Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Field Day Improvisation

Today was Field Day and I forgot my whistle! I sent an email asking the staff to borrow an extra, but no one had one available. I was forced to improvise in order to save my voice.
I always despised this Basic Beat woodblock because it is ridiculously loud and ear piercing. It is terrible for indoors, but PERFECT for outdoors! I may start using it every year instead of a whistle.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Turning a Gym Into a Concert Hall: Part 2

My school does not have a stage, so all performances must take place in the gym. There's not much I can do about the acoustics, but I try my best to improve the aesthetics.  In a previous post, I shared pictures of our stage set-up for the Christmas concert. These pictures in this post are of the stage set-up from our Spring concert.

A couple years ago, PTO raised funds to purchase 12 Wenger Flip Forms. I am very thankful for their support of the arts! These are enough to provide a stage for my Orff instruments and risers for my Choir. At Christmas, I only used 3 sections for the Choir and 6 for the Orff Ensemble. I welcomed many new members to both groups in January, so in this picture you see 4 sections for the Choir and 8 sections for the Orff Ensemble.When the drama club performs, they use all the Flip Forms to form a larger stage. I have metal folding risers in storage if the choir is performing with the drama club for a musical.

Maintenance installed a tension wire across the back side of the gym. 

Our background is a black curtain comprised of 4 king size flat bed sheets sewn together. At the top of the sheets, there are button holes and we hang the curtain with index card rings.

To decorate the back drop at Christmas, I hung paper snowflakes and snowflake ornaments.

For the spring concert, I purchased 3-dimensional plastic music notes from a local novelty store. These can also be purchased online at a variety of stores with a range of $5-7 dollars per package. Each package contains one treble clef, 2 quarter notes, 2 eighth notes, and 2 pairs of sixteenth notes. I purchased 2 packages. The notes are black and I had a black background, so I spray painted them silver and then added some multicolored glitter to make them sparkle and shine.

I attached the notes to the backdrop with string and safety pins. This allowed the notes to remain in place if the gym teacher needed to slide the curtain out of the way.

If you also have to perform in a gym, I would love to see how you transform your space into a performance hall. You may follow this link to Facebook to add your pictures.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Broken Fan Tutorial

Props can be a great way to peak student interest in a classroom activity or add a polished touch for a performance. If you are purchasing props for an entire class or grade level, it can become expensive. It is sometimes difficult to find an inexpensive prop that is also durable and can withstand the nervous hands of a student awaiting show time.

Recently, my Orff Ensemble performed the Korean folk song "Arirang",  which included a fan dance. These fans were only $1 each from the Dollar Store. They are made of plastic and fabric and come in a variety of colors. I purchased them from the store in December, but they are currently out of season for their brick and mortar stores.  They are still available online but you must purchase a minimum of 24. Follow this link to the Dollar Tree online store.

During rehearsals, we had no trouble with these fans. While waiting to perform, two students accidently broke their fans. I'm so glad I had extra! After the performance, I tried to find a way to repair the broken fans instead of throwing them away. I am very pleased with the results. Actually, I think the repaired fans are going to be more durable than the originals. Follow this simple tutorial to save your broken fans!

Broken Fan Tutorial

To repair your fan, you will need a large paperclip and some needle nose pliers.

Step 1: Straighten the inside of your paperclip, pulling it open to form a 90 degree angle.
Step 2: Insert the straightened clip through the end of the fan.
Step 3: Using needle nose pliers, form two more 90 degree angles so that your paperclip forms a box around the end of the fan.
Step 4: With pliers, coil one end of the paperclip around the other.
Step 5: With pliers, continue coiling and then snap off any excess paperclip by bending the piece back and forth repeatedly.
Step 6: With pliers, bend the coil down and make sure there are no sharp ends that would scratch your hand while holding the fan.

I hope you find this post helpful! I originally purchased 12 fans, I will definitely be ordering some more to have a complete class set. If you have any lesson ideas that use fans, please add them in the comments below!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Mallet Wrapping

Do you have fraying mallets and a very small budget? This was my problem. But, it is not a problem anymore! I was brave and patient and learned how to rewrap my own mallets. The photo above shows blue mallets that were very frayed. The red mallets have been rewrapped by me! With a little patience and practice, you can learn how to wrap mallets too and free up some money in your classroom budget for other resources.

Before gaining the courage to make that first cut and unwrap a mallet, I watched at least 2 hours of video tutorials. There are several different techniques and videos out there in cyberspace, but I found that Episode 198 from Drummer Talk provides the most comprehensive and clear demonstration.

I suggest you watch this entire video BEFORE attempting to wrap your own mallets. These are the supplies Dave Kropf suggests before beginning your project:

  1. Scissors
  2. Darning Needles (Size 18)
  3. Yarn (Size 3)
As you wrap and cross the yarn over the top of the mallet, it should be placed off-center. This creates a nice crown which will be stitched to keep the yarn in place. When first attempting to wrap, I found it easiest to keep the yarn off-center on mallets that have more of a flattened core on top. If you have one, begin with this style core rather than a spherical core.

