Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Ukrainian Christmas Carol



Susan and Erin sharing the headphones

A few weeks ago my cousin, Erin, asked if I would be willing to work with her to create a special Christmas gift for our Baba (that's our 97 year-old Ukrainian grandmother and there's a more recent pix of her here).  



Erin doesn't live in Victoria so we planned to get together when she came home for some pre-Christmas visiting this week.  We had a couple of hours to explore different instruments and our voices and this is what we came up with.  Erin is playing ukulele, I'm on guitar and we're both singing.  Of course, our families are loving it:).  

We presented this song on CD to Baba last week just before Christmas.   Baba immediately began singing along to the recording in a strong voice.  It was moving and wonderful!  It seemed her singing was coming from deep inside her...truly magical.

This is a song I grew up hearing my grandmother, her sisters and their daughters sing.  It seems to embody a connectedness between the generations for me and it holds a special place in my heart for sure.  Neither Erin or I speak Ukrainian so we recorded it as best we could and it turned out to be the perfect way for our grandmother to sing along to.

I am sharing it with you along with a wish that 2012 be filled with as many beautiful,   c r e a t i v e,   musicalmeaningfulfestive!, celebratory moments you can possibly squeeze in!  

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Big is My Christmas Parachute?


JoAnn Jordan recently asked me, "How big is your parachute?"
I finally got the tape measure out...

My parachute (purchased over the phone and shipped from a military surplus store in Seattle, Washington) is 14 feet in diameter.

Last post I wrote about how much I love my parachute and in the last newsletter I shared several of my favorite parachute activities.

I have had some happy feedback about the parachute activities from those of you who are part of the newsletter group.  If you are not receiving the newsletter yet, you can sign up here!



Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Parachute

 Our parachute just settling its delicate self.

I love my parachute.

It's not the typical institutional parachute that everyone seems to use with children these days.  The typical ones are nice, of course, but I find them too heavy and not versatile enough to use with very young and also sensory-sensitive children.

Ours is a real, old-fashioned silk parachute purchased at an Army & Navy Surplus store.  
  • It's white, 
  • light-weight, 
  • translucent for peeking through,
  • easy to store, 
  • easy to hold and 
  • still strong enough for our uses with young children in class.
I will be sending out the December newsletter soon.  It will list some festive ways we use our parachute at Musicalia.  If you haven't signed up for your own copy of the newsletter, you can do that here!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where Will Santa Live?



David Suzuki has a site with a seasonal message about global warming...and it's fun and interactive.

It also brings our attention to some serious concerns about where Santa will live once the polar ice cap has melted. This has nothing to do with music but it's playful:)

Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating this weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Reading Break for Teachers (and Moka) Too

Moka takes a reading break...
So my studio is closed for a few days.  My business is coming on 19 years and there have been a few things I have eventually figured out about being successful at this.

In about year 7 of running my own business, it finally dawned on me that the reason I was getting so sick every November was I was just plain tired.

The start up in the fall is so busy (August planning actually the busiest time for me) and then all the new children and the returning students in all their classes...there is so much to plan for and respond to...I find I don't get a lot of downtime.

In year 7, when it dawned on me I needed to rest a bit, I started booking off a few days in mid-November.  Sometimes I would travel to the AOSA conference or take a trip up-island and stay somewhere quiet or (like this year) stay home, sleep in and, yes, do a little extra prep for the Christmas concert/party season.

So, my big plans for today include hanging out with Moka, walking on the beach, checking out an old friend's new line of greeting cards and eating, eating, eating:)

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Boo! Curtain

Dressing up!
When you work with very small children dressing up at Halloween is not really an option.  There is always one little person that just doesn't like the teacher to look different.  So...I have never dressed up for Halloween at Musicalia...except for this year.  

After 18 Halloween seasons (could Halloween be considered a season?) I am dressing up at the request of my oldest group (ages 8-12).  They meet on Mondays and we're having a big Halloween party this year.

Last week I handed out invitations
I wrote Shakespeare-style then printed them out, rolled them up and placed each one inside a spider ring.  I addressed one for each child, writing each name on a crackly, rotting oak leaf.  The children loved them!
Double, double, toil and trouble...fire burn and cauldron bubble!



