Welp, this post is long overdue- Sorry! My students musical snuck up on me. It was a stressful month of March getting my 2 casts prepared and ready to perform but they did awesome!
So here it is- a month later- my 2nd post on my experience at OMEA this year. While it was cold in Cleveland, I came away with lots of new and fun ideas to try in both my general music and choral classrooms. This post will focus on my workshops with Sarah Hassler and Dave Holland.
SARAH HASSLER- BRINGING PLAY INTO YOUR CHOIR
I got so many fun tips for Chorus from Sarah Hassler- In one workshop I got new warm up ideas, remembered old warm-up friends, read through some choral pieces, and most importantly- learned ways to make chorus FUN and engage students. My students are already loving some of the ideas!
Here is a little overview: First she talked about Brain Dance which is a way to warm-up the ENTIRE body. Get more info on Brain Dance HERE.
We then started "playing" with solfa by doing echo patterns, waterfalls (where the chorus sings an ascending scale together and then sections hold different notes of the scale on the way down), and chord tuning with 2 part hand-sign exercises.
Next we did common solfa warm-ups in new-to-me ways. We did the ever common d-drd-drmrd-drmfmrd, etc. but tapped on each do while singing. You can make it harder by tapping on do, snapping on mi, and clapping on so OR only do the motion in place of singing the note. This is super challenging for students and I need to do it more! We also did bodysigns with the d-s-f-s-m-s-r-s d-s-f-s-m-r-d exercise. We stomped on do, pat our legs on re, clapped on mi, touched shoulders on fa and snapped above our heads on so. I have done similar things to this before but this version was super fun.
Finally, right before we started reading through some choral pieces we did one more warm-up which I will call "lu-la-lay". This was a super fun one because there were different levels of movement that went along with it. The first level was pretty simple but each got increasingly more difficult. I can't wait to teach it to my students. *
Once we got into reading songs We got some tips to engage students in SCORE-READING. One thing I have already implemented is the Mystery Measure. Each Chorus rehearsal I post a measure on the white-board (sometimes staff notation, sometimes stick) and students are tasked to find it in one of the songs we are working on that day. At the end of rehearsal, if they find it they get a star on their card. If they get 5 stars, they get a small prize. Prizes will be things like: Choose the exit song for the day, choose your favorite warm-up for next time, tell a musical joke, etc. I have only done visual Mystery Measures so far, but you could also do it aurally. During warm-ups students memorize a small section of a song on solfa and then if they find the same passage in their music while rehearsing they get their star (or 2). Once I start Aural Mystery Measures I think they will be worth more stars just because I think it is so much harder!
Another tip for score-reading was the pointer finger. When first learning a passage that students will sight-read, the teacher can play it first and the students can follow along. Then on the 2nd time they sing along. This only works well for extractions. I can see myself making it game, in that I start and they have to follow along and tell me where I stopped (up to 8 mm or so). Sometimes it would be a 2mm extraction, sometimes 4, sometimes 8 so they would have to be sure to pay attention!
Overall I got so many fun ideas from this work-shop. I am really glad I went to this choral session when I typically go to just GM music sessions. It has fired me up to make my chorus super focused but fun for my kiddos- I can't wait to take a class at CCM (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) this summer to learn more about Kodaly in the Choral Classroom!
DAVE HOLLAND- INTERACTIVE RHYTHM
Now onto Dave Holland. Wow! What a character! His workshops were so fun! I did some of his stuff in a mix with Mallet Madness right before spring break and my kiddos loved it! I will definitely be working more in in the future!
HERE. At the site you can see his resources and look at some of his instruments. I love the instruments he shared because they are all interactive- they can be played alone or with others so students are not only interacting with the music- but with each other. There are woodblocks on a stick, shakers with flat ends that can also be clicked together- called shaker blox, jingle bells with flat wooden edges that can be clicked together- called jingle blox, drums, and more. As he said in the workshop "These drums are nothing without people. Humans are the ones who make the music come alive." Love it!
One of my favorite activities was "Rhythmic Affirmations." First the teacher played a 8 or 16 pattern and the class "affirmed" with a taught pattern. It was Clap, chest chest, pat pat, stomp stomp, woo! After we got the affirmation down, then he would should "Hey Hey, whadaya say?" and look at one student to improve for 8-16 beats before the class affirmed again. Sometimes, he would have a few improve before we affirmed, just by saying "Hey Hey..." more than once and then saying something along the lines of "Let's affirm that" when it was time for the group pattern. This can be done with just body percussion, simple small percussion instruments, or larger drums. Such a fun activity!
We also did lots of partner activities. One had a silly song with it to describe the movements, and while I couldn't see myself teaching it as a stand-alone song, I COULD see myself using the song to teach the movement and then doing while listening to a classical piece, etc. The words were "Play a click, share your stick, move on over to the other side. Play a click, share your stick, wave bye-bye." It was a great way to add a simple rhythm and change partners while in a circle. Another partner activity we did was sing the song "Alejo" and there was one instrument to each pair of people. While singing, one partner improvised using the instrument (some had shakers, shape drums, hand drums, and more) and the other got to dance. At the teachers signal, students switched rolls. The switching got faster and faster. This could be done with any song and was so fun!
After Dave Holland's workshops I was so excited not only to get my students interacting with each other while making music using percussion instruments BUT also to improve. There were so many fun improve activities at these workshops! In addition to what is mentioned above we also did "Musical Rock, Paper, Scissors" where students improvised using their instrument (ROCK- as in ROCK OUT on your instrument), on their body (PAPER- a flat paper hand is perfect for body percussion), and using their voices (SCISSORS- the scissors also kind of looks like a V which stands for voice). My students LOVED this one. Another fun one was the magic wand- Anywhere it points, you hear a magic sound! The teacher points at a section and they play the beat.
Now, if your students are like mine, they need practice improving- a lot. We do rhythm conversations and other tricks to practice rhythm improve, but one thing I liked that Dave Holland did was just pulling the group back to the steady pulse every once in a while. He would have us play our instruments on 1 and dance on 2-3-4 or improve with our voices in rhythm on 2-3-4. This can really help kids to internalize the pulse to get that improve sounding awesome- rather than like a bunch of banging.
Throughout the all of the workshops Dave Holland gave he said everything in rhythm and we always knew what to do and when to stop. He said things like "Hey Hey Hey-and everybody Stop!" or "Give love to yourself" (and you play ti-ti ta on your own instrument) or "give love to your neighbor" (play ti-ti ta on a neighbors instrument), "give it to the family" (all reach in and play a quarter note then shout a WOO!) or "play your own pattern" (improve for 4 beats) or "copy-cat now" (copy the leader's pattern).
One final thing I can't wait to try is Frame Drum Stories. He old one about a chipmunk who wants to go to the pond but is scared of a large bird. He at first tip toes, then gets more confident, and then runs to the water but STOPS before he jumps in because the bird scares him home. Students act out the story using their drum (fingers represent the walking feet of the chipmunk) and their bodies (flapping and cawing for the scary bird). Finally the bird becomes less scary and the chipmunk jumps into the water with a big SPLASH!
I will leave you with a few more noteable quotes from Dave Holland.
"There are no mistakes, just solos and opportunities to grow"
"When you move your feet-you dance"
"Anytime you beat on something [an instrument] for 30 minutes, it needs a hug"
And remember- as stated above: "These drums are NOTHING without out people. HUMANS are the ones who make the music come ALIVE"
*Note: I do not have permission to print the warm-up here but I found it very easily with notes and an explanation of the different levels very easily just googling "lulalay warm-up Sarah Hassler".