Do Independent Learners = Responsible Learners? Originally Published 10.08.09

One of my main goals as a teacher is to create independent learners.  It is an affective goal for our elementary NCA committee and my personal goal for all of my students.  When I was a student, asking a question was looked down upon.  “There’s no such thing as a stupid question” was the response, but you knew that as soon as you finished your question, the rest of the class was thinking what an idiot!  How could they not know that? You didn’t DARE ask a question that you could figure out on your own, and if you did it once you never did it again.

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Administration Support – Originally Published 8.4.08

As music educators, we find that administration can be the life or death of your program.  You can promote and educate all you possibly can and one roadblock from administration can end all of your hard work.  Most of us know the many ways that administration can harm our programs, but how can they help?  There are so many of us with supportive administrations, what are some of the ways they help us?

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A story we don’t hear often enough: “Schools to resurrect music, choir programs”

While looking through the county newspaper during my lunch break, I ran across an article about a neighboring school district that is resurrecting their instrumental and vocal music programs at the middle school level next year and in the high school the following year. The programs were cut as “cost-saving measures” but, the Superintendent noted “I don’t think they realized how many students we would lose by not having band and choir. The cut may have saved money, but it lost revenue.” He also mentions the importance of music in the curriculum.

A former band director in the area and Student Teaching Supervisor at Wayne State University, Steve Bergmann, runs a program for people to donate instruments they may not be using. He then helps provide instruments to those who may not be able to afford to join the music program but have the want to do so.

The entire article from The Macomb Daily can be found at

Remembering How Lucky We Truly Are…

logofgI spent four hours yesterday at The University of Michigan Center for Vocal Health. For the last 5 years or so I have been having trouble with hoarseness and loss of range due to overuse in the classroom setting. I finally waved the white flag and just decided to have it checked out.

I met with the surgeon first, then the Voice Specialist and finally the Speech Pathologist, all specializing in teaching and singing. When I entered the room with the Voice Specialist, an instructor of voice at The University of Michigan School of Music, she asked me about my typical daily schedule. I explained that I had all 530+ students in our school for 80 minutes a week, plus 76 fifth graders for 80 minutes a week for band. She thought it was amazing that we had that kind of a program!

I then told her of our Elementary Honors Choir, which had 120 students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades. We have 8 music educators who work with this group every week for 8 weeks leading up to our Vocal Arts Concert. She asked me if this was a public school and, when I told her yes, she said she was elated that a program of this caliber still existed in the state. She told me that it made her heart happy to know that our students were receiving the music education that we know is so important to their personal growth and development.

We sometimes forget how good we actually have it. In a world of budget cuts, increasing state expectations for math, science, language arts and foreign languages, and music programs being pulled from schools, we have a true “diamond in the rough” in our district with wonderful educators and supportive staff and administrators.   I need to remember to sit back and appreciate that every once in a while, and revel in the program that we love so much!

Group SMS Program –


Last summer I found a free, group SMS messaging program called I had heard about such things on a podcast and decided to try it out with my church teen choir.  After a small (non-scientific!) trial, I implemented it with my high school choir programs.  I have since added a group for our HS vocal booster club and we use it as often as we can.

The great thing about this service is that it has a mobile site which allows you to send messages and manage groups and members with it’s iPhone site.  swaggle_iphone(Photos and logo via

The other great thing (at first) was that the service was free.  I am never opposed to paying for something that is useful or that I utilize often, but it was wonderful to find a free service that worked so well!  Swaggle now has rate plans for groups.  They grew so quickly that they needed to upgrade their systems and have started to charge for their services.  Any groups or accounts that were active prior to the upgrade are still free, but new caps on number of members apply.

I have turned quite a few people on to the idea, but they usually ask “What do you use it for?” A great question.  I’ve gathered a list of a few of the things I have found group messaging useful for.  Please leave me comments on what you have found it useful for!

I have sent group SMS’s for:

- Assignment “due” reminders

- Missing assignment reminders

- Solo & Ensemble accompanist rehearsals

- Letting students know where I will working at a Solo & Ensemble festival for the day so they can find me

- Congratulatory texts if a student makes an amazing accomplishment (ex – selected for All-State Choir)

- Rehearsal reminders

- Rehearsal cancelations

- Scholarship opportunities which have been sent while students are on a break.  They know to check the website asap if it applies to them

- “You should have left already” texts for traveling to Solo & Ensemble

- Reminders to turn in permission slips, make-up assignments, camp forms, uniforms, etc. for the next day

- Reminders to BRING uniforms the next day (in-school performances or early departures)

- Reminder to bring money for food on a field trip

- Changes in itinerary

I will continue to add to this list as I remember more, but please let me know what you have used it for.  Also, do you have an ad-free alternative to that you’d like to share?

Music Education Blog Carnival Edition for January


Happy New Year and welcome to the January 1, 2009 edition of Music Education Blog Carnival.  I am very honored to be hosting the very first edition of 2009!  Enjoy the carnival and please remember to submit your articles for February when the carnival will be hosted by The Collaborative Piano Blog


Music Pedagogy

1.  Music – USA by findingplato posted at findingplato

2.  Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic motivation by Martha Grondin posted at Artful, Tuneful, Beatful.

3.  A Call For Collaborative Musical Engagement: The YouTube Symphony Orchestra and Your Music Program! by Evan Tobias posted at Catalysts & Connections.

4.  Blues and Jazz Guitar: Arrangements: How to… by Robert Ransley posted at Blues and Jazz Guitar

5.   Third-Stream Music Education » Blog Archive » Easy Concert Themes by Cary Stewart posted at Third Stream Music Education.

Music Performance

6.  Was that Jingle Bells?!? (Tales from a beginning band concert) by Mr. ReBand posted at ReBand…A New School Year, A New Gig.

7.  Ray Manzarek about the beginning of the Doors by Merlin Silk posted at The Magic of Life

8.  Bearing Beginning Band by Steve Raybould and Kriston Feldpausch posted at BNC Education.

Music Software/Hardware

9.  NEW !! Remarkable MP3 Digital Music Players for You !! by Sam posted at Surfer Sam and Friends

Music Technology

10.  Music Related WordPress Plugins For Gigs, Notation, Audio, And More! by Joseph Pisano posted at Music, Technology and Education:, ”


11.  Why play drums or music. by Tahir Syed posted at

12.  The basics of Reggae Guitar by Tennyson Williams posted at GuitArticles.

13.  Music Training Improves Language Development by Cynthia Wunsch posted at CynthiaWunsch – The Unlikely Entrepreneur


14.   Organizational tips by Alexandra Gallant posted at The Misadventures of a First Year Music Teacher.

15.  Do It With Style! by Isaac Yassar posted at Isaac Yassar .com



That concludes this edition. Be sure to submit your blog article to the next edition of Music Education Blog Carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page. Thanks for visiting!


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Teaching for Honors Choir….and more…

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take 14 of my high school students to the Region C Honors Choir tryouts for MSVMA (Michigan State Vocal Music Association).  They are required to sing (from memory) a medieval, a cappella piece and sight read an 8-measure intermediate exercise after studying it for 30-60 seconds without instructor support.  I am always impressed by any student who can do this!  For the last 4 years our number of students who audition and are selected has grown from 1 (the first year) to 5 (last year).  They are incredible students and people.  

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