Let’s Practice Listening!

Hey guys! Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to be super duper quiet and walk around listening to the music of your house. What sounds do you hear? Make sure your feet are really quiet! Listen for the hum of the refrigerator, the creak of the floor, traffic or bird sounds near the window, the sound of the air conditioning,  the click of your family members fingers on their phone/tablet/computer keyboard. You have to be really, really quiet to hear the music of your house, but I know you can do it! Now your ears are ready to hear some living room music. This is a fun piece of music composed by John Cage. John Cage believed that any kind of sound could be used to make beautiful music.

So, now you can create your own living room music! Walk around your home and look for objects you can tap with your hands or a spoon from the kitchen to make different sounds. Remember that something big would be good for a low sound, and something small and metal would be great to tap with a metal spoon to get a nice higher sound. Play around with your objects and your voice, to create your living room music. Take it a step further by writing down your composition-you don’t have to use real notes, you can draw pictures of the objects in the order you want them played. Remember that rests are important, too, so draw a squiggle like a lightening bolt if you want to add some space in between your sounds.

I want my big kids to try out a game to work on your listening skills, too. It’s tough, but I know you are up for the challenge! Click here to visit the Music Memory game.You’ll need to enable Adobe Flash Player and be sure  you have your ad blocking turned off for that page to get started. Be sure you take a few minutes to click on the different note buttons first and get used to how they sound…don’t click the start button until you’ve sung them going up and down and trying out different combinations of notes! Singing them is really important.

Let’s Learn About Mariachi Music!

Hey guys! Today I have a story and a new genre of music for us to learn about. I’ve been spending a lot of time practicando mi Español on the DuoLingo app, which inspired me to read this book to you today! I used to “play” DuoLingo with students at van dismissal, and I totally recommend it if your bigger kids want to learn a new language during this crazy time.

Happy Earth Day!

Hi guys! Today is Earth Day, so I walked up and down my block to collect litter this morning. I filled up a grocery bag full of trash, check it out:


After that, I joined a Zoom chat with some of my Kindergarten friends, and one of them taught us to make masks from cardboard and items we found in nature! Look how awesome they turned out!


Let’s keep the Earth Day fun going with some songs about our amazing planet! Try singing these today! Can you make up some dance moves to go with one of these songs?

Let’s Read Rhythms!

Good morning y’all! Today, I want you to keep your rhythm skills sharp! Get started with this fun rhythm challenge video from Hanover music teacher Mr. Bakeman. Mr. Bakeman is an incredible teacher who has taught me a whole lot, and you guys are going to love his rhythm challenge video! Wait for the magic word, just like in our music class:

Ok now, let’s talk time signature. Remember those numbers at the beginning of all the song we work on tell us how many beats are in each measure and what kind of note gets one beat. That last rhythm challenge was in 4/4, which means there were 4 beats in each measure. Now let’s try one in 3/4, where there will be 3 beats in each measure:

Alright 4th and 5th graders, I can hear you in my brain already saying that’s too easy…I know, I know! Here’s one for you guys to practice your syncopation-what is the time signature for these rhythms?

And one for your sixteenth notes, too. Remember, if you are using the nicknames (hopefully you’re thinking about the counts instead!) we say TA-KA-TI-KI for our 16th notes. In the video they say ti-ki-ti-ki instead, but really, if you’re clapping rhythms correctly at home that’s all I care about right now! You rock! Keep up the good work friends! Do you know what the time signature is for these?

Let’s Watch A Musical!

Good morning guys! I took last week off because it was our “Spring Break” and the new RPS@Home lesson plans went live last week, which include a weekly music lesson. Last Friday’s lesson was from me! I read a book about the woodwind family. If you missed it, you can watch it here. Then you can visit my playlist to learn about and hear all of the woodwinds in action, and this playlist to learn to make your own woodwind instruments at home.

Today, though, the weather outside is frightful, so I plan to stay inside and watch a musical. I’m going to share some of my favorite musicals with you here, and which streaming services have them so you can watch one (or two, or ten!), today too.


