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February Music News

In the Merryhill Music Room we teach musical understanding by listening, creating, and performing. We focus on all of these methods as we listen to music, learn specific music techniques and then arrange, compose, and perform our own pieces. I love working with the creative students at Merryhill and wanted to share a few of our musical activities this year . . .

We began the year by celebrating the 200th birthday of the National Anthem of the United States of America. All students learned about The Star Spangled Banner, but each grade had lessons and activities targeting their experience level. For example, 1st grade students read several books about Francis Scott Key and the events at Fort McHenry that inspired the text of the anthem. 3rd grade students studied the melody of the anthem by working with puzzle cards (representations of the pitches and rhythms of the melody). 5 th grade students listened to several iconic performances of the National Anthem and wrote about the historical and social significance of these performances.

Most recently, Kindergarten and First Grade Students have been learning about music from Africa! We are learning rhythms and simple melodies by listening and dancing to African music, playing instruments on a steady beat, and singing simple African songs. Playing a steady beat independently and with others is one of the National Standards for Music Education. It is also an important first step in our Merryhill music curriculum! Students used enactive movement to feel the rhythms in music, and learned an African greeting song called “Funwa Alafia.” They also learned a song called “Lo, Peter,” and learned an African game to play as they sing the song.

Second Grade students are learning rhythmic patterns and melodies by studying Native American chants and songs. We are composing our own arrangements of these songs and chants. Students make decisions about form, texture, and instrumentation in their group arrangements. Singing alone and in a group is another National Standard for Music Education and part of our curriculum, and I love hearing as each student finds their own voice and gains confidence in their singing.

3rd, 4th and 5th grade students are working with Music Maps. Musical mapping is a powerful tool that enables students to engage in music listening that supports their natural strategies of visual connections, movement, and singing while providing opportunities for peer interaction and support. Students mapped a piece of music called “The Add On Machine” and learned about texture by creating “add-on compositions” where new lines of sound are introduced. Students incorporated rhythmic patterns, knowledge of musical form, and lots of creativity with the percussion instruments in these compositions.

4th grade students had a wonderful field trip to the Smith Center in January. We loved hearing the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra perform, and heard a 14 year old violinist play as a soloist with the orchestra. We used techniques of musical mapping and puzzle cards to further explore one of the pieces we heard, “Fanfare for the Common Man,” by American composer Aaron Copland. Students examined the shape of the trumpet melody, then mapped in the percussion beats. We listened to an iconic performance of this piece, performed by the Brass and Percussion Sections of the New York Philharmonic orchestra for the 9/11 museum dedication. A link is provided below.

5th grade students recently completed a unit on Music and Technology. Students used their school ipads, and with the wonderful program “Garage Band,” composed their own pieces using looping techniques. I highly recommend “Garage Band” and another music app called “Madpad” for any students who may enjoy creating music on your ipads at home!

Music and Technology: These are several interesting (and safe!) websites that students have visited this year. For the first four websites, we can visit the technology room and each student can use their own computer to explore the music. I project the second group of videos in the Music Room and we discuss them together.

Thank you for supporting your student’s creativity!

Mrs. Vivian Ellsworth

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