Friday, November 30, 2012

Tan Dun: Water Passion after Saint Matthew

My voice teacher had the incredible privilege of seeing the premier of this work in New York and mentioned it to us in Music History. Here is a link to a synopsis of the work by Tan Dun as well as video links to a performance by the University of Utah Singers.

Tan Dun's Water Passion after Saint Matthew

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Educational Philosophy pt. 1


  • 5th century Greece
  • Sociological and Philosophical revolutions
  • Socrates
    • Socratic Method
    • Thinking vs. Knowledge
  • Plato
    • of all things that really matter, Truth rests in the mind
    • Immortal forms
  1. Names
    1. Hegel, Emerson, Thoreau, Frobel
  2. Metaphysics
    1. The mental/spiritual world is ultimately REAL, not the "world of appearance"
    2. The mental/spiritual world is permanent, eternal
    3. The First cause, the Absolute, the Universal Mind and the Macrocosm (synonyms) 
    4. humans are a small part of this universal mind - microcosm
  3. Epistemology
    1. Truth is absolute and unchanging
    2. Knowledge/truth is latent in a human's mind
    3. The role of the teacher is to bring forth knowledge/truth
    4. the goal for students is to develop a broad, unifying universal perspective
    5. The curriculum is composed of the traditional disciplines with Theology and Philosophy at the top
  4. Axiology
    1. values are unchanging and applicable to all people at all times
    2. The value heritage is transmitted through core classes
    3. Great Classics
  5. Teacher/School
    1. The teacher is a model/vital agent in helping students realize their fullest potential
    2. The teacher/school should expose students to the great people and great works of the past
    3. the teacher draws out latent knowledge through Socratic questioning
    4. The teacher/school should provide for the student's intellectual growth

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Credo in Musica, pt. 6

How will I be a reflective builder of community who continually evaluates the effects of his/her actions on others and who actively seeks out opportunities to grow professionally?

Reflection is a prerequisite for a well-examined life, and thus has immense benefits for all persons and especially for teachers. I already engage in personal reflection frequently by keeping a journal, but professionally I should expect to also use reflection in order to judge my performance as a teacher. If a class went well I should reflect on why it went well, how students were able to succeed and think ahead to how I might repeat the level of success my class just experienced. If my class did not do well on an assignment or an activity, I also should reflect on why the experiment did not succeed. I must be able to dissect all the components which led to a failed lesson and prepare future lessons that are planned to approach difficulties in a new way.
The most important goal for my learning community is a love of music. Musicianship comes second with repertoire a close third. Broken down, a love of music is my personal goal for all of my students, but it is something I cannot teach. I can only encourage it by teaching understanding, knowledge and realization of music. My lessons will be structured with this goal in mind, and I when I reflect on my teaching experiences I will evaluate them based on their proximity to this goal. I will hold my students to a high standard for performance and acquisition of knowledge, but I hold myself to an even higher standard as their teacher.
