My winter break started with the Midwest Clinic in Chicago-It was the perfect balance of new ideas, practical tips, networking opportunities, inspiring performances, and eating WAY too much deep dish pizza.
I planned my schedule of clinics to focus on two areas- technology in the classroom and advocacy (for music in schools, that is). There is so much to explore and learn in the realm of technology—it is overwhelming even to a 20-something. Two little teacher tips that really stuck with me were using airplane mode in rehearsals and using a large digital countdown timer before rehearsals. I think airplane mode is great- if everyone puts their phone on airplane mode before rehearsal and then they are instructed to put the phone on the floor in front of them, texting and “sneaking around” on phones will be prevented. The idea of using a timer before rehearsal starts is awesome for classroom management. If a room full of kids knows that when the timer hits 0, rehearsal starts, they can then get quiet and begin tuning without a teacher or conductor waving hands, clapping, screaming, or any combination thereof.
At the convention I also played around with the smart music program for a while… I’ll write a blog on that one once I actually figure out how to use it!
Most musicians are great about talking to other musicians about the importance of music-we all get it. It becomes difficult, however, to communicate the value of discovering oneself through music to people in other fields say..administrators, math teachers, gym coaches, etc. A very poignant point was brought up in multiple sessions about this issue: if a music program is accessible to all students, it will be easier to defend. That means band/orchestra class cannot be reserved for those students who are able to afford nice instruments and private lessons. The whole issue really got me thinking about this question: How can my programs be accessible without sacrificing a high artistic standard? A challenge no doubt, but I don’t render it impossible. The responsibility here lies to the director- to build support for programs by seeking out grants and making meaningful connections with community organizations that have the potential to flex some financial muscle should the need present itself.
Oh, and I was absolutely in shock at the amazing performance of my former middle school, Doerre Intermediate. The intonation, bow control, elements of style, and musical maturity of this group really set a standard for excellence in music education. One thing they did that I fell in love with was this- incorporate the school’s principal into the performance. Though she is not a trained musician, Ms. Cissy Saccomanno had the chance to play a solo piano part on a sort of “chopsticks concerto.” She tackled the part with poise and grace (and some stickers on the keys). It really touched me to see how proud she was of the school, the kids, and the program as a whole. There is no better way to build support from the administration than to make them a part of what you do. Bravo Doerre and all involved.
The last treasure of this weekend that I’ll share is the brief conversation I had with Larry Livingston after his clinic. What an inspiring individual; someone whose career I aspire to. Hearing him speak is medicinal, and it affirms my choice in life to exist doing such crazy things as teaching and playing music.
In my spare time, I walked around the exhibit hall in awe of all of the vendors! I also got to brush up on some of my secondary instrument skills..like French horn! (ouch)