Wednesday April 22nd was a magical night for a number of music students at Ithaca College. Why you ask? The magic came about thanks to the incomparable Dr. Emily Mason and what was now her last workshop at Ithaca College. During this one hour time period, students of varying ages, backgrounds, degree programs, and levels of teaching experience came together to learn exactly what it takes to make magic in the music classroom.
A specialist in elementary education and more specifically the general music classroom, we all received a first hand experience as to what it takes to make the general music classroom both magical and worthwhile. Dr. Mason combined PowerPoint slides, musical listening examples, Orff techniques and instruments, Dalcroze eurythmics, and teaching tools and props of all kinds to make this experience unforgettable. The structure of this workshop was both clear and straight forward while still allowing room for guided discovery and organized fun.
Dr. Mason made it clear that, with a little bit of effort and preparation, a good lesson and become a great and magical one. We 'played' many games as we responded to music and sang songs that both challenged us musically and mentally. While we clearly are not elementary aged students, this workshop provided an outlet for us students to step in the shoes of a young child and imagine how magical and inspiring these activities could be.
One highlight of the workshop included a session where we learned the "Cup" song with additional motions and body percussion. This was a model lesson because it took something that students and children would most likely be very familiar with due to the recently popular movie Pitch Perfect. With this song, Dr. Mason slowly taught us the motions as a group through scaffolding instruction and various levels of feedback. After we had successfully learned it individually, Dr. Mason then took it a step further by challenging us all to pass the cups in a circle while performing the percussion and singing along to The Lion Sleeps Tonight. She then added another factor and had us sing along and tap while she slowly took cups out of the circle. This provided a change to the lesson sparking interest and preventing loss of interest and also created a way to neatly clean up the cups.
This was one of the many examples of activities that truly make the general music classroom musical. While i could write endlessly of all the other magical moments in this workshop, instead I'd like to end with this notion. As one of Dr. Mason's students in Music Education here at Ithaca College, I can honestly say that she has inspired me both on nights like this one and many other separate occasions. I've learned so much through her modeling, mentoring, and professionalism in and outside of the classroom and can't thank her enough. This workshop was truly magical and proved to be a blessing to have attended. Dr. Mason as reaffirmed my love for teaching and will continue to do so for years to come.
Matthew Morrison '15
The Beginning Teacher's Toolbox for Teaching Students With Exceptionalities: Workshop with Matthew Jones
On Monday, April 20th, second-year graduate student Matthew Jones led a workshop that focused on educating special learners, particularly pertaining to music education. In this workshop, we learned about materials and activities that promote an inclusive classroom environment, and Mr. Jones provided several opportunities for those in attendance to engage in the discussion.
Mr. Jones began by defining a "meaningful music curriculum," stating that it needs to be flexible, accessible, and inclusive, and from there we segwayed into the big question: "Why inclusion?" Mr. Jones opened this up for discussion and broke the ice by showing a shocking video of a child with physical and communicative exceptionalities being abused and neglected by her teachers. The footage was caught by a hidden camera that a mother had attached to her daughter's wheel chair. Seeing the way this child was treated by adults who are supposed to be nurturing and trustworthy was certainly a wake-up call for many of us future educators. There are teachers out there who don't have the tools to give students with exceptionalities a proper education, and there are also teachers who simply don't have the right mindset when it comes to inclusion. This is a huge problem in our schools today.
So, why inclusion? We agreed as a group that students with exceptionalities are entitled to be in classroom environments that suit their needs because their social skills, physical/cognitive functions, and self-esteem are all developed and improved through learning.
Mr. Jones went on to identify five types of exceptionalities: cognitive impairments, communication/Autism spectrum disorders, hearing impairments, physical impairments, and visual impairments. From there, we split into five groups and each group brainstormed a bit about how to create a "meaningful music curriculum" for students with one of these types of exceptionalities. After a few minutes, we reconvened and shared our ideas as a group.
It seems that there are many tools that can be used to accommodate more than one type of exceptionality. For example, modifying assessment, allowing more time for certain tasks, creating opportunities for leadership roles, and putting thought into the relative proximity of a special learner to the instructor are all good ideas across the board. Then there are some tools that are specific to each type of exceptionality. For cognitive impairments, we talked about color-coding sheet music to give students visuals, and having students work with "buddies" so that no one ever feels left out. For students with communication disorders, sign language, gestures, visuals, and speech technology can all be useful. Students with hearing impairments benefit from microphones and hearing aids, along with many of the same tools that are often used for Autistic students. For students with physical impairments, we discussed the benefits of instrument stands/clamps, adaptive instruments (such as mallets), and different forms of music technology. And for visual impairments, we talked about the use of Braille, enlarged printing on sheet music/texts, and recordings as practice tools. By using any or all of these tools in the music classroom, a teacher can make appropriate accommodations for students with exceptionalities by achieving the desired outcome through modified means.
That led us to our next question: what tools can we use in the musical classroom to include every type of learner? Before getting to a direct answer, we discussed the difference between accommodation (achieving the same task by different means) and modification (changing the task to fit the students' abilities). Mr. Jones showed us a sequence of videos to further engrave this difference in our minds. One video involved a physically impaired student who was not capable of playing drums. However, with the help of his teacher, he was able to push a button that played drums for him. It was obvious that the student enjoyed playing the drums as he smiled and pressed the button over and over. Other ways to modify intruments include creating instrument clamps/mounts, using velcro to secure the instrument to different surfaces accessable by the student, using non-stick drawer liners on a student's wheelchair tray to prevent the rolling of instruments, and providing students with enlarged mallet handles/grips.
