On The Air This Week

Highlights from March 29 to April 5

Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 4 p.m. Minnesota Varsity Showcase Artists announced.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Euro Classics: Trio Wanderer; Fauré: Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 120 — recorded at the Mozartsaal, Schwetzingen, Germany.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Thursday, 3 p.m. Regional Spotlight: Pianist Denes Varjon.
Thursday, 6:15 p.m. Julie Amacher talks with Dr. Michael Kim, professional pianist and new Director of the School of Music at the University of Minnesota.
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: Saint-Saëns: Concerto No. 1 in A Minor for Cello and Orchestra, Opus 33; Julie Albers, cello; Thomas Zehetmair, conductor.
Friday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Friday, 3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Friday, 8 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra: Vänskä conducts Brahms’ Third; Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä, conductor; Arto Noras, cello; live from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Saturday, 9 a.m., New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 12 noon Met Opera: Mozart’s Madama Butterfly.
Saturday, 5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: hosted by Garrison Keillor; live from The Town Hall, New York City.
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics: Danish National Symphony Orchestra; Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Part 1 — recorded at the Concert Hall, DR Concert House, Copenhagen.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: The Phillips Effect.
Sunday, 12 noon From the Top: Bravo! Vail Festival in Vail, Colo.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: SHouston Symphony Orchestra; Christoph Eschenbach, conductor.
Sunday, 8 p.m. Sunday Night Cantata, Choral Stream.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Andrea Blain and Alison Young.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.

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Planning for Stress-Free Sick Days

Taking a sick day
Leaving a classroom full of students with a sub doesn’t need to be a stress (MPR | Jackson Forderer)

My immune system’s good luck finally ran out this week, and I ended up sick at home, leaving my elementary music students in the care of a substitute teacher. Planning for a music sub is uniquely challenging. I’ve had subs who are very competent musicians, subs who can’t read a note of music, and everything in between. Most subs have had experience subbing in a regular classroom, but teaching back-to-back classes in a specialist’s room can be overwhelming for someone who hasn’t been in that setting (or even for someone who has). Being mindful of the challenges that face music class subs, music teachers can prepare plans that will help the day run as smoothly as possible for the sub and students.

Create a sub folder. Keep all of the general and unchanging information that a sub might need in a folder. This should include class lists, classroom management procedures, daily routines, and emergency procedures.

Write a detailed schedule. Provide a detailed schedule for the day that includes the names of the classroom teachers of each class, good times to run to the bathroom, classes that will come with paraprofessionals or teachers aids, etc.

Appoint helper students. Choose one or two students in each class to act as helpers for the sub. My strategy is to pick two in each class–one very responsible and well-behaved student paired with a capable student who could be tempted to cause behavior problems in the class if not given a responsibility.

Write lesson plans that don’t require reading, singing, or playing music. It’s hard enough for a sub to walk into someone else’s classroom with confidence, but a lot harder if the sub doesn’t have the necessary skills to carry out the lesson plans. Assuming that the sub might not have any music-specific knowledge will ensure that anyone will be comfortable with the lesson plans. For those days when you’re too sick to write your own plans, you might consider investing in one of the many commercially produced books of music sub plans.

Plan the same activities for multiple sections. If at all possible, plan the same activities for multiple grades. It can be overwhelming even for me to try to remember my plans when I have to teach something different to each of the eleven sections that I have in a day. Repetition can make the day more manageable for a sub.

Don’t plan anything that requires any kind of technology. I’ve made this mistake in the past, and inevitably, there is always some problem with the technology. It’s annoying when that happens in my own teaching, and it can derail a class for a sub. There are plenty of technology-free music activities that can cut out that risk.

Plan fun, engaging, and educational activities. It would be easy to just have a sub show a movie, but we want our students to be learning something while we’re away. Plan activities that review skills that students have been working on, so the sub won’t be required to teach new content, and if possible, activities that students have done before. Educational music games are great for sub plans because they’re fun and engaging, which reduces the chance of behavior problems.

Invite subs to share their own musical experience and skills. Students can really benefit by learning from another musician. Invite subs who are musical to make room in the lesson plans to share their own musical talents with classes, whether through teaching a new song, demonstrating an instrument, or telling about their experiences. I recently had a sub who brought her guitar, and the students loved it!

Ask for the feedback that you want. Give your sub some guidance in providing the kind of feedback you need when you return to your classes. If you’re looking for specific information about behaviors or what happened in class, ask for it. You might even consider creating a form for your sub to fill out for you.

I was happy to return to school to find thorough sub notes, evidence that my plans had been followed, and assurance that my days of absence had gone well. Being a substitute teacher is a challenging job, and I am so appreciative of those who are willing to step into unfamiliar classrooms and unfamiliar content. Consideration of what will help a sub have a good day in the music classroom ensures that we can worry less during our days away and be better prepared to return to school.


