This week at IC, our student chapter and the Whalen School of Music hosted a Hawaiian music series. The IC Choir has been working with Justin Kaupu, an IC conducting graduate student from Hawaii, toward a Hawaiian music recital this Saturday. Several musicians made the long trek from Hawaii (nine hours by plane!) to share their music and expertise with us in two workshops. In the first workshop, the kumu hula Victoria Holt-Takamine hosted a viewing of the film "Hawaiian Rainbow" and provided expert commentary on the roots of Hawaiian music.
I attended the second workshop in which Ms. Holt-Takamine, Chadwick Pang, and Justin Kaupu discussed Hawaiian music in education. We began by singing a traditional hula piece, performed with call-and-response. We were accompanied by the ipu hula, a drum made of two gourds that is held at the neck and played by tapping the side of the drum or striking the drum on a floor mat. Occasionally Justin would chime in with the ukulele. Each dance move we learned had a different name; for example, one move involved walking sideways and was called 'travel' in Hawaiian. The dance style was very fluid. I noticed that the hand position, especially which way the palm faces, is very important in this style.
Next, we learned a simple tune appropriate for elementary grades that used beautiful' shells as props. We clicked the shells together and sang about the ocean and falling asleep. The presenters explained that this song would be well suited for younger children because they will love playing with the shells and because the melody is repetitive and easy to follow.
We learned one final piece together that told a story. In the piece, we sang and made hand motions that explained the following story about two siblings and an eel:
One day, a brother and sister were walking along the seashore when suddenly an eel (Puhi) came and stole the sister and hid her in a cave. The brother ran to the village to ask for help to rescue his sister. But when he got there, everyone was out in the fields and the village was empty. He went to the sea and asked the sea creatures for help. He asked a variety of seashells and sea creatures, but all of them told him that they were too small and scared to fight the eel. When the brother asks the tiniest seashells, they finally say yes because they are not afraid of the eel. They will cover his eyes and the brother can save his sister.
I loved working with Ms. Holt-Takamine and her colleagues in this workshop. I have never been exposed to Hawaiian music before, besides performing a Hawaiian choral work that involved a steel drum, and I am glad that I have learned about a new musical culture. Their insight into education and traditional Hawaiian music has greatly inspired me, and I hope to use some of what I learned in my future teaching.
-Laura White, '17
As part of Hawaiian Music Week in the Whalen School of Music, ICACDA arranged for Kumu Hula Victoria Holt-Takamine to present the film "Hawaiian Rainbow," which is about the evolution of Hawaiian music. Due to some technical difficulties, we were unable to screen the movie, so instead, Ms. Takamine shared some of her own favorite videos, and we got to ask her lots of questions about her culture. We ended up having a great time and learning a lot!
We began by watching a 20-minute clip that gave us an overview of Hawaiian music history. We learned that Hawaiian music is driven by text, and that the earliest Hawaiian compositions were all single-line chants with texts about cultural legends. The elements of harmony and accompaniment were introduced later by immigrants and missionaries. In fact, the ukulele, an instrument that has become an integral part of Hawaiian heritage, was originally imported to Hawaii by Portugese immigrants. Ms. Takamine talked about how Hawaiian music has changed throughout history, but also how the spirit of the music has remained constant; the music is meant to celebrate the earthbound traditions of Hawaiian culture.
Ms. Takamine also shared several videos of performances from Hawaiian music and hula competitions, and as we watched, she talked about the language of their movements, how every single motion is tied to the lyrics of the piece. I thought it was interesting that two or more choreographers could feasibly interpret the same piece of music, and the performances could be completely different. It all depends on how the text speaks to an individual.
We talked a little bit about how Hawaiian music is taught, and we learned that it is typically passed on through oral tradition. It's so beautiful to think that anyone who studies the music of this culture becomes connected to generations past through a long line of musical communication. Everything about Hawaiian music, including the way it is taught, has its roots in tradition.
This session was very engaging and interesting. We learned so much about the culture of Hawaiian music, and got to enjoy some terrific recordings with live commentary by a hula master! We are so grateful to Victoria Holt Takamine and her friends who came all the way from Hawaii to give us all of the wonderful experiences we've had this week!
Below are a couple of the videos we watched!
