Friday, May 27, 2011

16 Year Old Me

Showed this in class today.

Elementary Concert

The Lopresti-Chatfield Elementary combined concert went great on Wednesday.  Everyone was very professional.  We were happy with the nice crowd and everyone's hard work.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Music Composition Writing Prompt

I warn that this video is not easy to watch.  Everyone turns out OK, but its scary.

So we watched this in music theory class.  I told them to "write furiously" while they watched the video. What did they hear in their head?

After we wrote all the adjectives on the board; hope, faith, dissonance, diminished, chaos.

How would you write a piece inspired by this video?  What would it sound like?  We began talking about form, instruments, melody.

This will be their exam.  I will give them a writing prompt (photograph, video, or poem) and they will have 90 minutes to write a song using

Monday, May 23, 2011

Herding Cats and 4th Grade Band

 Two days away from the Chatfield-Lopresti Spring Concert. This video is probably fairly accurate to how it feels to have 100 4th/5th graders in front of you. Hold on!

iPad Exploration

Put in your headphones.

Don’t ask me questions about how to do something: Figure it out!!

1. Make a short movie in Puppet Pals HD.
2. Make a pot.
3. Read the top story on the NY Times.
4. Play with the cell in 3D cell. Recall what the cell structures are called.
5. Play Speed GeoLite until you get good at it..
6. Find the Egyptian Pyramids in Google Earth. This will take some thinking.
7. Listen/sing to Amazing Grace on PraiseHymns.
8. Draw your name in Doodle Buddy. Make it pretty.
9. Check the weather in WeatherBug.
10. Look at the pictures of the day in Guardian Eyewitness.
11. What is the atomic mass of Carbon? Use the periodic table.
12. In Google Translate be able to say “My name is ….. “ in 3 different languages.
13. In Wolfram Alpha solve for Y in the equation 3x+2y=6
14. Search for Paris in Wikipanion. Explore.
15. Draw a picture of a sunny day in Draw.
16. Call another iPad using Skype.
17. Play along to “Summer Sounds” in Barrel Tones.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Moments Ago

Moments Ago for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store

I've been exploring the Moments Ago app. The app is an easy way to contact parents from your iPhone/iPad. It has a series of generic emails (Johnny was nice today, Johnny was NOT nice today). You click the kids name, the message and boom it gets sent.

We spend a lot of money on programs. This one is almost free. Why can't Edline do this?

Concert Reflection

Some quotes from our concert reflection:

I've learned that practicing for the songs is great preparation for the concert. I also learned that if you let your nerves get to you then you won't be able to focus on breathing or hitting the notes.

I have learned to learn parts on my own. I learned to be a better leader and teaching the younger kids their part. I also learned to brethe better so that my voice isn't tired at the end.

This concert taught me the benefits of really focusing during a performance. The entire week before the concert I was a little worried because during rehearsal we would sometimes lose our focus and make stupid mistakes. We always had the potential to sound great but it required 100% effort from everyone. The night of the concert I was amazed to everyone fully focused on the music and the conductor. This paid off because we sounded the best we ever have!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why we need music in preschool

I watch this and wonder why its ok to have kids not have music classes until they are seven years old. We should ensure quality music for all children ages 2+. This kid certainly has the support at home.

I read today that something like 30% of children have NO books in the home. Some due to ignorance, but most due to cost. So many children go without. How many 4 year old ukelele prodigies are we missing?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Do you have all your bass players learn tuba? It seems to be coming back, most notably with the band the Roots.  I have always discouraged electric playing and encouraged acoustic playing just to force versatility.

I always had my saxophone players know a second instrument. I really think this might be a great thing.

photo: peasap on flickr

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some Foreign Orchestras Offer Misleading Credentials -

This article is fascinating: Some Foreign Orchestras Offer Misleading Credentials - With so many out of work musicians in America why are we hiring foreign orchestras--that aren't even representing themselves appropriately.

The scene backstage with the Irish Orchestra is a classic. "I'm not detecting any Irish lilts".

Concert Prep

Last night on twitter was a #musedchat about concert preparation.  How to choose music, plan your rehearsals, etc...

I find traditional concert prep very challenging here.  At the high school level I do not have a core group yet.  Every quality ensemble has a core group that can absolutely be counted on to learn their parts.  We aren't there yet.  I have to do most of the practicing for them.  Thats changing, but its a long process.

What percentage of bands/choirs in USA are true ensembles and what percentage are basically "learn by rote" groups?

At the elementary school its just plain old lack of time.  I have three band rehearsals this MONTH before the concert on May 25.  That makes it impossible to get any sort of rhythm going.

We are doing much harder music this year in all groups.  We added a music theory performance class.  The elementary band is playing twice as much music.  I know we are learning a lot about how to perform, act like a professional, and enjoy the music.

Sometimes I feel like I'm holding it together with bailing twine.  I know this is a process that takes years to develop.  It took me six years at Derby.  We'll get there.

