Thursday May 5, 2016

I haven’t blogged in a while.  Today I feel like I have recently done some fun things in my rehearsals and made some discoveries that I would like to share.

First of all, I would love to become much more involved in all things GOOGLE.  I attended the Ed-TecGOOGLE LOGOh Summit last year, where I won a Chromebook and was pretty excited about the potential of bringing some of the ideas into my classroom and rehearsals.  There really aren’t a lot of helpful tips out there for GOOGLE and the Choral Director.  I am working hard to change that and in the process, I have discovered the use of GOOGLE CLASSROOM and would like to share my findings.

My A Cappella Choir was given a writing assignment during our September pre-school retreat to interview everyone in the choir and write “fun facts” about them.  I turned this into an assignment that they needed to submit in GOOGLE CLASSROOM.  I appreciated the humorous writing style of many of them and really loved the fact that I felt as though I was having an independent conversation with my responses to each of them.  We have covered the SI’s, Tenors and Basses and I think we are going to share our “fun facts” about the SII’s and Altos in skits in rehearsal.  The group cohesion from this assignment has been priceless.

My Chorale class (9th and 10th grade girls) was given a solfege video assignment from the reproducible Masterworks Press STEPS TO HARMONY Series.  The exercises are quite simple and run three lines at a time.    We use the booklet as a warm-up for sight-reading.  As I gazed around the room recently, I noticed a few “mumblers”.  Giving fair warning that my expectation was that everyone was working to their potential on singing the syllables, I finally gave them an assignment because, after all, students are so often only motivated by a grade.  Because they all have cameras on their cell phones, I gave them one week to turn in the assignment and gave their groups of three the chance to sign up for a 20 minute block of time in class in the event they found it difficult to get together in their groups outside of class.  I am finding the videos quite revealing and again, I am able to coach each of them individually as I grade their rubric through GOOGLE CLASSROOM.

My Concert Choir (Grades 9-12 guys, grades 11-12 girls) have been working on key signatures and scales.  Thinking this was a review for most of them, I was surprised to learn that whatever most of them have learned has not been retained.  So, again, GOOGLE CLASSROOM to the rescue!  They have a  Key Signature assignment where they will identify 30 key signatures in 10 minutes and then link their “report” in GOOGLE CLASSROOM to turn in.  I like discovering more and more ways that I can assess my singers in as simple and paperless a way as possible.

My Music Theory class has just started non-harmonic (non-chord) tones.  I placed a short example on the board to show them how we were about to transition from successions of static four-part chords to the more interesting melodic writing created by the addition of NHT’s.  I found a YouTube clip which described the analysis of Chorale 167 step-by-step (albeit with 2 mistakes) as well as an interesting Bach blog which was a good way to explain why Bach and his Chorales are the foundation of basic Music Theory.  I felt like a (geeky) rock star!

As I continue to discover more ways to use GOOGLE in my classroom, I will be happy to share.

Thanks for Reading!


Monday November 16, 2015…The All-State Experience…

It’s Monday November 16, 2015.  It’s the day after the second NJ All-State MiAS PROGRAMxed Chorus concert.  I am about to wax nostalgic.

This year, the NJ All-State Mixed Chorus was conducted by Dr. Anthony Leach from Penn State.  I have known Tony for a number of years as we have adjudicated together and he served as a clinician for our Choralpalooza.  I had recommended him to the Choral Procedures Committee and when he was chosen, I agreed to serve as his rehearsal and concert assistant – start to finish.

In New Jersey, students audition for the All-State Chorus in April.  There are two weekends of auditions (North and South). Students audition with high, low and chromatic scales, a Solo and their voice part in a music-minus-one recording of Gibbons The Silver Swan (V1).  They also have a 4-measure tonal memory exercise to sing for pitch and rhythmic accuracy.  Approximately 325 singers are chosen for the Mixed Choir and approximately 160 add’l women are chosen to create the All-State Women’s Choir.   The first rehearsal for both choirs is held in June and add’l rehearsals are held in September and October for the Mixed Choir and in January and February for the Women’s Choir.  The Mixed Choir performs in November at the close of the NJEA Teacher’s Convention in Atlantic City and then again at NJPAC in Newark.  The Women’s Choir performs as a part of the NJMEA Convention in East Brunswick in February and their concert hall is also NJPAC in Newark.

