Posts Tagged ‘music education’

Bookmarks from June 5th through June 11th 2010

Bookmarks from June 5th through June 11th 2010

“A proof-of-concept written in HTML 5 with JQuery and CSS3. No Flash! Compare to Flash player at Developed by Scott Andrew.”

link: Scott Andrew’s HTML 5 Audio Player

“I THINK ABOUT food constantly. What will I eat today? What will be in my cupboard tomorrow? Answers are not hard. Lessons I learned from my parents and cost controls I learned in working in restaurants serve me well. Discount stores, ethnic markets and liquidation stores are my shopping salvation: organic heirloom winesap apples (3 pounds for $1.50) that the supermarket doesn’t stock; pork butt I grind into chorizo; $3 truffle oil I drizzle over instant mashed potatoes. Thanks to my knife skills, each salami I splurge on makes a week’s worth of sandwiches.”

Pacific NW | An unemployed restaurant critic finds a different kind of culinary satisfaction | Seattle Times Newspaper

“Such large, ambitious marching bands have become a relative anomaly in a city famous for its second-lines, brass bands and musical luminaries, however. More than four years after Hurricane Katrina, band leaders say they are fighting to ensure the tradition thrives in a dramatically altered public school landscape.”

New Orleans Mardi Gras marching bands are incubators for more than music |

looking forward to hiking this trail this summer
Corralitas Red Car Property: Red Car Property: Tales of Trail Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

“This movie, released in 1991 in France and in 1992 in the US, is the result of a collaboration between a novelist, Pascal Quignard, a director Alain Corneau, and a musician, Jordi Savall. Corneau wanted to do a movie on music and the 17th century; he met Quignard, who had already written about the viol, and suggested that they do the story of Marin Marais (1656-1728), one of the best viol players and composers of the time, and his teacher Sainte Colombe. Quignard had discovered the music of Sainte Colombe through a recording made by Jordi Savall in 1976. Quignard wrote the book, Corneau took the book and worked with Quignard and Savall to make the movie. Savall plays the music on the soundtrack.

The subject of the movie is the life of the French viol player and composer Sainte-Colombe. What little evidence there is on his life was woven into a fictional narrative by Pascal Quignard in a novel written specifically for this project. He then adapted his own novel for the screen, in collaboration with Corneau and with advice from Savall.The casting is as follows: Gérard Depardieu plays Marin Marais when old, Guillaume Depardieu (son of Gérard) plays Marais when young, Jean-Pierre Marielle plays Sainte-Colombe, Anne Brochet plays Madeleine, the elder daughter of Sainte-Colombe.The title comes from a sentence in the novel: “Tous les matins du monde sont sans retour,” meaning literally “all the mornings of the world [leave] without [ever] returning.” It can be translated as “Each day dawns but once.”

link: Tous les matins du monde

“It saddens me to think that it took Justice Souter 19 years of heavy constitutional lifting and departure from the court before he could turn to the American people and explain clearly that much as we might want judging to be easy, it never can be. It terrifies me even more to think that we’ve crafted a confirmation process in which the consistent message is that judging is so simple that any old bozo can do it. If we continue to believe that this is so, we will be on the road to confirming any old bozo that stumbles along”

David Souter finally tells Americans to grow up. – By Dahlia Lithwick – Slate Magazine

“Part of Banksy’s project is the imaginative creation of a public identity itself, unhinged from biography — the name itself, one masked and clouded and layered and fully immersed in the matrix of our media plugged and holistically branded world. How does a vandal/hoax artist negotiate his commercial fame in a subculture that allows only an underground rebel the status of authenticity? Make authorship the work of art, without adhering to standard rules of genre or typical expectations circumscribing where art begins and ends. Once the author is completely unfettered from the authored, then the work can become something of a Trojan Horse, unexpectedly fighting its battles where we least notice, and making us laugh silly at our ridiculous ways all along.”

Banksy’s Self-Mythologizing: A Review of ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’ « THE HYDRA

Still, the research seems to validate claims of harm on a larger scale. Twenty percent of those interviewed said they distrusted the sanitation of food sold on the streets, and some stakeholders told researchers that gang members charged rent or they were fearful that street vendors’ association with gang members could lead to dangerous situations. Other stakeholders complained that obstructed sidewalks forced people onto the street, and that open flames are hazardous to the community. Besides unfair competition, other disadvantages identified in the study include: increased traffic and pedestrian congestion, reduced property values and reduced quality of life through pollution of public spaces.advantages of street vending were: affordable products and services for low-income residents, income opportunities for immigrants and lower-income residents seeking employment, and increased foot traffic that contributes to “the revitalization of the community’s street life.”