It's a busy party!
We will...
  • dance the Harry Potter Dance
  • perform the Dringo Bell creative movement piece (the kids LOVE this), 
  • play Ghost Chickens in the Sky on guitar, 
  • Old Joe Clark on fiddle, 
  • then break into an Old Joe Clark band with fiddle, guitar, cello, singing original halloween verses about Old Joe Clark.  (scare ye well, old joe clark, scare ye well I say)
  • perform Inchworm (what would Halloween be without worms??) as a Boomwhacker Orchestra
  • singing Trolls and Goblins 
  • eat pizza and play Halloween charades
  • bob for poison apples



Last spring at our year-end celebration they asked me to be the "Evil Fairy".  My hairdresser was very helpful in creating the fresh-from-the-forest look.   She will not be available for my Halloween transformation however, so I've been busy gathering bits and pieces for my Scary Old Witch costume.    


There's a big hat, a wig, a dress, a cape, green paint for my face, hands and feet, a long nose, black nail polish and old black fingerless gloves and my Book of Spells & Potions (it a fake book hiding the treats!).    
Book of Spells and Potions

Hahahaha!  Spooky treats...choose carefully.....!
I created an old broom with an long branch from our garden, tying old lavender, moss and twigs to the sweeping end for magical effect!  I love this broom!


Witch Broom




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Love Halloween! (ages 2-5)



Love Halloween!  
(sung to the tune:  Love Somebody)
ages 18 months to 5 years

I love Halloween, yes I do!
I love Halloween, yes I do!
I love Halloween, yes I do!
I love Halloween with you, you, you!

continue singing the song with variations (see below)
*movement variation
*puppet variation





Process
1.  Circle dance.  Gather everyone into a circle and sing the song.
The first round of substitutions are movement words.  

I love to roll, yes I do!, etc...  (we all roll)

2.  After several movement word verses, sing "I love puppets, yes I do!, etc..."
Find your puppets!  I have a big bag full of finger puppets that are perfect for this tune.

We sing the song together as the children are gathering around.  I hoard the puppet bag and take each puppet out one at a time...the children love the suspense.

Each child will come forward for the puppet that most attracts them.  If there is an issue with more than one child wanting a puppet, we have the expectation of sharing...also I have another puppet that is sure to distract when necessary.

puppet verses:
(bat puppet)  I love bats, yes I do!  I love bats, yes I do!  I love bats, yes I do!  I love bats with you, you, you!

(skunk puppet)  I love skunks, yes I do! ....you get the idea:)

3.  We talk about the sounds each puppets makes as they are handed out.
The children seem to naturally take one and then put it down or give it to someone else as the song is sung through many verses. 

4.  We sing a clean-up song as we put the puppets back into the bag.




Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rockin' Scarecrow Party! (download recording for singin' dancin' boomwhackin' percussin')


The Scarecrow Family (ages 2-8)

The Scarecrow family likes to sway
On a windy autumn day.
When the stars come out at night
We dance with our friends in the pale moonlight!

Bow to your friend!
Call "Hello!"
Wiggle and shake and away we go!

(percussion orchestra)1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8


Scarecrow Party is our newest favorite tune at Musicalia.  Kids and parents can sing, dance and play in the Halloween Band.

Free Download
Recording of Scarecrow Party (listen for the donkey jaw and the owl whistle)




Owl Whistle - so much fun:)
See the whistle hole on the back!
Teaching Process

1.  Scarecrows
Ages 2-3 with parents
Ages 3-4 without parents
We pretend to be scarecrows swaying in the fields while I sing the song.  No dancing, just swaying...stuck in one place like scarecrows on a stick.
When we get to the bowing and calling, we bow to our parents and call "hello!" with our parents.

During the counting to 8 we dance together as scarecrows in the field.