The All-State organization is near and dear to my choral heart. Walking into what is now known as Boardwalk Hall (previously the Atlantic City Convention Center), was surprisingly emotional for me.  When I saw the empty bleachers where the choir would soon assemble to sing, I was catapulted back to my high school days because I sang in the NJ All-State Choir.  I stood on the platform upon which Tony would stand when I conducted the NJ All-State Mixed Choir in 1991.  And now I was back in the same space, many years later, serving as an assistant and reveling in all of the memories that were swirling through my head.  What a ride it’s been!

The All-State Chorus and Orchestra arrive and check-in on Wednesday afternoon, have dinner and settle into a lengthy evening rehearsal.  There are three time blocks of rehearsals on Thursday and two on Friday prior to the downbeat at 8:30p.  These are long days with a lot of hours in them!  Any of you who work with high school singers can easily imagine the challenges that are associated with the organization of a production of this magnitude which spans over two and a half days of intense rehearsal.  You can also easily imagine the challenge and frustration in the age of the cell phone which  seems to be attached to the palm of every young musician during rehearsal!  (No need to expand on that thought…)

But, when we get to the Friday morning rehearsal, I find myself all verklempt.  I could blame the emotions on fatigue combined with the 4-6 long walks we faced each day in moving from Boardwalk Hall back to the Claridge Hotel where we were staying.  But the truth is, the emotions were coming from the nostalgia of being in the same performance space that profoundly impacted me at the very same age of these young singers. As I watched their faces, I knew that indelible memories were being made with every note they sang.  Musical phrases were changing lives.  Precious and innocent young minds were being swept into the fast flowing abyss of rhythms and harmonies.  The universal language of music was speaking to each and every one of them.

I thought about the fact that when we create choral music in any way, it feels as though we manipulate time.  We create a suspended feeling where everything seems right in the world.  There are no worries and no cares; the focus is absolute on the moment-to-moment creation of brilliant sound.  It is powerful.  It is indescribable.  It overwhelms me and moves me to tears.

I then thought about these young people who now, God willing, have their whole lives in front of them.  Hopes and dreams like I had, like you had.  They have no idea what life will bring to them.  They’ll think themselves immortal and invincible as I did; maybe you did as well.  They’ll have all the answers.  They’ll know it all.  And then, when they least expect it, life will present itself in ways which will challenge all they thought they knew.  And if they are lucky, they’ll come out the other end with a real, clear understanding of the important things in life.  They’ll understand that most of it is really all small stuff.  They’ll land at the part of the journey where, like me, sitting and taking in their final pre-concert rehearsal, they’ll look back from this vantage point and realize just how very precious every moment was.  (The tears gently rolled down my cheek.)

The NJPAC concert was very different than the Atlantic City concert.  The acoustic in NJPAC is world class.  The choir is surrounded by beautiful wood panels which permit their sound to take on a depth that the cavern in Atlantic City cannot provide.  They are seated directly behind the orchestra, not off to the side, and they witnessed the mastery of their orchestral peers as they beautifully performed the Symphonic Dances of West Side Story.  They take pride in their achievements as they share their accomplishments with family and friends.  It is a classy way to end the entire experience.

Maybe you have memories of a similar musical experience?  One which may have had the same profound impact on you?


I took this video during the Mixed Choir rehearsal on Sunday.  This is their set closer called CLAP PRAISE by Diane White-Clayton. The video goes black shortly after it begins.  Hang in there, it’s worth the wait!

Here’s to all the folks who made the 87th NJ All-State Chorus and Orchestra concert a success.  May we continue the commitment to present 87 more.

Thanks for reading.


September 16, 2015…My Teaching Space

Here is the link to an 8 minute video of my teaching space.

Choir Room

The Choir Room was opened seven years ago and the resources I have really represent an accumulation of thirty-five years of teaching in one district as well as learning how to raise money (we collect a donation of $3 at the door of the Winter and Spring Choral Concerts, we present a Broadway CABARET, the A Cappella Choir Honors carols in December and our audiences are quite generous with their donations.) as well as using generous budget money from year to year.