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.

Legendary band Rush honors Teacher of the Year

Rush's Geddy Lee, in concert at the Xcel Energy Center (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)
Rush’s Geddy Lee, in concert at the Xcel Energy Center (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0)

Don Bosse, a music teacher at Fredericton High School in New Brunswick, Canada, has been awarded the 2016 Teacher of the Year award by MusiCounts — a music education organization dedicated to making certain that Canadian children have access to a music program through their school or community.

Last week in Toronto, Bosse was surprised with the award by members of prog-rock trio (and seller of over 40 million records worldwide), Rush.

In a recent interview, Rush frontman Geddy Lee talked about how music played a very important role in his upbringing:

“It was one of the first things I found that I was really good at doing … I was kind of a medium kid in every other aspect. I was kind of medium at school, nothing grabbed me in terms of education besides maybe English and history … but music was the first thing I found that I was good at picking up and expressing myself with.”

After presenting Bosse with the award, Lee described the significance of the MusiCounts honor:

“I think it’s a really important award. People that toil away on a daily basis trying to inspire kids to follow their dream, I think that’s a really important job.”

Lee also mentioned that his music educational experience growing up was quite different than the one that Bosse provides:

“Learning in school in that time was very rigid and very classical-oriented and you didn’t have the kind of creativity that people like Don are bringing into the classroom … I find that’s what’s so cool, when you go to some of these more contemporary and forward-thinking teachers, they’re the ones that make a difference.”

Read the entire piece on the CBC News website.

 

 

 

 

On The Air This Week

Highlights from March 22 to 29

Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Euro Classics: Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra; Dvořák: Rhapsody in A Minor, Op. 14 — recorded at Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Thursday, 3 p.m. Regional Spotlight: Jorja Fleezanis and the Minnesota Bach Ensemble.
Thursday, 7 p.m. Alexander Gretchaninoff: Passion Week; National Lutheran Choir.
Friday, 7:15 a.m. Moveable Feast with John Birge and Minnesota Monthly‘s Rachel Hutton.
Friday, 10 a.m. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.
Friday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
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, 12 noon Met Opera: Mozart’s Le Nozze de Figaro.
Saturday, 5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: hosted by Garrison Keillor; from the Fitzgerald Theater (encore episode from March 2014).
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Soloists; Debussy: Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp — recorded at the Chamber Music Hall, Philharmonie, Berlin.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: Music for Easter.
Sunday, 11 a.m. J.S. Bach’s Easter Oratorio.
Sunday, 12 noon Handel’s Messiah with the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale; hosted by Alison Young.
Sunday, 8 p.m. Sunday Night Cantata, Choral Stream.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Andrea Blain and Alison Young.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.

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Johann Sebastian Bach’s Life in Three Minutes

Johann Sebastian Bach at the organ (Wikimedia Commons)
Johann Sebastian Bach at the organ (Wikimedia Commons)

On this date (March 21) in 1685, in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany, one of the greatest Western composers of all time was born — Johann Sebastian Bach.

In this ‘mini-biography’ courtesy of Biography, you can learn a lot about the famous Baroque master in just three minutes!

Watch the video below, and for further learning, visit Ted-Ed for a brief lesson on Bach.


Related Links

Audio Backpack playlist — Bach Keyboard Works

The curiously elusive date of Bach’s birthday

Macy’s Flower Show in seven GIFs

The eighth-floor auditorium in Macy’s downtown Minneapolis store makes it a uniquely immersive venue for the chain’s annual flower show.

The theme for this year’s show, which opens to the public today and will remain on display through April 3, is America the Beautiful. The show is laid out to roughly correspond to a map of the continental United States, with regional flora arranged in bucolic scenes meant to represent each of seven different regions.

Last year, I talked with producer Mike Gansmoe, who curates the soundtrack for each year’s show. Classical music is always part of the mix, and this year — no surprise — there’s a lot of Copland. Cue up Appalachian Spring and take a glance at the show in these seven animated GIFs.

Macys-Flower-Show-1 Macys-Flower-Show-2Macys-Flower-Show-5 Macys-Flower-Show-3 Macys-Flower-Show-7Macys-Flower-Show-4Macys-Flower-Show-6

Learning about brass instruments

How brass instruments work (YouTube screengrab)
How brass instruments work (YouTube screengrab)

What gives the trumpet its clarion ring and the tuba its gut shaking oom-pah-pah?

In a recent Ted-Ed video, teacher Al Cannon describes how sound is made in the brass family of instruments — from the air in the lungs of the musician, to the lips buzzing in the mouthpiece, to the bell of the instrument.