Part of reflection is takes place after a lesson has concluded, but a great deal of it happens in the classroom. Being a “with-it” teacher means being aware of everything going on in my classroom at any given moment, and if a lesson or activity is not going well I need to flexible enough to analyze and assess the situation on the go. At every moment of the lesson I need to be tuned in to how well my students are doing and make accommodations, changing one aspect and inserting another. I need to be walking among my students and asking them questions at all times, paying attention to the subtle clues in the class environment and in student behavior. By doing this, I can better tailor my instruction to my students without having to waste any time.
One of the best suggestions I have been given in my preparation as a teacher is that I should choose a mentor teacher, or even several mentor teachers, and continue to learn from them throughout my teaching career. I know that I learn the most through dialogue, and I know that having a mentor teacher will constantly inspire me to grow professionally into the kind of teacher I want to be. Technological advancements are always changing and a good way to make sure that I am growing professionally is to make sure that I am capable of using and implementing the new resources in my classroom. I also intend to be very active in music conferences, expand my certifications into new music educational methods. I hope someday to go on and get my masters, perhaps even a doctorate, in choral conducting and I will always take voice lessons, no matter where I am. If I involve myself in the local opera company or professional choral group I will also continue to grow as a professional music educator. I also want to be involved in music at summer camps as well as give private lessons to students and the general public.
Occasionally, in order to settle myself and do a more formal reflection, I will go on a retreat just to remove myself from pressure and stress, give myself time to rest and meditate on my life. Silent retreats are especially good for major life discernments. Having a good selection of literature to read and discuss in groups with fellow teachers is also a tool I have used in the past to reflect on my educational philosophy, and I intend to subscribe to educational and musical journals. I have the great blessing of wise and caring friends in whom I can confide my ideas. They help me reflect on my goals and experiences and will tell me when something sounds ill-prepared or not thought through. Video recording is also a marvelous way to witness my teaching through a completely factual lens. I hope to bring my peers into my classroom so that they can help me evaluate my teaching strategies and lend me their wisdom. Keeping a professional reflection journal is also a wonderful way to articulate my thoughts on paper and provide a written account to which I can refer for future lesson planning.
I am naturally a very passionate person, and I live by the motto that if anything is worth doing it is worth doing well. Therefore, by my very disposition I think my superiors and fellow teachers can be certain that if they give me a job I will do it and I will carry it out with excellence. I am one to neither procrastinate nor make excuses for a poorly done work, and if I do make mistakes I am quick to ask forgiveness and try again. I do view music and teaching as vocations. I believe that I am taking on a great responsibility by becoming a music teacher, and I am committed to doing my very best. 

