On the Air This Week

Highlights from Sept. 29 to Oct. 6

Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans: Bill Gurstelle and Karen Hansen.
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 8:45 a.m. John Birge welcomes the cast of Theatre Latté Da’s Sweeney Todd for performance and chat.
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today: Piano Puzzler with Bruce Aldophe.
Wednesday, 8 p.m. Minnesota Opera: Bizet’s Carmen.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Euro Classic: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 — recorded in Riga, Latvia.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Friday, 7:15 a.m. Moveable Feast with John Birge and Minnesota Monthly‘s Rachel Hutton.
Friday, 11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Spotlight – Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 25.
Friday, 3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Friday, 8 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra: Bach, Strauss, Mahler; soprano Katie Van Kooten; Osmo Vänskä conducts; live from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Saturday, 9 a.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics: Arriaga Quartet — recorded in Madrid.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: More Organ Plus.
Sunday, noon From the Top.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: Last Night of the Proms.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Alison Young and Andrea Blain.
Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans.

Click on Classical: The Pope’s anthem, 2015 Gramophone Awards, Rufus Wainwright’s opera

Vatican flag

Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we’re featuring on our websites. Here’s what we’ll be discussing today.

If you’ve been following the news coverage of Pope Francis’s visit to America, you’ve probably heard the Pontifical Anthem: the official song of the Holy See. Can you name the famous French composer who wrote it?

This year’s Gramophone Awards have just been announced; Paavo Järvi won Artist of the Year, and German pianist Joseph Moog took Young Artist of the Year honors. Poignantly, the award for Recording of the Year went to a CD that was recorded just a few months before its conductor’s death.

Prima Donna, the debut opera by indie-pop music star Rufus Wainwright, is coming to CD—on Deutsche Grammophon, no less. We’ll see if the critics are kinder to the recorded version than they were to the live performances.

New School Year, New Routines

There are a number of benefits to establishing routines in your music classroom (Getty Images/City of Longmont)
There are a number of benefits to establishing routines in your music classroom (Getty Images/City of Longmont)

The start of every school year is intensely busy for any teacher. We’ve all received the advice to take the time to set up routines in the first weeks, and we’ve probably seen the benefits of doing so. But it’s hard for specialists to take the necessary time when we don’t see our students every day. Teaching and repeatedly reviewing rules and procedures seems to take forever. Starting a new job in a new community this fall has made me hyper-aware of the importance of taking the time to set up routines. My kindergarten through fifth grade students come to music on a rotating schedule, so it’s important to create routines that can be learned quickly, but also teach content. Once in place, this framework of routines makes the music room more comfortable for my students, helps me to quickly teach content and assess student learning, and increases student engagement.

Month Rap: Learning Skills

Determining which skills will be highlighted throughout the year can help in developing routines that repeatedly reinforce content. One important concept in my kindergarten and first grade classes is steady beat, and my students practice this in every music class with the month rap. Each month, students learn a new rap about the month. After spending a class or two learning the words, I choose four students each day to play the steady beat on an instrument. They are allowed to choose any classroom instrument. Before we begin, they have a chance to show off their instrument, teaching their peers the proper technique. While the whole class recites the rap and pats a steady beat on their legs, the four instrumentalists accompany the group, also with a steady beat.

This is a convenient opportunity for a performance assessment. It’s easy to hear what each individual instrumentalist is playing when there are only four, yet the entire class is engaged and participating in the performance. The students get experience playing instruments, are thrilled to choose whatever they want to play, and demonstrate their knowledge through explaining and showing the playing technique. Meanwhile, the rest of the students are getting practice playing a steady beat with body percussion and speaking rhythmically.

Mystery Instrument: Dealing with Deficiencies

Whether taking over a classroom from another teacher or returning to the same classes after summer break, we always find certain gaps in our students’ knowledge. I found that my students could use more practice aurally identifying instruments, so we now start each class with a “Mystery Instrument.” I play an excerpt of an instrumental solo using Classical MPR’s Audio Backpack, and the students try to identify what they hear. Students offer guesses, and we narrow down the options by figuring out instrument family, pitch level, etc. I then choose a student to reveal the instrument on the Promethean board, which is always a big treat. After a quick mini-lesson on the instrument of the day, we are able to move on to the rest of the lesson. It’s impressive how quickly students develop focused listening skills. This is also a great opportunity for them to practice operating the new Promethean board!