To finish up the workshop, Mr. Jones encouraged everyone to stand up and sing. One piece of repertoire used was Sow It On the Mountain by The Carter Family. He began by singing the piece for us once through, and then he invited us to join when we felt comfortable. He then demonstrated how the piece could be used to foster improvisation, teach about ostinatos, and give students ownership by allowing them to harmonize in a small group. We moved the discussion back to students with exceptionalities and discussed how to use this piece in an inclusive classroom.
This workshop was very enlightening and enormously beneficial to all in attendance, particularly to those of us who are planning to pursue careers as music educators, and we are very grateful to Mr. Jones for sharing his expertise with all of us! The most important idea we took away from Mr. Jones's talk was that inclusion is an essential element of a good music curriculum. Students with exceptionalities are perfectly capable of learning music, as long as they have caring teachers in their lives who know how to accommodate their needs. The tools we discussed throughout the workshop are accessible, practical, multi-purpose, and easy to incorporate into any music lesson. Teachers who stay informed and who are open to trying new ways of enhancing their "meaningful music curriculum" have the power to make a huge difference in their students' lives!
-Juliana Child and Kelly Meehan, '18
Our second day of the Skype series with professional music artists speaking of their diverse career paths was with Cameron Beauchamp (GRAMMY award-winning member of 'Roomful of Teeth' and jazz trombonist) and Alice Teyssier (part of the International Contemporary Ensemble and just as active in voice as she is on flute. Technological problems during the workshop aside, it was absolutely fantastic to hear these two very different professionals talk about their experiences!
Cameron Beauchamp (pictured above) is a bass in several professional vocal groups, such as Roomful of Teeth and Conspirare. He spoke about his experiences in performing all different styles of music, especially in Roomful of Teeth. He showed us various techniques in throat singing, which was incredible to hear -- he was able to produce very clear overtones. Professor Mello showed us a few recordings, one of them being "The Orchard" (listen for the lowest voice!). When he was asked the infamous question of, "With all the knowledge you have now, what would you tell your undergraduate self if you could?" Cameron answered, "Wake up. Go to class." We all laughed, but he was serious -- remember the reason why you're studying music, why you're in college pursuing what you are, and make a serious commitment and effort to do everything you can. He also advised to "say yes to everything." Don't miss out on the opportunities you have in your time in college, because it could very well be the next step in your professional career.
Next, we had the pleasure of Skyping with Alice Teyssier, a soprano and flutist. She was incredibly well-spoken and she had so much to share. Her mission is to "share lesser-known masterpieces and develop a rich and vibrant repertoire that reflects our era." She spoke of her work in studying and exploring music of the 17th and 18th centuries, but also her work in very new and very contemporary music. Professor Mello played a video of her performing Rolf Riehm's "Pasolini in Ostia". She spoke of how very old music and very new music is actually not so different - because in very old music, you still need to make interpretations as a performer just as much as you would in contemporary music (and perhaps more so because there is less written in the scores). Something that she said that really spoke to me personally was when she gave the advice to "say yes to opportunities you don't think you're good enough for." She encouraged that we challenge ourselves past our perceived skill level because it will make you a better musician and you will rise to the occasion. It will push you past your comfort zone and it will push you to work hard. I believe this is the epitome of how someone can become great and what they do.
These workshops were very well-attended and well-received, and we thank our professor Scott Mello deeply for putting these together! I know I gained a great deal of insight to how diverse the music field can really be.
-Sunhwa Reiner, '16
Voiceovers, Ensemble Singing, Indie Rockers, OH MY!- An Exploration of Diverse Career Paths in Professional Singing: Part I
Ithaca ACDA had the amazing opportunity to present a two day work shop with the help of our wonderful voice faculty member Scott Mello. As some may or may not be aware of, Professor Mello is in charge of Dr. Brad Hougham's duties during his time on sabbatical. This provided an amazing opportunity for a young professor like Professor Scott Mello to present knowledge and connections collected of his time in the field.
The concept of this two-day workshop was to allow all music students to get a clear view into what the working world is like for those with a music degree. So often we may feel that our career paths are set in stone from the moment we declare a major. This workshop allowed us the opportunity to get a window into other possibilities that come with a degree in music. We reached out to not only music educators, but hopeful performers, instrumentalists, and essentially anyone who desired a career involving sound.
Tuesday night, we had the pleasure of talking to Scott Mello himself, Cat Skorupsky, and Alyson Cambridge. Professor Mello gave us a complete backstory on how he came to be where he is now. He told amazing stories of traveling Europe and even starting successful vocal group from scratch. In doing so, the biggest theme of Professor Mello's presentation was to never be afraid to reach out. "Casting your net" was a universal theme and method to Professor Mello's success stories.
We then had the opportunity to speak to Cat Skorupsky (pictured above) who works as a voiceover artist for Hallmark. It was so interesting being able to hear just how she came to be where she was. Ms. Skorupsky's story just proved that there are many pathways to take when pursuing music other than education and performance. Ms. Skorupsky also shared her love of rock music outside of her classical training and how she kept that passion alive during her education. I loved that she was able to balance everything and fall into a career path that she is surprised she loves so much!
Finally, we end the night skyping with Alyson Cambridge who is currently a working performing with an astounding resume. She has done performances everywhere and began her performance career by winning the opportunity to sing at the Met. Ms. Cambridge talked about how this opportunity was both a blessing and a curse. She began her career with amazing success and almost did it all in reverse. Now, as a working performer, she is balancing success and failure just like any other working opera singer. Ms. Cambridge stressed the importance of patience and how we always have continuous goals to create and achieve.
Night one turned out to be a huge success full of deep critical thinking, self-reflection, and overall inspiration from some amazing success stories.
-Matthew Morrison 15'
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