Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beginning Singers...

Teaching beginning singers is hard.  They teach you a lot of ridiculous things in music education programs (like every nursery rhyme you could ever imagine, and oh yeah, i learned to play the tuba. great.), but I did not truly learn the ins and outs of teaching beginning singers.  What do you mean by beginning? you ask... oh, well think can't match the note, don't want to match the note, but want to sing like Trey Songz.  Beginning like, too tired to try on Mondays (because it's Monday), Wednesday (because it's... wednesday.) and Fridays because well who does work on Fridays?!  Beginning like, won't sing "high" if they think it's "high" and talk-sing instead of sing-sing the low notes.  However, the first time we sang a warm-up that sounded semi-decent (everyone almost singing the same note while i played pretty background music on the piano), they were so excited.  That's when it's fun.
Anyway, another challenging thing about teaching beginning singers, many of whom don't really want to learn how to sing (but, like I mentioned, want to be the next Beyonce) is deciding what music to sing.  Initially, most students in my classes generally hate everything. "Ugh Ms Cook this song is so dry.  Ugh why we gotta learn this" (I hear that a lot.. even if I bring in a song they suggest.)  I mean, let's be honest. Who has ever seen a group of beginning singers (think Junior high or high school choir concert) and thought, wow I  love that song.  Yeah, exactly.  One bonus about teaching at my school is the kids love gospel choir music.  And most want to sing it like they hear at church.  (Ms Cook, that's my song! I hear that a lot too...)  What they don't realize when they want to sing "that one kirk franklin song" is that there are10 professional singers recording multiple times over each other so that they end up with a choir singing 6 different voice parts.  Not to mention the added benefits of a recording studio.  I mean, we can barely have everyone singing the same note for more than 3 beats, so I think Kirk's newest hit is a little out of our reach.

Then, even when I do bring in a song like "Oh Happy Day" (highly requested), they all only want to sing the melody, get angry when the altos have to sing the harmony, and even angrier when it doesn't sound like Sister Act. haha

Haha sometimes, my students are hilarious.  Actually, they are often hilarious.

Now, I explain all this teaching beginners on here, but I really try my best not to be one of those teachers who is like, "I know more than you and you don't get it so too bad."  (Although at times my patience is tested.)

Okay, so the real point of this post (after that long exposition on beginning singers) is that we started singing "seasons of love" from Rent.  They all associated it with the Macy's commercial, so they enjoyed learning it.  It's a work in progress.  For a change of pace, I decided to show the movie these last few days before Winter Break.

Call me crazy, but I think movies can be really valuable if they're watched right - unfortunately, most movies in school are "free days" i.e. do whatever you want because the teacher doesn't feel like teaching.  So, yes, I'm one of those obnoxious teachers that gave a background of the movie and musical (we're talking brief, like 5 minutes brief... because in a movie like Rent, where so much of the dialogue is in song, it's important for them to have a background of 1989 new york bohemian life style to understand the major conflicts.) and a short worksheet with basic questions, along with a couple questions that require you to think.  I don't let them talk, they earn participation points for watching, and they may not leave, do other homework, text, or sleep.  Yeah, it's pretty intense in room 151. 

I explained to them it's a musical, actually more like an opera - barely any dialogue, yet the entire first class period we watched it, they all sighed every time the characters started singing.  Ugh, Ms. Cook why they singing again? Ugh.   However, I was very insistent that they pay attention.  We paused once per class to talk about what was happening and who was who and today, the 3rd day we've been watching it, 3 out of the 4 classes were eagerly watching to see what happened next.  They were asking good questions about the characters and realizing deeper thematic elements throughout the scenes.  It was really fun!

Happy to be a music teacher,
Mrs. Cook