I am well aware of how fortunate I am and am grateful every day!



Saturday June 6, 2015

My Spring Concert is Tuesday June 9th. I am so excited about this concert because all of the repertoire seems to fit each group like a well-tailored suit. We’ve had the music concert ready for a while now…it will be great to share it with family and friends. Come and join us if you’re in the neighborhood!

Spring 2015-JPEGThis is my concert flier. I’ve submitted a short article advertising the concert for the local paper which was printed on Thursday. This flier was published in our “Friday Folder” which has all-district distribution. This flier was placed in the PTO newsletter. This flier and a PDF of the same was emailed to every singer in the department to use as their FaceBook status, to Instagram; to get the word out to family and friends that they are singing on Tuesday night.

That’s a lot of work.

I have already rented my helium tank with which I will inflate 41 Green Mylar Graduation balloons for my seniors. I will tape the balloons to the railings of my choral risers for the night of the concert. I have collected one dollar from each of my grade 9/10 Chorale girls which will help defray the cost of the red carnations each senior will wear on their white shirt in the concert. I have ordered 25 long stemmed red-roses in ribboned presentation tubes/boxes which will be given to the 25 seniors as a 4-year Rose to celebrate and acknowledge their choice in placing Choir in their schedule for eight consecutive semesters.

These are the long-standing traditions of the Ridge High School Spring Choral program.

Today I am working on the repertoire for my A Cappella Choir for December. I will audition new members on Thursday the 11th. I hire three colleagues to serve as adjudicators and we use the same material as was learned and used daily as a warm-up in both ensembles for the NJ All-State Chorus auditions in April, including Tonal Memory.  This takes me out of the loop of judging and permits me to remain completely impartial to the selection process.

The list of acceptances will be posted on Friday the 12th.   I will hold their first rehearsal on Monday June 15th at 7p at which time they will receive their music for the December caroling season (11 SATB, 2 SSA, 2 TTBB) and a part CD (I still distribute an actual CD because it is easier for them to download their specific parts from that CD than to have them go to DropBox for their music, which, because there is less repertoire, I do in the Spring) from which they will learn/practice over the summer. (Whew! – Long sentence!)  Section Leaders will run sectionals in August. The expectation is that they will have thoroughly learned this music in summer study for the first rehearsal in September. I have been doing this for many, many years and while it is time consuming on this end, it is hugely rewarding in the fall.

I have changed up the Sibelius process just a bit thanks to the FABULOUS suggestion of Dr. Christopher Russell.

Chris has been a huge help and resource for the last two years with tech and iPad issues and I finally had an opportunity on Friday to chat with him! He has suggested and I have invested in the app called NotateMe.  Notate Me has an in-app purchase called PhotoScore which allows you to take a picture of a score (iPhone 5 or later as you need the resolution provided by ios8), email it as an XML file and open in directly in Sibelius 7.5 – GENIUS!!!! I had previously scanned my enlarged and darkened photocopies with my HP All-in-One or asked my secretary friend to scan the same and send them to me as PDF files for importing but this new investment has been incredible to work with. It’s by no means perfect, but the scores come into Sibelius needing much less clean-up. I have put in about 4 hours today and am finished with five scores…unprecedented success in this process for me. I use these Sibelius recordings as learning tracks for the A Cappella Choir as well as their testing tracks (think Music-minus-One) in the fall. This technology is pretty nifty and for me, has been worth every penny I paid for it!

Okay, enough blogging…gotta’ get back to my input.

Here’s to the end of another school year!

One more Friday!

Thanks for reading…


Choral Collaboration – Wednesday April 29, 2015

I have a very fortunate teaching situation. I have Choir Sectionals every day of the week during lunch periods/study halls. Almost every member of my SATB Concert Choir (guys grades 9-12 and 11th & 12th grade girls) takes two 25-minute sectionals a week and my grade 9-10 SSAA Chorale meets for Sectionals on Wednesdays. With the exception of approx. 20 singers in both ensembles, everyone is also in a five-day ensemble class.

