Birds, Music, Classroom Management

No one has ever put together music with nature’s music like Robert J. Lurtsema.

If you love classical music and lived in eastern New England  from the 1970s to the 1990s, Robert J woke you every morning with these incredible sounds.

He used his own recordings of birds to create a soundscape using, in this case, Ancient Airs and Dances Suite by Ottorino Respighi. At the 5:15 mark, notice the fade from birdsong to Respighi.

Set the mood for your students to settle themselves, focus their minds, and to start the day’s journey on a calm, thoughtful note.

 

 

Thanks to John Lester at http://becunningandfulloftricks.com

 

The Art of Wandering

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.IMG_3997

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.

Flag Day, Vexillology, and You

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!

 

 

 

Music for Trust, Focus, and Clarity

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.

Do you prefer piano music? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)
Do you prefer piano music? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)

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.

Do you see the suggestion of raindrops in Chopin's score? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)
Note the suggestion of raindrops in Chopin’s score.(Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)

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?

My Mother the Yodeler

“Yodel-ay-hee-hooo!” sang my mother in the car. She had a natural talent for it, learned it as a camp counselor, and once she got going, she’d spin the yodel part like this:

          Yooooo—de-yo-de-yo-de-yo-de-yo-de-lay-hee-hoooo!

After The Sound of Music movie came out, and Julie Andrews sang “The Lonely Goatherd,” it was fun to have a mother who could yodel on request. No one else’s mother could.

Yodeling originated in the Alps as a form of communication, which makes this Jimmy Fallon/Brad Pitt Tonight Show video  even more hilarious:

 

An Education Spring “Why Not?”

Your students take forever to settle down and start the Do Now. Or you wish there was something new to add to that unit on European history. Maybe there’s a certain dullness today that needs a spark.

Try an Education Spring Why Not?—a semi-serendipitous drop of shine in your students’ day. They learn something new. It activates energy. And you all have fun.

Here’s Francois Couperin’s (1688-1733) Le Tic-Toc-Choc ou les Maillotins, a three minute piece of joy:

 

Verdi Starts the Day

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.

Your Story Through Song

baby dreamsSongs 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.

What’s your story through song?

Organ Crawls: The Ultimate School Field Trip

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.

St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)
Hook & Hastings organ at St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)

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.

Note that organ pedalboards are arranged like keyboards. St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)
Note that organ pedalboards are arranged like keyboards. St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)

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.