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.

Credo in Musica pt. 2

How will I build partnerships with students, colleagues, families and community groups to enhance communication and learning?

A music teacher is a music advocate and usually the driving force behind any support the arts receive at the school. Music has an inherently social function and thus we find it at a focal point of community. If I want to be successful in building a great music program at my school, I first need to build partnerships with my students and their families, foster mutual cooperation and understanding with my co-workers and have a good, working relationship with my administration.
My best allies in advocating my music program will be the relationships I have built with my students and their families. When students and their parents have invested interest in my program, the school will be more likely to support the arts in their community. To build this partnership, I intend to make a personal commitment to getting to know each one of my students and communicate constantly with them and their parents. My syllabus will have to be signed by both the student and their parents, as will all of their tests, and they will need permission slips to attend concerts. I will call parents right from the start, facilitate regular parent-teacher meetings and try to form friendships with the parents outside their child’s success. When there is support from the home, I can succeed in developing within my students a sense of wonder and a depth of inquiry into music, but without this support nothing I teach will be reinforced or condoned. I will make every effort to encourage parent involvement in class projects and in performance venues, such as selling tickets to a musical or providing refreshment after a concert. The more families are on my side, the more successful I will be.
My co-workers, if I take the time to build positive relationships with them, will be my constant companions and advocates. Personally, I must make a commitment to be a good co-worker myself and constantly extend the laurel wreath of friendship to all my associates, no matter how differently we may view matters. I must also have a genuine interest in their subject matter and collaborate with them to optimize student learning across disciplines. In this teachers have an obligation for the sake of their students to build collaborative relationships. Music can offer contextual augmentation to any field of study, including history, physics, math English and foreign language, etc. The physical education teachers and coaches immediately benefit from having a pep-band and collaboration between the athletic and arts departments can be especially valuable. School communities are much more pleasant places to live and work if everyone is doing their part to get along and support the common mission.
 Music educators and administration have a long and bitter history, one that I hope ends with me. I myself have vilified administrators and found their lack of enthusiasm for the arts cause to eschew their presence. This trend must cease if I wish to accomplish anything with the music program. In my role as music advocate I will constantly be playing the political game for resources and performance opportunities for my children. Patience will be indispensible for me as I gently but firmly try to remove any obstacles in the path of student success, especially with administrators who are skeptical at best about the real value of music compared to test scores and school accreditation. The fruit of the relationships I have built with students, their families and my fellow teachers will show themselves at the moments I wish to advocate the music program. A personal testimony is hard to argue with, and those prior relationships will make the difference between victory and defeat. I must seek to build good relationships with my administrators as well. I should ideally comet to see the principal, board members, and other school administrators as good friends and allies and get to know them individually as people.
 Once I have paved the way for my students by setting up working relationships in the community, music can extend beyond my classroom walls and into the school and larger community. Performance opportunities such as pep-band and musicals are the most immediate means to involve them in the larger school community in the life of the arts, and collaboration between different subject areas such as history, art, or dance can be quite fruitful. For example, if the school should host a medieval banquet, the recorder ensemble which I fully intend to have in my program will be able to provide genuinely period entertainment for the “lords and ladies” present. Similarly, nothing brightens up the Christmas spirit like caroling parties, whether traveling from class to class in a school spirit of the holidays or outside the school traveling from house to house in the neighborhood.
I expect to involve my students in the larger community through philanthropic projects, such as singing or playing at nursing homes and performance funds can be donated to charitable causes. Having a thriving musical life is healthy for any community, offering a level of cultural refinement and giving students uplifting extra-curricular activities to keep them occupied and out of trouble. People want to be touched by beauty. Singing or playing with excellence can reach a person’s heart like nothing else, and part of my duty as a music teacher is to facilitate the exchange of wonder and delight that takes place between performer and audience in a performance setting. I want to be a part of the greater community, and I want the community to participate in the life of the arts in its school. As a music educator, I will be hard pressed to fill all the roles that come with that status. I must be open to welcoming any help parents and fellow musicians wish to give me. The teachers at ACES have been an inspiration to me in how a teacher can adapt college students as aids to bolster the curriculum and fill classroom needs. I may not be so fortunate as to have people offering their help, and thus I must be prepared to go out and humble myself by asking for help.
I can also be an advocate for music in the way I present myself and my craft. If I array myself with dignity and professionalism, the school and community will be more likely to treat my work with dignity and honor. I have always maintained a very high level of professionalism in my dress and in my mannerisms, though sometimes my tendencies err on the side of artistic expressionism. I also act with decorum among my fellow teachers and my superiors, though I occasionally must make an effort to curb my tongue least I become insubordinate in the face of a disagreement. To be a professional music educator, I must continue to develop within myself a readiness to serve and a humble disposition. A musician is a servant, though I cringe at the word, and we offer our services to humanity as a labor of love. When one gives a gift, it is customary to present the gift wrapped in a bright array of ribbon and ceremony. My gift to the world is my life as a music teacher, and it is the least I can do to array my gift with all the dignity it and its receivers deserve. 

