Archive for March, 2010

Collegiate Leadership Academy at MENC’s Music Ed Week

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

By Andy Zweibel
Republished with permission from Music Ed Major

mew_logo2010MENC has been planning for it’s 2010 Music Education Weekin Washington, D.C. since last year’s event concluded. Music Ed Week is a week of advocacy, networknig, and professional development in the heart of the nation’s capital. I had the opportunity to attend last year, and was extremely pleased with my experience. The professional development portion of the week was done through “academies” in different concentrations (music technology, performance, jazz, research). The specialized academies were a wonderful way to separate the fantastic sessions that were presented.

The preparations for Music Ed Week 2010 (June 24-29, 2010) have begun in earnest over the past few weeks. MENC recently announced that housing and registration for the conference is open, and on Tuesday, they sent information out regarding a new academy for this year’s event, the “Collegiate Leadership Academy.” This academy is geared specifically towards collegiate members of MENC, and has sessions geared specifically towards future music educators. The (tentative) list of sessions includes:

  • “Hero Training: How to Harness Your Super Powers” with Milt Allen, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston
  • “Policy and Practice: What Does this Mean and Why Should I Care?” with Lynn Brinckmeyer, Texas State University, San Marcos
  • “Nine Liberating Habits of Change” with Scott Shuler (president, MENC), Connecticut Department of Education, Hartford
  • “Using Technology to Keep Sane” with Jim Frankel, SoundTree, Melville, NY
  • “Can I Do This for Thirty Years?” with Jack Elgin, Oscar Smith High School, Chesapeake, VA

Additionally, registration for Music Ed Week grants you admission to many other fantastic concerts and advocacy events over the course of the week. The other academies that are being offered this year are:

  • Choral
  • General Music K-12 Technology (keynote by Amy Burns)
  • Instrumental, “IN-Ovations” (Teaching techniques and opportunities for teachers of non-traditional curricula)
  • Jazz
  • Marching Music (registration includes ticket to DCI Show)
  • NACWPI (National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors)
  • New Teachers

Dealing with REALLY Difficult Students

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

By Michelle Payne
Republished with permission from Music Teacher’s Helper

I’ve only had 2 students that I would consider REALLY difficult. The way I define this type of student is like this: They have a really bad attitude, they like to argue, they don’t practice, and they try to insult the teacher with personal remarks. Both of these students started acting like this upon their 10th Birthdays, and I have noticed that students in this age group tend to start arguing more frequently as they develop their individuality. To say it is frustrating is an understatement.

The first student would frequently ask me about my hair, make up and clothing. I would continuously explain that I would prefer to stay on the topic of music. In order to get me to react, she started taking it a step further by criticizing the way I look! Of course this hurt my feelings! I am a human being and not made of steel. I thought about it for a couple days and decided I would put her on probation. Why should I have to take abuse from a 10-year old?

I spent the following days before her next lesson trying to be compassionate and understanding of what it was like to be a 10-year old girl. I knew that her behavior was not ok, but I wasn’t going to scold her, because I truly believe that kids at this age just need to learn right from wrong when it comes to how you treat people. I wanted to give her a chance to change.

From the very start of the next lesson I told her that I was very unhappy with her behavior in the last lesson. I told her that her words were very hurtful and that I would not continue teaching her if she kept it up. I was very honest with her about my feelings being hurt. I did this on purpose, because I remember being a child and thinking that adults were invincible. She definitely looked surprised that she had the power to hurt my feelings. I’m glad I opened her eyes to this. I want to let my students know that it isn’t ok to treat *anyone* with disrespect, because it just simply hurts.

I explained that she would have 4 weeks to change her behavior. Each week we would check in at the end of each lesson. I needed to see improvements each week in order for me to continue teaching her.

She was not happy with this, but stated that she wanted to continue lessons. Her behavior improved dramatically after the 4 lessons, and I continued teaching her.

That was about 5 years ago. The second student is more recent. She’s definitely mean-spirited and loves to argue with me. As soon as I sense that she is trying to start a fight, I just say, “I’m not going to argue with you about this. Let’s move on.” And that’s the end of it.