-Juliana Child, '18
The students at Ithaca College had the absolute pleasure of learning from Dr. Ryan Beeken, the director of choral studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania! A colleague and friend of our professor Dr. Derrick Fox, Dr. Beeken came here for a whole two days to share his knowledge and expertise. He had previously come to IC back in the beginning of February to conduct the Area All-State HS Women's Choir and I had observed a rehearsal--his dynamic character and genuine enthusiasm was the very first thing I noticed, and he was exactly that when he came to work with us over the past two days! I was personally very inspired by his clear passion for choral music, his constant stream of energy, and the wealth of knowledge he has.
Dr. Beeken (of the many things he did in the past two days) presented an ICACDA workshop called "Pitch is a Specific Address, Not a Zip Code." His focus was how to address pitch issues in developing choirs and how to use effective but engaging techniques to build the sound you want. The workshop was very entertaining, informative, and not surprisingly participatory -- not to mention we had over 25 people attend the workshop! Dr. Beeken talked about various topics including:
I can't possibly do proper justice in explaining the valuable information he gave to us in this workshop (and I'm definitely not half as hilarious!), so I'll give you the next best thing: a video and his PowerPoint! You'll be able to listen and watch the different exercises he had us do, see us run in place with "fire feet," hear us sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in 4 different keys at the same time, and even see Dr. Beeken almost throw his shoe at Dr. Fox (!).
The screen is a bit washed out on the recording, so be sure to download the file that is provided underneath the video and follow along. I highly encourage you to watch it and gain something out of it!
-Sunhwa Reiner, ICADCA President-Elect
Sadly, our time at the 2015 National ACDA Conference has come to an end, but it was an experience that I personally will never forget. This trip was a chance for me to bond with my fellow ACDA chapter members, make new connections, discover more about the field of my future career, and re-emphasize why I want to be a music educator. There are still more blogs to come and I hope you all have enjoyed our coverage of the conference. Please, leave a comment, send us an email, and follow us on our various social media outlets (Twitter: @IthacaACDA, Instagram: @ithaca.acda, and Facebook: Ithaca College ACDA). We want to learn more about all of you and what your chapters do so please don't be shy! Also, feel free to send us pictures or videos to add to the blog. Our email address is email@example.com. We would love to hear from you! I'm Caitlin Walton and that a wrap on the recap of the 2015 National ACDA Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah! #choralmusic
Concert: Middle School/Junior High Girls' Honor Choir, Waukee High School A Cappella Choir, Concordia Singers, Utah State University Chamber Singers in the Salt Lake Tabernacle
This concert took place on Saturday evening and began with the Middle School/Junior High Girls' Honor Choir, conducted by Elena Sharkova. After observing this group's final rehearsal on Saturday morning, I was beyond excited to see their performance, and rightly so. It was absolutely phenomenal. The honor choir's set included an incredibly wide variety of musical styles, including classical, country, folk, and gospel pieces from many different countries. I personally experienced many profound emotions during this performance. Will Todd's "The Call of Wisdom" had me in tears. There was great excitement in the room when the choir premiered "Gloria in Excelsis" by the same composer. Their performance of the South Indian Folk Song "Bedu Pako Baramasana" involved traditional Indian dance and featured an incredible young soloist, leaving the audience in awe. The next piece, "Goza mi Calipso" by Albert Hernandez, had everyone moving to the beat. The entire choir danced, and they were joined by several percussionists. Ms. Sharkova exchanged her conductor's baton for a pair of maracas and led the dance! For the next piece, "Banjo Pickin' Girl" by Andrea Ramsey and Tim Sharp, a banjo player joined the group on the stage, several of the girls put on cowgirl hats, and the whole ensemble had a blast. The final piece was a gorgeous gospel medley, and the girls performed it with passion and loads of energy. It was a spectacular performance, one that all in attendance are sure to remember. What an incredible experience for those girls!
Next up was the Waukee High School A Cappella Choir, conducted by Amy Voorhees-Hall. They performed a variety of pieces from many different cultures. They closed with Jake Runestad's "Nyon, Nyon," which they performed with wild choreography. This choir left the audience in a great mood!
The Concordia Singers of the Nittany Valley Children's Choir were led by Sarah Shafer, the daughter of the ensemble's regular conductor. This group of young singers was so focused and driven throughout their performance. They were well-rehearsed, and it showed in their beautiful sound. They premiered a very interesting piece called "The Hall" by Joseph Gregorio, and I found their performance to be quite moving. It was inspiring to hear such skilled young musicians!
The last group to perform was the Utah State University Chamber Singers, conducted by Cory Evans. Their set included classical, spiritual, and sacred music. There were solo parts in several of the pieces, all of which were performed with gorgeous expression. It was a great end to a fantastic concert!
