On a weekend trip to Québec City, we visited sites recommended by a travel book— Montmorency Falls, the Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupré, the farmer’s market, art galleries and cafés, all lovely and worth experiencing.
Sometimes, though, an itinerary needs to breathe.
My husband and I set off one evening to roam the cobblestone streets that overlook the great St. Lawrence River. Wandering of any kind invites the unexpected, and that’s what happened.
A wisp of song curled down a hill. The melody drew us up a narrow street and around the corner of an ancient stone building. There, in the shadow of Louis XIV, a quartet of singers sang opera.
One beautiful piece after another rippled forth in the sun. There was something for everyone, sort of an opera’s-greatest-hits program. And I melted right into it, shoulders and all. My imagination relaxed and soared.
Here’s a lovely wander for your imagination, the Intermezzo from the opera “Cavalleria rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni.
Did you celebrate Flag Day when you attended school? Perhaps classes gathered at a special assembly, or around the flagpole outside. The program was short and centered on patriotic songs and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, often led by a scout or a local official.
Flag Day rarely requires an elaborate celebration and it is more powerful, I think, because of its simple sentiment: we remain loyal to our country, symbolized by its flag. The youngest of us understand this, too, especially when they see older children carrying out a Flag Day ceremony.
One person who collects United States flags and knows a lot of their history is John Andringa of North Carolina. Watch this short video with children and see what you learn from this vexillophile!
My children attended a high school that encouraged its students to listen to music if it helped them focus on their work. Neither ear buds, nor phones, nor iPods were banned.
I like this philosophy of beginning with trust. It shows both faith in a student’s ability to make appropriate choices, and then values the student’s choice.
Students who were distracted by music received help or support depending on their needs. The teachers’ overarching goal was to help students learn what worked best and helped them concentrate.
For me, it depends on what the task is, so I adjust my environment accordingly. Favorite musical soundtracks, jazz, or early music are some of what I use. Today, I offer Frédérik Chopin’s (1810-1849) Prelude No. 15 in D-flat Major, also known as the “Raindrop.” How does this piece work for you?
In one school in which I was principal, I played classical music over the intercom to start every day. It created a happy atmosphere and gave every adult and child something to share. It’s easy to build good connections using pieces from Verdi’s operas, especially when a student says “I know that one!”
Integrating music into teaching doesn’t have to be heavy duty, like designing a major curriculum unit. Show your students this video of The Three Tenors having fun with a Verdi piece everyone recognizes.
Songs connect us to all of humankind and tell our story from the earliest days of human history. You have songs that tell the story of your life, too. Did you sing while you did chores? Rode in the car? During play?
Think about the earliest songs that hold meaning for you. My father sang I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen when he drove me home, days-old, from the hospital. My mother sang Baby Dreams every night. When I see a crocus, a kindergarten song runs through my mind: “Out of the earth, a crocus springs, just like a jack-in-the-box…”
We kids sang while swinging and washing dishes; a ride in the car meant breaking into three-part harmony. At my grandmother’s, we sang songs like Elsie from Chelsea. My sister and I knew all the songs from Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music from records. Extended family gathered at Christmas to sing Handel’s Messiah.
Color My World, by Chicago, was my prom’s theme. In college, I sang along to Orleans and The Beach Boys while learning airs, madrigals, lieder, and chorale themes used by Bach.
As both teacher and principal, I taught children to sing patriotic songs; God Bless America became the all-time favorite. I played the familiar two-note shark theme from Jaws on the piano as a classroom quiet signal. The result? Instant silence and it worked every time.
The only bad thing about being an organist is that you can’t take the King of Instruments with you. No cases, gig bags, or covers exist: you must travel to the instrument. That means you are in church a lot to practice, perform, or even to go on organ crawls.
Organ crawls are tours through the insides of pipe organs to see how they work and to appreciate each instrument’s unique beauty. I learned to play on a tracker (meaning mechanical note action, as opposed to electronic) organ, the kind featured in organ crawls.
Going inside this organ was like going inside a unique house. Built in 1889 by Woodbury and Harris (not pictured), the organ had a huge, old-fashioned bellows that had since been electrified.
One day the power went out during a service, so a tenor ran inside the organ to hand pump the bellows as I played. Otherwise, there’d have been no air and no sound.
Science, technology, engineering, math teachers, unite! Get with the art and music teachers and take your students on an organ crawl—a free field trip that you can walk to if you’re lucky.