Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Muxtape Shut Down...There Goes My Grand Plan

Hey Folks...

Did you hear? Muxtape has finally been "snubbed" by the RIAA. What a great resource Muxtape was for resurrecting the art of the mixtape in this new age of mp3s and streaming audio. Hopefully the RIAA and Muxtape will come to some agreeable terms. I'm fairly certain the RIAA will recognize the validity of Muxtape and understand that it may do them some good.

There goes my grand plan for using Muxtape this year in the classroom. Has anyone out there used it for classroom purposes? If so, I'd like to hear what you were doing.

Enjoy Being...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Measure for Measure: New York Times Blog on Songwriting

Hey Folks...

I stumbled upon this New York Times blog entitled "Measure for Measure" via Andrew Bird's website.

I've taken the liberty of cutting and pasting an excerpt from the blog to give you all a glimpse of its objective.

About The Blog:

With music now available with a single, offhand click, it's easy to forget that songs are not born whole, polished and ready to play. They are created by artists who draw on some combination of craft, skill and inspiration. In the coming weeks, the contributors to this blog -- all accomplished songwriters -- will pull back the curtain on the creative process as they write about their work on a song in the making.

Other songwriters are featured in the "Measure for Measure" blog including Darrell Brown, Rosanne Cash, Peter Holsapple, and Suzanne Vega.

What a great resource for getting into the heads of gifted songwriters. I think this blog is a must read for any high school general music classroom.

What do you think?

As for Andrew Bird...

If you have not heard of Andrew Bird, I strongly encourage you to check him out. He's a classically trained violinist turned songwriter. Andrew has a penchant for making the violin an integral piece of his indie rock sound. In his "Measure for Measure" blog, Andrew eloquently walks his readers through some of his music writing processes.

Enjoy Being...

Friday, July 11, 2008


Hey All...

Finally got to checking back to see if IMSLP is up and running. Sure enough it is. Up for some score studying???

Enjoy Being...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pitchfork TV

Know much about Steve Reich? How relevant is the music of Iceland to the music of today? To what degree of influence did the Pixies have on Indie Rock? Want to stay hip to what your students may be listening to?

Well then...

If you're a general music teacher, more appropriately at the high school level, you should definitely check out Pitchfork TV. You'll find here an assortment of music related streaming videos. Of most interest to the music educator is the One Week Only section of the site where full length featured music documentaries are posted each week.

I'm certain there are ways for you to incorporate whatever it is you experience from this site to the classroom. While some of the videos may be deemed "inappropriate," it's up to you to decide how you'll utilize this resource.

BTW, Pitchfork TV comes to you by way of Pitchfork Media, a Chicago-based online music magazine I visit frequently to read up on music news and reviews of albums and performances.

The reviews published on Pitchfork Media are great examples of top notch music journalism. I have used a handful of them in my own class to help students better approach their own writing.

Check out a prior post of mine on the importance of Writing and Speaking Musically.

Be Well...


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Survey Monkey: Make It Work For Your Class

I recently discovered a website, www.surveymonkey.com, that allows users to create, in a very simple, user friendly sort of way, surveys of all kinds. The website has been in existence for some time now and it could be that many of you are already using it. If so, I'd appreciate if you posted a comment detailing the ways you use it for your class.

If you were unaware of the site and/or have not used it, I'd like to take a moment of your time to share with you how I am using the site right now.

Check out the concert reflection survey I very easily created for my Chamber Strings students to take. Survey Monkey collected and organized the data in such a way that I was afforded an opportunity to do ABSOLUTELY nothing. No collecting of papers and, most importantly, no organizing of the data.

How might you be able to use Survey Monkey?

Always Listen...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grammy Awards: Making It Educational

Cab Calloway, Earl Scruggs, Aretha Franklin, Berry Gordy, Itzhak Perlman, Max Roach, and more...

I'm willing to guess that a great majority of our students know very little about this year's Grammy Life Time Achievement Award Recipients. What better reason to use the Grammy Awards as a means for exploring the rich history of American music with your students.

How about the stirring medley performance of Gospel music by artists such as Aretha Franklin, the Clark Sisters, and a few others I couldn't find specific information on. The performance shed light on the inextricable connections between the great Soul and R&B artists of our time and their musical upbringings in the church. It also brought attention to the significance church music has had on popular music...Well beyond that of Soul and R&B. Seeing that February is Black History Month, I'd say it is absolutely necessary that we, as music educators, share with our students the incredibly pivotal contributions of black music to the fabric of the American sound.

What about Beyonce's introduction to Tina Turner's performance that payed homage to some of the great female singers of our day? She referenced Sarah Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, Mahalia Jackson, Anita Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Gladys Knight, Nancy Wilson, Janet Jackson (Really???), Whitney Houston (Okay...I can deal with that...I think.), and, of course, Tina Turner. While taking in this particular segment of the Awards ceremony, I got to thinking that this might be a great entry point into introducing some of the great African American female singers of the last 50 some odd years.

So this is what I did....

I found a clip of Beyonce's introduction to Tina Turner's performance on You Tube and set out to write a lesson plan revolved around the artists Beyonce referenced in her performance.

