I got just gotten back from a wonderful professional development conference here in sunny Florida, and I wanted to report back to you some of the highlights from my trip.
First of all, FMEA is celebrating it’s 75thanniversary. Hooray! Here’s to 75 more. And now, buckle up, because it’s been a full conference and I have a lot to share with you!
All State Elementary Chorus Rehearsal with Dr. Kelly Miller
This is my very first year having a student in the All State Chorus. Whoohoo! And boy am I glad that 2019 was the year that it happened. This year’s clinician, Dr. Kelly Miller from the University of Central Florida was an amazing conductor, who not only is amazing at actually conducting, but also picked gloriously beautiful literature and knew how to connect with an elementary audience. That last one is not a given. I have seen many a clinician who is used to working with top-level ensembles, but really just has no touch for working with children, so I was glad for my student that she got to work with a conductor that she could really enjoy.
She started the kids off with a cool warm up. I thought it was great for getting the type of tone that you want for each vowel. She had them start singing SO-FA-MI-RE-DO on solfege, then switched it to the syllable “no”, then “oh”, then “oo”, then “ee”, and finally “ah.” As she progressed through each vowel, she would reference the vowel before. So for example, she said she wanted an “oo” with “oh” space, and when she got to “ee”, she said she wanted an “ee” with “oo” space.
Some other cool tricks she used included using movement to get students voices to do what she wanted. She would do things like have them “spin energy” in front of them, or punch down to make a note more accented, or jazz hands for that final note. At one point, she had the first and second rows face each other and same with the third and fourth rows. I thought it was a great way to get students to get students to listen across the ensemble.
Finally, I’d like to wrap up with some of my favorite quotes from the session:
“Vowels are the beauty. Consonants are the passion.”
“Out of the six songs that we are doing, there is a person here who needs to hear each one.”
Popped by the morning Chorus Rehearsal. The students are really beginning to put everything together. I can tell it’s going to be a great performance. Then off to …
1st General Session
Like I mentioned before, it’s FMEA’s 75th anniversary, so of course that was being celebrated. Here some fun stats for you: This conference had over 2800 teachers, 2000 performers and 250 vendors. Way to go, Florida! Then, after watching a performance by vocalist Timothy Jones, I had to sneak out early to set up for …
FEMEA Curriculum Fair
As a grant winner, I was honored to present a poster about my recorder program at my school (you can check out all the info from my presentation in my Recorders For All blog post). However, I was far from the only presenter there. Here’s a small assortment of some of the other poster presentations that had some ideas I hope to use in my classroom:
- using visual supports in the classroom (signs, directions on board, etc) to help ALL learners
- using similar activities over grade levels, to cut down on prep between class (ex, using a parachute in different ways for two classes that are one right after the other in your schedule)
- getting out of the way and letting the kids to decision-making and creating, in the classroom and even for a performance
- an excellent lesson on spirituals and slave songs for upper grade levels
Now, I have to admit that I didn’t get one of each handout, as I rushed out to make it to the All State Elementary Chorus Concert, so that list is far from comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of the caliber of stuff available. If you are a Floridian and you’ve never been to the Curriculum Fair, I highly recommend it because it’s like the speed-dating version of going to a workshop. You can glean so much in a short amount of time, and the presenters are SO HAPPY to answer any questions you have about their stuff.
All State Elementary Chorus Concert (Dr. Kelly Miller)
This concert was gorgeous! So many beautiful pieces! Some of my favorites included:
- Let Me Fly by Pollo Dillworth (spiritual)
- But a Flint Holds Fire by Andrea Ramsey: I thought about trying to video tape some of this for you, but I knew it would have been just no where near good enough to do it justice, and plus, I was too busy try not to ugly cry. This song is about the Flint water crisis. The song includes narrations and a forward that help contextualize it for listeners, and contains quote from children of the Flint area. What I think is most critical to know about this song is that the students who lent their voices to it wanted everyone to know that Flint is their home, and that they are proud of it and don’t want to be pitied or seen as a worthless, sad town. This song is POWERFUL.
- Endless Song by David Brunner: a beautiful song, but I think this one is actually only available for SATB and Dr. Miller specially requested it for the All State Choir. So they may been the only SA group to ever perform it!