Lots of ‘Grey Area’ In Street Vending Issue : Eastern Group Publications

“No, we didn’t recover it all … a few thousand dollars remained on the plastic to be paid off. But ultimately a marvelous artistic weekend was created where new works were inspired and friendships were born and renewed. And no government help was needed nor obligation incurred. The artists (and perhaps this is more important in the practical psychology of a rural area) the public saw as working hard, accomplishing much, and doing it all at their own behest.”

Dennis Bathory-Kitsz: The 2001 Ought-One Festival: How We Did It Ourselves — All of Us

The Bigger Picture

The Bigger Picture

a few nights ago i got an email from a old friend and former student about how i helped him over 20 years ago. it reminded me how it’s too easy to get caught up in the day to day successes and failures of teaching and forget about the bigger picture

“Just read your Derek Sivers post and it made me think… This guy from Kansas named Paul Bailey was my high school marching band coach my senior year, and from that he was able to get me a job at Poway HS (which he got because he marched Madison (Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps), and I ended-up working with HS marching bands for 7 years before it got to be too much while starting my now 15 year career at Accenture… Great experiences, great memories, and definitely a great part of my life. Thank you again, Paul.”

Music Theory: Answering “The Why”

Music Theory: Answering “The Why”

i was at rehearsal the other night when the question came about where should somebody start who wants to know more about music theory.

fair enough, but talk about an unintentionally loaded question. if you picked up a few books from the library they would start out with the fundamentals (notes, clefs, keys, scales, intervals, chords…), but after you learned that information what would you really have learned and what could you do with it?

i think when somebody says they want to learn music theory what they really are wanting to know is really “how does music work”. on that hand i don’t think many books do a great job (although i’d encourage others to happily prove me wrong and i’ll share that info).

along the lines of my previous theory post (making the simple more complex) is that learning ‘theory’ should be synonymous with teaching how music works; the skills needed how to create music i.e. composition (and implicitly imitation) rather than teaching students how to only analyze and dissect music.

thinking about this in practical terms this would mean making some big changes on how I would teach lower level theory fundamentals, asking students to transcribe and analyze a melody and/or chord progression that they liked (pain in the ass to grade). the big point here is to figure out how intervals and chords work in the context of a real piece of music (unlike the traditional way of teaching them divorced from the actual music making experience)

to skip ahead a bit the big point I’m continually trying to make is that:

  • the best way to learn music theory is to analyze music that is ‘interesting’ (to us)
  • this analysis should focus on answering the question ‘why?’
  • learning music fundamentals (and music theory) should be connected to answering ‘the why?’

the trees without the forest

well i made it…

as i’m starting to wade through the piles of paperwork i have to grade i’m slowing down enough to finally start to reflecting and assessing this fall.  as semesters go it was one for my record books: 3 schools, 19 units, and 2 new classes.

its not that i haven’t been here before. i had 11 preps (separate classes) that met over a 6 day schedule at during my first two years teaching 5-12 instrumental music at a private school.  i almost forgotten what it felt like, but now i clearly now remember that feeling of controlled insanity so that i’m ok with a normal class load for quite some time.

one of the things that i really try and stress with my young teachers is that we should always self-assess and reflect when the memories are still fresh. taking a break and waiting until we are rested or even the week before school starts can dull the our highs and lows. so as i’m grading papers and reading stacks of student reflections i figure its time to give it a go. (especially to remind me that now matter how good the money is 19 units is too much)

music 111 (music theory, level 1)

i think its my 3rd or 4th semester in a row teaching this class of enthusiastic freshman who have always have a wide range of skills coming into college. unfortunately at least a third have any experience with any music fundamentals (i’d say half class has problems reading clefs outside their primary instrument). we call this class music theory, but its really music fundamentals in which the goals are pretty simple: know all your clefs, keys, intervals, and chords. be able to do basic part writing and analize short musical examples.

overall i have been pretty happy with my teaching,  but my main problem is that the low students really don’t seem to improve.  my main strategy to combat this has been much repetition through worksheets, daily drills and speed tests (where they are required to give answers and explanations), but i’m not really comfortable seeing the slower students in my class (who attend pretty regularly) not improve and seem to be guessing in the final exam.  i’m also not really happy with the overall curriculum and textbooks (which i clearly see the results with my music ed students who cannot really analyze a score or discuss its musical elements, but i’ll get to this in another post when i talk about my mused classes).

conceptually i’m know what the problem is. we are teaching music theory like they used to teach phonics in elementary school.