Ages 5-7 without parents
Need:  
  • scarecrow stick puppets
  • puppets to be dancing friends with the scarecrows (we use crows, raccoons, bat, ghost, cat, hawk, spider...you get the idea) 
  1. Each child has 2 puppets.  One hand holds the stick puppet and the other hand has a hand puppet to be the scarecrow's friend (bat, cat, ghost, raccoon...).
  2. Practise swaying, bowing, calling.  Bow with your puppets friends.  Call hello in the puppet friend's voice.   All of this can be rehearsed while sitting in a circle on the floor.
  3. The children sway with their stick puppet during the verse.  At the bowing and calling, they show bowing and calling with their puppets.
  4. During the counting (1-8) the puppets dance together.  At this point, the children will probably want to get up and go dancing around the room.  
  5. When the verse comes around again, ask the children to sway in one spot like a scarecrow stuck on a stick.  They come off the stick during the bowing and calling and then dance again during the counting bits.



2. Percussion Orchestra
Ages 2-3 with parents
Ages 3-4 without parents
Ages 5-7 without parents
The percussion orchestra gets to play the dance music during the counting (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)
Donkey Jaw  - perfect for our Halloween Band!

Non-pitched percussion
Any non-pitched percussion will work for this band.  For the Halloween Band I gather the oddest looking ones first...
  • scrapers (frog callers, donkey jaw)
  • woods (any will do but we try to use strange looking ones)
  • shakers (jingle loop, and anything rattley)

Pitched percussion
Orff instruments set up with only D and A are fun to add to the mix.  I use them with all ages.

Boomwhackers (D and A)  the purple and orange ones.  I mostly use these with ages 5 and older.

3.  Scarecrow Party Performance
Let everyone choose their favorite part...
  • puppets(for older children), 
  • dancing (all ages) 
  • percussion orchestra (all ages) and can include Boomwhackers, Orff orchestra and non-pitched percussion.  
I usually play guitar (mostly D chord with a couple of A7 and G chords) and sing to keep the song moving along.  




Monday, October 24, 2011

Room on the Broom (part 2/2)

Wall chart for Room on the Broom and Dragon Drum Rumble
This is Part 2 of the "Room on the Broom" play. Part 1 is here.
Last post we read the story and heard the song for Room on the Broom.

Today we learn the Dragon Drum Rumble and the Orff Orchestration.

2.  Dragon Drum Rumble (drums and gong)


Wall chart
We are being musical!
  • reading repeat signs
  • reading crescendo and decrescendo
  • playing piano and forte
  • G! = gong
  • blue parts are played by drums (with hands or mallets)

Process
  1. We practise playing crescendo (the dragon coming nearer) and decrescendo (the dragon flying away).
  2. We play the word rhythm on the drums.  ("I am the dragon, mean as can be, etc...)  
3.  Orff Orchestration
We learn as many parts as we can and simplify the ones that are too hard for the group (sometimes we get parents to play those parts).  


Every time an animal asks if there is room on the broom we sing the song and play the instruments.

Room on the Broom - a simple recording of the Orff arrangement




  • CBX - whole note D
  • BX/BM -  D/A bordun  (will you be my friend)
  • AM/AX/SM/SX - alternating D/A bordun
  • I used cello for alternating D/A bordun in the recording
  • GLOCKS - "tings on high D then low D"   (on the word "me" in Is there any room for me?")
  • non-pitched percussion - play on the beat
  • scrapers - play on the word "any" (you'll hear this in the recording)


4.  Choral Speaking!


When the animals rise up out of the bog covered in mud (we use black scarves as mud) and scare away the dragon, this is what they say..."Buzz off!  That's my witch!"  in a forte voice! (Those are the actual words used in the book...so we use them too...some of the kids know the story so if we don't use them...they want to anyway.)

5.  Our modern 5-seater broom

chairs for the witch, the cat and the dog...
...a nest for the bird and a shower for the frog!

More Halloween fun to come tomorrow!

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Room on the Broom (part 1 of 2)

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
I discovered this book about 7 years ago.  I turned it into a musical puppet play almost instantly and have been having fun with it every Halloween ever since.

Meet the characters
The Witch
The Cat
The Dog
The Frog
The Bird

The Dragon



Process (I use this process Grade 1 and 2)
1. Read the book and sing the Room on the Broom song with your group!
 
I adapt the text as I'm reading to the children to include my own version of the "room on the broom" tune.

Storyline
Throughout the story, the witch has some challenges and meets animals that help her with them.  After helping the witch, each animal asks if there is room on the broom for them.   

