My job at VCS is made easier by the existence of my coworker, AKA the Band Teacher. You see, while I teach 3rd-6th grade general music and choirs, she teaches the bands. Her expertise in instrumental music has been invaluable to me. She focuses on her strengths (instruments/band); I focus on mine (vocal/choir). We are able to ask each other for help, ideas, advice, and commiseration.
The band teacher and I both teach a portion of 3rd grade music, and this has been a great arrangement. She teaches the recorders, and I teach the choir. The downside to this is that sometimes the students get a little mixed up. Recently, my coworker came to me and stated that my 3rd graders were having difficulty transferring what they learned in my class to what they were doing in hers. Apparently, they thought that using counting syllables (ta, ta-a, ti-ti, etc.) was only useful in general (i.e. vocal) music.
I set about to fix this problem. I had my 3rd graders bring their recorders to general music. Interestingly, both classes asked if they were supposed to bring their recorders that day. It just didn’t seem right. I was merging two worlds that they had separated in their minds. I casually responded that “yes, they were supposed to bring them today.”
My next step was to teach them a simple ostinato to “Cotton-eye Joe,” a favorite from earlier in the semester. We looked at the ostinato. We clapped it while speaking rhythmic (counting) syllables. Then they played it while other members of the class sang.
At the end of the lesson, I tried to bring home a simple, specific, and profound point: music is music. A quarter note played by a recorder will take up the same amount of time if sung. A g played on the recorder will be the same pitch that a singer sings, pianist plays, or trumpeter trumpets. Eventually, I hope they will learn that good musicianship is eerily similar in all realms of music-making.