This past month has been full of great events and lots of musical experiences for my students! We had another great year at the 6th Grade All County Choral Festival. We took 8 of our students to participate in the event. This year's festival clinician was the amazing Dr. Jamie Hillman! You can see a clip of Dr. Hillman and the students here.
We also had the opportunity to take a group of our 5th graders to participate in the Cherry Blossom Festival. These students worked hard to put together a short concert with hundreds of students from the DC metro. They all gathered to perform the song "Love in Any Language." This song's message is bout how love is a force that brings us all together no matter what language you speak. All the students in the show were from different cultures and backgrounds. The students wore shirts representing the primary colors of the rainbow and executed choreography while singing. It was a great show.
Our wonderful PTA was able to work with the Washington National Opera to bring in professional musicians to teach us about opera music. The presentation was very interactive and educational. The students were pulled into parts of the presentation which was both very funny and encouraging to see. They loved every bit of the performance.
We also took our 4th and 5th Grade students to George Mason University to participate in the Link Up Carnegie Hall program with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra. Students sang songs and performed on the recorder with the FSO from their seats. The musicians and presenters on stage walked the kids through a story of the orchestra with interactive music woven throughout the program. Students prepared all year by learning songs and motions in their music class. At the event, all of their hard work was displayed in a very fun event!
Lastly we celebrated International Night at our school and learned about the many different cultures represented by our families and students. There were food stations with cuisine from many different cultures, dance presentations from different groups, a few solo musical acts, and lastly a group Russian dance that everyone was able to participate in. This was a great way to cap off a very musical month!
Soooooooo excited about the opportunity I had to perform as a backup singer for Sudden M Pac at the legendary Blues Alley jazz club! The concert was a tribute to Teddy Pendergrass, so there was lots of great romantic music and also some pretty funky grooves. We ran 2 sets on January 31st at the club. The second show was probably my favorite, since there were less nerves and we all just had more fun with the show. It was a great experience. I was so humbled to perform on the same stage that once hosted Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Wynton Marsalis, Monty Alexander, Mose Allison, Tony Bennett, Ruby Braff, Charlie Byrd...and so many more! I am more than honored to have been a part!
Another great event this month took place with one of my students. Sofi Harai released her first EP. She's a HS student who has taken a liking to jazz and sings with an incredible voice. She did a few covers for her first project, including hits by Stevie Wonder, Bruce Hornsby, and others. Please show her some love on iTunes. You can purchase her album here!
Happy Holidays! This month has been loaded with recitals, gigs, and concerts. Musicians are often the busiest people this time of year because everyone loves holiday music. It is a tradition that is a great part of our culture. Many holiday scenes and memories are often accompanied by holiday classics. Whether the Frank Sinatra, Motown, or NSYNC, holiday music has a special way of adding the magic to our winter celebrations.
One of the great opportunities I will highlight here took place at an event called Forever Soulful. Musicians and performers from around the DC area gathered to put on a show of their favorite holiday soul hits. I had the opportunity to bring students from the Metropolitan School of the Arts studio to perform. I knew the kids would do great, but they absolutely stole the show. They were wonderful as they presented an eclectic mix of holiday tunes ranging from Broadway to Stevie Wonder. Everyone was very impressed with their performance and I was very proud!
Just finished another amazing camp at the Elementary Institute for the Arts (E-IFTA)! This is a camp where students attend extensive classes in the arts and put on a show at the end of our time together. Classes in the elementary camp include art, dance, theater, and music. This year's music theme was Orff Goes to Broadway. Students use classroom barred percussion instruments (made popular by Carl Orff) to perform popular broadway tunes arranged by yours truly! The musicals included this year were the Jungle Book Jr., Phantom of the Opera, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, and Hamilton. The kids were rapping, singing, and playing instruments together! It was a great week, and I look forward to the next camp!
This year has been a whirlwind so far with Pyramid Concerts, Alexandria Singers shows, and school events! One of the big items this month was attending the 2016 Teaching & Learning Conference in Washington D.C. This conference is sponsored by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The conference had some incredible workshops and speakers. Thousands of teachers from around the U.S. gathered to attend this great event to network, grow, and advocate for the teaching profession. One of my biggest takeaways this year was in regard to making a real impact on your students in a new community: "Get to know families, get into homes, then connect your curriculum."
