I started my career as an elementary band director. A far cry off from where I am today, but not far off from where I wanted to be (or so I thought).
Sadly, those first two years of teaching in public schools were the only two really good years for me. This is not at all a reflection on my students or the programs.
When I graduated, public schools were at the beginning of their difficult times and music and art teachers were bearing the brunt of it. Needless to say, I got out.
One of the things I took away from that experience was how much kids benefit from little snippets of information combined with instant gratification.
We all know how long it takes to get to the point in learning an instrument where you can make music that's fun and recognizable.
To encourage my students along the way, I decided to start posting a "Music Question of the Week" on the white board in my band room. Students would come in for their lesson and get a piece of candy (something I hear you can't do anymore) for knowing the answer.
I've altered this for the academy to "Music Symbol of the Week". It works the same way as the question, but is a little more focused on music symbols rather than general knowledge.
And if they don't know the answer because they haven't learned it yet, students write it down and learn about it before going into their lesson.
Get your copy of the 2021 Music Symbol of the Week Calendar here.
Last week I shared a composition activity about Ralph, the Smelly Elf. I had so much fun creating that activity that I found myself singing my own version days later.
I got so into it, that I note only wrote a song, but I also wrote it in 4 different arrangements, as well as a second verse and a teacher duet!
What can I say, Ralph stayed with me and when creativity strikes, I cannot ignore it. :)
The Smelly Elf, is an early elementary song that can be used in piano lessons, guitar lessons, ukulele lessons, voice lesson, orchestra string lessons and wind lessons. (whew!)
How does it work for so many instruments? There are 4 versions in this bundle to make this piece accessible to a variety of instruments: Grand Staff in C position; Pre-reading in C position; Treble Staff in C major; and Treble Staff in G major.
The Smelly Elf can be found here in my store.
This is it. The last composing activity of the year.
If I'm being totally honest, my heart wasn't in this one when I first started it. There's so much Christmas music out there and my goal with these composition sheets - in addition to giving my young students a different kind of creative outlet and teaching them about composing - was to highlight holidays that don't get as much attention in the musical world.
But I do love Christmas and the further into creating these cute lyrics, the more excited I got about this project, so I present to you today: The Smelly Elf.
His name is Ralph.
Now before you get concerned and start judging poor Ralph, he is not a bad smelling elf.
As music teachers we are in a unique position. Especially those of us who teach privately. We see our students for longer than most teachers do and we are more than teachers to them. We're friends, confidants, & role models.
So, in addition to teaching pick ups and syncopation, this 12-measure piece also gives us the opportunity to teach our students about caring for others by not judging them before we know more about them. Ralph is a smelly elf, but as your student will quickly learn he smells SO good!
This activity will be FREE for a limited time in my store!
Looking for more Christmas activities for your lessons or music classroom? I created a Pinterest Board with many other games, songs and activities!
Hanukkah is a little under a month away and I have a fun little composing worksheet you can use in your lessons today!
"My Dreidel" was inspired by - you guessed it - one of my students. :)
Before I opened the academy, I was a traveling in-home piano teacher. Every year around this time I would say to my new students in hushed-excited tones "I have an exciting surprise, Today, we're going to pick your Christmas song! Then I'll bring it next week for you to start learning!"
And everybody cheered!
Until Jenna. (student's name has been changed for privacy)
Jenna put her head down and barely whispered, "I think Hanukkah is cooler."
My heart sank. I had no idea she didn't celebrate Christmas. I had taught Jewish children before, but they all celebrated Hanukkah AND Christmas, so I never thought twice about offering a Christmas piece. In hindsight, I should've checked with mom first, but you know what they say about hindsight.
I quickly recovered from my embarrassment and said, "You do? That's awesome, let's find you a Hanukkah piece to play! What's your favorite Hanukkah song?" At that her face lit up and her excitement returned. I later discovered that she always felt left out at school because they didn't do much for Hanukkah in any of her classes, so my offering her a Hanukkah piece was a special moment.
Since then, I've built up my Hanukkah song library and created this composing activity.
This activity will be FREE for a limited time on my newly opened TopMusicMarketplace Store!
Looking for more Hanukkah activities for your lessons or music classroom? I created a Pinterest Board with many other games, songs and activities!
I don't know about your students, but mine love composing, so I try to incorporate a composing activity as much as possible in my private lessons.
Today I'm sharing a new composing activity just in time for Thanksgiving!
"I am Thankful" gives your pre-reading students the opportunity to think about what they're grateful for and express it in song.
Usually for composing activities I write the lyrics and choose the rhythms for my students then they plug in the notes/finger numbers then play the song.
This composing activity is special because students get to write what they're thankful for and figure out the rhythms to go with it!
Note: There are guide notes in some measures - which can easily be changed - and others are left blank so your students can create their own rhythm to match their lyrics.
This activity will be FREE for a limited time on my TpT Store and my newly opened TopMusicMarketplace Store!
Looking for more Thanksgiving activities for your lessons or music classroom? I created a Pinterest Board with many other games, songs and activities!