Meine Leben

My name is Katherine Suzanne Maria Bittner, born of Norbert and Barbara on August 6th, 1991. I am the eldest of six siblings and was baptized and raised Roman Catholic since infancy. My closest sibling is my sister, Rachael, followed by four younger brothers; Nathan, Daniel, Matthew and Peter. Since I was old enough to do so I have helped my mother, a Pediatrician, to care for and raise my younger siblings, especially when she went back to work during my high-school years. This responsibility created in me a great seriousness and sense of accountability for younger children and gave me the skills I needed to care for my siblings. It also gave me a good work-ethic and prompted me to enter the work force at a young age.
            My education has shaped my intellectual and emotional development profoundly. I went to St. Mark’s Catholic Grade school from first to fifth grade and was home-schooled during sixth grade due to bullying problems. At seventh grade I enrolled at Trinity School at River Ridge, a two-time Blue Ribbon Award for Excellence school, and my experiences at Trinity have shaped what I believe the ideal curriculum and musical program should be in high school.
            I took piano for seven years in grade school, was involved in dance and gymnastics in middle school and played volleyball in junior high and high school. I took recorder in seventh and eighth grade and it has remained a personal passion of mine ever since. In high school I was involved in art, drama, Latin club, speech club, Chamber Choir and Concert Chorale and took voice lessons from David Jorlett. I participated in the state music competitions and received one excellence rating and three superior ratings. I also participated in the National Right to Life Oratory Contest and took first place at the regional level and fifth place at the state level. In college I have been involved in Concert Chorale, Concert Band, swing dance, art competitions, ministry, Jam for the Lamb, tutoring, and was named President of Chamber Singers in the fall of 2012.
            Almost all of my work experiences have been involved with caring for and serving others. My first formal job at fifteen was as a junior counselor at Servant Camp, a church camp in Minnesota where I helped care for the youngest group of children at the camp. In 2007 at sixteen I took a long-term position as a dining and activity aid at Minnesota Masonic homes. That summer I also served as a PCA for a young woman with Downs-Syndrome and helped take care of her, received her at home from her summer classes, and fed her. After coming to Benedictine I took a summer position in 2011 at Interlochen Arts Acadamy as a counselor and lifeguard. I served St. Mark’s Lutheran church in Atchison as its choir director for the spring semester of 2012 and that summer I served as a cook at Prairie Star Ranch of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas. Since the fall of 2011 I have served at Benedictine College as a music tutor and as a life-guard.
            My interactions with children have taken place all around the United States. In Minnesota my work as a junior counselor, a mentor at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, and as a PCA all concerned children. In Kansas I have observed at Atchison High school, the Middle school, the Alternative High school, the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Atchison, Atchison Catholic Elementary and the children in the choir at St. Mark’s Lutheran as well as when I served as a cook at Prairie Star Ranch. In Missouri I have observed at West Platte Elementary. In Columbus Ohio I have also observed at St. Mary’s Catholic Grade School, St. Francis de Salles High School, Our Lady of Peace Catholic School and Immaculate Conception.
            As a person, I am an incurably artistic character who finds no greater satisfaction in life than in the creation and admiration of beauty. Since early childhood I have been involved in music, art, drama, sewing, pottery and every form of art known to civilization. My philosophy of life may be summed up as a search for beauty, pure and endless beauty. My faith is an integral part of my self-concept; so much so that neither can I remember a time without belief nor imagine a future without it. It shapes how I think, what I do and how I do it. Differences of opinion and world-view, however, are not hard at all for me to accept and work with; indeed I relish the opportunity and have had much experience working with diversity at Minnesota Masonic homes and at Interlochen Arts Acadamy. I consider music and teaching to be vocations to which I am called. I intend to devote my life to teaching music to people of all ages.