-Juliana Child, Ithaca College '18
Concert: High School Mixed Honor Choir, South Dakota Chorale, Roanoke Valley Children's Choir, Baylor University A Cappella Choir in the Salt Lake Tabernacle
This Saturday afternoon concert session began with the High School Mixed Honor Choir, under the direction of Dr. Andre Thomas. I had observed some of this group's rehearsals throughout the week, so I was excited to hear their finished product! The students performed with enthusiasm, and they sounded phenomenal. They performed a beautiful piece called "Kralj" as part of their program, and the composer was present in the audience. It wasn't until the end of the piece, when Dr. Thomas turned around to acknowledge the composer, that I realized he was sitting right next to me in the audience! After the concert, I got a chance to congratulate him on the performance and tell him how much I enjoyed his piece. You never know who you're going to cross paths with at the ACDA Conference!
The next group to perform was the South Dakota Chorale conducted by Brian Schmidt, a group that included choristers of many different ages and various musical backgrounds. They had a lovely, unified sound, and their set included very peaceful music. I particularly enjoyed their heartfelt performance of Sven-David Sandstrom's "Four Songs of Love." The group's tone made them sound like a choir of angels.
Next came the Roanoke Valley Children's Choir, conducted by Kimberly Davidson. Their set was so entertaining! They performed an African peace song entitled "Ukuthula" with a special guest soloist, and they brought the piece to life with hand motions and facial expressions. Throughout their whole performance, they displayed their versatility by singing in many different styles. Their last two pieces were show stoppers! "Chattanooga Choo Choo" featured full-out choreography, and for "Stars and Stripes" each section imitated the sounds of a different orchestral instrument. The crowd rose to their feet immediately after the performance, and the children were beaming with pride after a job well done.
The final ensemble to perform in this concert was the Baylor University A Cappella Choir. When I saw the term "a cappella choir," I was expecting contemporary, jazz, and/or barbershop music, but this group actually performed several choral pieces in the classical style, and they sounded incredible. They ended the concert with a lively performance of Jake Runestad's "Nyon, Nyon," during which they freestyle danced wildly. The entire audience was engaged and very entertained by their vibrant stage presence.
It was a treat to get to see four such diverse ensembles in one concert! Bravo to all!
-Juliana Child, Ithaca College '18
On Saturday morning, I was on my way to a reading session when I heard the Girls' Honor Choir rehearsing in one of the ballrooms, and I figured I would stop in and observe for 20 minutes or so. I ended up staying in there for an hour and a half, until the rehearsal ended. I was completely captivated by Russian-American conductor Elena Sharkova. She was so full of energy, and every aspect of her conducting was exemplary. When I entered the rehearsal space, she was doing an exercise with the children where she would do an exaggerated dance-like gesture and the children would mirror her as they sang. The sound improved as the students moved their bodies. Throughout the rehearsal, even when they weren't doing movement exercises, their bodies continued to respond to the music and to Ms. Sharkova's gestures. She also used imagery to communicate exactly what she wanted. I was amazed by the sound she was getting out of this group and by the overall effectiveness of her techniques.
I was also struck by how hard Ms. Sharkova pushed the students; she addressed every single aspect of their singing and stopped the music to fix every little problem that arose. But the students were not discouraged by her criticisms; they seemed excited to be challenged, and they were totally focused and attentive for the entire duration of the rehearsal. There was trust between conductor and ensemble. It was clear that the students were learning a lot from Ms. Sharkova, about so many different things, including diction, text stress, musical phrasing, communication, vocal technique, and the cultural significance of all of the pieces they were performing. The rehearsal was fast-paced, and it touched upon every aspect of choral singing. I couldn't get over how efficient Ms. Sharkova was, and her skillful leadership was manifested in the beautiful sound of the choir.
Aside from everything I learned about conducting technique from observing this rehearsal, I learned the most from watching Ms. Sharkova interact verbally with her choir. She genuinely loved them, and they loved her for it, and because she loved them she made an extra effort to really talk to them. At one point during the rehearsal, they were working on a gospel piece, and she was trying to get the choir to sing with more passion. She proceeded to explain gospel music from a patriotic standpoint. She spoke to the choir about how important gospel music was to American culture, and about how proud they should be to live in a country that has overcome so much pain. The talk became very emotional when she shared that she was never able to conduct in her home in Russia because of her gender, and that she loved America because she was able to pursue her passion here. By sharing her story with the choir, she strengthened the bond that she had with them. I was deeply moved by her honesty. And after she finished her speech, she asked the students to stand proudly and sing their gospel piece again, and the sound was twice as powerful as it had been the first time.