Watch the TedEd video below to learn more about brass instruments and see the entire lesson on Ted-Ed’s website.


Related stories:

Class Notes: The Brass Family

Audio Backpack: Brass

High school students make music with Low’s Alan Sparhawk … and some robots

Composer Troy Rogers and Low's Alan Sparhawk (Publicity photo and MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
Composer Troy Rogers and Low’s Alan Sparhawk (Publicity photo and MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

From March 17 to 19, composer and robot maker Troy Rogers will be hosting a workshop in musical robotics at Two Harbors High School. The workshop is open to high school students from grade 6 to 12, and will teach them about both robotics and music as they collaborate to create a ‘robotic percussion ensemble’.

“It’s very exciting,” says Rogers. “Over the course of several days, students who may have never touched a soldering iron, built anything with electronics, or written a single note of music work collaboratively to make robotic instruments and write new music. In the process, technical and aesthetic concepts that may be boring or difficult in other contexts are rendered both comprehensible and fun.”

The workshop culminates with a public performance featuring the newly-created robotic instruments and special guest musician, Alan Sparhawk — guitarist and vocalist for the band, Low.

“Alan’s presence at the workshop will offer students a wonderful opportunity to interact with a a versatile, acclaimed songwriter and performer. Given his adventurous musical spirit and singular voice, I fully expect he’ll push the robots into previously unexplored territory, and it will be very exciting to share this unique experience with the students and audience,” says Rogers.

Learn more about Troy Rogers — his music, his robots, and his work in education — on his website. Here is a video featuring one of his more recent creations, Stemmetje, which is a robotic musical instrument capable of producing human voice-like sounds.

On The Air This Week

Highlights from March 15 to 22

Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. & 4:30 p.m. Minnesota Varsity Showcase Artist.
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. & 4:30 p.m. Minnesota Varsity Showcase Artist.
Wednesday, 7:15 a.m. & 5:15 p.m. New Classical Tracks with Julie Amacher.
Wednesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Wednesday, 12 midnight Euro Classics: Dover Quartet; Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 7 in f#, Op. 108 — recorded at the Schwetzingen Festival in Germany.
Thursday, 7:30 a.m. & 4:30 p.m. Minnesota Varsity Showcase Artist.
Thursday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Thursday, 3 p.m. Regional Spotlight: The Musical Offering performs Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade.
Thursday, 7 p.m. Irish Inspirations with Andrea Blain.
Friday, 7:15 a.m. Moveable Feast with John Birge and Minnesota Monthly‘s Rachel Hutton.
Friday, 7:30 a.m. & 4:30 p.m. Minnesota Varsity Showcase Artist.
Friday, 11 a.m. Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Spotlight: Haydn: Symphony No. 49 in F Minor, La Passione; Patricia Kopatchinskaja, director and violin.
Friday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Friday, 3 p.m. Friday Favorites with Steve Staruch.
Friday, 8 p.m. Minnesota Orchestra: Schumann, Ravel, de Falla; Minnesota Orchestra/Jesús López-Cobos, conductor; Andreas Haefliger, piano; live from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Saturday, 9 a.m., “A Before Bach’s Birthday Bash” – live broadcast with Michael Barone.
Saturday, 10 a.m. Saturday Cinema.
Saturday, 12 noon Met Opera: Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore.
Saturday, 5 p.m. A Prairie Home Companion: hosted by Garrison Keillor; from the Fitzgerald Theater (encore episode from March 2014).
Saturday, 8 p.m. Euro Classics: Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana; Mario Brunello, cello; Schumann: Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129 — recorded at the Stelio Molo Auditorium in Lugano, Switzerland.
Sunday, 6 a.m. Pipedreams: Johann and Max.
Sunday, 12 noon From the Top: Chautauqua Institution.
Sunday, 1 p.m. SymphonyCast: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Roberto Abbado, conductor; Emanuele Arciuli, piano.
Sunday, 8 p.m. Sunday Night Cantata, Choral Stream.
Monday, 7:15 a.m. Sing to Inspire with Tesfa Wondemagegnehu and Julie Amacher.
Monday, 12 noon Learning to Listen with Andrea Blain and Alison Young.
Monday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.
Tuesday, 1 p.m. Performance Today.

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Making the most of music class guests

Class Notes Artist Visit
Students at R.L. Stevenson Elementary in Fridley, Minn. take in a visit from Class Notes Artists, Lux String Quartet (Nate Ryan | MPR)

These late winter weeks can get long in an elementary school, as routines start to feel more tedious and spring break feels far away. It’s the perfect time to add some excitement to music class by inviting a special musical guest to meet students! My elementary classes will be visited by a freelance composer next week, just as the students are finishing their composition projects. It doesn’t have to take much extra time or effort to find an expert in the field to invite, prepare students to get the most out of the experience, and reflect and connect to learning afterward.