Short of actually outlining the lesson plan for you, I will tell you this. Only 1 of over 30 of my students knew of Sarah Vaughn. And it was only because her dad had played Vaughn's albums every so often. None of them guessed the Nancy (Wilson) reference. No one even knew of a musician with the same first name. And when I had them place the artists (mind you with only the knowledge they currently had...all prior to actual research of the artists) in a time line from when they made a splash on the music scene, some actually placed Aretha Franklin before Ella Fitzgerald!!! I even played short clips of each musician's music and encouraged my students to consider the instrumental elements and overall sound of each to help them place where in the time line of American musical history each musician belonged to.

Knowing that my students knew so little and implementing an experience in which they could learn more was enough to have made this lesson worth executing.

I encourage you to check out the video link above and toy with the idea of using it to formulate some lesson plan for your music class.

Note: Know that I completely understand a teacher's decision to not use the video as a result of the "inappropriate" outfits worn by Beyonce and her backup dancers/singers. I teach at what I consider to be a liberal public school institution in which the belief that censorship blinds is one that the great majority of teachers and administrators support and uphold.

Enjoy Being...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sound Opinions: The World's Only Rock & Roll Talk Show

I consider myself to be an avid National Public Radio listener. Be it driving to work and listening to Morning Edition or lounging at home on a Friday evening taking in Ira Glass' stories of This American Life, National Public Radio has been my go to media source for keeping informed of the news, peoples, cultures, and stories that inhabit the world around me.

I must, however, admit that I am partial to the shows that Chicago Public Radio produces because (1) I am a born and raised Chicagoan and (2) the shows, such as World View and 848, tend to reflect the diversity of interests and concerns that I, along with a great majority of Chicagoans, consider to be of great importance.

One show that has become a mainstay on my weekly "things to listen to" list is Sound Opinions. Dubbed "the world's only rock and roll talk show," this nationally syndicated NPR broadcast brings together 2 music journalists, Greg Kot, music critic for the Chicago Tribune, and Jim DeRogatis, music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, to discuss all things pertaining to popular music.

A typical hour long show covers the week in music news, reviews of new albums, interviews with special guest musicians, and a whole lot of banter between the two hosts.

Connection to Music Education....

What I have found to be pivotal in maintaining interest and excitement in my general music class is creating relevancy between musical experiences I create for the classroom and the musical experiences of my students outside of school. Making such connections I believe compel students' interests in and desires for participating in an open forum type classroom where all inquiries, answers, judgments, arguments, etcetera, of "their" music are valued and respected.

Sound Opinions can be a great educational tool.

Currently, my general music students are engaged in a Best of 2007 podcast project. They are having a blast.

I've listed some reasons why a project like this contributes positively to my students' music education:

1. They are required to choose their most favorable pieces of music from 2007.
2. They must decide on a short clip of the music they have chosen that best encapsulates the musical information they would like to share with an audience. In my opinion, this process gets at the core of why they dig the chosen music.
3. They have to research biographical information and decide on what important and engaging information to include in a very concise informative segment within a podcast.
4. They are ultimately engaging in a process of musical exploration and discovery. Isn't this what we want to teach our students? To be inquisitive consumers of music who are equipped with a backlog of experiences that will help them to better choose what they listen to and support?

I encouraged my students to listen to Sound Opinions' Best of 2007 episodes to get a taste of how professional music journalists approach their work.

If I can, as a music educator, cultivate within my students a passion for music similar to that of the hosts of Sound Opinions, I think the world will be a better place.

Take a listen to Sound Opinions via your radio dial or through the program's website and see how you might be able to incorporate ideas similar to that of the show in your own classroom.

In Final....

We should be fostering an environment in which the art of musical discourse, be it written or oral, is encouraged.

It seems many music education blog posts end with a question. So...Here's mine:

What can you do in your music classroom to foster an environment in which musical discussion or discourse is valued and used as a means for creating well versed consumers of music?

Enjoy Being...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Writing & Speaking Musically

Is there a dictionary somewhere out there that may facilitate one's ability to write and speak about music with understanding, articulation, clarity, and inclination? I'm not talking, necessarily, about a dictionary of musical terms. Terms we were forced to learn and regurgitate for music theory and history exams during our undergrad years. There are plenty of those. I'm talking about a dictionary of words that may help one to become adept at recreating a musical experience through written and/or spoken commentary.

It's pretty discouraging when your own students comment on music as if they've never done it before...Maybe they haven't. I'm sure many of you have heard the perennial descriptions of music by your students that start something like this:

It sounds kind of like....Uh....
I don't know how to describe it....
The guitar part just rocks....
I liked when....

Well...Maybe in order to combat this lack of fluency when describing music we need to go to the sources that allow us to consume and ponder articulate thought and commentary about music.

I'm talking about music journalism.

Let's start with you all, the music educators of our world. How many of you read and/or write concert or album reviews? How many of you require your students to? Well...If you do one, then do the other. If you do both, more power to you. If you haven't done either, now is the time to.

It is paramount that we, as music educators, create and implement reading and writing experiences in our classrooms that stretch our students' abilities to communicate with musical understanding and inclination.

It is our obligation to help students build a vocabulary that will allow for mature, well thought out, articulate, and eloquent written and oral communication of music commentary.

The following is one contribution towards the facilitation of such objectives or goals:

Check out our Musically Inclined Dictionary. A one stop shop that my students visit to find and/or contribute a word in the name of music commentary and discourse.

Click HERE for a little more information.

I'd like to hear what other music educators are doing to facilitate the maturation of our students' abilities to comment on, in both written and oral form, music.

Enjoy Being...