Couple this with an unusual ability to pace quickly, my choirs are pretty ready for their June 9th concert. But it is the end of April. What to do with another 6 weeks other than introduce new literature (which I am currently doing)?

My Chorale class will learn to transpose. We have been working with identifying the notes on a keyboard and have done worksheets on half and whole steps. I will introduce the intervals of major and minor seconds and thirds as well as octave markings (8va and 8vb) and then I will have them transpose the Star Spangled Banner from C major down to Ab major. My Chorale class is a strong group of young singers and they are going to be fierce as they move into their sophomore and junior years. I want them to have as many marketable tools as singers as I can give them.

My Concert Choir has been divided into 18 groups of 5 (or 6) and the groups are working on videoing their responses to the following:


  1. Why did you join choir?
  2. How has choir/Mrs. Retzko helped build your confidence as a musician?
  3. How does Mrs. Retzko foster a sense of community within the choir?
  4. Briefly complete this statement: “A musician should be able to____________________
  5. How has being in choir contributed to your overall high school experience? Studies say the best students are in music/the arts.


  1. What will be your biggest “take away” from choir? (i.e. a skill, a memorable experience / be succinct in your response)
  2. What skills have you learned in choir and how do you see yourself applying these skills later in life?

These questions came from a new teacher in a neighboring town who came to observe our program. He asked my singers a few of these questions at the end of their respective rehearsals but time did not permit a full exploration of answers. I was intrigued by the students who did choose to respond. Hence, I created this project around those questions.

Each group has been asked to determine a medium by which they will present their 10-12 minute video. So far, they are proposing:

  1. A Red Carpet Interview
  2. The Ellen Show
  3. Therapy Group Session – Choirholics Anonymous
  4. A Gameshow
  5. A skit where we pretend to be on a bus heading to our high school reunion
  6. CSI – Choir
  7. A scavenger hunt
  8. An interview/parody

They have also been asked to provide written responses to the following:


(12 Point Font 1.15 spacing – fully, detailed paragraphs, not bulleted answers)

  1. Complete the sentence…I didn’t expect to____________________from choir.
  2. State your current grade. How could you have made each year in choir better?
  3. Seniors/Juniors…What advice would you have given your first-year-choir-member-self?
  4. Sophomores/Freshman… What advice would you give the incoming class of ninth graders?
  5. What would you want RETZ to know that she didn’t know? I wish my teacher knew _______

They have a timeline for completion and I have decided to REWARD THEM on their rubric by giving them an “A” if the written responses were turned in well in advance of the May 1st deadline.” They will get a “B” for turning it in on time and a “C” once it becomes a day late.

I am THRILLED with the response to this! FOUR DAYS EARLY, I received dozens of papers…more appeared this morning! Rather than punish them by dropping grades, they are buying into the idea of being proactive and not procrastinating! (At least some of them are!) They are also asking me to “tell my other teachers about this”. So, I’m telling you!

And, taken from an article that circled on FaceBook, their responses to the fifth question have been poignant and heartfelt.

Were there only time to really converse with every kid that walks into my room. I understand that my job title is Choral Director and not ever Counselor or Therapist or Friend. They pay me to teach kids to sing. But, it is so critical to tapping into the emotions of each of them to generate the best experience we can in rehearsal. Sometimes a fine line, but always worth the investment.

So, if you need an end of the year activity, here’s one that is working for me.

I created my rubrics using


Thanks for reading.


January 31, 2015…A very valuable resource – no matter where you are on the Choral Education journey..

When I served on the Board of Directors for NJ-ACDA, I was a contributor to a Choral Directors Handbook which can be found on the NJ-ACDA website.

Regardless of where you are on your teaching journey, it may be worth a few minutes to breeze through it and read the many contributions that brought the final compilation to life.  Always a good idea to review the basics…

Thanks for reading.


Happy New Year! January 24, 2015

Happy New Year – 2015!