Instead of asking the question, we sing the question (D dorian mode)!

Is there any room for me?
Is there any room for me?
On the broom, on the broom,
Is there any room for me?





The witch says, "Yes!" everytime and eventually, the broom is overloaded carrying a witch, a cat, a dog, a frog and a bird. 

The broom is not strong enough and breaks in half.  The animals fall into the bog and the witch has a rumble with the dragon.  

The dragon stalks her, catches her and is about to eat her when the animals come to her rescue.  

The witch rewards them by casting a spell on the broom and transforming it into a modern 5-seater broom that can accommodate all of them.
A modern witch's 5-seater broom!

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!




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Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Music Teachers Clean the Uncleanable!

I have a Verilux cleaning wand exactly like the one above.

Cleaning and sanitizing is a constant task in a music studio...well...it is in my studio!

There are things that are relatively easy to clean and most of those things (floors, walls, washrooms) are cleaned daily by the cleaning company I hire.  Everything else is on me though.

There are many things in a music studio that are just not so easy to clean and (until recently) next to impossible to disinfect or sanitize.  A couple of years ago I discovered the Verilux UV-C lightwand and it has made this task so much easier!

Now...I just wave my magic wand...and things get cleaner.:)

Believe it or not, this UV-C wand kills germs, viruses and bacteria (think dustmites, influenza, MRSA and E.Coli) on things that can not be washed or are just really difficult to clean frequently. 

I use it to sanitize things like: 
  • jingle bells
  • those lovely organic looking shakers and scrapers from other countries
  • cloth/yarn mallets
  • drum skins
  • my piano keyboards (huge bonus during cold/flu season)
  • computer keyboard
  • cushions
  • scarves
  • buttons on accordians, autoharp
  • strings and board of my melody harps
  • fingerboards on guitars, violins, cello, bows, banjo, ukuleles
  • quick cleaning of previously handled (but not soiled) instruments in between groups (like egg shakers, sticks, sandblocks)
If you are a travelling teacher, music therapist or space is at a premium, I recommend a smaller portable wand that can easily be packed for travel.  I recently learned air pilots and stewards travel with them to clean pillows and mattresses in hotels.

UV-C light has been proven to be a chemical-free method for sanitizing surfaces.  This same light source is apparently used in some hospitals to treat surgical equipment before surgery.

The parents at my studio sometimes ask how I manage to keep everything clean...this is definitely one of the tools I use.

Having your own magic wand is a very cool thing!


  
Just a note...I'm sending out the October Newsletter in a couple of days...are you on the list?  Sign up here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! (to those of us in Canada)

It's Thanksgiving holiday in Canada this weekend.  We're relaxing and counting our blessings and watching nature turn into a flamboyant lady full of swirling dances of color.  Wow!

I have so many blessings and much to give thanks for.  

During this Thanksgiving I am reminded of the gratitude I feel for...
...my life with my wonderful husband,
...for the loving attention of my family,
...for my work with children and 
...for the opportunities my gifts in music and dance have given me throughout my life.  


I am grateful for my family and especially knowing that my Baba is still with us.  Each day is truly a gift in her life as her time with us really is a day to day blessing.  We are exquisitely aware that my grandmother's time with us at 97 years of age will come to an end sooner than any of us would like.

We love you, Baba!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

"The only way a child will be left behind is if he doesn't learn art and music" (Bob McGrath)


This coming Monday evening I am the guest speaker at a local preschool.

My Preschool Parent Talk
When I speak at parent meetings, parents are usually interested in the benefits of music in the development of their preschool-age children.  

You know...most parents don't believe they should bother with extra music.  They wonder, "Does it really make any difference in any measurable way?"  

In fact, most ECE teachers don't know the benefits of music either!  Most ECEducators will counsel parents NOT to take a music class while taking preschool.  A sure sign they do NOT understand it's value over the long-term.

At my Preschool Parent talks we learn...Music is a verb!
As we all know, experiencing music is much different than talking about it so every few minutes, I engage the parents in a real musical activity for 3 and 4 year olds.  It is a first-hand example of what music can really feel like when you are engaged as a participant and not an observer.