Another wonderful concert with the Alexandria Singers! Just finished 3 weekend performances of Reflections: A Holiday Pops Concert. I had the chance to perform a solo act in each of the performances. We sang many famous holiday tunes from many traditions, styles, and backgrounds. The show was a fun time for all ages with wonderful choreography, fun music, and a bit of theatrics as well. We even had a surprise visit from Santa at the performance.
This group is filled with wonderful people and incredible talent. For me, the most meaningful element in singing with this group is the community. So many great friendships have developed from this group and I am truly grateful to be a part. Love you guys!
I am getting more connected on the music scene here in the DC Metro. This week I had the honor of playing a gig at the Shakespearean Theater Company with performers from LaTiDo (a performance venue in DC). Performers sang a variety of songs from musicals, jazz, holiday tunes and even some original poetry. I was the accompanist for the show and I also had the pleasure of performing a song myself. We played for an intimate crowd of a few hundred or so as a pre-show performance for the musical Kiss Me Kate. It was a great show and I had a blast. I'm very glad to be getting more plugged in!
Just a quick update. Getting settled in for the year with team meetings, planning, and vision casting for the year. I am very excited to begin the year with my new teammates. I have loads of respect for them and the work they do in our field. We have only been planning together for a few days and I am already blown away at the quality they bring to the Music Dept. at our school! Also, if you cannot tell from the pic, we are a little crazy together . More updates to come, here's to a great start to a new year!
This past year has been amazing! I am working in Fairfax County down in VA and the district is monstrous. There are about 139 elementary schools and I am one of 300+ Elementary Music staff. There are so many kids and so many great opportunities to change young lives in the music classroom.
I've joined the coaching program where they pair up students and faculty in mentoring relationships. This year my "mentee" and I have gone to laser tag, Chuck E. Cheese, the movies, football games, the museum, and just played catch. I believe there is a big need for positive male role models in our elementary schools, particularly black males. There are kids in my area that do not have positive male leadership and I am glad to be a part of their lives in that way.
There have been many concerts in our district. There were 3 school based concerts (with my involvement) where I collaborated with the other music staff at our school to produce choir, drum circle, orchestra, and band concerts. In February, our pyramid of schools held a large concert with all of the elementary, middle, and secondary schools in our area. There were several hundred students from grades 5-12 who helped make this concert happen. All of the music staff in our pyramid collaborated to pull off this big concert. It was a great experience!
There was one more giant concert in the county, the 6th Grade All County Chorus Festival. 6th graders from all 139 elementary schools in the county audition to be a part of this concert. There were over 1000 students singing together for this concert. So many wonderful teachers put in a lot of work with these students: getting them to rehearsals, teaching them the music in addition to their regular chorus curriculum, buying food for students during long waiting periods, making trips to the store for personal items when students couldn't leave rehearsals, sending letters/emails/phone calls home to get information to parents, and so much more! Not to mention the staff who also played administrative roles in pulling off such a massive concert. I am amazed at the calibur of music staff in the county; not just because of their skill in our content area, but because of how much they do that is not in our job description. I look forward to another wonderful year!
This year I have had the privilege of singing with a wonderful group of people in a group named The Alexandria Singers! Under the leadership of Director Bill Colosimo, The Alexandria Singers is a non-profit organization whose members love to perform American popular music throughout the D.C. metro area. Members of the Alexandria Singers come from a variety of backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common -- a love of performing!
This is my first pops chorus, and I have loved the experience. We have done several Holiday concerts this year, a winter cabaret, and our big spring show celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Sound of Music! Our spring concert was performed with the Washington Metro Philharmonic. It was a great year with a great group of people!
I have now come back from Nicaragua and it was another amazing year. The college students we traveled with did an absolutely amazing job with the kids and the camp program. I couldn't be more proud of the team and their efforts. This year the we were joined by another team of students from North Central University. They had a smaller team of 6 that made a great addition to our 18 Edinboro students. Together, the two teams made quite the impact. We spent the first few days traveling to feeding centers. The missionaries in Nicaragua have done a lot of work to set up centers all around the country that feed over 10,000 children. Our role at these centers was to deliver food or snacks and invite people from the surrounding neighborhood to join us for a short kids program. The programs consisted of several interactive songs, both funny and serious skits, arts and crafts, and a short lesson at the end. We were able to fill each center with children and had a lot of fun spending time with them.
