A class for the iPad…

Today I took a staff college class for the iPad. I never know what to expect from these classes because it is rare to find apps that are applicable to choral music.

In this class, the teacher covered the application called Socrative, (www.socrative.com) which is a free web-based application that permits you to give quizzes to your class. Your students do not need a username or password to use it; you could ask a question orally and they could respond on their smart phone, iPad, laptop, or PC. I thought I might be able to use it in my music theory class to review new concepts that I might’ve taught by dictating a few questions and seeing the immediate response of the students.

The next app was called Nearpod. It’s a presentation tool where you could download something like a PowerPoint, you have complete control over the iPads and smartphones of your students; the kids can become interactively engaged and it puts everything in one place for your lesson. I wasn’t quite sure how I would use this in a theory class or in an ensemble class.

The class concluded with the instructor sharing a few websites that she found useful in dealing with iPad applications. The first was called Edshelf.com where you will find a collection of apps by subject and topic. Teachers create “shelves” or “collections” based on subject matter and these same teachers provide reviews of those applications. This looks like it would be something I could use or at least would like to further explore.

Finally, came the sharing of http://www.ebweb.net which is free and it is a place where you can join PLC’s – professional learning communities. It’s a chat room, it’s interactive, it provides hour-long webinars. Upon completion, you receive a certificate of participation in the PLC.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a morning!

The end of Marking Period Four…

I began this blog to chronicle and share the various activities and lessons I have used in my high school choral classroom.

Today was the last day of my thirty-fourth year of teaching.  It was a rough year in New Jersey between the weather causing delayed openings and snow days in excess of our allotment and testing and the new mandates for additional paperwork looking to justify and measure success in our classes.

My high school moved away from a mid-term and final schedule to a quarterly schedule.  Four times a year, the bell schedule was changed for five consecutive days, running two periods per day for 62 minutes so teachers could administer quarterlies.  In choir-land, for marking periods one and two, they needed to be pencil to paper.  (Refer to my April 18, 2014 post which is an article I published in November 2013 about the quarterlies).  I was not a fan.

For marking period 3, quarterlies were cancelled.  So were three days of Spring Break.

For this last marking period I was permitted to “show a video” and have a “spirited” discussion as my quarterly.   Because I do like to share things that I think are meaningful with my classes, I went on a search-and-find mission via YouTube and TedTalks.

These are the video clips I played, in order, for my ensemble classes.  Much to my surprise, there really WAS “spirited” discussion after watching each of them, especially the second clip! 

I changed the pace and lightened the load with the Bobby McFerrin clip (#3), followed by a demonstration of Vocal Percussion by Andy Frost of the British “Man-Band” called The Magnets.  Founder Nic Doodson was a past Choir President in my program and I have seen Andy in action and thought the kids would enjoy it.

I finished with the TedTalk by Eric Whitacre (#5) where he describes his journey into choral music and eventually to the creation of his virtual choirs.

This quarterly was a huge success!!  The kids actually wanted to continue the discussion the next day!  I was encouraged by their responses…it gave me a renewed faith that we have not completely squelched their ability to think and respond beyond the four corners of a marking period assessment.

The video links are listed, in order below.



TEDxDesMoines – Clare Barcus – Quit Trying and Triumph



Why taking choir kept me from being a Valedictorian: Austin Channell at TEDxColumbus



Bobby McFerrin: Watch me play … the audience!



The Magnets Drum Solo – Andy Frost



Eric Whitacre: A virtual choir 2,000 voices strong

A Safe Place to Sing

I printed this and placed it on the music stand where the singers scanned in for attendance every day.

In a safe place, people are kind. Fighting, sarcasm, backbiting and name-calling are exceptions. Kindness, consideration and forgiveness are the usual way of life.
In a safe place, there is laughter, not just canned laughter like television, but real laughter that comes from sharing meaningful work and play. People can laugh at themselves.
In a safe place, there are rules. The rules are few and fair and are made by the people who live and work there, including the students.
In a safe place, people listen to one another. They care about one another and show that they do.

This is a SAFE place to sing. ~Rich Nace



Tonight is my Spring Choral Concert and I am so excited to share the work of these young singers with their friends and families.

After 28 years in a small smelly auditorium, I now work in a thousand-seat Performing Arts Center.

This picture was taken in the solitude of yesterday afternoon. The balloons are for my seniors…they are personalized and just a small token of the HUGE appreciation I feel for their commitment to the program.

I also give out 4-year roses to any senior who was able to schedule choir for 8 semesters.

I will give out twenty roses tonight.

Choir Retreat

At the start of the 2013-2014 School year, I arranged to host a retreat for my select choir – something colleagues had spoken favorably about but something I had never tried. I have developed a strong relationship with the area Senior Center and asked if we could use their meeting space, with kitchen attached, for our retreat. Generously and without cost to us, they agreed.
The retreat was to run on a Friday night from 6-11p, with section leaders arriving at 5p to help set-up.
This was not to be a rehearsal but an evening of team-building and ice-breakers, activities I will describe in a future post.
As my year is now almost to a close, I have asked my Section Leaders to reflect on the year, which has been wonderfully musical, and even more rewarding in the way the entire department co-existed. The Section Leaders gave all the credit to the fall retreat.
I just emailed the Senior Center to secure a date for September.

Waxing Philosophical…

It’s June. In choir-land, it could mean that your concert season has finished or your concert season has yet to be completed. Over the last few weeks I have read the FaceBook posts of many of my choral directing friends as they reveled in numerous on-stage successes.  They speak of the great pride they feel as their students share exceptional musical accomplishments with family and friends.

This got me thinking.   How many kids are deeply affected by their experiences in choir?   As directors, we know it is really remarkable what they can absorb through these performing experiences… collaboration, teamwork, vocal technique, repertoire, exposure to world cultures, discipline, manners, and a uniform regard and respect for one another.

A concert.  A small collection of minutes at a time.  The observation of a singer’s commitment to the creation of the whole. When you step back and take a hard look at the journey from choosing the literature to the final performance, it is not only remarkable, but awe-inspiring.

Moments in time.  Collective memories. How enriched are the lives of our singers as they are exposed to all types of literature; to the heights and depths of emotion and humanity?

Who reaps the greater reward?


(Posted as my FaceBook status on June 4, 2014).


And THANK YOU to Chris Russell for giving me a shout out from his blog!

I am a public high school Choral Director looking for like-minded individuals with whom to chat, vent, converse, share ideas and brain-storm!  I have over 30 years experience in the high school classroom and if nothing else, would love to share tips and tricks of the trade that I have mastered along the way which are now making my job so much easier!    I would love to serve as a mentor for choral directors who are new to the field and create an environment where I can express to them the love and passion I have found in this career.  I would love to discover new uses for my iPad in the classroom and efficient ways to meet the newly-created assessment requirements in NJ!

Why blog?  I served as a member of the NJ-ACDA Board of Directors in the capacity of R & S Chairperson for High School for nearly six years.  One of our directives as a Board member was to write articles for the website, which I did.  In the six years I served as R & S chairperson, I never once had anyone ask anything about high school choral music and I have no idea if anyone read my articles…


Here I am to throw years of experience on a screen for others to read and take away anything and everything that might help make their job a bit more rewarding and put a bit more time for LIFE back into their lives!  I have found that I like to write about the things that have worked for me and I am hopeful that you will share in return.

So,  “Welcome to my Blog!”