Utah Shakespeare Festival

Utah Shakespeare Festival

I just spent an amazing week+ at the Utah Shakespeare Festival!  

While there, I took TWO theatre classes (Theatre Methods: Secondary; Tech for Teachers) and attended the UACTT summer conference!

I learned SO MUCH from Michael Bahr and Russ Saxton and all of the amazing people who work at USF!

Theatre Methods.  

I came home with an enormous amount of ideas, collaborative measures, and a multitude of resources.  I participated in activities I know my students will love…I did.

Utah Shakespeare Festival.  Each year, the classes are taught by Michael and Russ.  However, many of the workshops we attend are taught by current USF staff. 

Theatre Methods. During the three days of Secondary Methods, we worked on a huge variety of Learning Activities we could take back to our classrooms.  We discussed the individual needs of our classrooms, collaborated with new and seasoned teachers,  learned the best way to structure our courses, and met with current actors of the productions.

Theatre Methods. This year, we met Shane Kenyon, who plays Romeo.  We got to learn a little bit about him and have a Q & A session.  Each of us, were asked to bring an activity to share.  As this is my first year teaching theatre, I was a little hesitant about having an activity to share.  However, as I got to know the other class members and talked with them, I realized I could share my knowledge about breakouts.  This class was everything I hoped it would be.  I learned the things I knew I needed to learn and came away with even more.

Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Tech for Teachers. The first day of the tech class, we were taken on a tour of the facilities just as we had for the Theatre Methods but this time, we were treated to areas of the previous outdoor theatre and current theatres patrons don’t go.  Many of these areas became our work zone for the workshops and projects. We also got to learn all about masking-making processes. We even got to make a mask during our Costume Workshop taught by Rosa Lazaro. We build a flat [I even cut, stapled and glued the wood myself!] during the Scenes Workshop taught by USF staff and even painted the flat with a variety of techniques we learned during the Painting Workshop taught by Russ Saxton. And…? We were able to take the projects home to share with our students!

Tech for Teachers. The second day, we learned all about Lighting, Sound, Hair & Makeup as well as Stage Management as taught by USF staff.  During Hair & Makeup, we learned to measure someone for a wig and how to modify an existing wig.  We had a rain day so the Lighting workshop wasn’t what staff had prepared so we went over different types of lights, asked her questions and I learned I get to do a 1 to 1 check on all of our stage and house lights to see why we haven’t been able to patch everything to the board despite our earnest efforts and assistance from district specialists. We also got to see the amazing LED lights that have started to replace many of the traditional lights. During Stage Management, we practiced marking a script and setting a stage for cues and props. I was also able to ask how to mark center on my unusual stage called a KIVA.  I learned it would be easier to triangulate the space. This will be fun!

Tech for Teachers. The third day was all about Props, PR & Networking. During a free lunch, we played STUMP the Techie! It was a chance to further our networking skills and ask questions about our individual spaces and operations.  I was very grateful for the Custodian at our school who graciously took pictures for me of EVERYTHING so I could get lots of answers.  

Utah Shakespeare Festival. A wonderful thing of both classes what the free ticket they provide the participants.  Theatre Methods sent us to Romeo & Juliet.  The tech class offered the opportunity to not only watch Shakespeare in Love but to shadow backstage/booth for As You Like It.  A last-minute decision made it even possible for me to shadow Treasure Island, where they even trusted me with a headset:)!  The staff at USF for these shows was amazing to work with and to learn from.  

In addition to the plays offered for the classes, UACCTT provided a ticket for As You Like It so I not only got to shadow, I actually got to see it.  This was especially special because I could see the changes in lighting, sound and props more than ever.   Because of all the plays I got to see as part of the classes/conference, I was able to pay for two more shows! I saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream and even one of my favorite musicals, Guys & Dolls!  What amazing experiences!!

At the tail end of the tech class, UACCTT began.  This was all about meeting and greeting and building a network with other theatre teachers.  Here too was a variety of workshops.  This time, I was able to perform Pantomime for the first time and participate in Devised Theatre.  One of the workshops was with Rosa again all about makeup and costumes on a budget.  I also got to meet with other first year theatre teachers, grab some amazing theatre resources for my students, was given my first massage and even got to take home some new (new to me anyway) stage lights!

My mind is so full of amazing ideas, my heart is so full of gratitude for the experience.  If you have never been or it has been a while, I would go to the Utah Shakespeare Festival and find something for you.  

Final Concert of the Year

Final Concert…

Whew what an amazing ride!

If interested, check out our Concert Slide show.  I used this in place of all talking/introducing of the numbers.  It was such a sweet process!  I loved not having to talk:), not having to write a script, that my stage crew put it together using Google Slides.  It was a great first effort for producing a sweet concert.

The students stepped up and showed the audience what they had learned, practiced and perfected.  I was so impressed with their drive and endurance. It was hard doing something so different from what they were used to.  Usually, we just have them stand in sections on seven connected risers with very little movement albeit animation in the face.  This time, it was all get out!  They not only did a variety of choreography, they did it while NOT being in their sections.

As I’ve mentioned before, our auditorium scenario makes it necessary to have two concerts.  So, our first concert was the beginning choirs and they were just awesome!  Of course, there were little mistakes.  No concert goes without them.  What makes it awesome is working through them and making the overall picture an amazing experience for the audience.

The second concert was the Intermediate and Advanced choirs. Boy did they step it up!  Their effort was miraculous and just so impressive.  No matter what was thrown at them, they made it through with flying colors.

I also think I’ve said this before, but the students have asked me repeatedly to sing for them or with them.  Tonight, I sang with the advanced group.

Image result for seasons of love

We sang Seasons of Love from Rent.  This song means a lot to me.  I have a lot of friends that I have lost over the years and whether you like the musical itself or not doesn’t really matter.  The text that is within this piece should give everyone pause.  The question of “How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?” is something we should all ask when deciding how we treat each other.

The students in this particular group have really come to understand what it means to be a family, what it means to treat each other with respect and dignity, and what it means to protect others.  Why wouldn’t I sing this song with them?  

As we started the song with a complete blackout and spotlight, and gradually added colored light as students joined me on stage, the joy of singing with my students was something I had never experienced before.  Their smiles, their excitement and their obvious joy was contagious and wonderful.  I hope someday to be able to have the privilege of doing it again!

Then they did something I never expected.  They wouldn’t just let me say thank you to the audience for coming and enjoying the show, they took the mic.  These wonderful students shared their thoughts with the audience about how they felt about the class, the year and even me.  They presented me with two bouquets of flowers, candy, a candy poster and even my favorite soda (DP) signed by all of the students.

No one could ask for anything more!

Yearly School Talent Show

Today was our yearly student talent show.  

Last year, I was on the committee that auditioned the students and selected the acts to perform at the assembly. It was an interesting experience as it was my first year teaching choir and the first year at my school.  I had spent the entire year getting to know my students and working with them on some basic skills I felt were the most important for our first year together.

But as the talent show auditions approached, I became increasingly frustrated.  Since I was on the committee, I was required to be at the auditions. This meant I couldn’t help my students prepare their pieces for the audition.  I had a number of students, both inside and outside of my class, ask me for help and I had to turn them away.  I felt awful.  The day of the auditions was fun and enjoyable.  However, I kept wishing I could have been a resource for many that auditioned.

Since becoming the Advisor to our school Stage Crew, I wasn’t put on the talent show committee.  It was bittersweet.  I know I had hoped I could be of help to students but I kind of missed being a part of the whole process.

This year, students could ask for my help and get it.  Anyone that came in, I listened to their thoughts, their performances and gave suggestions that would help them.  Unfortunately, they also kept coming to me with logistical questions I couldn’t answer because I wasn’t on the committee anymore. Thankfully, all I had to do what send them to the teacher that was over it.

Although I’ve seen the show from both sides of being an auditioner and coordinator vs being a teacher giving assistance and scheduling stage crew, I’m not sure which one I truly like best.  In some ways I would like to do both but I know that’s completely insane and I wouldn’t be able to help my students prepare.  I think I’m willing to give up much but I wouldn’t trade being there for any student that wants my help.

The really cool thing?  Last year, I had two students from my choirs make it into the talent show.  One played the piano and sang.  The other played the piano so I don’t know if I can really count this one as it wasn’t voice.

This year, I had three singers! I even had one that was in my choirs but she played her cello with a group from her orchestra class.  I was especially pleased that they did so well.  One of the students acts very large in personality but I’ve gotten to know that student really well and can see the insecurities that others can’t see.  That student got up in front of the school and performed a piece that wasn’t easy.  Our school population is quite large in comparison to our building and so we have to do three assemblies so that all of our students can see the show.  Imagine being a student that is clearly prepared but has struggled in such a way they aren’t sure how they will be received.  Imagine knowing you did your best and you made a success of your situation. I can’t wait to see what happens in the future for that student and all the others that strive for excellence.

Quotes for the moment

Today, I saw these two pics during my prep period.  Thanks to   and   for these quotes.

I decided to write them on the whiteboard and see what happened. 

What happened was really interesting…

Initially I had thought I would save the quotes for the next day but I was worried I might forget:) So I decided to write them on the board right then and there.  It might be seen by one class (my prep is 6th period and then I teach one more class before the school bell rings) but I was hopeful.