Today I'm sharing one of my favorite slow cooker soup recipes. It was given to me by the mom of some former students who, very kindly, fed me one October evening when she heard my stomach growl over her daughter's piano playing. (that's not embarrassing at all!)
This recipe is my spin on the original based on our personal tastes. I've included the things I personally leave out at the end in case you do like mushrooms and cheese. :)
Slow Cooker Italian Sausage Soup
1 lb hot or mild Italian sausage, casings removed**
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth
1/2 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8oz homemade tomato sauce (or 1 can)
1 can (19 oz) diced tomatoes, drained - reserve juices
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 8-10 minutes or until browned, stirring to break up the meat
Transfer to slow cooker with a slotted spoon
Add onion, carrots, broth, seasoning, salt, pepper, tomato sauce, tomatoes, and zucchini to slow cooker
Cover and cook on HIGH 3-4 hours or on LOW 6-10 hours, or until vegetables are tender
Add parsley to slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 15-20 minutes
Ladle into bowls and serve immediately
Optional, top with Parmesan and more fresh parsley
A couple of months ago I said, "You know you're a music teacher when you're thinking about Halloween in August."
Well, the sentiment holds true for today's post.
Here we are, dedicated piano teachers, preparing for Christmastime and singing all of those carols while watching jack-o-lanterns and ghosts go by as we drive to work.
I don't know about you, but I've been singing Christmas music for the last 2 weeks or so.
Today, I'll be sharing with you 6 Christmas songs that I've arranged for my students over the years. It is my hope that you and your students will get as much enjoyment out of them as my students and I have.
Up on the Housetop
This fun arrangement gives students the chance to explore the wide range of the piano and with a glissando for a flourishing end.
This is by far the most requested piece in my studio.
Seriously, everyone wants to learn Jingle Bells. This pre-reading arrangement is easily accessible to young beginners.
O Christmas Tree
The second most popular piece that my students request? O Christmas Tree.
This approachable arrangement will help your elementary piano students learn eighth notes in a familiar and comfortable way.
O Holy Night
Requested by an adult student, this lyrical arrangement is simple & beautiful.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Three things that make this early elementary arrangement awesome:
Deck the Hall
With or without the "s" at the end of the title, this is a piece that your elementary piano students will adore!
Just like We Wish You a Merry Christmas, there are no eighth notes, but the RH position changes and the LH intervals add a little sugar and spice to this piece.
Let's talk planners!
I have had almost every kind of planner out there.
No, really, I have.
I call my planner my Brain Book because everything that's in my brain goes into that book.
Before I started using planners, I used $0.99 notebooks to keep my life in order. When I realized I needed more, I explored as many options as I could before spending any money.
I decided to start with a basic $4 dot-grid notebook from Walmart and I was very proud of the fact that I didn't spend a lot of money on it. Then I went with an Erin Condren dot-grid notebook (wow expensive) and have since tried every notebook/journal in between, except for the the Leuchtturm1917. One thing I knew was that a bound notebook wasn't going to work for me.
So I continued with my dot-grid pseudo-bullet journaling and my Brain Book became a creative outlet.
But then I got tired of having to draw out everything every week and wasting tons of Post-It Notes waiting for the right pages on the right week to put my notes into my Brain Book and completely messing up my lines and having to start all over again and problem and problem and time-consuming problem.
My Brain Book was becoming a project. Instead of serving me, I was serving it.
I was at my breaking point. I had spent 4+ years using a dot-grid notebook for my Brain Book and now it was time for something different.
So as 2019 started wrapping up, I did some more research. I decided a notebook wasn't going to cut it anymore and I had to upgrade to an actual planner. This time I was more careful about determining my requirements before researching options.
Here are my planner requirements:
I get all these things with the Classic Happy Planner from Me and My Big Ideas.
I purchased it for $14 on a Black Friday sale event. I tell you the price so you know that using a mainstream planner doesn't have to be expensive. Something I wish I had known sooner!
Yes, I now spend money on stickers to make my planner pretty as well as functional, but that is completely optional. The planner works just as well without them.
This 7 x 9.25 inch book (#1) is a disc-bound planner (#2 & #5). I chose one that has a little color, that isn't intrusive (#4) and the vertical layout has 3 boxes per day (#3).
This year has been the first year that I've liked my planner for more than 3 months. It's not perfect, and my planner works well, yet I still feel like it could be more functional.
So, there will be changes for my coming 2021 planner and I can't wait to show you everything!
Yes, Wonderful Wednesday is back!
I needed some time to focus on other aspects of life for the last few months, but we're back and ready for the wonderfulness of Wednesdays.
If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen my planner. I have a full post about my planner that will come later, but today I wanted to share this week's before the pen spread.
I did it back in September because I plan out a few weeks in advance. Well, over those last few weeks, I haven't been able to stop myself from flipping to this one because I love it so much. And now I finally get to use it!
All of the stickers come from Happy Planner's Squad Goals sticker book, which I got on clearance. Yay!
Please let me know if you'd like to see more of my planner spreads. You can also follow me on Instagram @misschristiemusic