Credo in Musica pt. 5

How will I plan and assesses instruction based upon knowledge of subject matter, students, the community and curriculum goals.

Planning and assessing music instruction is a complex process. Every day, at every moment of my teaching career, I will have to demonstrate my theoretical and practical knowledge of music. There will never come a time when I will cease being a musician in my classroom; modeling, accompanying, describing, conducting and rehearsal will form the majority of my classroom experience. My students will learn through imitation of my methods at first, but after they get past the period of imitation the will begin to synthesize their knowledge and create their own music. To prepare my students for the development of true musicianship, I must have a goal for their growth and a plan by which I may achieve this growth.
Lesson planning will be essential to me, not only so that I have a goal for what I want to teach my students, but also as a comprehensive and thorough plan for how to bring about the synthesis of that knowledge. One teacher advised me that it is impossible to over plan a lesson, and the more resources I can pull out at the drop of a hat, the better the flow of a class will be. When preparing at the beginning of the school year I will not have the benefit of knowing my students and their abilities and interests, but I can plan out what I want to teach and the direction I wish the course to proceed in. After planning the skeleton of the school year or semester, I can begin to fill it in with the meat and sinews of specific activities, which I will modify according to the needs of the present moment.
My lessons will, of course, be shaped not only by my interests and goals, but by the needs and interests of my students. Students connect immediately to that which they already know and understand, and thus a good method of arresting student interest is to present them with the material I want to teach them in a format they already recognize, such as teaching musical form using a popular song or doing music history reports on bands they grew up with. If I have certain students who need more hands-on learning experiences, I can modify my lesson plans to afford them those opportunities. If my students are struggling with a concept, it should be an easy thing for me to insert some practice worksheets or learning activities into the class period or substitute one activity for another. If need be, the benefit of long-term planning will help me to adjust the course schedule so that we spend all the time we need to on a given subject.
To facilitate fruitful planning, during the class period I must be attentive to how my students are doing. Every music teacher I observed was constantly asking their students questions to determine how much learning was going on. For example, I can ask students to name the key signature of the piece we are about to play and have competitions to see who can answer first. I want to keep the flow of teaching in my class fairly quick so that students are engaged in the activities I present, and one way of speeding up the learning pace is frequent repetition of material.
To maximize student potential it is important that students know if they are succeeding in my classroom. Lesson planning will allow me the great aid of an organized school year or semester, into which I can place systematic assessment. In most group performance classes, assessment is immediate for the ensemble, and in solo lessons it is much the same. The formative and summative assessments are performances given to me or to the community, and feedback on performances and lessons is immediate. For academic music classes, I shall have to provide ways for my students to reveal their knowledge in more intellectual ways. I like having quizzes every day both to encourage students to do the readings assigned for class and so that I know how much information students are deriving from the homework. I must make a commitment to grade theses quizzes daily so that my students know immediately how much learning they are accomplishing and determine if they need to exercise additional effort to understand the material better.
I genuinely appreciate having standards to which I can mold my curriculum and plan my instruction. I have the unfortunate tendency to get caught up in those aspects of music at which I excel, and having standards which span a great deal of music’s expansive breadth compels me to devote appropriate amounts of time to those avenues of music with which I am less familiar or do not enjoy as much. Not only will standards provide me with a skeleton on which to base my lesson plan, but they also motivate me to keep my lessons moving at an engaging pace.
My lesson plans will certainly be affected by the school’s expectations for the music curriculum. For example, if there has been a spring concert every year prior to my appointment, the school will expect that I prepare the ensembles for the concert. Thus, time will be spent in class learning performance repertoire and techniques applicable to those pieces. If the school pushes many performances, much of the intellectual and emotional side of music must be taught through performance medium I will have to dive into a piece with a greater deal of depth  in order to glean theoretical and historical context for the sake of my students.
Music naturally lends itself to multiple means of assessment. Portfolios, performance, written tests, projects, and essays are all common place in any given music class. Music can be grasped in a hundred different ways, both intellectually and technically, and students will all have their chance to shine at the level and through the means that they know best. At the same time, students will be required to learn how to articulate their knowledge of music in ways that are not as natural to them, and by doing so gain great expressive knowledge. A more philosophical or intellectual child will be able to communicate their knowledge through music history essays and theory tests, but they will also have to apply their knowledge on their instruments and through projects specific to a unit. If I make a true effort to prepare my lessons well, I am certain all of my students will be able to succeed in my classroom.