Ms. Sharkova took a good deal of time during rehearsal to express her love for her students. At one point, she said one of the most touching things I've ever heard a conductor say to an ensemble: "If I could give all of you one gift, if I could choose anything in the world, I would show you yourselves the way I see you. And you would be shocked by how beautiful you are." From that moment on, the students knew that every criticism, direction, and compliment she gave was out of love. They respected her because she respected them. The bonds that had been built were tangible in the room. Ms. Sharkova gave these students an incredible experience, and I was so inspired by her precision, grace, passion, and spirit.
The rehearsal I observed was the group’s last rehearsal before their concert. At the end of the rehearsal, Ms. Sharkova imparted beautiful words of wisdom to the group. She taught them about the beauty of gratitude, and she expressed her own gratitude to them for giving her a joyful music-making experience. I was able to capture this touching moment on video, and I will use this video to inform the way I speak to my students in the future.
Observing this rehearsal was a highlight of my conference experience. I was blessed to have the opportunity to witness the magic that happened between this wonderful conductor and her glorious ensemble.
-Juliana Child, Ithaca College '18
Alice Parker is a highly recognized name as a composer, conductor, and educator in the choral world and it was an honor to be able to hear her speak in this session. Alice Parker spoke about the fundamental importance of teaching melody. Melody is what creates musicality—it is about the vertical lines, not about the horizontal harmonies. The horizontal harmonies fall into place through the melodies created in music.
“There is no music on the page.” My favorite analogy she gave was that sheet music is like a recipe: you have to make it. You cannot eat the page. In the same way, music is not on the page—it is made through us. Alice Parker truly believes that teaching melody is the most effective way to teach musicality. Many teachers teach music theory with Bach chorales, but she pointed out that Bach did not think about what each chord to chord was—he focused on counterpoint and the interactions of the different melodic lines. His language of harmony, then, is derived from the counterpoint.
Teaching melody focuses on sound before sight. Ms. Parker strongly stated that focusing and teaching how to read notes and rhythms first before expression creates ”unmusic,” not music. She cited that, all too many times, she has heard the folk song “Shenandoah” performed by a choir note-to-note, rhythm to precise rhythm. She led the audience in singing “Shenandoah” with her, as she conducted in a way that gives us the freedom to sing a song in a way that sounds like what the words mean. “We don’t have freedom written into our music,” she said. While we were singing it, she gently showed each phrase with the rises and falls of the words and music, like the rolling rivers the song sings of. Phrase, she defined, is “a beginning, middle, and end”—I love this simple but meaningful perspective. She then had us sing the song in a way that each person would come in a little later or earlier so that we would create a rippling, echoing effect. It was amazing: it sounded like the river! Especially on the word “Shenandoah,” the rippling “sh” created a crashing-waves sound. What we sang was creative, unique, and something you cannot notate exactly on a page.
My favorite moment of the session was when it was close to the end, and she finished her statement, paused for a moment, and then started singing the hymn, “There is a Balm in Gilead.” Everyone joined while she showed the rise and fall of each phrase. People started to harmonize, and I felt everyone truly connecting and feeling the music. I wasn’t too familiar with the tune but was still able to follow along and create musical lines out of it. It was incredibly organic and natural. After the last line, Ms. Parker said, “Isn’t it a miracle that we can do that? Why don’t we, all the time?” This session was truly powerful and inspiring to me as an aspiring music educator.
Her books, “The Anatomy of Melody: Exploring the Single Line of Song” and the sequel “The Answering Voice: The Beginning of Counterpoint” (both through GIA Publications) delve more in depth about these topics. I know that I am definitely going to check them out for myself, and would recommend them to you if you would like to know more about her methodologies and philosophies!
-Sunhwa Reiner (Junior and ICACDA President-Elect)
Several members of IC ACDA attended a workshop on Friday that explored the Kodaly method of music teaching. The Kodaly approach ties in auditory, kinesthetic, and some visual teaching tools to improve students’ understanding of basic musical skills. The idea behind this method is that students should be able to comprehend the concepts of beat, rhythm, pitch, harmony, and other musical elements by ear and with their bodies before they learn to take information from the page. In a choral setting, this means that music is often taught by rote. Rather than reading notes and counting lines and spaces to figure out intervals, Kodaly teachers use a solfege-based approach in which each solfege syllable is associated with a unique hand signal, and the students learn to figure out intervals by ear. Becoming trained in Kodaly is definitely worth it according to Dr. Brumfield.