After the first few days we headed out to Campo Alegria! We had been pumping up the camp to the children at the center. After having a taste of camp during the feeding center program, the kids were more than excited to come see what took place out at the campgrounds. We were split into teams by color. The kids you see in the picture above are from my team, Azul (blue). There were 3 or 4 staff per team and each team had 10-13 kids. I forgot to mention in the last post that the camp is absolutely beautiful! While the facilities were a bit rustic, the scenery around the campsite was incredible. It is not like a typical American camp surrounded by woods with ropes courses and swimming pools. This campground is a bit more tropical. The camp sits on the beach of Lake Managua. Across from the beach (miles away) are two giant volcanos! The camp remains safe because they are both inactive. There are also palm trees with coconuts that sit on the borders of the camp. It is a site to behold!
The amazing scenery paled in comparison to the beauty that filled the camp when the children arrived. Seeing the kids laughing and playing and enjoying themselves was the major highlight. Many of the camp kids have lived in a dump or in a small house with at least 10 other siblings and only 1 adult. Their caretakers do not have much money and the kids often rely on begging, digging through trash, and other survival techniques for food. The feeding centers throughout the year and the summer camps not only provide the children with consistent food, but an experience where they can let their guards down and just be kids! This year we were excited to bring the kids a bit of American camp culture. We brought s'mores! The Nicaraguans never ate s'mores before and I do not think they were disappointed. Since there is no tree covered camp fire site, we built a large fire on the beach and roasted the s'mores by the water at night. The kids loved them.
Once again it was an amazing trip. It was terribly difficult to say goodbye. Many tears were shed by both staff and campers. Many hugs were given as we said goodbye or "see you next year." When the kids were given the opportunity to share, most of them thanked the staff for taking care of them for the week. I mentioned in the last post that this "taking care" is an unusual experience for the Nicaraguan children, but it is the most memorable. I have seen this take place in enough camps to know that showing care goes a long way with young kids. As an educator, it is my primary method of teaching. To show genuine love and compassion towards children is an eternal gift. It inspires their dreams, gives them hope, makes them believe in themselves, and gives them an example of love to pass on for generations. Although it was a short time we spent with these children, I know many of them will not forget their experiences at Campo Alegria!
This summer I will be traveling to Managua, Nicaragua with the Edinboro's Chi Alpha Student Ministries! This is my second year going on the trip and I am very excited. We will take 18 college students down to Nicaragua to run a camp called Campo Alegria. The kids attending the camp are elementary age and lived in an actual dump for most of their young lives! Thanks to the work of several missionaries, they now stay in small houses near a feeding and education center built by different teams sent by churches and colleges in Erie.
My role on the trip this year is training the students and helping them prepare for camp, as well as organizing camp program. The two kids you see in the picture sticking out their tongues (on the left), are campers from last year's trip. One is named Josue and the other was nicknamed "Perrito Blanco" or "little white dog". During their time at the camp, campers will engage in daily camp activities including: swimming in a lake, camp skits, singing, dancing, sports, arts & crafts, and much more. What our team brings may seem like a typical American camp experience, but it is a very new and exciting experience for the young Nicaraguan kids. They do not get to experience camp environment elsewhere. Also, so much of the camp program is customized to fit Nicaraguan culture.
As a personal advocate for kids camps, I believe it is a great experience for all young people. I have seen shy kids come out of their shells, angry teens let go of their tension to have fun, kids from completely different backgrounds make lifelong friendships, and much more. All of this from a short trip to camp. Something special happens in camp atmospheres, and I love watching take place. The No. 1 quote for last year's campers on the last day of Campo Alegria was, "Thank you for taking care of us!" It was so incredibly touching! They were not used to having adults look after them on such a consistent basis. Having someone to watch so they didn't swim out to far in the lake, help them get along, read them bedtime stories, or even make sure they were wearing the proper attire for the day's activities was a new experience for many of the camp kids. These expressions of love and care make lifelong impacts on these kids! I am thrilled to be a part of it!