How to Find a Guest

The first step is, of course, to find someone willing to visit your school. There are musicians and ensembles who book professional workshops at schools, but it’s also possible to find experts in the field who are willing to come for a more informal visit.

If you’re looking to book a musician or ensemble, there are many different avenues to funding. If the school itself is not able to pay for a visit, look for grants or work with a local public library to find funds. A few years ago, our public library brought the Grammy-winning children’s folk group, the Okee Dokee Brothers, to our school through the Minnesota Legacy Funds. And some professional presenters don’t charge schools at all, such as Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s Class Notes Artists.

Finding someone in the area to come for a more informal visit can be just as good, or even better, than booking a professional show. The intimacy of a musician coming to talk to or play for students in an small, casual setting can create more personalized connection and communication. There are a variety of ways to find someone to visit:

• Keep in touch with old music friends. Many of the people I’ve had visit my classes are musician friends from high school or college, or former music teachers. I met the composer who will be coming to my classes next week in college.

• Be active in the local music scene. There are many reasons that music teachers should be active in a local music scene, and one is for the networking opportunities that could benefit teaching. Even in the rural areas where I’ve taught, there are regional orchestras and bands where I’ve connected with many skilled and knowledgeable musicians.

• Invite individual members of a visiting group to your classroom. The Minnesota Orchestra once visited our community to play a concert. One of the orchestra members came to my elementary music classes to do an impromptu and inspiring presentation. And all I had to do was ask!

• Use your online social network. Even if you don’t personally know experts in the field that your students are learning about, it’s possible that one of your Facebook friends or Twitter followers might.

In-Person or Virtual Visits
The most engaging way to connect is through live, face-to-face interaction. However, this might not always be possible, especially when teaching in a rural area. By using technology, “virtual visits” can broaden the musical worlds of students, wherever they are.

• Video Chat: The next best thing to having a guest visit your classroom in person might be a video chat. Easy, free applications like Skype or Google Hangout can allow your students to interact with an expert in real time.

• Recorded Video: When you want students in several classes to meet an expert, recording a video that can be played over and over can work well for teaching and demands less of the guest’s time. Recorded videos to be especially useful when communicating with musicians in different parts of the world where the time difference can be an issue. I also prefer recorded videos when they contain specific instructional content that we might want to repeat, such as pronunciation of non-English lyrics.

• Email: Although kids always enjoy the novelty of hearing someone other than their regular teacher talk, email can also be a way for students and experts to connect through personalized communication. It could be as simple as emailing student questions to an expert and reading the reply to the class. This uses minimal class time while still building a connection with an expert.

Preparing for a Visit

• Connect to what students are learning. My students have been working on composition projects over the last couple of weeks, so the timing of our guest is intentional. Meeting a composer after they have had some experience doing what he does professionally provides a musical connection before they even meet him.

• Introduce the guest before he or she arrives. To make the most of a visitor, students should be prepared. This week, my students have been learning about our composer guest and discovering what they have in common with him. They were excited to hear that he had attended a college in the area, a place that many of them had visited. One student’s grandma lives in his hometown. Another told me that his mom has one of the games that he has composed music for on her iPhone. Hooking students with a personal connection will make them more engaged when the visitor is in the room.

• Generate questions. Emphasize the purpose of the visit to avoid personal questions lacking in education substance, like “What’s your favorite football team?” or “Do you like chicken?” (actual student questions). With a little guidance, even primary students can come up with very thoughtful questions related to the purpose of the visit.

• Publicize your guest. Consider informing teachers and staff at your school, and even your community, of your visitor. I’ve known teachers to give up their prep time to sit in on music class when we’ve had a guest they were interested in meeting. And next week’s composer visit will likely be covered by our local newspaper.

After the Visit

• Connect to what students are learning (again!). After we’ve talked with our composer guest, I plan to spend some time talking with students about what they learned and how they can apply that learning as they finish their own composition projects. Make sure they understand how their own music-making connects to that of the person they just met.

• Thank the guest. Never pass up an opportunity to teach social skills to young students! After a visit, make sure that students understand how special it is that they were able to meet an expert. I like to have my students write thank you cards for their visitors, not only to be polite, but also as a way for them to reflect on what they learned and connected to.

Music teachers can have very broad knowledge of music, but no one person can be an expert in all areas of such a large, diverse, and ever-changing field. Inviting guests to music classes  expands the musical worlds of students, helping them to connect their learning to the many kinds of music making taking place outside of school.


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.