Credo in Musica pt. 1

How will I use my understanding of communication and human behavior to create a classroom community that fosters positive social interaction, collaboration and active inquiry?

I believe that teaching is not just a career or a role one fills in life but a vocation, a calling with heavy responsibilities. The teacher owes these responsibilities not only to the students in his or her class, but also to the parents, the school and the larger community in which the student lives. The teacher must, therefore, be a builder of community at every level to which he or she is accountable, offering his or her very best at all times and in all places.
I know from the outset that wherever I teach, my standards for classroom behavior will be quite high. This is not to say that I want an army of technicians who leave their personalities and differences at the door, but if I wish to get any learning or performing done, I must set the bar high and offer every opportunity for my students to surpass it. My rules and expectations will be stated quite clearly at the beginning of the school year, and I will put a graduated system of discipline in place, so that I can curb destructive behavior in the least obtrusive manner possible. The most useful tool for encouraging learning behavior and eschewing distracting tendencies is to involve students in a high-involvement learning environment. Music has both aesthetic and a paraxial dimensions and to fully understand music one needs a good grasp of both. Thus it is in my best interests to make sure that a great deal of hands-on learning takes place at all times. I intend to engage the optimum number of students at a time at any given moment and in any situation. In choir, band, or orchestra, when I am focusing on a particular section I will expect the other sections to be following along in their music, marking their score and applying what I say to the other section to their own musical line. Any expectations I make will, of course, be made known to my students at the start of the school year.
Building a positive classroom environment is essential before one can even think of approaching the subject matter. Bullying, which I take to mean any form of communication, verbal, physical or otherwise, which demeans any person, will not be tolerated. I intend to make it clear to my students at the outset that negative humor is no joking matter to me, and will not take place in my classroom. There will be a large plaque in my room that reads, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Of course, I will have to model this behavior in myself, which I know to be a challenge for me. Criticism must always be preceded with an encouraging focus on what the student or choir did right, and must also be given in a true spirit of charity. Then, and only then, will my students both accept my criticism of their performance and have a desire to do what I ask of them. My respect for them and their person and my expectation that they will treat themselves and each other with respect will be most effective in insuring a positive and productive learning environment. Student interaction is a given in a group musical setting. Indeed, without student collaboration, no music aside from solo repertoire could ever happen. Mutual affection and amiability are necessities to making sure my classes run smoothly and effectively, thus, I will employ many methods such as name games and retreats to help students get to know one another. I will also voice place, or chair place, in order to discourage the formation of cliques, and I will assign quartets, or small groups, to branch relationships across sections.
The most powerful project musicians can employ to build community is performance. Nothing unifies a group of people so well as performing together, whether the group is as small as soloist and accompanist or as large as a grand performing ensemble. People share their selves in performance and unite to make something beautiful; therefore I wish to stress performance opportunities in my classroom. As I stated above, music is both aesthetic and paraxial. I wish to encourage the development of the aesthetic through the paraxial, and by doing so I teach music and unite persons at the same time. Performing for their peers in class develops individual musicianship and confidence as well as addressing key technical issues through the medium of a master class. Performing in small ensembles such as string quartets and barber-shop groups enable students to form close relationships and raise the standard of artistic excellence. Playing for school sporting events, pep-rallies, or other school-wide events will not only encourage my students to perform well and to do their best in class, but will be a unifying force for the school. Nothing contributes more to the energy of a crowd than a live pep-band playing for their team. This will also, hopefully, foster mutual understanding and appreciation between the various departments of the school, especially between musician and athletes. In addition, the school community will ideally come to see music as an approachable and attractive way of life, one which is very dear to them. The benefits of such an arrangement cannot be overstated. Formal concerts, in which the students dress up and perform standards of their respective repertoire, also bring the school together and have a chance to make money for the school, if they wish to charge an admission fee. 
Performance in public concerts and participation in national or regional festivals additionally bring together members of the larger community. As is apparent whenever a school concert takes place, parents flock to see their children perform, and it is a delightful thing to behold when parents have a reason to shower their child with pride in his or her achievements. The town or community usually rallies around a concert, especially if it is well advertized, and success in competition gives the community reason to be proud of their school and support its involvement in the arts. This success brings with it touring opportunities, which advances the school’s reputation and brings in additional support from increasingly larger communities. The students themselves benefit greatly from performance opportunities and the long-range goals of competition and travel.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Musical Life of Worship in the Early Church