2/3 of the students do fine with this pedagogy and i’m sure they would figure out how to regurgitate anything we ask them to. the main skills we want our students to learn are fine (voice leading, score analysis), but our strategies of teaching them about the trees without the forest (by endless manipulation of exceprts because they fit easily into classroom pedagogy) has resulted in many of our students knowing how to resolve a 7th chord and and write a secondary dominant but have little or no idea about how music ‘works’

all i know is that after four years of trying to build a better moustrap inside the most common theory pedagogy  its time for me to head out on that lonely journey (well not so lonely, michael rodgers discusses these problems in great detail in his book; teaching approaches in music theory) of trial and error that he calls  “synthesis of comprehenisve musicianship, eartraining and analysis”

next up; music educaiton classses, music in early childhood and my instrumental music practicum class


teach, grade, eat, sleep is about all I do these days.

this summer it looked like I was going to be seriously underemployed so I am very grateful and lucky to even have the option of paying my bills. things are better now and i’m glad the sky didn’t completely fall in.

last spring i knew things were going to be bad when i heard that california was immediately starting a hiring freeze because of lower than expected tax receipts. then came word that the california state university system (my employer) was to immediately cut 10% from the fall 08 budget. in past years these cuts and might have been restored after a budget was passed, but the way things were going we would be lucky if the cuts stopped only at 10%.

to make a long story short, three days before school started i also got a call from a local community college who needed somebody to teach two classes the saturday before school started. since then its been a radical change of pace to be more than fully employed (19 units) and teaching many new classes (early childhood music and music appreciation, but this new schedule has reinforced my ongoing quest for the proper balance between time and money.

it’s great knowing that I can pay the bills for at least 5 more months, but with the way the economy is going I have to really wonder how much freelance teaching work will be available next spring or fall. of course at the end of the day this is all fair (and i guess somewhat expected) in the life of an adjunct faculty member. I have no tenure, but lots of flexibility to perform and compose compared to the my previous jobs as a secondary school band director (5-12). this summer (while waiting too see what my schedule would be in the fall) it really brought home the reality that i have a quite low paying job (a full-time adjunct faculty member makes 1/3 of the pay of a tenured professor) with little job security I quickly realized how this job becomes far more stressful in an economic downturn and is making me seriously reconsider my employment options.

right now i’m kind of living in the moment, day by day and lecture by lecture. i’m really enjoying teaching high school kids again (even if it is music appreciation) and could see and have contemplated going back into the secondary classroom for a much more stable and higher paying job. after getting a taste of the 40+ hour work-week i have been reintroduced to that endless cycle of teaching, grading and sleeping that leaves little room for anything else. tonight i’m grading music music theory and going over my lesson plans and lectures before tomorrow. i like it quite a bit, teaching a good class is almost as invigorating as playing a great show, though right now it would be nice to have time for both.

is this balance possible? well at least probably not teaching as an adjunct professor at a 4 year college. although adjunct faculty are notoriously treated like shit (since i don’t have a terminal degree and i expect it from my “peers”), teaching music fundamentals, music theory and music education classes have been very stimulating, but unless i’m willing to pursue a PHD and frequently relocate around the country to start my “career”, i’m keeping myself in the lowest caste of academia with no chance of financial advancement (or job security)

in august i was seriously considering heading back to be a full time “band director”, its a great job, but already i know that if i have the responsibility of teaching 5 classes a day that i can’t possibly have enough time for writing and performing. although the money is good (a tenured professor and a public school teacher make about the same pay), but running back to the safety of a full time job in secondary education isn’t going to give me any balance.

right now i’m not exactly sure what my solution is, but i guess our little financial crisis is helping motivate me to move on to the next thing. i’m not quite sure what that is yet, but my gut tells me that staying in place hoping things will work out isn’t such a good idea.

learning is doing

learning is doing

which means I have spent most of my years trying to avoid teaching music appreciation. on the face of it what could be wrong sharing the joys of listening to music? unfortunately to me teaching people how to “listen to music” is like teaching a math class without doing any math.  no matter how you cut it talking (and lecturing) about music is about as interesting as teaching an sex ed class on abstinence in alaska. most people “appreciate” music very well and the elephant is the room is that they are expected  “appreciate” art music, because it will make them smarter, more cosmopolitan, or something like that. times are tight and being one of the many california state university pt-faculty who have been cutback this fall I gotta take whatever classes that come my way.

my main concern with teaching music appreciation was confirmed after a quick perusal of a few textbooks. most are based on teaching western art music through the reduction of the historical periods in to easily digestible generic “facts” and the predictable passion and personal trivia narratives of art music composers. (i think i know why composer biopics usually suck so much, the writers are using their music appreciation books as primary source material) its not that every music appreciation book totally sucks, just that i can see that most of my time is going to be spent cherry picking reading material from a variety of sources that doesn’t reduce the lecture to simplistic cliches. my gut feeling is that the more time we are reading and listening to primary sources, the better.

i wasn’t quite sure what to expect teaching an 8 am saturday morning class on a off-campus site (a local charter school campus).  since most schools are locked down pretty tight on the weekends i figured that on the first day there would be a crowd of us waiting outside the main gate for a janitor to show up the school. I was surprised that when i pulled up at 7:30 am there was somebody waiting at the gate for me. not only was the school open and students ready to go, but I noticed they were much younger than i expected.

i realized that this was not the class that was advertised to me. after talking to the assistant principal he explained that this was an their pilot program on the saturday school concept. unlike most public schools that have many federal resources to teach kids that are below grade level on the weekends the LA Alliance charter school are partnering up with the local community college to fill this void. to me this brings up a whole bunch of obvious questions. i’m already questioning the logic in having community college teachers work with kids that are quite a bit behind on their path to graduation. (remember all need to teach community college is a masters degree, and most college professors have no training in secondary school pedagogy) this all being said, i’m happy to teach the kids in front of me not the ones you expected.

after the first hour it was obvious that their reading and writing skill are not quite ready for prime time, so by now my goals for the class are changing pretty quickly, more singing, clapping, and experiencing music as possible. gotta break up the class into 15 min segments. i’m also not going to worry about the traditional drop the needle testing of composers and titles. i’d rather have the class be able to just identify music by its elements (melody, harmony, form, rhythm and timbre). just by the short time working with them this is a pretty big goal, but i think a worthy of the class-time. i also know that this class can help improve their reading and writing skills. most students have a problem with technical reading (textbooks) and spending some time in the book, probably could help prepare them on how to use their college textbooks as a resourese and not a doorstop.

three hours on a saturday morning with a class of HS kids was not what i expected, but i really was impressed with the charter school and the students. they obviously have to be there to graduate (and probably continue as students in the school). but we sang, clapped and made a pretty good use of the time.  i’m still not sure what i’m going to do about the textbooks/CD’s ($100+) and concert attendance.  asking working class families to spend that much on a book that isn’t much of a resource to begin with is a problem, and i’m not sure how i feel about requiring HS kids to attend concerts when public transportation is their only way to get around. in a normal HS setting we would take a field trip to a show and bring groups on campus. i’ll check into seeing if this is possible.

what are my goals? is this class worth teaching? i hope so.

my gut tells me to break it up into theory and practice. if i’m going to have a class for 16 weeks and all we do is talk about music, i hope somebody shoots me.

i want kids to be able match pitch, sing simple songs, duets and rounds, learn to find and keep a steady pulse.  i’m going to teach them notation through solfege (i already started and they don’t know it yet) and hopefully tie in all the book learning by relating it through their limited in-class performance skills. i know introducing improvisation and composition should be in there somewhere, but without any keyboards, laptops or instruments, i’m not sure about it?  we could make instruments, but because these aren’t my facilities or my classroom makes the whole endeavor more complicated. its going to be a journey, and an interesting change of pace from what i am comfortable with which is probably what i need at this stage of the game.