Credo in Musica pt. 4

How will I respect and promote diversity while creating instructional opportunities that meet the needs of students from diverse cultural backgrounds and those with exceptionalities?

Music has been called a universal language, and for good reason. Persons in all times and all places have some kind of musical culture with which they express their beliefs and their unique way of life. All of my students come to my class bringing with them their own unique cultures, and to arrive at the universality of beauty in music, I must pass through the subjective worldview and understanding of my students. This does not mean that I wish to change or ignore the differences in my students; on the contrary, each unique individual brings a new means of understanding and creating music, like each facet on a diamond catching and reflecting the light. I truly desire to have an incredibly diverse classroom, for the benefit of every student in the class and for my own enlightenment and continual growth.
I hope to encourage diversity in the student body and also in the materials they learn. One criticism of classical music is its focus on the Western Classical tradition to the point of almost total exclusion of all other musical heritages. I wish to expand my course in a little more breadth in order to understand how musical cultures from around the world have developed and how the shaping of music history has shaped human culture. I hope also that a more universal approach to music will encourage students to be proud of their own unique heritages and embrace music as a means to celebrate diversity in communion with others. Music has the wonderful ability to facilitate individual growth and diversity while moving towards a common goal. Music is its own aim, and students from all backgrounds and all methods of thought can subvert their individual differences and disagreements in order to create beauty together.
Having grown up in a very culturally inclusive environment in the Twin Cities, I am rather knowledgeable with regards to students of other cultures and ethnicities. In my work at Minnesota Masonic Homes, I was an ethnic minority among a Kenyan, Somalian, Taiwanese and Hmong Majority. The experience of being an ethnic minority helped me learn how to work and form friendships with people of vastly different backgrounds. Before my studies at Benedictine my experience with students of low socioeconomic status and exceptionalities was limited, but it was not absent from my life entirely. I know firsthand the complexities that take place in teaching children with Aspergers Syndrome and Downs Syndrome and I learned what it meant to really care sacrificially for people as I cared for those experiencing the difficulties of Alzheimer’s. I have learned to love and genuinely appreciate persons I know with severe Dyslexia and make accommodations for them in my daily life. My classes at Benedictine have also given me much preparatory knowledge of how to teach through exceptionalities and taught me to embrace them with enthusiasm. I still have much to learn, but I am fully confident that, whatever a student’s exceptionality, they can excel in my music classroom with ease. Socioeconomic considerations are the furthest from my area of expertise, but given the knowledge I have gained at Benedictine and in the Atchison community, I see no reason why students cannot succeed in my music classes based on socioeconomic status. Indeed, I fully expect students from all over the wealth spectrum to exceed in my classroom, regardless of their parent’s income or other factors. If students needs extra lessons and can’t afford them, I can always work out a special arrangement that caters to their needs.
To insure that my assessments and my interactions with students are free of bias, I must first understand the students as well as I possibly can. I must have good relationships with my students in order to understand where they come from, where they wish to go, and how I might help them to get there. Constant and honest self-reflection will also aid me in determining if I have been biased in the attention paid to certain students, or not devoting enough time to those who need my help, and lesson planning will help me to structure my teaching strategies so that I am taking the needs of all students into account.
For example, when I break my students up into groups, I need to take the unique qualities of my students into account. In the general music curriculum, or in classes with an academic focus such as music history or theory, I must be sure to group students in ways that account for each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Since group work in performing ensembles is determined by section or instrument, ability grouping is not really an option. I do intend to assign members of different sections into small groups for rehearsal purposes which will be planned according to how many students I have in the various sections, which I will also augment with a mixture of ability and achievement
All of my learning activities should be structured in such a way that I can meet student needs, but I should also be ready to meet student interests and let them make their own choices. In the general music class all of my students will have to learn to play all of the instruments we use in class, but after they have proved proficient on each instrument, then they can choose an instrument to major in for the rest of the semester. In music history students can choose a topic to write an essay about, in theory they will write their own compositions and performing ensembles choose their own instruments. Improvisation is also a beautiful and instructive method for students to both learn and express their unique understanding of music, a method I wish to stress in my classroom.
Music adapts itself very well to diversity, and thus I tend to see diversity as a great advantage in the classroom. The only real difficulties I could see in having great diversity in my classroom is the incredibly rare case of a child with true amusia or an extreme spectrum of musical aptitude. Culture, language, mental and physical disabilities pose challenges but all of those can be easily overcome in the music classroom. Should I require that my students attend musical concerts and write reviews of the concert, students in low SES situations can attend some of the multitudinous musical venues that are free, students with dyslexia or blindness may aurally dictate their review to me, and any other accommodations a student may need can still fulfill the requirements for the assignment. I feel well prepared to help all of my students succeed, no matter their exceptionalities or unique capabilities.
I must not, however, think that because I consider myself knowledgeable I can stop learning how better to adapt my teaching strategy. I am personally fascinated by different cultures and I am always looking to understand more about cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. It only makes sense that the more I know and understand about different cultures, socioeconomic statuses and exceptionalities, the better I can connect with my students and present the information I am teaching in a more effective manner.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Credo in Musica pt. 3

How will I use practices which nurture the whole child/ adolescent within the learning community?