The early monastic communities literally spent most of the day in prayer, not only in the sacrifice of the Mass/Divine Liturgy and the Divine Office, but also in the peace of meditation.

The Mass
As the focal point of Christian Worship, monks and layperson alike sought to pay homage to the Mass by offering the greatest sacrifice of their time and talents in the most beautiful manner for "only the best is pleasing to God." The splendid churches and Cathedrals wherein the Mass was celebrated was extraordinarily well decorated, and the music sought to portray the sublime simplicity of the mystery it proclaimed.
There are texts for the Mass which do not change, called Ordinary, and texts which change according to the day, called Proper. I have drawn attention to them where they come, but you can also identify them by their name. Ordinary texts are named according to the first words of the prayer, whereas the Proper texts are named according to their function, i.e. Offertory. All the sung parts of the Mass are in bold, and all the spoken parts are in italics.
In the format of the Mass, the priest processes in a cloud of incense as the choir sings the introit, a chanted psalm which changed according to the day. Once all the servers are in place, the choir intones the nine-fold Kyrie, a plea in Greek for the most Holy Trinity to have mercy on us. On Sundays and great feasts that do not fall in Advent or Lent, the Gloria/ Greater Doxology follows, which is a song of praise to God calling for mercy and again confessing belief in the Trinity. The priest then makes a prayer for all present, the collect, and after this, the Liturgy of the Word begins. The subdeacon intones the daily Epistle (letter from the apostles) and the choir responds with a Gradual, which contains texts from the psalms proper to that particular day. The choir then proclaims the Alleluia to preclude the joyous reading from the Gospel of the life Christ, though during Lent, the happy Alleluia is omitted to draw attention to the solemn nature of the season, when it is replaced by a Tract. Should the choir wish to supplement the Alleluia, they would add a sequence, or a jubiulus as a form of extra devotion. After the deacon intones the Gospel, the congregation listens to instruction and meditations on the readings from the priest, known as the sermon, concluding the Liturgy of the Word with the Credo, a statement of belief sung by the choir and prayed by all.
At this point, all who did not profess the fullness of Catholic belief or were not in a state of sanctifying grace had to leave for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. As the priest prepared the bread and wine for the consecration, the choir sang the Offertory, with text drawing attention to the celebration of that particular day. After the secret, a prayer of unworthiness said silently by the priest, and a dialogue between priest and congregation known as the Preface, the choir proclaims Sanctus, holy. The priest then speaks the words of consecration known as the Canon and all the people pray the Pater Noster, the Our Father, after which the choir sings the Agnus Dei, calling attention to Christ's role as the sacrificial lamb who redeemed us from our sins by the shedding of his innocent blood. During communion, the choir sings the Communion psalms, which are again proper to that day, after which the priest intones the Postcommunion prayer and sends the congregation forth with Ite, missa est (go, you are dismissed).