You’ll Be Popular (Christopher Burns)
Christopher presented some great pop tunes that you can use in your classroom such as Feel It Still, Somebody That I Used To Know, Don’t Stop Believin’ and more. You can use pop music as a way to move, to add boomwhacker melodies (check it a YouTube resource he mentioned, called musication, that animated boomwhacker melodies so you can play along with the video), or even to create a complete Orff arrangement. The possibilities are endless
Recorder Romps (Artie Almeida)
I make it a point to always attend Artie’s sessions. She is endlessly creative, and I adore her motto: Heavy Academics Delivered Joyfully. She has some new (at least to me) recorder resources available through Plank Road Publishing – “Easy Echoes and Excellent Ears” and “Fun Foundations For Recorder.” These are great resources for warmups and for focusing on individual skills. Some of my favorite activities included:
- warming up fingers (finger taps) to Axel F
- study buddies: one student plays their instrument’s mouthpiece, the other student puts their fingers on their partner’s recorder and plays the holes. Teamwork! For the ultimate challenge, stand in a circle and try this, so everyone is playing their fingers on the instrument of the person to their right in the circle.
Working With Functional Harmony (Roger Sams)
Dang, guys! I really enjoyed this workshop. He really processed out how to make chords easy in your classroom. Put simply, here are the steps:
- teach the melody
- teach the chord roots
- sing them both together
- stick it on an instrument
You can also, label the chords (I/V). And you can have students venture off the chord roots and into other notes of the chord. But to pardon my pun, chord roots are the “root” of it all. It made it feel so accessible to me.
2nd General Session
For the second session, we had a performance from the Melodica Men. The melodica, for those of you who – like me until Friday – were not super familiar with a melodica, it is basically a mix between a harmonica and a keyboard, with a tube on the end that you blow in to. They wanted to advocate the melodica for use in the classroom. They had some good points. They mentioned how melodicas immediately start out with a good tone, they are relatively inexpensive (comparable to ukuleles), and the skills are easily transferable to piano and other instruments.
Also during the general session, they mentioned that NafMe (the national association for music education) has something called the NafME Academy, which had 80+ hours of online webinars you can take, and the cost is only $20 a month. Can’t beat that price (my parking ALONE for this conference will exceed $20). Definitely sounds like something worth looking into.
Improvising With Orff (Josh Southard)
Josh did some really fun activity to show different ways to improvise in the music classroom. He used some standard contexts to help students with creation, such as using word rhythms or a call and response format. I LOVED a cute book that he used called Bedtime in the Swamp!
World of Musical Play (Jay Broeker)
I will definitely be printing this handout when I get home (all of our handouts are online – which is awesome for saving trees, but sad when I want it in my hand to jot notes on it during the conference). Every song (and there were like 10-12) was a fun dance or game from some part of the world. From classics like Al Citron to Akar Bakar – a fun song from India, or Hei Tama, Tu Tama – a Maori folksong. I loved how diverse this was and that there were some simple games as well as more complex ones. Will be using this stuff for many years to come for sure!
All State Orff Ensemble Concert (Cyndee Giebler, Michelle Fella Przybylowski)
This performance had some really cool ideas that I loved in terms of staging and presentation. The students started spread throughout the audience, and when cued, made their way to the stage, making different night time noises (owls, crickets, etc). Often we forget that there are a variety of ways to start you show. Think outside the box, or stage in this case.
There were also some neat movement ideas. I often think that when I am choreographing a song, it has to be actual dances moves. But for one of their songs about coming out to play, students were staged in groups at the front of the stage, and were simply doing a play motion – tossing a ball back and forth, spinning a hulu hoop on their arm, etc. Simple, effective, brilliant!
Sing a Story, Play a Poem (Jay Broeker)
This session shows some great ways to take speak and turn it into music. Everything from spoken ostinatos to adding instrumental parts to a story and more. My personal favorite was an activity that he did with the book Fortunately by Remy Charlip and recorders. If you are unfamiliar with this cute little book, the premise is that there is this guy and he had some good and not so good things happen to him throughout the course of the story. This would be a good song for beginning recorders and only uses the notes A and B. But by adding a cool piano accompaniment, he changes the mood each time to fit what is happening in the story. I lack his stellar piano skills, but would like to use the same idea, but with simple cadences in major (fortunately) and minor (unfortunately). Depending on where my students are with things, I may even discuss major vs minor with them as we play.
And that’s it folks! I will not be able to attend the Saturday sessions for this conference, so I will not have a summary of any of those presentations although they do look amazing and I look forward to hearing which songs Dr. Miller picks to explore during the elementary choral reading session, since she did so well picking ones for All State this year. Thanks for sticking around for this extra long post – those of you who are still reading!
Next week, stayed tuned for a great tool to keep you organized and help you make the most of your New Beginnings this January. Not yet following the blog? You can click the follow button or like my page on Facebook and get immediate updates on when I have posted new material.