who tries to watch our concert live on the web.  Having said that, it is still a work in progress, and even though we have taken steps to improve it, we will not know how well it will work until we try it.  So please have some patience with us as we try to bring this awesome experience to those who cannot come to our program.

To view the concert live, please go to the following address.  http://qik.com/familyplow  I will try to start the live feed a few minutes before 7:00 so that people have a chance to get set up before the program actually starts.  From my tests I have run recently, you might have to refresh a time or two if you don't see the video right away.  Once you do see the video, then you should be good to go.  I have posted more detailed instructions on a static page on my blog.  To see my instructions click here.

Thank you once again for your support and for the chance to work with your students.  They have worked hard putting this program together, and I hope you are excited to come to Santa's Workshop and see just what happens when an exhausted Santa falls asleep.

~Mr. G

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November Update

Well, it is almost the middle of November already and we just keep plugging along.  In just over a week we will have our Thanksgiving Break, and that means a break to recuperate if needed, and it means it is time for Mr. G to start to panic about the upcoming program.  No matter how much or little we have worked towards the program, it is always a time to panic for me.  Remember that the program is a K-2 Winter Program this year with help from the 4th Grade ensemble.  This will be held in the High School Auditorium on Tuesday, December 18th at 7:00 PM.  This will be a combined concert once again between Libertyville and Washington.  I appreciate everyone being willing to work together to create this combined concert, and I really feel it is great for the students in each building to have the chance to sing with their classmates in the other building.

We have been having some discussions about trying to webcast the concert again, however we are taking steps to improve on what we did last year.  It did work.....sort of...., but we are hoping to make it work a lot better this year.  I will keep you updated on that exciting project as we know more.

So now......What are we doing???


We have slowed down a little on the alphabet songs and other music so that we have time to work on our program music.  A lot of the music in the program this year uses the familiar tunes from different seasonal songs, but changes many of the words to fit this year's story.  This helps some of the students learn the songs faster, however, right now there is one song that has been a real challenge for kindergarten this year.  We keep working on it and improve a little each time though.  This is what is important.  Even though we are prepping for the program, we still have time to sing about a Very Fine Turkey.

First Grade

Just like the Kindergarten students, the First Grade students are working feverishly on music for our program.  We currently have been working on three songs, but will be adding more shortly.  After earning a bonus day, the students did get to enjoy part of a movie called "Tubby The Tuba" where Tubby begins a search for a melody that he can call his own and play.  He gets a little tired of playing Oom Pahs all of the time.  As they earn more bonus days with their great behavior, we will continue to watch a little more of the movie throughout the year.

Second Grade

The Second Grade students are also working hard to learn music for the Winter Program.  However, we are still working pretty hard at learning the notes of the Treble Cleff Staff.  There are a couple songs that we sing that have videos they like to watch that help reinforce the notes of the Treble Clef.  Watch them below, and I am sure your student will sing right along if you have them with you.

Every Good Boy Does Fine


I have also purchased some other materials that will help the students learn and understand this concept.  We have some worksheets that help us spell words using the notes of the staff, and a game called Note Name Battleship.  Mrs. Keller and I have worked lately to find some apps to use with the iPods that the school has purchased for classroom use.  We have also worked on the idea of setting up centers in our rooms so that the students would be split into small groups and could then rotate through the different stations working on all types of activities related to the notes of the treble clef.  However, this will probably not take place until after we are done with the program.

Third Grade

Third grade students have been working on learning the different types of notes and rests, as well as their values.  We have been working to put them into rhythms and being able to count and clap them correctly.  This was all in preparation for the big Rhythm Baseball Game that we will be playing.  We started by singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", and discussing the history of the song.  Did you know that the person who wrote the song had never been to a professional baseball game until after the song had been published?

We also read and listened to the poem "Casey at the Bat".  I read it to the class, then we listened to it being read by the famous voice of James Earl Jones.  This was really interesting because his voice was backed up by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.  Many of the students recognized his voice from movies such as Star Wars and The Sandlot.  We also discussed the idea that James Earl Jones has a problem with stuttering and that if you work hard and a positive attitude, quite often you can overcome problems that you might have.  Then we also read through the poem "Casey Twenty Years Later".

Finally we started our game of Rhythm Baseball.  We have two teams in each class....Turkey....and ....Stuffing.  The students tell me how many rhythm cards they would like to clap and count.  One card is a single, two is a double and so forth.  If they clap and count them correctly, they move that many bases.  If they are incorrect, the other team has a chance to do it correctly and make the out.  We will play for about 3 innings or so depending on the class.  It usually is a pretty fun time.

Fourth Grade

The fourth grade students are starting to wrap up our discussions about the different instrument families.  We have already talked about the Brass Family, Woodwind Family and the String Family.  We have talked about the characteristics that make Brass instruments, brass instruments, and Woodwind instruments, Woodwind instruments.  We have also identified individual instruments and listened to what each sounded like.  Recently we began discussing the Percussion family.  One video the students enjoyed demonstrated all of the characteristics of the String family.  Watch the video below.
Resonant Chamber

Since discussing the Percussion family, the students watched part of a video of the musical group STOMP.  We will also be watching a video in class that will demonstrate many different percussion instruments.  Click below to watch the video they will be seeing.