I am committed by my regard for music as a vocation to be dedicated to student success, not just academically, but also personally. Music naturally nurtures the well-being of all people, but it is also an acquired skill which must develop over time and requires that the student be open to learn. To facilitate the development of musical abilities, therefore, I have an increased obligation to the development of the cognitive, emotional and physical capabilities of my students.
To be successful as a music teacher, it is imperative that I form positive, personal relationships with all of my students. Thomas Aquinas spoke of the teacher as moral exemplar, and I agree that the teacher serves their students first and foremost by modeling the behaviors they wish to see in their students. Students will not respect me as a teacher if I am hypocritical, or if I act in a manner not befitting my dignity as a teacher. I must be warm and friendly, but professional. Parents are ineffective in discipline if their children view them as peers, and I believe the same can be said for teachers. As a teacher, if I make clear to my students what I expect of them in the classroom, then I can begin to make good and productive relationships with them within those boundaries. I must also be careful to build positive relationships with the parents of my students if I wish to have any genuine success with the children. What good will my efforts to instill a love of music be if what I do is not reinforced at home? Parents, especially in the younger years, hold the key to their child’s heart and mind, thus to build a good relationship with a student, I must also build a good relationship with their parents. Most importantly, I must care about my students as individuals and let them know that I care about them. The teacher as mentor and guide is most effective when a relationship of mutual affection exists between the student and the teacher.
Consistent with the idea of teacher as the role model, I can encourage my students to do their best by giving my best at the very outset. Giving of my time and talent, laying everything down on the line for them right away will ideally inspire my students to do likewise. Similarly, when mutual affection exists between teacher and student, students wish to do well in order to look good for the teacher. I intend to lavish praise upon my students for their achievements and will do my best to give as little attention as possible to misbehavior. I want my students to learn how to look for attention and recognition in an uplifting manner so that they will be less likely to look for approval from misbehavior or by goofing off.
 The atmosphere in my classroom will, of course be determined in part by the personalities of my students, but I as a teacher have immense control over the learning environment. If I exercise that power to affect a positive learning environment I will enable students to succeed more in my subject area and to develop personally. I have found that if I wish to build up those around me, one of the easiest and most successful ways to do so is to have a positive outlook and a cheerful disposition. My personality thrives off of arguments and loves a good battle of wits, but I have learned to relinquish my preferences because most people feel threatened by intense intellectual arguments. My ideal classroom atmosphere is not musical bootcamp. The best kind of teacher is a balance between the disciplinarian and the psychologist; someone who fosters the growth of the whole person of each individual as well as stimulating them to grow beyond their current mindset. The student must come first, not perfection or accuracy, and thus my criticisms must be given in gentleness, my discipline with patience and my reprimands with a healthy dash of humor.
 I genuinely believe that if I am doing everything I can, all of my students will be able to learn in my classroom. Students who learn musically and bodily-kinesthetically have an immediate advantage in music, but music can be easily grasped by all intelligences and learning styles. Music theory is a language and is logical-mathematical. Music is both interpersonal and intrapersonal and thinking about music with any depth appeals directly to the existential intelligence. Spatial and naturalistic intelligences will have the most difficulty in relating to music from a superficial encounter, but music is an experience natural to all places and times and involves a great deal of spatial recognition. Personal with spatial recognition will be able to read and understand the spatial dimensions of musical notation easily, and naturalists will have a great deal of fun making music out of the natural environment, such as making a drum out of a bucket or creating a glass harmonica.
 Being successful as a teacher also includes adapting my material and my methods to the age of my students. Their developmental level sets the parameters for what and how much I can teach them. For example, if I am trying to teach a song to a group of kindergarteners, I cannot rely on notes or formal notation or even an ability to read. I will have to rely on a kinesthetic approach to teaching music through most of a child’s time in elementary and middle school while laying the foundations for a theoretical and abstract examination of music in high school. Since I will be certified to teach kindergarten through twelfth grade, I must always keep in mind the developmental level of different groups so that I do not lump all my instruction together, boring the elder students and loosing younger groups entirely. This will be a true test of my knowledge of music, being able to demonstrate the subject in a hundred different ways and express it in a thousand different metaphors. It will be challenging, but if I care about my students, no challenge will be too difficult or exhausting. The joy of seeing the lights go on behind my students’ eyes will be all the fuel I need to keep the fire of my passion going.

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