Monday, May 14, 2018


I recently learned I will be transferred from my HS position to the open elementary position in the district.  This will be a challenge!!

A few things I am worried about (besides the transition and uncertainty here at the HS).

1. HOW DO I TEACH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL KIDS?  I have a lot of work to do.
2. See #1.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

AP Music

I have tried (and failed) for the last six years to get an AP Music theory class approved.  Many students have asked for the class.  Finally, I decided I would run an AP "study group".   We would buy the book, purchase Musition/Auralia, meet occasionally and hope for the best.  I told the students we would run most assignments through their participation in band and choir.

I was pleasantly surprised that 11 (maybe 12?) students agreed to start the process.  I have done a lot of ARE YOU SURE??? but they haven't bailed yet.  I'm excited that so many students have decided to try.

Here is my Day 1 assignment:

Day 1 Assignment:

  1. Have binder set -up.
    1. Notes
    2. Chapter Outlines
    3. Handouts
    4. Dictation
    5. Sight-singing
    6. Scores/Music
  2. Have pencils and highlighter.  Have a great eraser--you will erase A LOT.
  3. Attend session during exam.
  4. Complete pre-assessments in Musition and Aurelia
  5. Create outline for Chapter 1 in textbook.
    1. This is for study purposes.  You will do for each chapter.
    2. Complete assessment at end of chapter.
      1. Do first without checking book/answers.
  6. Subscribe to AP Music Listening and AP Theory Videos on youtube
  7. Practice sight singing on SRF.
    1. Please log in and practice.
    2. Minimum level: Be able to sing 8 measure exercise at Level 1
  8. Bookmark our site (not sure how I will use this yet).
  9. Basic piano practice sheet.
    1. All 12 major scales (do-sol-do), arpeggio, chord
    2. All 12 minor scales (do-sol-do), arpeggio, chord
    3. Easy songs handout

When you are confident in this assignment OR you have a question/difficulty please fill out this form.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What is band?

I teach a graduate class at the University of Bridgeport in Secondary Music Methods.  These students are generally musicians who have decided to get their education certification.  Some students are current teachers working toward their masters.

We have had many discussions trying to define what band is.  We have spent many hours discussing Peter Boonshaft's books, discussing shortcomings of a traditional band program, and what a program should look like.

I posed this question: should a HS band student be able to play out of a Level 1 piano book?

Now--many of these students remembered the frustration of keyboard exams in music school and also lament that the piano has become a much less important instrument (everyone has been asked "do you want my Aunt's piano?").

The question, I think, gets to the heart of "What does it mean to be a good musician?".  What do you think?  What should band look like?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Choir Honors Performance Repertoire

Last fall I applied to have the SHS Chorale perform as an Honors Ensemble at the 2017 CT Music Educators Conference.  We submitted three recordings which I am told are heard blind (no names) and we were selected!

I have had this honor a few times before.  It is a challenge to choose repertoire for this occasion.  You want to sound good, provide a great experience for the students, and show some knowledge of repertoire.

Knowing, above all, that I have no idea what I am doing I asked my local university friends (all of whom have visited our group) for ideas.  I also polled the students.  I think we have a plan.  It is a mix of songs we have done in the last 9 months and a few new ones.  I don't think I am breaking any new ground--but it is a challenging program.

The Chorale is 13 girls.

1. Ave Maria (Guy Forbes).  The students picked this up quicker than I thought they would, but its still kicking our butts.  Concert on this tomorrow.  Requires us to SING in 4 pretty independent parts.

2. Lineage (Andrea Ramsey).  Fairly easy tune that we did at WCSU this year.  We pulled this out last week and nailed it--which convinced us to do it.  Allows us to bring a few percussionists.

3. Parting Glass (arr. Jenny's).  I love this tune.  Totally traditional setting and the Jenny's set it in perfect voicing.  Very easy to sing this slightly out of tune...

4. Ergen Deda.  Thank you to Dr. Douma of Yale for this idea.  I remember seeing this group in concert at Oberlin.  Jaw dropping.  My students have gotten very good at close harmony stuff so this should be fun.  We did Niska Banja a few years back.

5. Will The Circle Be Unbroken.  CMEA Southern Regional is doing this (in 100 voice choir) and I thought it would be good to match the "folk/traditional" theme we were developing.  Allows some solos and up tempi work.  Dr. Ganschow of WCSU convinced me to keep this one.

6. Voice Dance.  I KNOW I did this before, but I can't remember when.  Anyone??  The song really swings.

We might add Sweet Dreams (Deke Sharon), Scarborough Fair or Old Joe Clark (Goetze).

Ideas welcome!

Sunday, September 25, 2016


I always struggle with grades.  I also struggle with the sheer load.  I carry (depending on how you count it) almost 170 students per semester.  If I give one minute per week to each student I am hitting 3 hours just on grading.  Thats not sustainable (both the 1 minute--and the 3 hours).

