Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Upper Elementary Music Concept Project

My fourth graders have just completed an awesome project on BIG musical concepts. It was a two part group project explaining a chosen concept like Dynamics, Tempo, Harmony, Lyrics, Mood, etc.

Part one was a Flipgrid video explaining their concept. Students had to research facts and information about their concept and put it together in a short "music minute" video a la Meg's Music Room on youtube. Students gave information like definitions, abbreviations, and examples in the songs in their videos. Most videos had at least 5 facts or informational tid-bits.  If you have never used flipgrid, see THIS POST for more info. See below for Meg's Music Room Music Minute on Dynamics.

After students were done researching their concept/ making their video they had to come up with an activity to PRACTICE that concept as part two. Most groups were able to come up with something on their own, but if students were stuck I had them search "Music Class Activities to Teach..." We had so many great activities - question wheels, kahoots, rhythm reading with instruments, dynamics flashcards, mood worksheets, lyrics mad-libs (more on this one in another post- I loved it so much!), lyrics tag and more!

To present the projects, students showed their flipgrid videos to the class to give info on their topic, and then taught their activity as further practice to solidify the knowledge learned in the video.  Groups had to practice explaining the directions, plan for questions classmates might have, and really break down their activities so all understood. They had so much fun being the teacher!

I loved seeing the students personalities and creativity come out through this project. Students were building, using computers to create, drawing, writing, and more.  The best part was watching them work together teach/ learn from their classmates.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tuesday Book Club- Amy's Brass Band

For this Tuesday Book Club I am so excited to be featuring my Phi Beta Sister as a Guest Blogger. Amy wrote an awesome music book about Brass Bands. The book will be released April 8th, 2019 and is currently available worldwide for presale on Amazon. If you prefer to shop directly from the publisher, you can purchase it through Bookbaby at Until April 30th, 2019, enter the code “Tuesday” at checkout to get 20% off when you purchase the book. Check out the story about why she wrote the book below.

Hi everyone! I’m Amy Schumaker Bliss and I’m honored to be contributing to the Tuesday Book Club blog. I was asked write a guest blog post about a new book I wrote called, “Amy’s Brass Band.” I wrote the book because I found a big gaping hole in children’s literature. You see, when my son Simon was born, tons of people gave him books about music since I’m a musician. When I looked at them, I noticed one thing they all had in common: they were all introducing the orchestra. While the orchestra is certainly a very important part of our culture, I as a euphonium player don’t frequently play in the ensemble. My instrument wasn’t in a single book and neither was the tenor horn I gave him to play with while I practiced. While I don’t usually play in orchestras, I occasionally play in a professional wind ensemble in the area and I play regularly in a championship brass band called Atlantic Brass Band. I also help conduct a youth brass band (middle school through high school) and a university-level brass band at Rowan University. I’ve written scholarly articles on the subject and even travel around the US sometimes to work with other brass bands. Most of my professional work is connected to the brass band ensemble in some way, so I started searching for a brass band children’s book. I wanted my son to grow up knowing what I do professionally. I looked everywhere. I even posted to Facebook groups asking if anyone remembers a children’s book introducing the brass band. Not a single person could ever remember a children’s book ever existing on the subject. So…I decided to write one.

I had no clue what I was doing at first, but I figured it out quickly! I started by contacting a friend that I had met in an online mom’s group I had started before my son was born. Allie Geddert is an excellent graphic designer, illustrator, and children’s boutique clothing store owner. She gave me some drawing samples and when we settled on a style we liked, we got to work. I took a ton of photos of my own brass band to send to her and she did a great job of bringing them to life as characters. We worked in our spare time because at the time, we both had little babies. We worked almost exclusively in google docs, passing work between the two of us during late night work sessions once our babies had gone to bed.

Rowan University's Director of Bands Modeling a Conductor Stance

Illustration of Conductor
We decided early on that we wanted to feature a good amount of diversity among the brass band members. Classical music certainly lacks in this area and we wanted wanted every child to be able to see him or herself playing in a musical ensemble, whether it is a brass band, wind band, or orchestra. I also contacted Boobs and Brass (, an all female brass band that raises money for breast cancer research and Brass For Africa (, a charity that operates primarily in Uganda, to get permission to use their likenesses for the project. This helped us to increase the visibility of such worthy endeavors while depicting members of an all-African brass band and an all woman brass band.

Photo of a Brass Band
Illustrator Sketch

Final Illustration in book
The book discusses a basic overview of the history of the brass band, the instruments of the brass band, and the purposes of the ensemble. It is primarily written for early to mid-elementary school age and would be perfect for an elementary school general music classroom. The book could be developed into a whole class with some youtube performances of some top brass bands and videos of soloists on different instruments. Eventually, I’d like to create a supplemental website with educational videos and make a classroom brass band instrument poster. All in good time, though, I suppose.

The book will be released April 8th, 2019 and is currently available worldwide for presale on Amazon. If you prefer to shop directly from the publisher, you can purchase it through Bookbaby at Until April 30th, 2019, enter the code “Tuesday” at checkout to get 20% off when you purchase the book. I sincerely hope that you enjoy my book. It has brought me great joy writing it. Nothing beat the feeling of bring the books home for the first time and giving the first one to my now toddler son. He sat down, opened the book, leafed through the pages until he saw the drawing of a euphonium, pointed to it, and said, “Mommy!”