Tuesday, January 27, 2015


You have probably all heard the Russian folk tune called "Beriozka," or more commonly, "Little Birch Tree."

It is a really beautiful little folk song!  I love that it is in minor, and that it is very rhythmically and melodically accessible to my kids.

I'm using this song this year to present "tom ti" to my 5th graders (dotted quarter, eighth).  It happens only in 2 places (both loo-li-loos) with otherwise very simple rhythm, so it is in a great place to point it out.

Basically, this is the sequence of how I work my transitions from rhythm icons to actual notation:

We discuss things at every step, while the students are discovering where the beat falls and why we need to have the tie (the note is held out for 1 1/2 counts).  Finally, I introduce the finished rhythmic notation:

This song is also absolutely wonderful for reviewing l,t,drm.  I don't use it to present low ti, because I like presenting that in a way that goes ti to do, but this is a great review.  I also have melodic practice slides that I love using:

You can find my whole Teachers Pay Teachers file here.

Did you know that Tchaikovsky used this little melody in his 4th symphony?  It is in the 4th movement.  After I have taught my kids the song, they love listening for how many times the melody occurred in the movement, and how Tchaikovsky changes it a few times, with different dynamics, different embellishments, different instruments, etc.  So much to discuss!  You can find a great recording on YouTube.  Note - the movement is almost 9 minutes long, so you really probably want to make this a guided listening example.

I just finished my 5th grade program, and they sang this song.  I found a great unison choral arrangement by Mary Goetze.  It has a beautiful flute or recorder ostinato.  This would be a great piece for an elementary chorus.

Here's an example of Fort Wayne Children's Choir singing this piece:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Composer Is Dead and technology coolness

Lemony Snicket, the author of the "Unfortunate Event" series, wrote a book called "The Composer Is Dead."

It is hilarious and is a great way to review, or even introduce, instruments of the orchestra.  I love that it groups them into families and adds just the right amount of humor.  The premise is that a composer was found dead and an inspector comes to interview the orchestra to find out "whodunnit."

This is a great book to leave for substitutes, as it even has a CD recording you can get with it, so all the sub has to do is push play and turn pages :)

A few years ago, I was surfing YouTube, and I found this great recording of the story.  It is in 3 different parts (a wmv file) so you do have to click "play" 3 times, but it is great!  I guess the girl who made it did it for a music education class in college or something.

My kids have always enjoyed watching this.  However, I must add a disclaimer that last year (and this is the first year this has happened) I showed this to my 2nd graders and I had 2 of them that were frightened by the loud music and images in certain parts.  I guess I would just suggest using caution.

A fun technical tip I have found is that if you want to show YouTube videos without all of the ads or even the suggested stuff at the end or down the sides, just go to this link:  safeshare.tv
All you have to do is paste the YouTube link in the box, click "Generate Safe Link," and it will pull it up in a new window, without all of the ads.  Amazing!  I love this so much!  There is also an option at the end to save your recording as either MP3 or MP4 - I haven't tried this yet, but it might be a great way to put something like this on a blank DVD for a substitute to use :)  Try it and see.