Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Was It a Poor Ending or a Cautionary Tale?

Those who have seen Mr. Holland's Opus cannot forget this finale. Budget cuts were scheduled to eliminate the program this man had worked his whole career to build. A defeated Glenn Holland walked into an auditorium filled with supporters and a stage teaming with students from days gone by. All had come to pay tribute to a man and a program who had meant much to them.

At one dramatic moment, the doors to the auditorium fling wide and in walks the governor, a figure we had seen much earlier in the movie as a struggling young clarinet player. She takes the podium and begins a stirring tribute to her teacher:

I kept waiting for the moment the governor would announce that under no circumstances would funding for a program which had done so much for so many be cut. I waited...and waited...but that proclamation never came. After all was said and done, Glenn Holland began his retirement, and the music program became history.

What a poor ending! What were the writers thinking? What kind of message does it send when the governor praises the teacher and the program, yet does nothing to save it?

I was expecting the governor to make everything right. I was expecting the "good guys" to win. And I was expecting it all to happen while I sat comfortably in my chair and watched. Surely I would be walking out of the theater affirmed that as long as music programs offer quality and help children grow up whole, those music programs have nothing to fear. Someone will look out for them. 

Little by little, I began to realize that this movie ended correctly. The message was clear. As long as good people sit back and do nothing, quality programs will perish with little thought given as to the void which will be left. The challenge clearly issued to every one of us in that movie theater was the challenge to make sure that what happened on that screen would not repeat itself in our communities.

Richard Dreyfuss played the starring role of Glenn Holland. An Academy Award nominee for his performance, these are the remarks that he made at the 38th Anuual Grammy Awards:

This evening is a celebration of music, the artists who create it, and the phenomenon of creativity itself. Now, there are two realities in this movie (Mr. Holland's Opus). One is the life of a teacher, a reality of defeats and victories, like all of our lives, --but one that ends as a celebration. The other reality is the loss of music in the schools in the same America and that is hardly a celebration.

For some strange reason, when it comes to music and the arts, our world view has led us to believe they are easily expendable. Well, I believe that a nation that allows music to be expendable is in danger of becoming expendable itself.

Perhaps we've all misunderstood the reason we learn music, and all the arts, in the first place. It is not only so a student can learn the clarinet, or another student can take an acting lesson. It is that for hundreds of years it has been known that teaching the arts, along with history and math and biology, helps to create The Well Rounded Mind that western civilization, and America, have been grounded on. America's greatest achievements -- in science, in business, in popular culture, would simply not be attainable without an education that encourages achievement in all fields. It is from that creativity and imagination that the solutions to our political and social problems will come. We need that Well Rounded Mind, now. Without it, we simply make more difficult the problems we face.

There's a general feeling growing in this country lately that we simply spend too much money ... that we can't afford to give our children the education we grew up with. This is an insane anxiety that allows us to forget that we are, after all, the richest country on Earth, and that the real question is not what we can't pay for, but rather how can we efficiently pay for the kind of public education we all want and need.

Cutting these programs, then, is like tying our children's hands behind their backs, and I don't think anyone really wants to do that ... we hope for too much for our kids, and for our country. We are parents, most of us, and we are citizens, all of us. Don't let this happen, I urge you."

As "Music in Our Schools Month" draws to a close, the challenge before us is not only to sustain, but expand the kinds of programs which will allow our country and its citizens to thrive in the decades ahead. All around us are people who owe much of what they have accomplished to the creativity, discipline, imagination, appreciation of quality, and preference for quality they learned in a music program somewhere along the way. Whether or not those opportunities will be there in the years to come will be up to us.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2009 International Barbershop Chorus Champions

One of the great things about music is that we can active participants long after our days in schools are over. Community bands are two of the most common outlets for people throughout their loves. Barbershop singing provides a unique outlet, and here is a unique group. Enjoy the "Ambassadors of Harmony."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Star-Spangled Banner

Would you believe a group of elementary school students could sing our National Anthem this well? Enjoy these 5th graders who comprise the PS22 Chorus from Staten Island, New York.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Don't Stop Believin'

This rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is performed by the PS22 Chorus, a group of 5th grade students from Staten Island, NY

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Middle School Band

December is noted for the annual traditions our our culture. For many band directors, December means it's time for the Mid-West Band and Orchestra Click held every year in Chicago. To by invited to perform at this event is a cherished honor. Performing in this video is the Krimmel Intermediate School Symphonic Band from Spring, Texas. They are performing "Choreography" composed by Robert Sheldon and published in 2009 by Alfred. This recording was made on December 17, 2009, at the 63rd Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Illinois, at McCormick Place West.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Daniel Pink

Best-selling author Dan Pink discusses why right-brain thinking is required in today's workplace and how arts education fulfills this need.