Greetings…and a Happy New Year to all, albeit a bit late.  We are nearly out of January and I feel like I was unable to catch a breath during the last three weeks of school.  The Christmas break was a long and relaxing one with overnights spent in NYC seeing shows (The Rockettes and It’s Only a Play with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick), five movies (Wild, Unbroken, Into the Woods, A Night at the Museum and A Theory of Everything) and attending a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education called Road Trip America where we, as a class, prepared Shrimp and Grits, Maine Lobster Rolls, Beignets, Philly Cheese Steaks, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Hushpuppies, five-way Chili, Fish Tacos and Gooey Butter Cake. (Yes, we rolled out of that class in need of a long NYC walk!)                                 The time away did not make for a rush back to work!

But, return to work, I did.  Once back in the Choir Room, we started immediately preparing for our Concert Choir Broadway CABARET which is created, produced and performed by my 93-voice SATB Concert Choir during period 8.  The format of the all-student production is two acts – the opener and closer of each act involves everyone in the class (All Cast).  Students have chosen “guy” numbers and “girl” numbers (two each) and the remainder of the show is solos and small group numbers that were auditioned for class choice with rubric scoring (Open Call).  I do not choose anything.  I only monitor and sometimes veto choices.  (“No, you CAN NOT do the Cell Block Tango from Chicago!”)  Students are permitted to audition with one solo and one other number.  The music was due in to our accompanist during the second week of December and we rehearsed with each of the Open Call numbers on Monday January 5th – after school from 2:30 – 8:30p  (jumping right back in!!!).

During the entire second week of January we ran Open Call auditions in class.  We get through nine songs in a class period.  Students are asked (not required) to vote using the nine-column rubric below:

                                                                 Please score using whole numbers only.  No .5’s!
Pitch Breathing Dynamics Diction Style/Character Tone Quality Comfort on Stage Costuming Evidence of
Intonation Phrasing Volume Clarity Personality Vowels Stage Presence Preparation
Projection Poise/Confidence

We use the same number system as All-State scoring; 1-9.  If a student is performing, they must give me a 1-3 sentence description of their selection so that everyone in the class will understand the context of their song in the show or movie.  I put that info under their name, show/movie and song title on the rubric.  I create wireless lapel MIC assignments for them and our Sound guy.  Auditions are held in the PAC.  I averaged between 54-59 students voting every day.

I take the scores sheets from each day and enter them into an EXCEL spreadsheet for averaging.  At the close of the fifth day, I sort all the scores low to high and announce the top 21 scores as those chosen to appear in the actual performance.  Those who did not make the cut are then given priority in the smaller solos we have in the All Cast, Guys and Girls numbers.  The final audition for the class is the coveted CABARET solo – open to any girl in the class and programmed just before the Curtain Calls.  The diversity of song choices this year is great!  Once I have created the program I will attach it to a future blog.

Now that we are back in the Choir Room, we are learning the music for the all class numbers.  (I am also teaching this music in Choir Sectionals – excusing those students in Sectionals who are not in the Period 8 class).  Again, with suggestions shared by the students and through an on-line Google Doc multiple choice in-class vote, we will open Act One with WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER and close Act One with YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT.  We will  open Act Two with FOR GOOD and close with THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS which is also our All Cast Curtain Call.  The guy’s numbers are GREASED LIGHTNING and OFFICER KRUPKE (which we do every year).  The girl’s numbers are MAMA, I’M A BIG GIRL NOW and BELLA’S FINALS (with a few word changes).  Student Choreography will begin in class on Monday.

The set for CABARET is twenty-five 4×8 decks in three heights (8”, 16” and 24”).  They are set five-in-a-row and I have ten 4x8x24, ten 4x8x16 and five 4x8x8.  This all fits in my Choir Room so we are practicing on the decks right from the start.

CABARET has previously been scheduled for the Thursday before Memorial Day as we have a professional day that Friday and Memorial Day Monday off.  We previously learned most of the Spring Concert rep from January to mid-March when we would hold Open Call auditions and then run CABARET stuff in class until the end of May; bringing back the Spring rep immediately after for the Spring Concert on the second Tuesday of June.

