Friday, December 24, 2010

One more video for the Holiday Season...

What can you do with Two awesome groups that are 7 miles apart, a little Christmas cheer, one camera and a computer with iMovie?

Each year there is a tradition at the Fairfield Elementary Schools of an All-School Carol Sing the last day before break. This year I decided to take video at both Libertyville and Washington Elementary's sing-a-longs (Thanks Mrs. Schloss for your camera)and try to increase my tech knowledge and skills. I sat down with iMovie this morning and merged the two groups to produce this short video. I didn't use one audio track and put the video over the top. Instead, each video clip carries its own audio track. When you see the Libertyville students, you hear their own voices. When you see the Washington students, you actually hear their own voices. Due to the use of the same accompaniment at both places, I was able to mesh the two videos together almost seamlessly.

I am very proud of the end product and hope that you enjoy this taste of Christmas Joy from Washington and Libertyville Elementary Schools as they sing virtually "together" Santa Claus is Coming To Town.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter Concert Preparations

Here are a few pictures on stage just before the opening of the curtain for the 2010 Winter Program put on by Libertyville and Washington Elementary Schools.

Take a peek and enjoy!!

The Big Show on PhotoPeach

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anticipating Break

This is such a busy time of year as it is.  This year with  some of the changes to my position, changes in what we have traditionally done and my own students growing older, it has been busier than usual.    Last night I attended the Middle School Band concert.  This was the third concert in two and a half weeks for me.  Never-the-less, it was exciting and great to be out listening and performing with your students.  Due to changes such as adding a Winter Concert, time became a little tight and some experiences were a little short.

The Washington 4th grade students were caroling this morning at Logan Apartments in Fairfield.  They are always excited to have us come.  I wish I could have reached some of the other facilities in Fairfield that enjoy our students, but time really came up short.  My plan is to visit some more of them in the spring and perform some of the music we will be preparing for the 3rd and 4th grade Spring Concert.  For those students who did go to Logan Apartments, they were very well received.  They brought along student-made Christmas cards to pass out to the residents.  We also passed out song booklets and they joined in on all of our songs we were singing.

Something that happened today that made me very proud, I also want to pass on to you as parents and guardians of these students.  I was stopped on my way out of the door by several people who have very very gracious comments about how our students behaved while we were there singing.  When I got on the bus, I made sure to tell your students how proud I was of their singing, but even more so, comments like that and how they represent themselves and our school learning community are more important.  I was very proud of them and you should be too.  I was not at all surprised about how they handled themselves, they always do that well, but I was very proud that others noticed.

Tomorrow is the big Carol-sing tradition at Washington and Libertyville Elementaries.  This is a very heartwarming experience.  I first experienced this last year, and it is something that many people look forward to every year.

Please remember when we return from break, that the 5th grade ensemble will have a concert on the night of the second day back in class.  They will be performing at the Middle School with the Middle School Vocal Ensembles.

GYZ is taking a short break for now, but will pick up again after the break.  We will be preparing some Pop type music and will be working towards the Dinner Show.  This will be another new experience for me.

I hope that all of you have a great break, and I look forward to seeing your students when we return in 2011.

-Mr. G

Friday, December 17, 2010

Another Sucessfull Concert Complete....One more to go

Last night was the High School Winter Concert for the 10-12 Vocal and Instrumental music departments.  The night was filled with traditional sounds dating as far back as 900 years, to the comic sounds of "The 12 Days of Christmas" as performed by GYZ, to the more modern sounds of several old favorites performed in a Jazz style.  The entire night ended with the traditional singing of Handle's "Hallelujah Chorus". 

Interesting fact:  Why do audiences stand when the "Hallelujah Chorus" is performed?  The first time that Handle performed "The Messiah" in London, England, the King of England was in attendance.  He was so pleased with the "Hallelujah Chorus", that to show his appreciation for the music, he stood during the singing of it.  Well, when the King stands.....everyone stands.  This is how the tradition began of standing during the singing of the "Hallelujah Chorus".

With the Libertyville and Washington Elementary concert complete, and now the High School Concert complete, that leaves one more concert.  This concert will include the approximately 50 students that have volunteered to join the 5th grade ensemble this year at the Middle School.  They will be singing as part of the Middle School Vocal Music Concert on Tuesday, Jan. 4th, 2011.  Yes, that is after break.  In fact, that is the day after we return from break.

