The Ladder of Awards

Last year, the Upbeat Book Club read the book “The Dynamic Music Studio” by Philip Johnson. It was a great read and I highly recommend every teacher read it.

Johnson proposes that teachers find creative ways to think outside the box. I took his suggestion literally. Using many of the ideas he suggested, I created a Ladder of Awards for my students to participate during this past musical year. I was not quite sure how well this concept would be received.

One of my teens, Nathaniel, rose to the challenge. Ever motivated, Nathaniel loved the idea of achieving various levels of mastery in the studio. Nathaniel practiced miles of scales, listened to numerous pieces and completed research on a composer, “boot camped” 2 of his pieces and learned the Circle of 5ths and corresponding key signatures backwards and forwards. For his final “exam,” Nathaniel had to draw the Circle of 5th (and correctly label it) along with identify key signatures in 50 random pieces. I’m happy to announce that he passed with flying colors.

For his hard work, as a final reward, Nathaniel received an engraved trophy and a $25 gift certificate to the store of his choice. He’s already working on the Ladder of Awards for ┬ánext year!

Way to go, Nathaniel!


Ready, Set, Launch!

This 4 day program is a steal of a deal! It’s a short term commitment for you, Mom or Dad. You’ll get an hour break in the evening –think of what you can accomplish during this time. And while you’re accomplishing the multitude of tasks that seem to come with the start of school, your 5-8 year old can explore the world of group piano or group drumming. No supplies necessary! Check it out–you’ll be glad you did!


Wild West Day

In May, I hatched the idea to give all of my students a set of “Wild West” practice cards. The cards were tailor made for each student with various skills lasted on each card. The idea was that students would review these skills over the summer and we’d have an end of summer “Wild West Day/Party.”


Aren’t these the cutest cards?? I loved the art work!

This past Friday was our Wild West Day. Out of 28 students, 16 were able to attend. Not bad for an end of summer activity. The cowboys and cowgirls arrived in droves. Driven by their ranch owner, they came appropriately dressed for Wild West activities. I do believe it was the coolest day of the summer, so all the water activities that I had planned went right on out the window.


IMG_0149IMG_0143These are some pretty handsome looking characters!

Our day included Pig Poppin’. Each student was given a pink balloon to blow up. Then they had to draw a pig face on the balloon and the number of beats to reflect their age. After completing that task, students let their pigs loose. Quickly they had to round up the pigs and pop their “pig balloon.” They loved the noise!

IMG_0130After we popped our pigs, we moved onto gathering all the eggs. The chickens had escaped from their coop, so we needed to round them up. These eggs were special –they had various rhythm values on the. Students gathered eggs and then arranged them into measures.


From there, we advanced to “cow tipping”-where we arranged boxes that looked like Holstein cows with the subdivisions of a whole note on them. (whole note, 2 half notes, 4 quarters, etc.) Then students got to bomb them with the chicken eggs..aka cow tipping!

We had sack races…students had to clap a rhythm pattern and then race to the end of the course in a burlap sack. ┬áThe students also reviewed symbols by tossing ping pong balls into various jars and then tossing rings around milk jugs.

IMG_0154Cow Tipping (building rhythm subdivisions using kleenex boxes decorated with “Black Holstein” spots.

IMG_0173IMG_0135Horse races on pool noodles..gathering the musical alphabet flags scattered throughout the yard.

Overall, our day was a great success! We culminated our time together by having Cowboy Snacks…Cowpies (no-bake cookies and oreos), Horse feed (popcorn), apple slices, and Goldfish from the Gold Rush.

While this day was tiring and took a great deal of prep, we had so much fun. Memories were made and students discovered that music can be fun. A win for all involved!