Listen to Daniel Pink's keynote for the Texas Music Educators Association keynote.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Let There Be Peace on Earth

As "Music in Our Schools Month" nears its close, enjoy "Let Their Be Piece on Earth" performed by the PS22 Chorus. Their director writes:

One of the most beautiful things you'll ever hear. The chorus covers the Christmas traditional, "Let There Be Peace On Earth." The kids learned this in just 2 weeks. Samantha does a gorgeous job on the solo, and the chorus is in best form. It's a stunning version of the song, and you can't possibly not be moved by this.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Middle School Recruiting Video

This 8:00 video is designed to familiarize students with what band has to offer at that juncture in their lives when they have the opportunity to join the middle school band program.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tales from A Teacher's Heart

A friend of mine, Wayne Washam, often said, "There are some kids the band needs, and there are some kids that need the band." This video, which illustrates a true story from my teaching career, spotlights a young man who started as one and became the other.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jazz Band

This month, we have taken you from New York to Japan and places in between to spotlight school music. This one is a little closer to home. Enjoy this Animoto presentation highlighting the Talladega High school Jazz Band at the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Managing Digital Information

The way we store, retrieve, and share information has changed. This 5-minute video illustrates the concepts that we use today. It provides an excellent conversation starter.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We Will Rock You

Enjoy PS22's rendition of "We Will Rock You."

Friday, March 19, 2010

More on Grants is a great source for information on grants for school-elated projects. At this site, you can also find completed sample grants. At the site, you can choose to subscribe to a biweekly newsletter. Having been a subscriber, I can assure that the list of grant opportunities is extensive. At $45 per year, the price is a bargain. To see a sample of the biweekly newsletter, click here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mama Elementary School Band

Mama Elementary School band at the Japanese championships.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Guide to Grants

ImageChef Word Mosaic - Over the years, I had fairly good success with writing grants. Give me the request for proposal, and I could articulate the idea, relate it to the purpose of the grant, and carefully follow the directions. Writing was not the problem.

Finding grant opportunities was the challenge, and I imagine it is a challenge for many others as well. That's why I was glad to find a blog called Guide to Grants. I added a subscription to my Google Reader, and now every time an opportunity is posted, it comes directly to me.

Yes, there are other publications which search and summarize grant opportunities, but it you are looking for one more (especially one that is free) this is not a bad one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Who'll Be a Witness

The spiritual song "Witness" (Damon Dandridge) is performed by the Los Altos High School Main Street Singers choir final concert of the 2007/2008 season.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Improving Communication One Blog at a Time

The article I wrote for Principal magazine, Improving Communication One Blog at a Time, is now available on the web.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Music in Our Schools

Hear comments from principals about the importance of music for their students.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Checklist for a Great Start

So much to do and so little time. That statement is one often uttered by the teacher who has just joined the faculty and is preparing for the start of the school year in a new setting.

In Organization Made Easy!, one entire appendix is comprised of a checklist of all of the people, places, equipment, procedures, papers, etc. that the teachers must become acquainted with before the year begins.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Concert D'Amore

Featured here is the Nakugurose Elementary School Band. Yep, that's right...elementary school.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Principal Blogs: Who is Your Audience?

The current issue of Principal magazine contains an article I authored on the subject of principal blogs. Today's post highlights three principal blogs that I think are outstanding, each in its own way. One element that all three share is they are clear on the audience for which they are writing.

Raymond L. Young (Raymond L. Young Elementary School, Talladega, AL)
I wrote about this blog about a year ago in this post. Since that time, it has gotten even better. The focus on the accomplishments of children is the hallmark of this blog. Principal Pattie Thomas makes particularly effective use of Animoto in her posts. Blogger's new editor now allows a blog to have multiple pages. You will see that feature used in the R.L. Young blog. The audience for this blog consists of parents and community members. Teachers visit the site constantly to enjoy the sights, sounds, and information be passed along to the "R.L. Young family," but you will not see announcements meant for teachers mixed in with material meant for parents. Communication with faculty is handled another way.

