• Empowered Music Students

    Creativity and Improvisation in Ensembles (Part 3 of 3)

    Sarah Gulish is a high school music teacher outside of Philadelphia, PA. She teaches orchestra, guitar, and “Creativity and Collaboration,” which is a required course at her school. Sarah is a 2007 graduate of Temple University, where she later earned a PhD in Music Education. Sarah runs F-flat Books, a music education publishing company, and along with Marissa Guarriello and Matt Shaffer, co-wrote the book The Creative String Orchestra.  When Sarah began teaching at her school, there was no high school orchestra program. She was working with the middle school choirs and the high school bands, taking on various roles and supporting several other teachers. The orchestra curriculum at the…

  • Empowered Music Students

    Creativity and Improvisation in Ensembles (Part 2 of 3)

    Matthew Shaffer is middle school orchestra director in State College, PA. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in music education from Penn State University and a Master’s degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College. While Matt is primarily an orchestral cellist, he also played in a band in high school. That band experience, jamming with friends, drove him towards incorporating creative activities with his students. Matt is also a co-author of the book, The Creative String Orchestra, which describes ways orchestra teachers can incorporate more creativity in their classes. In this interview, Matt talks about how he does this with his own students.  The “Pop Project” Matt’s “Pop Project” was…

  • Empowered Music Students

    Creativity and Improvisation in Ensembles (Part 1 of 3)

    Marissa Guarriello is a 6th-12th grade orchestra teacher in the Penn Ridge School District, in Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as a co-author of the book, The Creative String Orchestra. Marissa is an advocate for creativity in the orchestra classroom, even though that’s not how she got her start in music! In this interview, Marissa talks about how she made this transition and why she feels it has been so beneficial to her students.  Marissa wasn’t always comfortable improvising with her students, or even on her own. She was  trained to be a classical performer, which is a very product-based experience. However, upon entering the classroom, Marissa realized that most of…

  • Empowered Music Students

    Empowering Students With Games

    Abigail Blair is pre-k through 5th-grade general music teacher in the Chicago suburbs. She has a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College and a master’s degree from Boston University. Abigail has created several games that help empower her music students.  Prior to creating the games, Abigail felt her student couldn’t talk about music, despite what she was teaching them. She found students saying things like “that’s weird” or “I don’t like it,” instead of using music vocabulary. She wanted her students to talk about music intelligently, and be able to articulate what they love and don’t love about a piece of music. Abigail wanted students to understand music from other cultures…

  • Empowered Music Students

    Empowering Students With Videos

    Steve Selfridge has been teaching in Garnet Valley School district in southeast PA for 20 years, teaching elementary band, middle school jazz band, and now high school band. Steve has had outstanding success creating videos to empower his band students and band students around the world. Steve created his first video in 2011, when a group of beginner flute students begged him to teach them how to play “Firework” by Katy Perry. While not familiar with the song initially, Steve found a recording online and realized it was a simple 5-note melody. He put the melody into concert B-flat and taught it to the flute students. Then word got out,…

  • Empowered Music Students

    How Checklists Can Give Students Ownership in Music

    Holly Gage is an elementary and middle school band director in South Dakota. She has taught in a variety of settings in both South Dakota and Washington DC and during that time has worked to make her classrooms student centered. Holly likes to use checklists in her band room to give students ownership of their music making. Here are three types of checklists that Holly will use with her students. Student-led Sectionals  While Holly agrees that having a section leader is great, she has found that giving students a checklist helps empower the entire section. The checklist will contain a clear objective, one that is obtainable, as well as options to…

  • Empowered Music Students,  Voice and Choice

    Incorporating Student-Selected Repertoire in Ensembles

    Laura Johnson is a band director at a Title I middle school in Chesapeake, Virginia. Before moving to Virginia, she taught middle school band in central Minnesota. Laura is passionate about having students select repertoire in her ensembles. She was inspired by her own high school band experience, where she and her classmates were given the opportunity to do this. Laura feels that many times directors choose music they think the students will like. However, instead of making this assumption, she believes it’s more powerful to let the students have some choice. As a result, Laura has identified a six-step process for using student-selected repertoire in her ensembles.  Discussion: First…

  • Empowered Music Students,  Inquiry

    Inquiry In Music Classes

    Michelle Baldwin is a music teacher and instructional coach at Anastasis Academy in Centennial, Colorado. She has been teaching music for 25+ years in a variety of settings and has been at Anastasis Academy since 2011. Michelle talked to us about how she incorporates inquiry into her music classes.  Anastasis Academy follows an inquiry model, where instead of simply delivering content, students are encouraged to discover, experience, and ask deep questions. When this happens, learning is more relevant and meaningful to the students. The school follows the International Baccalaureate themes of who we are, where we are in place and time, and how we express ourselves. Content spirals through the…

  • Empowered Music Students,  Voice and Choice

    Creating a Student-Run Charity Concert

    We had the pleasure of interviewing Allison Rakickas, a junior high school band director in Aptakisic-Tripp School District in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. She’s been in Aptakisic-Tripp School District for 20+ years, first teaching 5th and 6th grade band, and now 7th and 8th grade band. Allison talked to us about how she passed the baton to her students so they could plan and implement a charity concert. A new performance space in her school inspired Allison; it was a small venue that could hold about 125 audience members. She wanted to give the 6th-grade students a voice in determining how to use this space and decided that they would put on a benefit concert.…

  • Empowered Music Students,  Voice and Choice

    Consider the Learner Experience

    One thing we have learned over the last nine months is that music teachers are incredibly creative people and very capable of innovation! We’ve seen bitmoji classrooms, virtual field trips, bouncing ball videos and more. All of this to meet the musical needs of our students during a highly unusual time in history. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! As we enter the second half of the school year and continue on this creative path, we should keep one thing in mind: always consider the learner experience.  We’ve seen teachers post on social media about how they’ve spent 30 minutes explaining a concept only to have student submissions lacking…