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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.