Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Pre-Staff Composition Project

This is the final week of my first intro to piano class session at Lewis Music Studio. Over the past 9 weeks, we learned about proper sitting posture at the piano, dynamics, touch, correct finger curvature, range, black key patterns, white key names, flexible wrist, and the C 5-Finger Scale. We covered a lot of material, but we also had a lot of fun! 

I created a composition project as an engaging way to review the concepts we've learned during this session. The students will take turns selecting randomly from the "Composing Cards" I compiled for this assignment. There are five categories in this set of cards: 

  1. Hands
  2. Black Key Groups
  3. Range
  4. Dynamics
  5. Touch
As cards are drawn, we will decide as a class how we are going to write our piece. Depending on which black key group is chosen, we will use fingers 2 and 3 or 2, 3, and 4. Each student will write a measure of music using these finger numbers.

On the Composition Project Worksheet that I created for this project, we will either circle or color in the appropriate hand and black key group. The dynamic markings, double bar line, and decorative snowflakes will be glued onto the worksheet. There are three students per class, so I made one snowflake for each child!

We will play the finished project individually, and then as a class, making sure that we are sitting with good posture, playing with curved fingers, and using a flexible wrist. Following the class, the composition will be scanned and emailed to the students' parents. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fostering Music Appreciation in Children

Music is an art form that reaches beyond the confines of words and actions. It touches us spiritually, cognitively, and emotionally. Music resonates within us; it can simultaneously reflect and change us. And as an art form, it is vital that we learn to appreciate it and foster appreciation for it in children because it advances language development, creativity, and a better understanding of history and culture.
In an academic setting, music is an integral part to an excellent and balanced education. Many music education supporters have correctly fought long and hard to maintain music programs within the public school system. They have had to answer tough questions like, “How does music benefit our students academically?” and have had to face the challenges of the extensive testing of Common Core, tight schedules, and limited resources.
As a school subject, music has been repeatedly proven to improve academic test scores, lead to intellectual success, close the academic gap, and encourage the development of important life skills such as discipline, teamwork, and communication. The studies that have strengthened the cause for music education are phenomenal, but they often miss the importance of music appreciation.
Teacher candidates in colleges and universities study the purpose of education in the United States; they learn that children are being prepared for future jobs, citizenship, and to be well-balanced individuals that appreciate deeper meaning and forms of beauty. All three purposes are equally significant, but sadly, the importance of the third one is often overlooked.
When we take the time to go to an art museum, a concert, or any other artistic endeavor, we rarely ask ourselves how academic standards are being met or if we are actually learning anything worthwhile. We may analyze the skill and quality of the art or performance, but we always move past scrutiny to how the art resonates with us. This is a natural instinct, one that is developed either consciously or unconsciously—often a combination of the two.
In appreciating music, we possess the knowledge and understanding of the universal and timeless qualities that classify all magnificent art. Babies are a great example of this; they freely enjoy music as far as their understanding permits them to. My son is less than a year old, but when I turn on music or sing for him, he immediately reacts to it. He appreciates music.
I began teaching the preschool music class less than ten weeks ago, and I have seen a lot of academic progress in my students. They are becoming more adept at identifying colors, letters, learning lyrics, and demonstrating life skills like sharing, taking turns, and helping with clean-up at the end of class. More notably, though, they demonstrate an appreciation for the music that they are learning. They happily sing along to familiar songs in class and at home, they sing and dance for their families.
It is imperative to foster music appreciation and encourage the natural instinct to love music in children. It cultivates a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. If you have children, or work with children in any capacity, take the time to expose them to all genres of music. Explore music with them through music classes, private lessons, various instruments, singing, and games at home.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Look Into 2015

After a busy holiday full of recitals, cantatas, special services, and a bout of the flu, life is normalizing again! Here's a brief look at our kick-off to 2015:


Last week marked the midpoint of our class session, so we reviewed everything we've learned so far with a game. I came across this game in my local music store, and the students loved it! We played it as a matching game and it was a very fun and painless way to evaluate how much the students actually remember from the first 5 weeks of class.

For piano repertoire, we worked on the concept of flexible wrist, closely following the detailed lesson in My First Piano Adventures. We also reviewed The Dog Song and The Frog Song. These songs are very effective at helping students remember the key names.  

Coming up, the class will learn and play L.H. Rainbows and R.H. Rainbows, found in My First Piano Adventures to reinforce flexible wrist technique. A part of class is going to be dedicated to aural skill exercises; and, if time permits, we will review rhythms and note values in a game I found on this awesome blog called Busted! 

I made slight alterations to the original game. I chose to use uncolored sticks so that the students would not catch on to which sticks were the "Busted" ones. I also added a stick called "Buster's Mustache" because my students LOVE mustaches! When they draw a 'stache, they'll get to have a free turn. 


The Preschool Music Class made tambourines last week with decorated paper plates and dried beans! Next week, we will sing, play instruments, try some new fingerplays, and a game that I made. 

For the younger students (under 2 years of age), I'll ask the students to identify the instruments and place them in a basket. The older students (over the 2 years of age) will play this as a matching game. I've attached a PDF of the cards here. Simply print and cut them out, and then glue them to 2 3/4" by 3 3/4" cardstock cards.