The music of the Mass, up until the travesty which was the free interpretation of the texts from the Second Vatican Counsel, was always chant. Texts for the Mass were gathered into books known as the Missal, and the music was contained in a separate anthology called the Gradual. An excellent rendition of the chants for a Mass may be found in the Mass for Christmas Day, of which, here is the Introit.
There were three ways one could perform chant in the Medieval Ages
  1. Responsories - a soloist alternating with the choir or congregation
  2. Antiphons - two halves of the choir alternating
  3. Direct - singing a text straight
Likewise, there are three styles of setting Mass texts to the music
  1. Syllabic - chants in which almost every syllable has a note
  2. Neumatic - chants in which syllables can have up to seven notes
  3. Melismatic - chants with long passages on a single syllable
The purpose of chant was to proclaim the words of the Mass, to aid in the worship of the community, not distract from it. 

National Styles of the 16th Century

- lyrical melodies, mostly step-wise motion
- primarily syllabic treatment of text
- rise of the madrigal tied to the poetic form of Petrachan sonnets
- composed lighter kinds of songs.

  • villanella:  lively strophic piece in homophonic style, usually for three voices
  • canzonetta and balletto: written in vivacious, homophonic style, with simple harmonies and repeated phrases with dance-like rhythms

- Structure
- rhythmic interest
- frequent syncopation, angular countertenor line and leaps

- sweetly concordant sonorities (3rds and 6ths)
- carefully controlled dissonance
- triadic figures

Pre-Classical Styles in Music

Two of the most popular musical styles of 18th century Europe were the Italian gallant style and the German empfindsamer Stil, or "sentimental" style. The gallant style, characterized by free-moving, song-like melodies with simple harmonic progressions and straight-forward organization, was the most popular and received its name from the French term from the courtly manner in literature. The galant style was synonymous with all things modern, chic, and sophisticated. In contrast, the emphindsam style was marked  by surprising turns of harmony, eclectic rhythm, increased chromaticism and a lyrical melody.

La Serva Padrona, an Intermezzo by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, is a decent example of the popular 18th century gallant style. The recitative, “Ah, quanto mi sta male” is set over light accompaniment and simple harmony with short, lyrical phrases. The accompaniment becomes more and more agitated to express the growing consternation Uberto, the singer, feels during the aria, evidenced by the figure in measure 18 which transposes and quickens in subsequent measures. The aria “Son imbroglato io” features small repeated figures in the accompaniment that combine to become the ABA form of a da capo aria. Characteristic of the gallant style, the aria features contrasting moods as opposed to the Baroque arias which centered on a single humor. 

 C.P.E. Bach, one of the leading exponents of the empfindsam style, exhibited traits specific to that compositional discipline in the second movement of his Sonata in A Major, Poco adagio. The section features a lyrical line embellished with many ornamentations such as turns, chromatic neighbor groups, snaps and trills. The ornamentation here, unlike in Baroque opera, serves as means of expression, not just vain embellishment, and lends an air of meaning to every cadential turn. The rhythm of the piece changes rapidly, contributing to a sense of unpredictability and restlessness, while remaining grounded in sequential repetition. The harmony and melody are also characteristically spotted with nonharmonic tones and subtle chromatic changes which spice the piece and give it a more dramatic quality.

Poem of the Day

Show Me
Audrey Assad

You could plant me like a tree beside a river 
You could tangle me in soil and let my roots run wild 
And I would blossom like a flower in the desert 
But for now just let me cry 

 You could raise me like a banner in a battle 
Put victory like a fire behind my shining eyes 
And I would drift like falling snow over the embers 
But for now just let me lie 

 Bind up these broken bones 
Mercy bend and breathe me back to life
 But not before You show me how to die 

 Set me like a star before the morning 
Like a song that steals the darkness from a world asleep 
And I'll illuminate the path You've laid before me 
But for now just let me be 

 Bind up these broken bones 
Mercy bend and breathe me back to life 
But not before You show me how to die 
Oh, not before You show me how to die 

 So let me go like a leaf upon the water 
Let me brave the wild currents flowing to the sea 
And I will disappear into a deeper beauty 
But for now just stay with me 
God, for now just stay with me