Well, looking at the PARCC testing schedule at our high school changed that.  We will begin PARCC testing on March 16 with eight consecutive delayed opening days for testing – leaving us to teach in 21-25 minute time blocks per period.  Can’t create a choreographed show with a schedule like that.  Initially, I just thought I would bag the whole CABARET project, (IT’S A LOT OF WORK!!!) but my Section Leaders and Officers became admirably pro-active in choosing dates and recommending solutions – the best of which was to schedule it before PARCC testing began and to choose more familiar all-cast songs for quick learning and memorization.

So, in addition to finishing marking period two on Wednesday this week and starting marking period 3 on Thursday (are you kidding me?), we are learning CABARET music in Concert Choir; my Chorale girls are filming five-minute commercial/recruiting videos to share with the eighth graders who will come to our Monday night rehearsal on the 26th; the A Cappella Choir has started Spring Competition rep and are also learning all of the Carmina Burana choruses to perform with the NJ Festival Orchestra at the end of May.  I just ordered the GUYS NITE OUT music, which is a recruiting program, now in its seventh year, which is accompanied by an outstanding elementary school choral director in our district who loves reconnecting with her kids in high school after having sent them off to the middle school from 5th grade.  We invite guys in grades 6-12, Dads, Grads and Grand-Dads, Uncles, Cousins, Neighbors…and over the past few years, we have averaged 65 guys on-stage for the Spring Concert!  There are five Monday night rehearsals which begin after Spring Break from 6-6:45p (right before my Monday night A Cappella rehearsal time).  I put the rep on-line with PDF’s and learning tracks so they can come ready to sing for the first rehearsal and my A Cappella guys learn the GNO music well in advance of the first rehearsal so there is a core of guys who already know the music for the first rehearsal.  It is great fun and it has produced the forty-three guys I currently have singing in the program!  (Thirty-eight who are in class every day!)

So, on this snowy Saturday, I still need to enter marking period 2 grades, finish a few Sibelius charts for my Men’s choir and choose some optional rep for eight singers who want to continue singing Madrigal music in the Spring.  Much like your world, there is always something left to do!

Hope your New Year is off to a strong start.

Thanks for reading!


Monday December 1, 2014


My husband is my hero.

After a Thanksgiving weekend spent in Germany celebrating the half century birthday of a dear friend, I woke up this morning wondering what I was going to do with my period 9 Chorale girls.  They are so ready for our concert…beautifully ready…and I did not want to continue to sing their program over and over again for the next 12 days.

What to do…what to do…

I needed an idea for an in-class week long project.  I know!  We’ll create skits in each section…but what shall the topic be?  Something relevant would be the holidays or Christmas but I knew it wouldn’t necessarily be representative of the diversity in the class.

I walked into the kitchen to prepare my lunch and shared what I had so far with my husband, Rick.  In a New York minute he said, “Frozen”…the title should be “Frozen:_____________________”!


All I needed was the idea and I ran with it.

I have attached the instructions I distributed to the class and THEY LOVED IT!  I have a split section of SI’s, SII’s and a split in the alto section so there are 5 groups.  So far their titles are

FROZEN: The journey Home

FROZEN: Princesses with Icy Hearts

FROZEN: Thawed

FROZEN: Let’s Break the Ice

FROZEN: I’m still…still…STILL…waiting!

And of course, the moral of each story…LET IT GO!

This will be such a fun week in class…watching them create for their presentations on Friday.  They are also charged with creating three rubric statements for grading.

Feel free to use it if you’d like!

Let the creativity begin!

Have a great week!


Getting to Know You…Thursday November 13, 2014

Today’s Concert Choir Activity was a “bonding” activity. We are quite ahead of schedule for our December concert and I have challenged my Officers and Section Leaders to get to know all the singers in the class. Minimally, they need to know their names – we are 92 strong. They suggested we run a “get-to-know-you” activity. I do these types of activities early in the year with the Chorale girls and we did them with the A Cappella Choir at their retreat in September.

Today, I was actually going to run an activity I’ve done before where I divide the class into four choirs and where we run our rep by the number I signal to the class. (Number 1 = Choir 1 and they sing until I change numbers).   This lets me break up the rehearsal routine and lets me hear the singers in smaller sections, without their Section Leader influencing them.

Today, we added that “get-to-know-you” idea where the Section Leaders and Officers created questions for which they would facilitate responses in their “choirs”.