The 5th grade ensemble has had to work with teachers to schedule two extra rehearsals in order to be prepared for this concert.  They have worked quickly to learn the music and I am excited for them to share it with the public.  We were unable to make it work for them to perform at the talent show at the Middle School, but I think they will be great at the concert.  The ensemble will be performing two songs at the concert.  The first song is a song that really might appeal to some of the older audience members, however, the story is a very touching story that pertains to everyone at any time.  The song is "Christmas Dinner".  This song was written by Paul Stookey.  If that name doesn't quite ring a bell, Paul sang with Peter, Paul and Mary.  I first heard this song on their record "Peter, Paul and Mommy".  The song is about a poor young boy searching through the streets at Chirstmas.  He witnesses lots of good Christmas dinners and gatherings.  He eventually finds an older lady sitting alone at an empty table.  He takes out his meager amount of food and offers to share it with her.  The final line sums up the entire story "That on that night, the happiest Christmas....was shared by candlelight."  This song will feature David Owen, who has agreed to accompany the ensemble on guitar.  Mr. Owen is the Middle School Vocal and General Music teacher.

The second song may appeal to a much younger crowd.  The song is "Dig a Little Deeper" from the movie  The Princess and the Frog.  Like the previous song, I think this song brings a very positive message for our students.  It is a fun song to sing, and the lesson that it teaches is that it really doesn't matter who you are or where you are from, you will be successful if you stay true to yourself and who you are.  Sometimes you have to search and really dig down deep to figure out just who you are, but if you find that and you stay true to yourself, then you will be sucessful.  This song will feature Mary Andersen on piano.  Mrs. Andersen is the Middle School Instrumental Teacher.

The night of the program, please have your 5th grade ensemble student report to the 5th grade music room between 6:30 and 6:45.  I ask that they dress nicely.  I do not have a dress code, I just ask that they look nice.  The concert will begin at 7:00 in the commons and should be completed within an hour.

Hope to see you all there!!!  Thank you for your support of our program and of your students,

Mr. G

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spreading Christmas Joy and Enjoying ourselves

Chocolate Sunday brought smiles, giggles, cheers and great holiday spirit.  It was my first time appearing in the Fairfield School District with a High School Ensemble.  For me, it was very exciting to direct a group like GYZ again.

Here is a clip of the GYZ groups singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - GYZ Style", "The 12 Days of Christmas" and "Goodnight Sweetheart".  All three songs appeared to be well received.


On Thursday, December 9th, the Libertyville and Washington Elementary students combined to put on the 2010 Winter Program.  This performance was kind of a ground breaking experience in a couple ways.  First, it was the first time the two schools have combined for a performance like this.  Second, traditionally there have not been many winter concerts.  Instead, there were usually either K-2 or 3-5 Spring programs.  This is the first step in having each student have one concert each year.

After a pretty exhausting rehearsal in the morning that really tired the kids out, we had to all come together for the program that night.  Ask anyone at the rehearsal that is no small task getting 300 students approximately ages 5 - 9 to work together, fit and sing as one.  However we pulled it off.  Here are some short clips from the groups involved.

One part of the program that I felt was special for several of our students happened to be "The Marvelous Toy".  This has always been a song that I have enjoyed and I think the second grade students enjoyed it also.  One day in class we started talking about the Marvelous Toy and I realized that every student had a different idea of what it looked like.  The ideas was then born to have them draw their ideas and bring them into the program.

With the help of Deb Finey and Alicia Carradus, we accomplished this also.  At each school I had the help some of the associates to take the pictures and get them into the computer.  In fact, the last picture went into the slide show just four hours before the show.  Below is the slideshow that played during the concert in case you wanted to see it again at your leisure.  I have included the accompaniment music, but there are no words in this version.
I really wish to thank the students and their parents for a successful program.  The students worked hard to learn a lot of music in a relatively short amount of time.  I have heard many positive comments from many different people.  Remember that the High School Winter Concert is this Thursday in the High School Auditorium.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,
Mr. G

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Overture, hit the lights....
This is it, the night of nights....
No more rehearsing...or nursing our parts....
We know every part by heart!!!!!

Yes...this is it folks.  This is the night of the big Libertyville/Washington Winter Concert.  Please have your students there at 6:45.  They should report directly to the stage, but PLEASE...KEEP YOUR STUDENT'S COAT WITH YOU.. Please.

The concert will begin at 7:00 pm and will conclude before 8:00 pm.  All of the students have really worked hard to learn the music for this concert in what really felt like a short time.  I personally want to thank everyone who helped make this possible.

Hope to see you all tonight!
-Mr. G

Saturday, December 4, 2010

December News

Upcoming Events!!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010 - Chocolate Sunday @ the High School (GYZ)  2:00 - 4:00 PM
              Click Here for more information.

Thursday, December 9, 2010 - Libertyville / Washington Elementary Winter Program @ High School Auditorium  -  7:00 PM

December is in full swing and has brought along some snow!