musicianship toolbox, part 1 building sightsinging fundamentals

musicianship toolbox part 1, building sightsinging fundamentals so you want to improve your ears? what to do? where to start? here is a simple exercise to get you started the first skill you to develop is the ability to sing all the diatonic intervals (2nds-8ths, ascending and descending) by being able to sing these intervals […]

congestion pricing

my late summer read was james surowiecki’s the wisdom of crowds which describes how crowds (large numbers of independent people who share a common interest or goal) when left to their own devices seem to make pretty intelligent decisions and how gives some descriptions about they arrive at them. also later in the the book […]

how to pass sight singing and dictation

i think i almost gave this speech word for word last week in my both my musicianship classes. here is a few excerpts (with comments) from johnathan filbert’s blog, sound on. i’m sure many of you probably haven’t encountered edwin gordon’s rhythmic solfege system (du-de’s). i use it to introduce rhythm to younger students. the […]

why can't you hear that??????

think about this for a moment… in college which students have usually have the best ‘ears’? i bet your thinking about the jazz musicians. ok now think a second about the classes these students take; do they spend hours on interval drill or taking dictation? no. i bet if you followed your favorite jazz musician […]


daniel wolf cannily points the limitations and travails about having a blog and dialogue it spawns. Personally, I think that Newmusicland is a microeconomy (or a series of microeconomies within a microeconomy) without much real at stake. Sure, there are prizes to win and teaching gigs to hand out, but in the end, it’s a […]

"best practices"

during the long drive home from the california music educators (cmea) conference in ontario, the ever present saturday freeway traffic gave me a lot of time for contemplation. although only a few sessions are hits and most miss, all i need is one or two good ones for fuel until the next year. this year […]

monday mid-day musicianship gripe

why are we still teaching four part dictation? to answer this i think you first have to ask where did it come from. after two years of trying to teach the “traditional” musicianship curriculum (and failing), i thought a little research on the history of these classes would be useful. from my brief survey (only […]


as you can see the blog is mostly empty these days, but its not because of a pause in my schedule, but mostly because i like to write to help organize my thoughts. these days most of my pbe time is taken up recording and mixing which does not lend itself to blog friendly posts. […]

sprint to the finish

yesterday i hit burnout. it was the first day since last summer that i did nothing. no writing, lesson plans, or practicing… it’s probably a week too early, but i need to get in the right frame of mind so the thanksgiving break isn’t a waste. i need to finish up the retrace cd, start […]

busy fall

things are going well but by this time on tuesday nights i can barely think straight. this fall has been moving so fast and i’m really excited about it except one problem… i’m too tired to keep this blog updated. the biggest change is that the wife has started her internship as a therapist. the […]

past and future (good times)

thanks again to all who came out to last night. its great to play for such a big and enthusiastic crowd. where else can you see somebody serenade a ikea lamp, alt-classical garage band and band with balloon bass? thanks again to dorian wood and unpopable for their unique and wonderful performances. because of the […]

back in the thick

being back in school is great, but it comes with all the cuts, scrapes and bruises that go with taking long summer breaks. somehow the first day i lost my wallet, luckily i cancelled the cards before they were used. it could still turn up, but these things always seem to happen when i radically […]

a heathly respect for the job

its my first day back to school tomorrow and i can’t sleep. right now those who are sleeping like babies are probably have no idea what is in store for them or too burnt out to care. someone once told me its the last bit of our animal instinct trying to ‘keep us on our […]

status quo?

over this break i have been doing lesson plans for my spring eartraining and theory classes. as i sketched my classes out i realized that my goals were becoming much different than in the past. i wasn’t worried about what i am supposed to teach, but really concentrated to what skills i think our students […]

back to school

the last couple weeks i have been gearing up for my return to teaching, although this year is much different. class starts in 2 weeks and usually time of the year is all stress. part of it is worrying about the simple things, did they screw up my schedule? how many of my best students […]

paul cummings, bass

paul cummings, bass, originally uploaded by pbailey. introducing one of the newest members of the group, bass (vocalist) Paul Cummings. blog bio: Hey there, I’m a choral/solo singer who also teaches using Orff schulwerk process to k-8 children. I have a bachelors in music education and a masters in voice performance. I’m on a bunch […]