I ended up giving her a very similar speech that I gave the first girl. She took me very seriously and seemed genuinely sorry for her behavior. We are currently in the probation period, and it is going okay. I’m still pretty unhappy with her, but I can tell she is trying. It’s just killing her to not argue with me!

Some readers may ask me why I did not just go to the parents. Well, I will if I have to, but I prefer to take care of the problem myself. I don’t really like giving my power away, and I find that the students respect me more when they see that I will not run to their mommy every time they make me mad. Anytime I have to get firm with any of my students for talking back, I get the feeling that they respect me more for that too. The bottom line is that kids not only need boundaries, but somewhere on a sub-concious level, they like boundaries, too.

Another Simple Game That Kids Love-Three Card Composition

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

By Nate Shaw
Republished with permission from Music Teacher’s Helper

IMG_0680-225x300Another Simple Game That Kids Love Three Card Composition

I came up with this composition game for my students a couple weeks back and thought I would share it with all as part of my “Simple Games” series of blog entries. It takes about 15 minutes to complete and I use it as the very first activity of the lesson. The idea behind it is to get students thinking about composition from a visual point of view as well as an aural one. And to explore how compositions can be manipulated to create new sounds without altering the notes.

Here is what you need for the game:

1.Hal Leonard’s All-Purpose (Dry Erase) Music Flashcards. Available @ Amazon for $11.95. Here is a link-

2.Two dry erase markers. (preferably different colors)

Step one is to deal three flashcards to your student and yourself. They are 8.5 X 11 so are fun and easy to write on. Then choose a clef to compose in and I usually take that opportunity to do a quick practice drawing of the clef. I’ll have the students watch me do one and then they will tackle 5 on their own. Erase the card and draw the clef of choice, for this blog I will choose treble clef. I will then assign a signature, 4/4 and have the student draw theirs.

At this point I begin with the parameters (rules) of the game. For beginning students I dictate that they may only use quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. I may then review the # of beats in each and will flip my card over to reveal a collection of 5 “math problems” using the prescribed note values. (Just simple addition equations where the student has to fill in the total # of beats.) I find review of the basics to be essential so even if it’s “easy” for the student, it is not wasted time in my book.

The next “rule” covers the range of the composition. For our treble clef piece, I allow the students to write no lower than middle C and no higher than D a ninth above. This parameter keeps the piece in a controlled hand position, i.e.. no shifting needed. You could really dictate any range as long as (for beginning students) it does not require a hand position shift. The reasoning is that I don’t want my students to switch focus from the composition to the execution. This game is really about creating and composing, not fingering and execution.

The next “rule” is that on each card I like to dictate that they must use a certain combination of note values. It usually follows this order:
Card #1: only quarter notes
Card #2: quarter notes and half notes
Card #3: a whole note

And the final “rule” is that I ask the students to start on treble G. This is just so that it will start on the first finger in the right hand and fingerings will then become less of an issue. The student (and you on your three cards) then compose a melody card by card. Often a reminder of how many beats are found in a 4/4 bar is required. As well, sometimes the student needs to review the math game from earlier to be reminded of how many or few notes can fit in a bar. Sometimes I have students that want to hear a middle C or treble G before writing. That is fine, though what I don’t allow them to do is sit at the piano and compose. We are sitting on the studio floor and “hearing” the melody in our inner ear while we write.

Once the students and I have completed all three cards, the fun really begins. I take one card at a time and put it on the music stand. The student now sits at the piano, plays and hears her composition card #1. We then add two cards together and then all three cards. Once we have discovered what the piece sounds like, we start to change the order to discover if there is in fact a “better” order for the cards (or mini musical ideas.) Sometimes I’ll add one or two of my cards to the mix or the student may decide that one of her cards needs to be changed. Exploring the compositional possibilities is what it’s all about. I find that the game is a wonderful way for students to write a piece of music but still easily and quickly change it. They begin to hear the creativity in both composing and arranging while all the while reinforcing many musical fundamentals (note identifying, hand position, rhythm, time/key signatures, phrasing). Have fun and let me know what kind of variations on this game you come up with.