Grades K-2

All students in grades K-2 have been working extremely hard on preparations for their Winter Concert.  Hopefully this news will not take you by surprise.  You should have received a note from me in your student's backpack earlier this week.  If you missed this note, the concert is Thursday, December 9th @ 7:00 PM.  The concert will be a combined effort by Libertyville Elementary and Washington Elementary.

The concert will be held in the High School Auditorium.  Please plan to have your students arrive and report to the stage at 6:45.

Grade 3

The third grade students have all just finished up their games of Rhythm Baseball.  Rhythm Baseball is a game that we play in class that helps to reinforce rhythmic counting and not recognition.  These two important skills have been made a priority in my elementary classes this year.  We have worked for several weeks on counting and clapping different rhythms that included quarter notes and rests, half notes and rests, whole notes and rests and finally eighth notes.

The rules for the game are fairly simple.  First the student chooses one to four cards to perform.  The number of cards corresponds to a single, double, triple or home run.  After choosing, the student is presented with that number of random rhythm flashcards.  If they clap and count them correctly, they then advance that many bases.  If they clap and count it incorrectly, then a member of the other team has a chance to clap it correctly for an out.  If they clap it incorrectly, then it goes back to the original student as a strike.  Three outs per side.  Scores are earned as the students "push" each other around the bases by their correct answers.  The final scores were as follows:   

Blueberry - 40.....Pancakes - 45 (Mrs. Hoskins's class - Washington)
Pumpkin - 30......Pie - 33 (Ms. Smith's class - Washington)
Blueberry - 43......Pancakes - 47 (Mrs. Johnston's class - Libertyville)

Watch for a future video and pictures of the students playing Rhythm Baseball.

Grade 4

Earlier in the year, the fourth grade students sang several songs in class that were patriotic in nature and had some important role in the history of our nation.  Beginning about the time of Veteran's Day, the students began work on the school laptops to create a movie project using one of the songs and to illustrate its meaning or history through pictures.  The students used the online databases that the school benefits from having access through thanks to our AEA - Great Prairie Area Education Agency (GPAEA).  Using the databases, students were able to search for pictures that related to the song lyrics of their choice.  They will then be adding these pictures to the music they chose in iMovie, a program included on the computers they are using. 

The songs they could choose from were:
America, The Beautiful
The Star Spangled Banner
Your a Grand Old Flag
God Bless the USA

Grade 5

The fifth grade students have continued to work in several areas lately.  They have begun a Rhythm Baseball game, they have played bingo while learning music symbols and most recently have worked on learning the notes of the staff.  This last work has included the introduction of the boomwhackers.  After learning how to remember the notes of the staff, we used the boomwhackers to create a treble clef scale.  The next step we took was to organize the notes and whackers into a simple song.  They then were able to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star".  The most recent step was to take the song "A Whacky Winter Song" from the K-8 Music Magazine ( a magazine subscription that provides much music and classroom ideas for teachers), learn to sing it, and then to begin the accompaniment on the boomwhackers.  In our fist day on the accompaniment, we got approximately half of the music played. 

The students are also continuing to discover different composers each month.  In November, the students learned a little background on Vivaldi.  In December, the students will be introduced to Joseph Haydn, a classical composer.

4th Grade Ensemble

The 4th grade ensemble students are preparing a couple songs to help supplement the music for the Elementary Winter Program on Thursday, December 9th.  Please see the K-12 section for details on the concert.  Besides singing a couple songs, the 4th grade ensemble students will also be doing a little acting an part reading for the concert.

5th Grade Ensemble

 The 5th grade ensemble is currently working on two songs that they will be performing shortly.  One of their songs "Christmas Dinner" will be performed at the Middle School Talent Show later this month during the school day.  Then, after returning from the Winter Break, they will be performing "Christmas Dinner" and "Dig a Little Deeper" (from the movie The Princess and the Frog) at the Middle School concert on January 4th in the Middle School Commons at 7:00 PM.

Middle School Vocal Music

The middle school vocal music classes have been continuing to prepare the their concert to be performed on January 4th @ 7:00 PM in the Middle School Commons.  Please mark your calendars and plan to come and enjoy a little fine arts.

High School GYZ

 The GYZ groups has been working the last couple weeks to prepare for this Sunday's "Chocolate Sunday" performances in the High School Cafeteria.  Please take time to come and enjoy some music from the High School vocal and instrumental music departments, partake in some delightful chocolate treats, and to big in the silent auction for some really special gift baskets.  Chocolate Sunday is an annual fundraiser for the Fine Arts departments of Fairfield High School.  Hope to see you there for a "Sweet" start to your Holiday Season.