Although we hear so much about the importance of setting up our routines right away at the beginning of the year, there’s nothing wrong with adding routines later or dropping routines that started in September. I probably won’t need to continue “Mystery Instrument” throughout the school year. And if I find another gap in knowledge, I’ll be looking for a another daily routine to add to my classes, even if it’s the middle of the school year.

Warm-Ups: Assessing Performance

Finding time for individual performance assessments can be a challenge in a 25 minute class period with 30 students. I often use solo singing assessments as a part of our warm-up routine. Once students have practiced as a group and understand how to be respectful and supportive of each other’s singing, I’ll do a roll call song in which I sing each student’s name and that student sings a response using the same melodic pattern that I sang. I start with a very simple so-so-mi pattern that is easy to remember and sing. Each student’s assessment takes about three seconds. We move very quickly from one to the next, which keeps us from lingering on any one student’s performance, reducing self-conscious feelings. There are hundreds of songs and games like this that could be used for different levels and different class situations.

Adding fast-paced solo checks to our regular warm-up routine can give me a better idea of my students’ progress than more complex, but infrequent assessments. Regular, informal, and fast-paced assessments also increases my young students’ comfort singing by themselves, and their familiarity with their own voices. As an added benefit, this really helps me in learning my students’ names!

“How’s Your Singing?”: Self-Assessing

At the start of the year, I introduced very basic rubrics to my students that they now use to self-assess their singing, playing, understanding, and behavior. If I say, “How’s your singing?” or “How’s your playing?”, they know to show me a rating from one to four on their fingers in front of their hearts. These rubrics show students what I’m looking and listening for, and teach them the important musicianship skill of assessing their own performance. It is also enlightening for me to see how students rate themselves. Most students are accurate in their assessments, but this routine is useful for noticing those who show scores that don’t match their performance, indicating that they might need more help understanding the expectations.

Comparing the month of September in my first year of teaching with this first September in my new school, I notice a huge difference between teaching in survival mode and teaching within a framework of good routines. Despite the time it takes to set up, I’m teaching important content, guiding my students in developing musicianship and social skills, helping my students to feel comfortable coming into a new teacher’s classroom, and enjoying spending time with engaged and (mostly) well-behaved students. Routines are worth the effort for my students’ learning and my enjoyment of teaching. And they can even be fun!


Maia Hamann currently teaches music at Holdingford Elementary, grades K-5. You can read all of her blog posts here. View our entire portfolio of educational resources on our Music for Learning page.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Sept. 22 to 29

Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans: Jennifer Jesness.
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today: Three American Treasures.
Wednesday, 8 p.m. Minnesota Opera: Bizet’s Carmen.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Euro Classic: Rubén Darío Reina, violin; Serge Herschon, viola; Paz Alonso, cello; Karen Martirossian, double bass; Duncan Gifford, piano — recorded in Madrid.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today: University of Texas Wind Ensemble.
Friday, 11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Spotlight – Handel: Concerto Grosso in D, Opus 6, No. 5 HWV 323.
Friday, 3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Saturday, 9 a.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics: Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: In Every Corner, Sing!.
Sunday, noon From the Top.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: San Francisco Symphony at the 2015 BBC Proms.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Alison Young and Andrea Blain.
Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans.

Click on Classical: A sexy composer, a new book, and a choral reflection

Liszt

Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we’re featuring on our websites. Here’s what we’ll be discussing today.

Who was the sexiest composer of all time? In a new essay, a Pitchfork writer advances a case for one of the great Romantics.

On YourClassical, I reviewed a new book for young adults that tells the gripping, poignant story of Shostakovich and a symphony written under siege.

In the wake of last week’s tragic shooting at Delta State University, Tesfa Wondemagegnehu shared a reflection from a choral conductor who worked there for four years.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from Sept. 15 to 22

Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans: Camille Verzal.
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Euro Classic: La Ritirata, recorded in Madrid.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today: Adras Schiff plays Bach for 5,000 people.
Friday, 11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Spotlight: Matthias Pintscher conducts Ravel.
Friday, 3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Saturday, 9 a.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics: Les Violons du Roy, recorded in Montreal.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: Our Father.
Sunday, noon From the Top.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: San Francisco Symphony at the 2015 BBC Proms.
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Alison Young and Andrea Blain.
Monday, 4:30 p.m. Steve Staruch interviews members of the Rose Ensemble.
Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans.

