This month, we have been focusing specifically on the following musical heroes in African American musical history:
Bessie Jones (above, 1902-1984) was born in Georgia. As a child, she had the gift of entertaining herself and others through singing songs and musical games that she had learned from her grandparents, former slaves. In the early 1970's, these musical treasures were catalogued directly from Miss Jones by Bess Lomax Hawes in her book, "Step it Down". We also are so fortunate to be able to listen to her voice as she sings many of them on the CD "Put Your Hand on Your Hip and Let Your Backbone Slip". It feels like Miss Jones is right here with us as we sing and play along.
Composers of the very beautiful and powerful African American National Anthem, "Life Every Voice and Sing", brothers John Rosamond Johnson (at the piano, 1873-1954) and James Weldon Johson (behind, 1871-1938):
As James Weldon Johnson told it: "A group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged to celebrate Lincoln's birthday in 1900. My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercises. I wrote the words and he wrote the music."
Oaks students sing this song almost every day in music during the month of February. They learn the history of the song and also, the histories of the two accomplished brothers. This year, we are learning about when and how it came to be known as the African American National Anthem. Most classrooms are also doing a musical comparison between "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
Ask your child: Which of the anthems s/he prefers and why!!! What games and songs they have played this month in music.
The GLOBAL GROOVE is tonight! And in its honor, we have been DANCING in the Music Room! A few years ago, we all learned The Hustle, which we danced together at the Global Groove. This year, we are all trying on Salsa Dancing. All students are learning the beginning, basic steps. Some are moving on to more complicated steps, such as emphasizing different beats with their feet, dancing with a partner and improvising where and when they move. It has been so fun. A great musician's training should always include learning to move to the beat. Ask your child to teach you the beginning Salsa steps if you don't already know how. See you at the Global Groove, Friday, January 23, 6 - 8 pm.
Preparing for performance is just one of the important parts of The Oaks music education program.
(5th grade practices for Winter Sing 2014)
This week our students have begun practicing in the Winter Sing "performance space": the church sanctuary. They have been practicing: processing to "their" rows in the sanctuary, knowing just when to stand up and take their place in front for their grade's musical pieces, returning to their seats AND proper audience etiquette..... all in addition to running their songs several times.
(6th grade in their "Winter Sing" seats...with spaces next to them for their Mighty K buddies.)
Every year, I tell the kids how incredibly lucky we are to be able to sing and play in such an awe-inspiring room....even though I hardly need to remind them of this. We can all feel the room's magic the moment we set foot inside. We are all so excited for next Friday. It's hard to articulate just how proud I am of all of them. It is painstaking work and they are ready. Hope to see all of you there! Happy Holidays!
The music program at The Oaks provides students endless opportunities to work together making music in an "ensemble", a word that comes down to us in English from the Latin root insimul ( "at the same time".)
Beginning in Kindergarten, students learn to make different musical phrases and patterns "fit" together insimul.
They play instruments, keep body rhythms and sing together in groups, large and small. When these complementary pieces finally come together, the sound is heaven-like.
(Photos: 5th grade woodshedding an ensemble piece for the Winter Sing.)
It's the week after Halloween. In the Music Room, this means it's time to put our noses to the grindstone and start digging our hearts, voices, and hands into learning songs for the Winter Sing.
Students have begun memorizing an often-daunting amount of lyrics and tunes, working on instrumental parts, learning when and where to stand for each of their pieces, and just generally "woodshedding" (archaic: going out to the woodshed to practice, practice, practice, and practice). It is in this type of work that our future musicians begin racking up those magical "10,000 hours" that lead to mastery of a subject.
Photo: Mighty K woodshedding.
Music Share Days offer students an opportunity to play or sing a song, play an instrument , tell about a musical experience or "musically" share anything else they may wish. It is always a highly anticipated day, so much so that I am often asked, "When is our next Music Share Day?" We usually have one music share day per semester per class. In the Music Room this week, third and sixth grades had their first Music Share Days of the year. It is always so much fun and very, very inspiring. Below, please enjoy Roman Broaddus, 6th grade. (Thanks, Roman):
September 15 - October 15 has been designated Hispanic Heritage Month in our United States. In the Music Room we have not wasted any time. We are singing, dancing and playing musical games from Spanish-speaking countries near and far. The children are naturals at the language, particularly because it is being sung. Ask your students to sing in Spanish to you, especially the beautiful Cuban folk song we are learning together as a community, "Guantanamera". The video above is a video of the 4th grade class learning to play "Ambos a Dos" on the Orff instruments.
How to put into mere words the immense joy, intense engagement and sheer fun we've all been having in our new music space? Almost impossible. The first two weeks of school have been spent exploring, creating, singing, playing instruments, dancing, working alone, in small groups, pairs and in unison. I have pulled teachers, parents faculty, staff and students aside every day to share one of the millions of music stories that unfolded during the day. Please stop by and visit any time. Ask your student about: our new Flipforms!!
Choose groups to clone to: