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Building a program from the ground up

I just acepted my first full-time position and, man, is this a woozy. Here is my course load:
1. Non-audition men's chorus
2. Non-auditioned women's chorus
3. Select chamber choir
4.Introduction to guitar
5. Percussion/drumline
6. Introduction to music/music theory/music appreciation eighth-grade general music class
My fear comes with the last two classes. I took a percussion methods class while training in school, but I am a vocal major. I played snarie in the fifth grade band at my elementary school, and I love to play on my friends' drum sets, but I have little experience. Any advice on where to find good materials    to prepare me to teach this class? Keep in mind, this is in the small school district and I have a small and limited budget.
I have searched these forums and have found nothing on middle school general music set in a situation where elementary general music does not exist. Seeing as I'm acquire person and want to build a good program, my dream would be this class to be a factory to spew out site singing geniuses. That being said, I realize that this is a pipe dream and all I would be doing is killing my music program. I don't want this to be a class or we just listen everyone's favorite music every day and making it total fluff, but I also want it to be an awesome fun experience the kids love to come to every day. Any ideas? Any resources for middle school basic general music? Thanks for all of your thoughts!
Replies (5): Threaded | Chronological
on June 4, 2014 6:54pm
I have loved using Will Schmid's World Music Drumming Curriculum as a part of my middle school general music curriculum. It is engaging, the materials are comprehensive, many of the pieces have vocal parts to be performed along with the drumming (including harmony, if they are able), it involves improvisation and aural learning, and it incorporates an element of character development. You can even use guitar on some of the pieces, if a kid is interested and capable of basic chords. It's one of the things I have seen be consistently successful with older middle school students who don't have a strong music background and show up with a chip on their shoulder about music class. Even if you do not have any of the specific instruments it calls for, there are lots of resources online on how to create them out of buckets and other cheap/free materials. Also, it's a program that people like to get behind. I was able to get a sizeable grant at a former school and purchase a lot of the equipment in that way. (I do NOT make this the sole curriculum - but I do use it as a major element.)
Are #1-3 high school classes that #6 could feed into? If so, yes, making positive personal connections with kids in #6 and giving them a rewarding and non-threatening experience with music and with singing would definitely help build your program. If #1-3 are also middle school classes, at the end of that 8th grade general music class, wouldn't they be moving on to another school and another program? 
If you are looking for percussion materials for #5, can I recommend "A Fresh Approach to the Snare Drum" by Mark Wessels? I trained as a band director and had a great percussion methods class, but that book completely changed the way I think about, teach, and play snare. If nothing else, it would be a great resource for you to brush up on your snare chops. There are also lots of percussion ensembles online now that are quite cheap, and can be performed on a variety of instruments. For ensembles, check out the Row-Loff publications - you can get a set of multiple ensembles for a decent price, and each set includes at least one piece that is not on traditional percussion instruments.
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on June 5, 2014 3:52am
Congratulations on your new job!  
I created my sight singing program originally for use in the middle school general music classroom because I was searching for ways to have fun and get them to sing while they became literate.  Now, I am using it with my choirs because I don't teach general music any longer, but I've heard from numerous teachers who use it in their general music classrooms with great success.  Here are some links for you so you can gather more information as make a decision:
Video description of the program:
Sample of what we do on the first day of class:
Philosophy of the program:
Why I created it:
End results in 8 months:
Here is a link to where you can purchase individual links/bundles
Thanks and best of luck!
Dale Duncan
My blog for middle school teachers:
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on June 5, 2014 7:58am
Yes, yes, yes to Kristina's reply above.  I'm guessing the drumline will be expected to perform at football games and march in parades, and Row-Loff's materials will be ideal.  They publish a wide variety of music, including some things that are witty and very entertaining.  If you see them at a convention, they are always dressed in something weird (like neon yellow tuxes) but more important, they are great guys and will have a lot of practical suggestions.
Get yourself some earplugs, and use them.  You probably should make your kids use them, too - the pros do.  Look for the ones that are 'valved' that allow you to hear low-level conversations unlike the foam ones.
And after some experimentation and advice, I started using Evans drumheads, especially for marching percussion.  Their bass drum heads have interior dampening pockets (thier invention) and are incredibly durable.  Don't hesitate to find a pro to help you tune your bass drum heads.
On the theory/music appreciation class, use lots of videos to maintain interest - I learned to think of teaching musicology more than straight music history.  For the theory part, I would use Dr. Alan McClung's Moveable Tonic (GIA publications) as a resource for teaching music literacy.  It starts with sounds instead of nomenclature - instead of starting with the staff and notes, it starts with the students learning solfege which is then applied to a clefless staff and so on.
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on June 5, 2014 2:41pm
I second World Music Drumming.  Go to the website and make arrangements to attend one of the 5 day summer trainings held around the US.  One of the most important sessions when I attend eight years ago, was an evening presentation of fund raising methods to cover the $3000+ cost of drums.  Some of those are: PTA money, arts budget money, parent money, teacher center grants, district mini grants, fundraising by your student council, local civic clubs, publicizing the WMD program and soliciting donations from anyone and everyone, speaking to store managers of the big chains which often have a specific percentage of revenue set aside for local community aid, asking local music organizations for support, etc.   The big over-arching idea is to publicize your program and needs (get out in the community and perform!), have good photos, talk to everyone, and ASK for money.
During that same week I took the Level One WMD workshop, Dr. Schmid also had a 5 day classroom guitar workshop going, and I was able to observe that several times during drumming breaks.  This program is sponsored by the guitar making industry, and is very systematic and thorough.  Sorry, I can't recall the exact title.   Dr. Schmid is author of the best selling classroom guitar method, published by Hal Leonard, and a past president of MENC, so both the WMD and guitar curriculums are comprehensive and standards-based.  Marimba Band is another great teaching ensemble if you have several Orff xylophones from bass to soprano.  Google Walt Hampton for his two book/CD packages, summer workshops, and youtube videos of his student groups.
   I am not a percussionist, but for several years now I have had a small rudimental drumming group for 4-5-6th graders which meets at lunch and after school.  I have no experience using this in a classroom situation, with 25 students, but it was recommended recently in another forum, where the writer emphasized the relative cheapness and simplicity of drumsticks and practice pads.  I can see this could be very workable as a "unit" in your percussion class, and possibly even as your performing drumline. 
   I got started with drum corps when I taught in upstate NY, with its extensive colonial, French and Indian War, and Revolutionary War history.  One of the reenactors told me about the 200 year unbroken tradition of Fife and Drum Corps in the fire departments of CT, so I called around and was able to spend a day observing the annual summer fife and drum camp for students (elementary through high school), held near Hartford, with instruction on snare, bass drum and fife, several levels each.  A member of the US Army Old Guard and a civilian national champion rudimental drummer generously took time to answer my questions and get me started.
   Basically, I teach the first 10 or so rudiments, but instead of this being just endless drill, the rudiments are soon combined--as they were historically--into authentic drum calls and beats.  So, within a month, a 4th grader can be playing calls like "Go for water" (R L Flam, R L Flam, etc) and "Parley" (Flam rest rest rest, Flam rest rest rest RLRLRLRLRLRLRLR-Flam rest rest rest, etc.)  Most of these are from the first written military manual in our history, Steuben's Regulations, written down following the winter of training at Valley Forge 1777-78.  With a few more rudiments (drags, 7 and 9 stroke rolls, open paradiddles), students can begin to play parts of longer street beats like The Long March (1812) and Connecticut Halftime (1862).  
   For your general music class I would recommend the Dixie Fife, manufactured by Trophy Products in Cleveland.  This is a well made, accurately tuned, plastic pennywhistle which can be bought in bulk for around $2.  It has two thumbrests, no thumb hole, and six raised fingerholes which facilitate air tight closings.  In general I teach it like a recorder, but the fingerings are simpler and the repertoire more aligned with American history, being the traditional pennywhistle music of the British Isles and the fife tunes of the British and American armies.
Thank you Kristina and Raymond for recommending the Wessels book and Row-Loff materials.  I'm going to look them up right now.  Best wishes to all.   
For choirs, Nick Page's book Sing and Shine On was very helpful to me.
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on June 6, 2014 6:45am
Ben, I would absolutely have your students learn to play the recorder.  Thirty-five years of teaching middle school is writing to you.  Some of these students may not want to be in your class and will want to talk.  A recorder stops some of this obviously.  Middle school students love to work with their hands.  A recorder obviously requires this.  Middle school children want to belong to a group.  This will satisfy that need.  This age is easily embarrassed.  Singing to some, because of its personal nature and requirements, is embarrassing.  Playing the recorder avoids that unwanted embarrassment.  Recorders squeak.  How embarrassing!  But everyone's recorder squeaks!  Wonderful; they are a part of the crowd!  Everyone is having fun!  Having fun?  Doing what?  Learning music: learning notes, learning letter names of pitches, learning how to use a staff, learning bar lines, learning measures (bars), learning time signatures (meters), learning counting, learning rests, learning melody and harmony and the performance thereof, learning clefs, expanding their music vocabulary, expanding the music repertoire, learning team work, learning cooperation, and learning to love work among even more thoughts.  You can and should purchase recorders in advance of the class.  You can and should order method books THAT INCLUDE A CD WITH EACH BOOK.  I capitalized this because these books allow you to learn the music without the CD and, once a song is learned, the song may be perfected and its tempo increased.  Now they are ready for the CD.  Some wonderful accompaniments are experienced on these CDs.  The children can also use these CDs at home as each child has their own CD.  You might even discover a potential choir member(s)!  Maybe you will be inspired to create a recorder choir, too!  When the children enter your class present them with a course synopsis in which you announce the requirement of the purchase of the book/CD and recorder from you.  Round off the dollar amount upwardly to exclude the need for collecting coins and perhaps single dollar bills.  This will give you a surplus of money from which you can purchase the book/CD and recorder for those who are less fortunate.  As you collect money from each student, the funds are replenished and create a pool of money from which your next purchase can be made which means you only have to supply the initial/original outlay of money to purchase the books/CDs and recorders.  Problem solved.  Music created.  Children learning music and happy.  Your teaching music and happy.  Your superior is happy.  Your awesome!  Win!!!
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