Heights' Highlights (Middleton Heights Elementary School, Middleton Heights, Idaho)
Robin Gilbert created this blog at the beginning of this school year. The audience for this blog is the faculty and staff of that school. In addition to posts which are well-crafted, Ms. Gilbert has added "gadgets" down the right-hand slide allowing faculty and staff to respond to polls, view a monthly school calendar, read recent comments, or view notes of congratulation or appreciation. Like the R. L. Young, this blog uses the the multi-page feature of Blogger. Ms. Gilbert makes use of GoogleDocs as a place to store documents that faculty and staff can access electronically. She has been able to fashion a totally electronic (and free) system for handling maintenance requests using with GoogleDocs. I had done the same in my former school system, and it a huge time-saver for everyone.

Trinity Presbyterian Middle School (Montgomery, AL)
In the previous two examples, we saw a blog intended for parents/community and one intended for faculty/staff. What if you want to communicate with both groups with a blog. Principal Kerry Palmer created two blogs, one for each of those groups. I wrote about these blogs in this post. To read the blog for parents, click here. To read the blog for faculty/staff, click here. Throughout the faculty/staff blog, you will see links to other website that Mr. Palmer wants the staff to read. During a recent student trip to Washington D.C., parents were able to see pictures on a daily basis by visiting the website. 

Anyone who authors a blog needs to ask the question, "Who is your audience?" and write accordingly. This point holds especially true for principals. Letting one blog do for both audiences winds up in a blog that does a poor job in both arenas. These three principals had from the very beginning clear visions for who their audiences would be. It makes things easier for the author. It also makes things easier for the reader.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eye of the Tiger

Two previous posts this month have featured this 5th grade chorus from PS22 in Staten Island, New York. Today's feature is "Eye of the Tiger."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss

"On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss" is one of the real treasures of modern band literature. It is not beyond the reach of a good middle school band, yet milking all of the emotion from this piece makes it a challenge for a college band. Enjoy this rendition by the Concordia College Band.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Blind Side

Davonia and I recently went to see “The Blind Side.” It is a true story of a young man and the family who befriended him. The significance of this story goes far beyond the saga of one young person. This movie is important because it tells a story that happens all around us, and may have happened to us. It is the story of the difference a mentor makes.

We live in a complex world of many moving parts. Whether we flourish or falter is not always a result of talent. Sometimes, it’s about knowing where the potholes are located and steering clear of them. It’s also about knowing where the treasure is buried. And, it’s also about forming relationships with those who have been down the road before and are willing to give us a hand.

As the movie unfolds, we see a young man who time and time again would have been eaten alive by the “system” had it not been for a family who knew how to navigate that system and saw potential inside him. As millions crowd into theaters around the country to view this blockbuster, I can only imagine how many see at least a part of themselves in Michael Oher. If we have made it very far in our chosen professions, it is likely due in part to someone saw something special in us and went out of his or her way to make clear the path.

Who are the mentors in your life? How different would your life be right now had it not been for that special person who did that which was neither required nor expected? Have you taken the time lately to say “thanks”? If not, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Pictures of You

PS22 is an elementary school located in Staten Island, New York. The chorus of composed of 5th graders. Approximately 75% of the children at this school qualify for free lunch. Enjoy their rendition of "Pictures of You."

Friday, March 05, 2010

Quotes on Leadership

The following video provides quotes from some of the world's great leaders from various walks of life.

I found this presentation on the All Things Leadership blog authored by Kerry Palmer.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Digital Resources Chart

Good teachers have always used additional resources to supplement the textbook. Thanks to the Internet, resources have never been more plentiful. The unlimited number of resources also introduces the problem of how to keep up with them. The teachers can quickly become overwhelmed.

Organization Made Easy! introduces the "Digital Resources Chart," a single spreadsheet organizes it all and puts each resource a click away.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


You will be hearing more of them this month.

Monday, March 01, 2010

National Music in Our Schools Month

"The life of the arts far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is close to the center of a nation's purpose-and is a test of the quality of a nation's civilization." 
                -John F. Kennedy

March is national "Music in Our Schools Month," and there is no better time to recognize the importance music plays in helping children to grow up whole and to help nurture the creativity and imagination that will be so vital to this generation as its members join the workforce. Throughout the month of March, this blog will be highlighting some of the creativity and beauty brought to you by school musicians.