A choral reflection for Delta State University

Delta State University campus
Delta State University campus (courtesy Delta State University via Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Although I am in Duluth for meetings and performances, I was thinking about the Delta State University shooting yesterday. I contacted my childhood friend from Memphis, Dr. Nicholaus B. Cummins, the former Director of Choral Activities of Delta State University (he just took a new job at Northwestern State University in Louisiana this summer), and he sent the message below. Delta State University, located in Cleveland, Miss., is only 115 miles south of Memphis, my hometown.

Dr. Nicholaus Cummins
Dr. Nicholaus Cummins (Northwestern State University Photo Services/Gary Hardamon)
Here is Dr. Cummins statement:

“For the previous four years, I had the privilege of conducting the choirs at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. I was selected to take a new position at a school in Louisiana, but was thrilled that Dr. Adam Potter was chosen as the new Director of Choral Activities at Delta State University. He has already done marvelous work with all the students at DSU. Today I was stunned at this campus shooting that occurred at DSU. Cleveland is a small college town that loves to support all aspects of campus life. Dr. Potter is locked into his office and the students are huddled in classrooms waiting for safety [Update: Delta State University has announced the lockdown has been lifted]. I pray that Cleveland and Delta State University are safe and peace is found soon. I hope this setting of Eriks Ešenvalds’ O Salutaris Hostia by the 2013 Delta State University Chorale will serve as a signal of peace in this tragic time.”

My heart immediately melted after listening to DSU sing the opening minute and change. That soaring, piercingly beautiful treble duet will hopefully help touch the hearts of those affected by this unfathomable atrocity.

Here is the translation of the very appropriate text.

O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of Heaven to us below;
Our foes press hard on every side;
Thine aid supply; thy strength bestow.
To thy great name be endless praise,
Immortal Godhead, One in Three.
O grant us endless length of days,
In our true native land with thee.
Amen.

Click on Classical: Music for fall, Wagner for sale, and a welcome to baby Zelda

Classical music for fall

Every Monday morning at 9:15, I join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about stories we’re featuring on our websites. Here’s what we’ll be discussing today.

Love it or hate it, Labor Day is over and the feelings of fall are starting to stir. Fortunately, we have a multi-hour playlist of classical music that’s perfectly suited to the season.

If your fall plans include a walk down the aisle, you can give your accompanist the original handwritten score to Wagner’s Wedding March: it’s now on sale for $3.6 million.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage—at least that’s the way it worked for Hilary Hahn and her husband, who’ve just announced the birth of their new baby daughter Zelda.

On the Air this Week

Highlights from Sept. 8 to 15

Tuesday, 10 a.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans: James Lileks
Tuesday, 10 p.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 10 a.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Wednesday, 4 p.m. Colleen Meier of Twin Cities Fringe Opera discusses Don Giovanni with Steve Staruch
Wednesday, 10 p.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Thursday, 10 a.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today: The 215th anniversary of the premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1.
Thursday, 10 p.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Friday, 10 a.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Friday, 11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra highlights
Friday, 3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Friday, 8 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra season premiere, live from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Friday, 10 p.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Saturday, 9 a.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Saturday, 10 p.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: Prom-inent Pipes.
Sunday, 10 a.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Sunday, 11 a.m. Top Score.
Sunday, noon From the Top.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain; from the 2015 BBC Proms.
Sunday, 10 p.m. BBC Proms Highlight
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Alison Young and Andrea Blain
Tuesday, 5 p.m. Music with Minnesotans.

Composer Corner: Dvorak

Antonín Dvořák
Antonín Dvořák (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

September’s composer of the month is Antonín Dvořák (AN-tuh-nin DVOR-zhak).

 

Born: September 8, 1841

Died: May 1, 1904

 

Five facts:

• Dvořák was born in a small village north of Prague — the eldest of 14 children.
• In 1873, he married his wife Anna Čermáková — only after being turned down by her sister, Josefina.
• According to contemporaries, Dvořák suffered from agoraphobia, which is a fear of open spaces. It was so bad that toward the end of his life, students would often accompany him home to keep his mind at ease.
• The composer visited Minnesota in 1893, and while at Minnehaha Falls, he hurriedly scribbled a melody on his shirt sleeve. The melody became the basis for the Larghetto movement from his Violin Sonatina in G
• Dvořák was fond of smoking. He once told one of his students, “You don’t smoke? Then you’ll never be a composer. All composers have to smoke!”

 

Three important works:

• Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 (1878)
• String Quartet No. 12, Op. 96 “American” (1893)
• Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 “From the New World” (1893)

 

Audio Backpack playlist: Antonín Dvořák