After wrapping about 4 mallets, I found a groove and my wrapping and rotating technique became more automatic. During several evenings, I would sit on the couch and wrap mallets while watching television. Below, you can see many of the mallets I have rewrapped. The mallets with the white shafts were crowned with the technique Dave uses in the video because that is how they were crowned from the factory. Most of the mallets with black shafts were crowned with a back-stitch because I tried to imitate how they came from the factory.

I encourage you to find some confidence and attempt to learn something new! After wrapping several pairs, I looked back at the first pair I wrapped and decided to cut them off and rewrap them again! My technique had improved so quickly, that I was not happy with my first pair anymore. I even got a little wild and crazy and made RAINBOW MALLETS!!! These are a great incentive. I reward a student who is doing a great job and allow them to play with the rainbow mallets like a ROCK STAR!

Go forth! Be brave! Happy wrapping!

Update: This post has been featured on the March 2016 Music Education Blog Carnival. Check out the rest of the carnival by clicking this link.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Turning a Gym Into a Concert Hall

Our school was renovated about 6 years ago. Unfortunately, they demolished the stage in order to make the kitchen and cafeteria larger. All my performances must be in the gym. Not much can be done to improve the acoustics, but I have worked hard over the years to improve the aesthetics.

Here is a picture of the concert set-up before our performance this afternoon. 

Last year, the PTO raised funds to purchase 12 Wenger Flip Forms to be used as a portable stage and also as risers. I think the students feel more professional and are more focused when they sit on the stage instead of the gym floor. I have a few instruments on rolling carts which remained on the gym floor behind the stage, along with two basses which use chairs to sit. 

The black curtain backdrop is actually 4 king size flat sheets sewn together. A parent volunteer created these and sewed button holes in the top. We used individual binder rings to loop them into an industrial steel wire which was installed by our maintenance department.  The curtain can easily be pushed over to a corner when not in use. It does collect dust very easily, but I simply take a lint roller to spot clean before any performance. 

For this performance, I used safety pins to hang snowflakes as a decoration. I borrowed from the PTO. They have lots of decorations which are used to make our lunchroom festive for the Sweets With Santa event each year. 

The projector and screen were installed with money from the renovation. I make a slide for each song and also a slide to introduce the Orff Ensemble and the Choir. If I use audio tracks to accompany the choir, I embed them into the Powerpoint so that they play immediately when the slide is advanced. Since I can't dim the lights, I choose contrasting colors and a large font to make sure the words can be read well. I also test slides in the gym a few days before and make adjustments if needed. 

If you also have to perform in a gym, I would love to see how you transform your space into a performance hall. You may follow this link to Facebook to add your pictures. https://www.facebook.com/MusicWithMrsDennis/posts/923423201072823

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DIY Flameless Candles

At the last minute, I decided I would like to have a prop for one of the choir songs. I wanted the students to hold a candle during "One Little Candle". I ran to the Dollar Tree and picked up some LED flickering tea lights. They came 2 in each pack for $1. During dress rehearsal, I realized the candles were too short and the audience would not be able to see the candles in the middle and back risers. I used some cardstock to form a cylinder to elongate the candles. The flame still seems small, but it worked for a last minute prop. Follow my simple instructions below to create your own. 

Step 1: Gather materials--tape, pencil, scissors, LED tealight, and heavy construction paper or cardstock. 

Step 2: Roll the paper to form a cylinder   The same size diameter as the tealight. 

Step 3: Secure the paper with tape. This will be the back of the candle. 

Step 4: Mark a line about an inch long on the tape just below the base of the tealight. 

Step 5: Cut two vertical slits down to meet the edges of the pencil line. Fold along the pencil line to make a tab that leans into the center of the cylinder. 

Step 6: Turn the tealight on and place it in the top of the cylinder. The tab should prevent it from slipping too far down the center of the cylinder and also make it easy to access the tealight to turn it on or off. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Recorder String Epiphany!!!

For over 10 years, I have used embroidery floss for my recorder reward system. I cut strings 13 centimeters long to allow enough length to tie around the bottom of a recorder.

Yesterday, I forgot to prepare and cut the strings!!! So, with only 5 minutes until the fourth grade class time, I had an epiphany! The embroidery floss already comes packaged and folded in loops approximately 16 centimeters long. I made 2 quick cuts through the ends of the loops and then instantly had 50 recorder strings ready for the fourth grade playing tests!

By cutting them at this length instead of the 13 cm., I am losing approximately 16 strings per package of embroidery thread. But, it is definitely worth it! At first, I was so excited I had discovered something that would save me time!!! Then, I was mad at myself for not having this epiphany TEN YEARS AGO!!!  Learn from my mistake and save yourself some time when you cut your recorder strings! 
For more of my posts about recorder, click this link.
This past was featured on Formats Fridays on October 2, 2015. Click the link to view the party.