Friday, November 19, 2010

November News

 November is already here and time seems to be running short.

In Elementary Music this month, the K-2 sections of Libertyville and Washington will begin working on music for their Winter Concert.  There are two significant changes that are occuring this year that I think are really cool and will also answer requests for many parents I have spoken with in the last year.  The first change is that this year will mark the return of Winter Concerts at Libertyville and Washington Elementary Schools.  Many people have expressed to me that they missed having a concert during that time of our school year.  Secondly, the students of Libertyville and Washington will be joining forces and voices to present a combined concert.  The added voices will add strength to our sound and offer some really neat opportunities for our students.  Of course with these numbers, the parents and grandparents and friends and neighbors will not fit into either of our gyms.  The solution for our Winter Concert is to have it in the High School Auditorium.  The date of the concert is yet to be set, however I am excited to have a large group of students to work with and a nice big space to perform in.  I also think the students will find it exciting when they walk out on to that large stage.

One other change that is taking shape this year will also honor patron's requests.  Each student in Libertyville and Washington Elementary will have a concert this year.  In the past, each year has alternated between a K-2 Spring Concert one year and a 3-4 (5) Spring Concert the next year.  Instead, every student will have one concert this year.  If this is successful, it is expected to continue in future years.  This year the K-2 students will have a Winter Concert and the 3-4 students will combine for a Spring Concert.  The intention would be that next year the grades levels would switch and the K-2 students would have a Spring Concert and the 3-4 students will have a Winter Concert.

Winter Concert

This year's Winter Concert will be primarily grades K-2, however, I will be including the 4th grade Ensemble students from Libertyville and Washington Elementaries.  They will supplement some of the music as well as contribute with small bits of acting and reading parts in the show.  The concert will be based on the well-known poem by Clement Clarke Moore "'Twas the Night Before Christmas".  Several of our 4th grade Ensemble students will be providing  reading and acting parts while the K-2 students will be providing a majority of the music.  The Date has not yet been set, but the venue is expected to be the High School Auditorium.


Besides beginning preparations for the Winter Concert, we will be singing several seasonal songs in class as well as other fun songs that can be used all year round.  One of my main focuses for the Kindergarten students is to create an environment where they are excited and ready to enjoy music.  If I can accomplish this, it will be a valuable part of their lives to come. We are also continuing to learn fun little songs to help learn the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make.  So far the students seem to be learning them quickly.  In class we are also utilizing singing games to work on skills such as rhythm and pitch matching.

First Grade

Just as the Kindgergarten students are beginning preparations for the Winter Concert, so are the first grade students.  One aspect of music that we have started to experiment with is the use of xylophones.  We learned two songs last month that we are using xylophones for accompaniment purposes.  Both songs have used diffefent patterns for accompaniment and both have proposed challenges for our first graders, but that is a skill we will continue to work on.

Second Grade

Second grade will also be beginning preparations for the concert.  During the month of October we worked on a song titled "Springtime Has Come".  This is an odd time of year to be learning a song about spring, but during the cold months it just might keep their minds set on warmer days to come.  After learning this song in English, we worked to learn the entire song in Japanese.  The students always seem to be excited to say that they were able to learn and sing a song in Japanese.  At the conclusion of the month and after learning the Japanese words, we had a brief discussion about Japan and Oragami.  We then took a day to learn how to fold a piece of paper into a Crane.  We have also just started to work hard on learning what quarter notes, quarter rests and eighth notes are, as well as how to count them.  We started by having four empty chairs at the front of the room (four beats) and filling them with students (quarter notes and eighth notes) and clapping and counting the rhythms.  We will turn these activities into some games that tend to make learning these skills a little more fun.

Third Grade

As part of a story the students read at the end of October, they began a small discussion in their rooms about Native Americans.  In music we also discussed Native Americans and viewed a slideshow I had put together with pictures I had taken at an actual Pow-wow several years ago.  We listened to actual Native American drum groups and discussed their belief that the drum represents Mother Earth and that the beat of the drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth.  A big focus in Elementary Music this year is rhythms, correctly counting rhythms and identifying notes and rests.  In an effort to do that in a fun way we started by playing Rhythm Tic-Tac-Toe.  The students also sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and listened to James Earl Jones read the poem "Casey at the Bat".  I also read the poem "Casey Twenty Years Later" to them in preparation for the beginning of our big Rhythm Baseball Game.  This game will continue through a couple different classes to get a good game in.  During the game each student is up to bat and has to clap and count rhythm cards to successfully get a hit and score runs.  For the month of November we will continue to learn some different songs and work toward proficiency with our rhythm skills.