Dr. Susan Brumfield is a extremely well-versed in the Kodaly method. According to her, “Kodaly is not a thing; it’s a guide.” It’s an approach to teaching that anyone can easily incorporate into their rehearsals if they have the right tools. Dr. Brumfield explained that the process of sight-reading a new piece straight through and then going back and fixing errors, while not wrong, is “the antithesis of Kodaly.” Kodaly involves deconstructing the piece and then slowly piecing it back together in a way that allows students to make musical discoveries. Dr. Brumfield gave out a packet that explained specific rehearsal techniques that could be used to teach certain skills. Throughout the workshop, we got to see some of these techniques in action as she used them to teach us a few of her own choral arrangements.
One of the techniques she demonstrated was teaching a melody, having the sopranos sing it, and then giving the altos a choice of two notes to use to create a harmony. For this exercise, the altos had to use their ears to determine which of the two notes would best complement the melody at a given time. This exercise could be considered a form of improvisation because it requires the students to make up their own harmony. Often, improvisation is taught as an entirely separate lesson, but we learned in this session that improv (and other skills like dictation and interval practice) can be incorporated into a rehearsal in a way that advances the students’ understanding of the piece, while also allowing them to develop their ears…so it’s a win-win! Dr. Brumfield showed us many other strategies like this one, and all of them required the students to figure things out on their own without simply reading notes and rhythms from the sheet music.
Dr. Brumfield also spoke about the importance of studying original source material when teaching students a piece that has been borrowed from a different genre. For example, if you’re working on a choral arrangement of a song that was originally a fiddle tune, the spirit of fiddle music has to influence your performance of the piece. Experimenting with different timbres with your choir is strongly supported by Kodaly because original source material is as much a part of a piece as the notes and the rhythms. Dr. Brumfield taught us that the Kodaly method seeks to teach students to know their music inside and out, and knowing the origins of the piece is a huge part of that. It’s all about breaking the piece apart and examining every single element.
-Juliana Joy Child, Freshman
Dr. Derrick Fox (our professor from Ithaca College!) presented an interest session entitled, “50 Shades of Grading: Assessment in the Choral Classroom.” He discussed different and practical ways to assess your choir. Statistically, teachers use 35%-50% of classroom time asking questions. So we must ask ourselves, what kinds of questions are we asking? Using Bloom’s Taxonomy, we can categorize them under the rising levels of cognition:
1) Remembering: Such as defining dynamics and key signatures.
2) Understanding: Such as explaining ideas/concepts, and identifying the melody through each voice and explain the meaning of the text in your own words.
3) Apply: Using information in another formal setting--Tasks include singing and sight-reading exams
4) Analyzing: Breaking information into parts to explore relationships, like outlining the form of a piece or comparing sections
5) Evaluate: Justifying a decision, like asking what elements contribute to a certain measure that makes it a climax of a specific song
6) Creating: Generating new ways of doing things such as designing, planning or inventing. This can include video program notes and composition opportunities.
There are two types of tasks--open and closed. Closed tasks would be considered assessments that focus on multiple choice questions, true/false, fill in the blanks, and solve without showing process. It’s essential to have these kinds of tasks because you can quickly assess a student’s basic understanding of the fundamentals, which will allow a singer’s technique and artistry to grow.
Open tasks, or constructive responses, are tasks that require more than one answer with different processes. This requires an ability to apply these techniques and communicate with your choir. Dr. Fox gave a practical activity where you would video-taping yourself conducting, take out the audio, then ask your students what piece you were conducting. This will allow the students to get to know what your gestures are trying to convey and challenge them to justify what certain elements in a song looks like.
Besides these tasks, there is also a performance task, in which this requires a student’s ability to synthesize, and apply information and skills. One of the ways you can assess this is through a basic singing test by having a grading rubric, while the conductor would have each voice part take turns coming towards the front to assess and listen to them.
Informal assessments are also essential, which includes observations and conversations with the entire class or individuals. This will allow the conductor to collaborate with his/her students in a beneficial and mannerly way in order to work out areas of improvement while giving the students encouraging, positive, and constructive feedback. By going through these processes, it will allow the conductor to feel more connected and comfortable with his/her choir while being able to assess their students to continually guide student learning.
-Laura Stedge (Freshman)
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