Pipe Dream

The recorders have been ordered and as of today have come in.  I will be picking them up today and getting ready to hand them out.  We will be starting the recorder work right after returning from Thanksgiving Break.  You can send your $2.00 now.  Several sent their money early, however, if you waited, please start sending your money now.  We will be doing Recorder Karate again this year.  Please encourage your student to bring their recorder and packet home to practice, however, please have them remember to have them bring them back so that we can work in class.  We will be doing testing in class, and having individual practice time in class.

Fourth Grade Ensemble

I have been really excited about the progress of the Fourth Grade Ensemble.  I think this is one of the strongest ensembles I have had at Libertyville.  They may be small, but they sound great.  Washington picks up the music really quickly, and both groups are excited to learn the music this year.  They are currently working on three songs for the K-2 Winter Program.  I know that it is a K-2 program, but it is a great venue for the ensemble students to perform at and get some recognition for their hard work.  In past years I have had these students help out by doing speaking parts for the program.  This year I am scaling back a little.  They might have some choreography for a couple of the K-2 songs, but there really aren't any lines to the program this year.  We will see how this goes.  It is definitely less stressful for the fourth grade students.

Below is a brief clip from today's ensemble rehearsal at Libertyville where they were rehearsing "Old Toy Trains".

Fifth Grade

This week we started a new song in class that several of the students recognized and seem to enjoy.  for those of you that are familiar with the Kingston Trio or the Beach Boys, we started singing "John G. Sails".  My plan with this song is to learn it well enough that we can begin singing harmony in class.  It would be tough at times to sing two parts in smaller classes, but I feel the fifth grade classes are up to the challenge.  We could also add instruments such as bongos, maracas and the triangle to play along with the song.  This always seems to be harder to perfect than I usually expect.  Yet, we will work hard and be able to accomplish it.

We are also working more on vocabulary and symbols in class too.  Just this week we started working on dynamics and how to build them from the basic letters of P, F and M.

The students have also earned their first bonus day and we have begun watch the Disney Musical "Newsies".  The classes will continue to earn notes for positive behavior, and when they earn enough for a second bonus day, we will continue with the next part of the movie.  By the end of the year, they should have been able to see the entire movie.  This movie tends to be a 5th grade favorite.

The fifth grade also continues to work to learn about some background information on various composers and their music.  Thus far we have covered the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.  We discuss odd things about their lives as well as the influences they had.  We listen to music they have written that still is popular today.  Even though most of the students don't listen to classical music on a regular basis, we listen to the music that is so popular that they have all heard them from ringtones to commercials.  The next composer we will study is Antonio Vivaldi.

5th Grade Ensemble

The ensemble has been working on two pieces currently and they are sounding awesome!  So many times they are a really uplifting part of my Wednesdays.  We are polishing "Touch The Sky" from the movie Brave, and a song titled "You Are The Light".  The second song takes the music to the Olympic Theme that everyone is so familiar with and adds inspirational text to that melody.  The students sing that song with an incredible amount of gusto.  It is really a joy to hear them each week on both of these songs.  We will hopefully be starting a third song shortly.  In the meantime, we have been contacted about possibly singing at a dinner in December.  It would be a night performance on a Friday night, and if we do it, it would be in conjunction with some of the other Middle School ensembles.  I will keep everyone updated as that gets closer as to whether or not we will be able to do that event.

8th Grade Choir

We had our first concert of the year last quarter and I was pretty pleased with how it went.  Sometimes this class just really amazes me.  They come into my room with some baggage (as we all have) and sometimes aren't the most focused or enthused, then they open their mouths and I can't say anything other than the fact that some days I am amazed.  We are currently working on five songs for our next concert which will be at the end of the quarter and is usually shortly after we get back in January from winter break.  One song in particular is from the movie soundtrack for "Amistad" and was written by John Williams.  We have discussed in class about the fact that you almost seem to be able to hear a little bit of "Star Wars" or "Pirates of the Caribbean" in the music.

Once a concert date is set, I will post it here to make you all aware.


Once again, I would like to thank all of you for the opportunity to work with your children and the support you show for them and the Elementary Music Department.  I hear lots of positive comments from parents and that is awesome.  Please keep checking back for updates as the year continues.

~Mr. G

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Looking for something FUN(ny) and EXCITING this weekend?

Are you looking for something fun and exciting to do this weekend?  

Come to the FHS Production:

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940

There is mystery, suspense and humor.  
Come and see if you can solve the mystery!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cool Story.....please watch

This is a link to what I feel is just a cool, feel-good story.  Check it out, enjoy, and pass it on!!!  Click on the blue "Mr. S"

Mr. S

~Mr. G