Fourth Grade

The fourth grade students are just finishing up a unit that has taken most of the first quarter.  We have spent extensive time learning about and discussing the four main instrument families - Brass, Woodwind, Strings and Percussion.  We have viewed some short videos and identified just what characteristics each family has that allows you to know where the instruments belong.  We started the entire discussion by discussing the fact that we all belong to families, and although we can change our hair color, or the length of our hair or what clothes we wear, there are still characteristics that are passed on in our families that we cannot deny.  Maybe we all have the same type of nose in our families, maybe we tend to walk and move the same as other family members, yet were are completely different than other families.  We also did spend some time in the first quarter listening to, discussion and learning the history of several patriotic songs.  Now, as we complete the instument family unit, we will start a computer project and create movies that include some of these songs as well as pictures to help illustrate the songs, the history or what we feel is important about the songs.  We have also have begun 4th Grade Ensemble rehearsals recently and are in full swing for the Winter Concert.

4th Grade Ensemble

I am very excited about the number of students that have expressed an interest in 4th Grade Enesmble this year!  In case you didn't get a chance to hear them, they sang the "Star Spangled Banner" at the last volleyball home, regular season game at Fairfield this year.  I was very proud of how they handled themselves in front of the crowd as well as how well they followed me and sang the "National Anthem".  I was very proud of all of them and you should be too, they did an awesome job.  Click here to hear the ensemble perform the Anthem.

Although this year we have a K-2 Winter Concert, however, I plan to involve the Ensemble students to supplement some of the music and to read some of the parts and even do a little bit of acting.  I think it will really add to the program and give the students a little more purpose and something to work for.  Besides the Winter Concert, they will also participate in the Spring 3-4 Concert this year.  I also intend to have them do come caroling around the Christmas Season at some of the local nursing homes and assisted living facilities in town.  We always recieve a warm welcome and appreciate their hospitality.

Fifth Grade

The fifth grade students are continuing their monthy journey through some of the classic composers.  So far this year we have learned about J.S. Bach and G. F. Handel.  We have learned some basic history, interesting facts and listened to some of their more popular works.  Besides composers, we began the year learning and/or relearning notes and rests as well as their values.  We have worked on correct counting of rhythms through drill and games.  the class has also been working to learn the dynamic markings as well as other specialty markings that can be found in the music.  It is my intention to next cover the notes of the staff and try to play some music in class using Boomwhackers.  Boomwhackers are long tubes of different lengths that can be tuned to different notes.  They may not be the most musical of the instruments, but they could definately be fun to try.  Here is an example of Boomwhacker music.  When we try them, we may not sound like this, but with a little practice....who knows?

5th Grade Ensemble

Like the 4th Grade Ensemble, I am really excited about the initial numbers of students interested in 5th Grade Ensemble.  After talking with Mr. Owen, the Middle School Vocal/General Music instructor, my plan is to have the 5th Grade Ensemble perform twice a year on the Middle School music concert.  The first concert will more than likely be after the Winter Break.  We have already started to work on music for that concert.  I would also like to take the 5th Grade Ensemble to at least one place in town to sing during this coming holiday season.  With the sounds I have heard from them already, I am really encouraged.  There isn't a lot of time to work, but with the progress they have already, you wouldn't know that.  Several of these students tried out for Opus Honor Choir this year.  I am very proud of the fact that we had 30 people working on their auditions.  It is a very hard honor choir to get into and it was also my first time sending in auditions.  Although we didn't get anyone in from the 5th grade, I hope that next year they will work hard again in 6th grade and be successful.  We will see what next year's 5th graders can do in the fall.


This year I will be helping with the GUYZ ensemble at the High School.  Besides teaching some High School lessons and helping in the music department at that level, I am also excited to be helping with this ensemble.  I have always enjoyed men's choirs from classical to doo-wop to barbershop and I welcome the opportunity to work with a group like that again.  Rehearsals are Tuesday and Thursday mornings and afternoons.  The rehearsals started this last week of October in preparation for a Winter Concert in the High School Auditorium.

Middle School Choir and High School Lessons

I am continuing to work on a weekly basis to help out in the Middle School Choir classes and to teach some High School lessons each week.  This is exciting for me because I get to meet some older students that I have not had in class and be able to recognize them around the school and at extra-curricular events.  Both the High School and Middle School choirs will be preparing for Winter Concerts and that is some of what we will be working on during High School lesson time. I am grateful for these opportunities.

As a reminder:November 16th @ 7:30
Street Beat at the Sondheim Center in Fairfield

For a taste of Street Beat...Click Here
For more information...Click Here