Concert Choir Bonding Questions

  1. Do you speak any languages (other than English) fluently? Are there any that you would love to be able to speak?
  2. How many siblings do you have?
    1. Who has the most?
  3. Favorite Concert Choir song? Favorite song (ever, or right now)? Favorite artist?
  4. What is your favorite musical? Do you plan on doing anything in Cabaret??
  5. Other than choir, what are your interests and hobbies?
  6. What is your favorite food? What is your favorite ice-cream flavor?
  7. What is your middle name?
    1. If you don’t have one, what would you want it to be?
  8. What is your favorite class at school? What is your least favorite? What class do you wish we had at school?
  9. In how many places have you lived? Where would you like to live in the future? Dream location?
  10. What is your favorite TV show genre? Your favorite TV show?
  11. What is your favorite article of clothing?
  12. Do you play any sports, if so what is your favorite to play? What is your favorite sport to watch?
  13. What is your biggest pet peeve?

I chose two facilitators per group – they asked the questions and recorded the responses and then they presented their group to the class. What fun! What interesting things we learned about each other! We were able to get through two of the four groups today. We will finish the other two tomorrow and then the groups will have a little bit of a sing-off…pitting each choir against the other three.

Happy almost Friday!


Wednesday November 12, 2014

So today we said goodbye to marking period one and hello to marking period 2. Grades are now turned in for the eighteen class sections I have. Thoughts are now turning to polishing repertoire for all ensembles for December performances. Kids are still recruiting their friends into choir and I am taking every one of them.  I spend spare minutes during the day recording voice parts on cellphones so these newbies can catch up with the friends who recruited them.

I’ve announced to my Concert Choir that we WILL have a CABARET 2015…not in May, but in March…right after our Spring Musical and just before PARCC testing begins. Trying to create or establish any classroom momentum from March 16th to graduation will be a huge challenge. We will have eight delayed openings from March 16-25th. (Testing in Grades 9 and 10 English/language arts and All students in Algebra I or Algebra II;  Grade 11 English/language arts or all students in Geometry)

None of us are certain what the schedule will look like for teaching. When we run a delay for testing, the students who are being tested come to school at 7:35a and the rest of the school arrives for 10:35a…then we run 21-22 minutes periods 1 through 9 until 2:25p.

School will be closed on April 3rd for Good Friday. Our Spring Break, weather permitting, is April 13-17. PARCC testing will resume on April 21-27th with five delayed openings. (Grades 9 and 10 English/language arts; All students in Algebra I or Algebra II; Grade 11 English/language arts or all students in Geometry)

May 4-15 are AP exams. May 15th is the Senior Prom. Bio testing will give us two add’l delayed openings on May 26 & 27th. Physics Day, which wipes out all physics classes (ten busses??) to test the velocity of roller coasters at Great Adventure, is June 2nd. The Spring Choral Concert is June 9th. Graduation is June 18th. It won’t come soon enough.

In the meantime, my A Cappella Choir Honors has submitted their video testing to Edmodo for marking period 2 grades. My Concert Choir now has deadlines to meet in choosing all cast numbers for their March CABARET. My Chorale girls are minutes away from being performance ready so they are working on the basics I would normally start in January. After a review of the notes of the treble and bass clefs, accidentals and ledger lines (last week), their assignment today was to write out the parts they sing from two of their scores and identify the names of the notes…practical application of the notes they took last week. Everybody’s busy.

In the meantime, I cert 2have successfully completed the 40-hours of online study for the full 100-hour ESL certification!   I have met with Josue, a junior from Honduras, who has been assigned to me (by my request) for tutoring. He has limited English and he is testing my far-away and somewhat limited high school Spanish. I am enjoying the diversity of preparing for his after school tutoring session. It’s been fun!

Keep calm shirtAt the end of the school day today one of the two singers I had who participated in the All-National NAfME Honor Choir in Nashville presented me with a “thank-you” gift…(see photo). I love it!!! I think I will frame it and place it over the clock in my room for all to see…what a thoughtful gift!.

I hope you are all doing well in your corner of the world.

Thanks for reading!