  • Newsies
  • The Sound of Music
  • Mary Poppins
  • Annie
  • The Muppets
  • Aladdin (the live-action version, so we can see real people singing)
  • A Celebration of the Music from Coco
  • High School Musical (ages 8 and up)
  • Camp Rock
  • Lemonade Mouth


  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • Shrek The Musical (word of warning, it’s not recommended for kids under 9, this is not the same as the movie)

Broadwayhd.com (you can do a 7 day free trial and cancel after that if you don’t want to pay for it) They have tons of musicals, but here are my picks to watch with kids

  • The Sound of Music
  • Peter Pan
  • Disney’s Broadway Hits at Royal Albert Hall
  • Oklahoma (for bigger kids)

For rent on Amazon or Youtube

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Oliver!
  • The Music Man
  • The Wiz (another recommended for kids 8 and up)
  • Guys and Dolls (for ages 10 and up)


Let me know if you and your family watch a musical together today!

Let’s Sing The Blues!

Alright friends! Yesterday, I told you that we were going to learn about the Blues…first though, I think in light of the news that Bill Withers passed away this week, we should learn to sing Lean On Me. Take a few minutes to read about his incredible life, and listen to some of his other songs, too.

Ok, now back to the blues…if you signed up for BrainPop, you should definitely start with their great video on the subject.

If you’ve got little ones in VPI, Kindergarten, or 1st grade, keep it simple and sing the ABC Blues!

If you’ve got 2nd-5th graders, read on to get them working on their own blues song. Blues music came from black musicians out of Texas, Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta here in America. It had its roots in music slaves had sung, like spirituals and field hollers. When we learned about spirituals at school, we talked about how music can make us feel better when we are stuck in really terrible circumstances. The Blues talks about the hard times or bad feelings we have and gets them off our chests. Blues songs can also be about big feelings of love, but for today, let’s hear a song about a struggle you might be able to relate to:

So, to write our own blues song lyrics, we first need to brainstorm what gives us the blues. What are some things that grown ups just don’t understand about being a kid? What’s something your brother or sister does that annoys you? What’s something that generally makes your life feel hard?

Once you decide on a subject, start writing your lyrics down. The formula is to write one phrase, then repeat it again, and then finish off your thought.

So let’s say I’m writing “The Covid-19 Blues.” I might start out like this:

I’m feeling mighty lonesome, having to stay home all day
I’m feeling mighty lonesome, just having to stay at home all day
I know I gotta stay in, but I wanna see my friends and play.

Then keep writing more verses, so think about how you can say more things about your subject that make you feel sad, or grumpy, or frustrated.

Oh I’ve been washing my hands all morning, yes I been washing them all night
I have been washing my hands all morning, and I am washing my hands at night
My hands feel dry and itchy, but I know I’m doing what’s right.

Have you been washing your hands a whole lot, too? I hope so! It’s really important that we rub those germies off with soap and water. Let’s do one more verse…

I watched everything on Netflix, I have played all of my video games
Yes I’ve seen everything on Netflix, and I beat all of my video games
Lord I miss going off to school! This quarantine is kinda lame.

Once you’ve got some lyrics, it’s time to sing the blues. I sang mine along with this 12 bar blues backing track that gives you 4 clicks at the beginning and then you can start singing. There are lots of other blues backing tracks on Youtube that you could try, too.


Let’s Sing Some Jazz!

Hey guys! Today, let’s learn a little more about jazz music by watching this BrainPop video about jazz. (If you don’t have a free BrainPop account, you should totally sign up. This site has EVERYTHING. There are videos for every subject, and other resources to go along with them). Big kids can take the quiz afterward to see what you learned! If you’re in 5th grade, definitely do the challenge afterward! The related reading button is also great to find out more fun information, or try out the games (if you play the meaning of beep, you might want to look at the vocabulary button first!).

We already know that composers are people who write songs, but now let’s see what being a jazz musician or arranger sounds like! Jazz musicians and arrangers get to take a song that someone else writes and use it to create something new. Do you remember what improvising means? Look it up if you forgot!

All of this might sound kind of confusing, so let’s break down how it works. Let’s start with an easy song we can sing, and then hear what a jazz arranger and jazz musicians do with that same song! Try singing along to this song-A Tisket, A Tasket:

So now, an arranger can take a song like this one and rearrange it for a different group of instruments, and add things to or subtract things from the original song. Then, the jazz musicians who play it have the foundation of the original song there while they try new and different things on top! Think of it like a cupcake! The song is the original vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. The arranger rearranges our cupcake ingredients a bit to make a delicious chocolate cupcake instead, and the musicians frost it up with peanut butter frosting, or cream cheese frosting, or even just the good ole vanilla frosting with lots of extra sprinkles! Oh my goodness, I’m getting hungry! Let’s hear the jazzy version while we bake some cupcakes…

Listen to how the rhythm and the melody can change in this version sung by Ella Fitzgerald. What instruments do you hear now? Try singing along! Are the words all the same? 5th graders, can you hear the syncopation? Look in your notebooks to review what that means!