Friday, May 13, 2011


I have a 5th grade kid who has been a challenge.  Nice kid, polite, but every lesson has been hard work.  He has not been a natural musician.  He has come a long way.

Our concert is a few weeks away and we send notices home for parents to commit to the concert.  His slip came back "will not" attend.

He said he had "something to do" that night.  I know thats not him acting smart or difficult, because he's not like that.  Its the parents talking.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I have only 12 members of my high school choir.  It is my second year and I have had to completely rebuild the program.  Overall our HS numbers are up about 50% this year and will rise again by 50% next year.

This choir has some good kids in it.  But their attendance is lacking.  I only had seven here today.  I miss 2-3 every day.  This makes it HARD to get stuff done.   Our concert is one week from today.

We continue to march on, but its hard to build program when kids aren't in the room.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Trombone Literature for All-State

I got an email about the CT All-State auditions where they list possible repertoire.  I have been an All-State trombone judge (jazz and wind) for about the last 15 years.  I see definitely see the consequences of choosing the wrong repertoire.

So the list for trombone included Schumann's Piece for Euphonium.  Huh?

Yes, this was on the list before.  I judged it.  It was horrible.  You can't play this piece without a trigger.  I am sure it was put on by a euphonium player.  When I judged it I pleaded with everyone to take it out of the rotation.

I've sent in my suggestion for a replacement (Jacob: Mvt 1).  I'm really hoping they change it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Some New (and old...) iPad Apps for the Classroom

Here are the top iPad apps I have been using lately.


Soundprism: Free.  Great visualizer, great sound.  Tried it today with 8 ipads at once.
Garageband: Love it.
Flipboard: Free.  I get most of my information from flipboard.  For some reason I didn't respond well to this when it first came out.
Keynote:  $9.99. Been using this for developing presentations.  Just have iPad version.  Only rough thing is building photo library on iPad.  Works very easily.
Show of Hands: Free.  Fun diversion.  Take a simple poll question and it shows you how each state has voted on the question and how age, gender, or party has different statistics.  Great discussion opener.
AutoCAD WS: Free.  This is very cool accompaniment to the very expensive CAD program.  It works great.  You can really manipulate the drawings with your fingers.  Cool to play with.
Nota: 99 cents. Great music theory tool.  Lots of drills and information.
Planetary: Free. Fun visualizer for your iPad music library.
Verbally: Free. Game changer for SPED students.  Must have.

Old Favorites:

NPR: Free. Still the best.  So much about music and arts.  Can listen to all of their shows or find live stream. Free. I use this when I'm working.  Try to listen to different region, country, genre each day.
YouTube: "How do I do....." "Here check youTube."
Netflix:  Free, with subscription. Last night I'm not feeling well.  Cue up netflix and watch a movie in bed.  Amazing.  But they have a TON of content for schools!  Check it out.  Of course, its blocked in most places.  Keep fighting!
TED: Free. They have added a search box.  Works much better than before.  Has all the talks.

Things I've had to give up:

NYTimes:  This is tough.  I used to read most of the paper.  I just cant pay for it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Talent Show

We had a very successful talent show last night.  This was the first talent show at SHS.  We raised $800 for the music department.  Here are some thoughts:

1. We had a lot of faculty step up and help.  I counted eleven faculty in the audience or helping back stage.
2. We had students willing and able to help take tickets, work lights, move equipment.
3. All acts were good.  We took 2/3 of the acts that auditioned.
4. $5 was the right admission price.  We didn't work too hard on presale.  We could definitely sell out.

A few things need to change:
1. We have very little cables, microphones, etc...
2. Our lights need a serious overhaul.  They are pointed in all sorts of directions.
3. We need to encourage comedy, dance, theater acts to perform.

Most of all the students made it easy.  They had their acts ready.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thoughts of the Day

Why does puttng students last name on a school website "jeopardize their safety" yet a news photographer can walk in and take a pic and publish full name.

Why do we use mean for computing grades and not median?

Are elementary classrooms set up for girl success, but not boys? Should we address the teacher gender imbalance?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hospital. Again.

I got a nice ambulance ride again yesterday.  I was noticing my brain shutting down around 7:30am (I even posted about here) and it kept getting worse.  I visited the school nurse and my blood pressure was way high and that kind of set everyone off.  It came down about 90 minutes later.

We haven't figured out whats wrong with me yet.  Twenty-two days until elementary concert.  Yes, I'm excited to get there this year.

I went to the psychiatrist last week.  They worry about PTSD with stroke victims.  She said I was remarkably stable.  Most 40 year olds that have strokes think the sky is falling.  I thought that was good news.

The nice people at Blue Cross are VERY interested in keeping me out of the hospital at this point.

I know what sets me off.  My brain can not handle change right now.  A kid walking in late, a fire drill, an email at the wrong time and my brain can't bounce back.  And I really cant talk on the phone.  I've learned to limit the distractions.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I'm having a lot of trouble writing again.  Parts of the day I feel normal, and parts of the day my mind is just completely blank.  So, not much has ben posted lately.  I hope to back to "normal" soon...