We also know that Level 4 of the all important Danielson Rubric requires Student Assessment, Student Rubrics, and Student Designed Learning.

In a music class which is very teacher centered by nature I am making a big leap to give students control of their grade this year.

I will establish five assignments in my gradebook:

  • Performing/Responding (40%).  This is all the instrument specific stuff and the listening/writing/responding.  
  • Sight-reading (20%).  Sight-reading tests, ear training, and dictation.
  • Music Theory (10%).  Vocabulary, chords, scales, harmony, etc...
  • Concerts (20%)
  • Participation (10%).  I felt strongly I needed a column for professional responsibilities which might include having your instrument, designing a practice plan, supporting classmates, etc..
Now here is where things will get crazy:
  • Every two weeks the student will summarize their learning in each category.  They will review teacher based assessments, student designed goals, and assign a grade.  I will review and conference with student if needed.
  • This grade will be put into the gradebook.  The gradebook will reset each marking period.  
  • So...the assignments will be static--but I will edit the grades bi-monthly with the student assigned grade.
  • There will be a ton of assessments archived in MusicFirst, Google, etc... We will assess constantly--but grade only every two weeks.
Some things I hope:
  • That students begin to create their own assessments and learning.  If I was a player in a great band the band director would lead rehearsal--but I would lead the learning.  I would figure out what to do be ready for next rehearsal.
  • That students and parents have a much better understanding of what they are doing in class.
  • That we do not let school "run us over".  That students realize they can control so much.
This is a grand experiment.  I am sure I will screw up something.  But at least we are trying!

Friday, September 23, 2016

MusicFirst--Post #3

Here we #3.

I am getting a bit more used to MusicFirst.  But...

  • Discussions Tasks does not work at all.  There is no "Discussion" as we understand it in Facebook or Edmodo.  A student will submit a comment--but nobody else in the group can see it.  It is very confusing.  They have to choose "reply".  Not intuitive (based on the fact that 1/2 my students did it wrong)
  • I can "attach" a rubric--but I can't save it or add it to my favorites.  I have to retype it each time.  Even worse--I can't USE the rubric.  It does not come up when grading the assignment.  This is an online classroom.  It really needs checkboxes on the rubric to go straight into gradebook.  The rubrics need to be saved and viewable by the students, otherwise--what is the point?
  • When grading a submission I have to make four clicks to get to the next assignment to grade.  Why not have a "Next submission" button?  
  • MusicFirst connects to Musition and Auralia and you can load assignments and quizzes, but you can't include them in categories on your gradebook.
  • Every time someone turns in an assignment I get sent a message and I CANT TURN IT OFF.
  • I need to be able to assign things to multiple classes.  Every other software can do this.  
So, is it working? I think so.  Is it efficient? Not at all.  Not yet.

Friday, September 9, 2016

MusicFirst: Work in Progress

I am a few weeks in on musicFirst.  I am more convinced that this is a pretty good idea--that isn't quite working in practice.

  • I assign a lesson from Musition.  Two parts.  First part is "Introduction to Terms" which is basically just a list of vocabulary words.  Second part is the assessment.  In the student view the "Introduction" does not show up on their task list.  You have to go into their class calendar to find it.  So they just see the quiz.  In teacher view I am thinking I gave some work, then an assessment.  Students just see assessment.
  • Also, if you place "Introduction" on September 8, it disappears for the student on September 9.  They can't use the resource to study for end of unit test.
  • How the "Units" work in Musition and Auralia is really unclear (see above).  Do I just assign a Unit and everything takes care of itself?  Do I need to go into each lesson and assessment and mark due dates?
  • If a student actually takes the assessment it is not graded correctly.  If a student gets an 11/11 they get 11% in the gradebook.
  • Musition assignments can't be put into categories in the gradebook.  THATS annoying.
  • I really wish they placed "Announcements" on the landing page.  
  • There is no "Check" for students that they read/opened an announcement or reading assignment.
  • I still need to learn how to really get Sight Reading Factory rolling.  It seems like Level 1 stuff is a bit too hard for absolute beginners.
  • I don't get the sample lessons on my splash page.  How do I assign them?
  • I can't figure out at all how to get student work into my portfolio.  It seems like all the work I assign has no option for that.
I am getting better at it and hope after a few more weeks I am an expert and the software makes more sense.  All the above stuff is fixable--or I am just doing it wrong (perhaps more likely). 

A few other notes:
  • Messages is working well for me.  If we could merge Messages and Discussion that would be great.  One place!!
  • They say the true/false or MC tests are graded automatically now.  Not in my experience.  Not sure where/how I am supposed to make this happen.
  • The Support lady who reads my emails has been really good.
In short--this is a pretty good portal to software.  If it is going to be an "Online Classroom" (that charges good $) we have some work to do.