Now remember, cupcakes can have SO MANY different flavors, and our jazz arrangements and what jazz musicians do with them can, too! So here’s Natalie Cole singing the same song, inspired by Ella Fitzgerald’s version. What’s different this time? This one has even more improvising to listen for, can you hear it? Try singing along if you can!

So to sum up for today, I’ve got one more fun bluesy arrangement I think you’re going to enjoy! Remember from the video, jazz and blues music have a lot of things in common, including that blues scale you heard the jazzbot play. We’ll talk more about the blues tomorrow, but first…

Happy April!!!

Happy April and happy Jazz Appreciation Month! I’m pretty disappointed that I don’t get to see my students’ faces as you walk into my classroom listening to our new composer of the month. I kept this composer a complete surprise, she isn’t even in your Interactive Music Notebooks! Yes SHE! Today, take a few minutes to learn about and listen to Esperanza Spalding.

Here are the 4 facts we would be reading about her for each week of the month:

  1. Esperanza Spalding is a bassist, singer, arranger, and composer from Portland, Oregon. She was born on October 18th, 1984.
  2. She started playing music professionally when she was 5 years old. She played violin in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. Later, she taught herself to play guitar and bass.
  3. She has won 4 Grammys, a Boston Music Award, and a Soul Train Music Award.
  4. She says that watching the famous cellist Yo Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as a kid inspired her to be a musician, too.

You can watch Yo Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers right here! I had big plans for our month of learning about her and making connections in every lesson to African History inspired by this song and music video:

So each grade level has someone different to learn about from the Black Gold history book!

For VPI, Kindergarten, and 1st graders, learn about Miriam Makeba. Learn some facts about her herelisten to her song Pata Pata while showing the steady beat on different body parts, and then learn this Pata Pata dance! Last but not least, bring back our  jazz vocabulary word IMPROVISE. When we improvise, we make music up on the spot. Can you improvise your own dance moves to Miriam Makeba’s music on the spot? Ask Alexa, turn on Miriam Makeba on Spotify, or try out this Youtube playlist that I’m jamming to today! Can you click along with Mama Africa to The Click Song? Don’t forget to find South Africa on a map! Did you know it has 3 capital cities? Learn to sing a song from South Africa:

2nd graders, learn about Nelson Mandela. Here is another Ducksters biography to read  or listen to about him, and a nice simple video bio. You can make connections between South African Apartheid and the unfair Jim Crow Laws in America. Nelson Mandela has a lot of different names, can you find out why they call him Madiba? Of course, you gotta find that handy dandy South Africa map and talk about those 3 capitals again! Don’t forget to look up South Africa’s flag before you print this free coloring sheet. There were a lot of songs written about Nelson Mandela, but this one is probably the most famous/fun to dance to song. Here’s another freedom dance with moves you can learn to do together as a family (this is always a favorite thing to do with our last 5 minutes of class, everyone leaves with this song stuck in their heads!) You can check out the 2 songs above from South Africa, too!

For 3rd graders and 5th graders, research Sundiata Keita. Again, I like Ducksters to find information, because there is a play button at the bottom of the page to read the text out loud to you! 3rd graders, I know you learn about Ancient Mali in social studies this year, so read all about it

5th graders, look at the song Balafon that we glued into our notebooks–remember playing this song on our xylophones at school? We watched this video of a real Balafon from West Africa first:

The Balafon plays a part in Sundiata Keita’s story! Read more about that here.

4th graders! Don’t worry I didn’t forget about you! Your job is to research Fela Kuti. I think you’re going to love listening to his music 4th grade friends, but don’t forget to read his biography first. I don’t even have to tell you what to do with this music, because it undoubtedly will kick off an Afrobeat dance party at your house! Try learning a song from Nigeria, too:

I wish we could play some Nigerian singing games together, check out all of these fun ones and pick one to learn more about and play with your family!