I believe (because of the research and reading I've done for so many years) that music is a language and is one of the most important ways to engage a young child when communicating with them in their early years.   I'm pretty passionate about it.  

I think the research is overwhelmingly supportive of this belief.  In fact, if you read all that research and experience music as a non-competitive, engaging, socially fun, interesting, intellectual, creative activity you might do what I did...open your own music school for children!


Amazing study!
Many years ago, I read the results of a study where several groups of elementary-age children were involved.  Group 1 received reading, writing and math as most regular school classes receive.  Group 2 received music and art 2-3 times per week as well as reading, writing and math, without an emphasis on any one subject.  Group 3 received music and art EVERYDAY and in order to do this, less reading, writing and math were offered each week.  This study went on for 2 years

I like to ask parents to imagine this.  
Imagine your principal/head teacher comes to you and offers your child art and music EVERYDAY!  You'd be excited right?  Then you find out, your child would receive less reading, writing and math in order to schedule it all in.  Most parents would expect after two years of this their child would perform at a lower level on academic testing, having received less academic teaching and more arts instruction.

Most parents would not be okay with this.  Typically, music and art are not seen as beneficial "enough" to warrant an increase in exposure to them.  The fact is...they are and increasing music and arts time has a huge impact!

Do you know the results of that 2-year study?
Group 3 outperformed both other groups on academic tests at the end of the 2 years.

The group that received less math, reading and writing instruction and more arts instruction, outperformed groups 1 and 2 on academic testing.  These children outperformed the groups that received no arts and limited arts instruction.

This is always astonishing to parents...and to administrators.  The idea that music and art instruction can have a cross-over effect that boosts scores on academic tests.

Oh...and one more thing...they discovered that not only was the group that received more arts teaching outperforming on academic testing, that group was also more socially cooperative!


The results of this study always causes parents to stop and think.  
Then, as I roll out the research results about increased language proficiency, longevity, better memory later in life, some of them actually begin to think it might be worthwhile to find out if their preschool offers any music ed opportunities for their children.  My experience is...usually not.  



During my parent talk, I describe what music learning is not...
  • it's not sitting and listening to recorded music in the preschool classroom,
  • it's not just free play with a bunch of percussion instruments, 
  • it's not just doing whatever you feel like musically 
  • it's not just singing, it's not just dancing.  (It's fun to do these things but learning that stimulates development is more than that.) 

Music instruction is a form of communication and play and games and interaction between children and teachers.  Hopefully, it is an active learning process that has children participating and singing, chanting, moving, listening, contributing, feeling, creating, problem solving and learning...but through music. 

The generalist teacher usually has some difficulty with this, both with knowledge and musical confidence.  It takes special training to know what and how to offer the kinds of activities that stimulate development through music.


These are the things I attempt to communicate to parents at my preschool parent talks.  

Do you have an opinion?

What do you think?  
Do you agree with the last 3 decades of research?  
Is music learning beneficial enough that without it children have not been offered a full education in our schools? 



If you would like practical, concrete ways to engage children in music, you would love my free monthly newsletter. Sign up to receive your copy of the newsletter here.


ABOUT THE QUOTE

"The only way a child will be left behind is if he doesn't learn art and music," said McGrath (The Times, www.mywebtimes.com)  I loved this when I read it.  It was posted by the ECMMA on their facebook page.     You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Charlie Over the Ocean


It's been a busy start to my year with all the families. 
I have lots to share and today it's a circle dance for ages 1-4 years.

Process:
Everyone holds hands in a circle.  Sing the fisherman's song!



Charlie Over the Ocean
Charlie over the ocean (everyone steps into the middle)
Charlie over the sea (continue stepping into the middle)
Charlie caught a big fish (begin stepping back to the original circle)
Can't catch me! (stomp 3 times)

Run, run, run, run.....  (still holding hands we run clockwise around circle 4 beats)
Phish!  (everyone sinks to the bottom of the circle)

Let's do it again!

second time:  run counterclockwise
third time:  run for 8 beats
fourth time:  run for 12 or 16 beats (especially with 2-1/2 to 4 year olds...they love the varied phrase lengths for running)
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