See…this class had struggled yesterday.  They were feeling tired after the weekend and out of their comfort zone because we were doing “CHOREOGRAPHY”! We had ended the class yesterday with a short, 5 minute, discussion on how the pattern we were seeing each day was making it so we weren’t going to be ready for the concert in 14 school days.  We talked about how to overcome their fears and how each of them was important to the team. I hoped for the best for today.

I said nothing about the quotes on the board as they came in.  I just listened and watched.  Each student had their own response.  Some didn’t notice anything.  Some glanced and kept moving towards their seat.  And then it happened.  I heard this small yet audible gasp.  I looked over to where it came from.  I found the source and loved the look I received.  It was as if a lightbulb had gone off in my student’s head.  She was surprised but seemed excited. She even made a comment which to the effect that she loved the play on words. She had noticed the quote on success and it really resounded with her.  Once she noticed, more students noticed.  Then they noticed the other quote. It was so interesting to continue to watch their responses.  This only took a couple of minutes but I was truly excited for what I was seeing.

I asked them what they thought of the quotes.  This let into a short discussion (again only about 5 minutes as those seem to powerful time spans) into what we each thought.  The amazing thing was in the way that they participated today.  I still had one that was visibly tired and felt sorry and somewhat worried for him but even he still gave a lot.

We started where we last left off. They practice, they worked, they created success.  We were even able to continue to work so well that they finished the piece. This was something that didn’t seem like it was ever going to happen.  It was complete turnaround.  We even reviewed the beginning of another piece and were able to add a new part to that one.  The new part REALLY took them out of the comfort zone but they did it and they did it well.

The things I have learned from my PLN on Twitter has been so ideal that I won’t be stopping my learning any time soon.

I know there are many more quotes I have LIKED so I can have access to them and I know there are many more I will find but I am thankful for the quotes I saw at that moment. It changed everything.

 

Choral Intent

What is Choral Intent? 

Choral Intent is the process in which a group determines what needs to be done.  

What does that have to do with Choir? 

Well, choir is all about the group.  At least it should be.

I know…you’re saying “Well, my choir (band, orchestra, theater) director was the one always in charge.” He/she dictated what we were going to do or sing, when we were going to do it, and how we were going to do it.  To some extent, you’re right.  The director is very important to the group.  He/she has to have a vast knowledge about music, where it comes from, background knowledge about genres and/or composers, conducting skills, interpretation skills, etc.  However, in reality, a choir director can only direct students.

This is the way I see it:

A director shares what they know and together with the students, they create something new and unique from anyone else.  No group will ever perform that same way.  It might be similar but it won’t be the same.  The same director could work with two different groups and the results will still be different. That’s because the overall group, although it has the same director, is vastly different.  It is inherently unique.

So, what does this have to do with my class (I don’t teach choir)?

I think it’s the same principle.  The teacher is just like a director.  It is your job to share knowledge that you have as it pertains to the subject(s) you teach. However, you can’t stop there.  You need to remember that the students have to take ownership of their learning. The only way to do that is to facilitate their learning by allowing and encouraging creation within the group.  It not only shows students how to work together more efficiently, the product is by far greater than it could be with just you at the helm.

Let me give you an example:

One of my choirs is full of 7th grade girls.  I can’t teach them like I teach the other classes, even the other one that is also full of 7th grade girls. I can’t teach them the same because they aren’t the same.  This group of girls has a large portion of dancers in the class.  These girls spend two, three, four or even five days each week at dance classes.  The days they have dance, they dance from 3:30-9:00pm.  WOW!  I didn’t have to spend that much time when I was doing theater!  We are currently getting ready for our final concert of the school year and we are working on choreography.  Most of the classes prefer to have me choose the basics of the movement with some input from the students.  This class, I knew needed to have some control over what they were going to put out.  It’s just the best way to get them excited about performing.

Let me give you an NON-CHOIR example:

When teaching 6th grade, I was charged with teaching my students about the Solar System.  Now, I could have just taught them the basics about planet, had them notes, etc. etc. Instead, I got them outside and we set up an experiment where the intent was to introduce the students to the solar system.  I didn’t create it myself.  I had already been taught this.  I was just sharing my knowledge.  The students were given a planet, moon or other space object to represent.  Then they were given the distances away from the sun.  Their job was to figure out how far away they would have to stand if one foot equalled x amount of miles.  It was awesome to watch and communicate with the students.  This took time but boy did they learn about distance.  After the activity, they wanted to learn more.  So I asked them to find out about the object they represented.  It was so much fun for them to explore, learn and share what they found out with each other.  I even learned tons more about the Solar System than I had previously known.

What is Choral Intent? 

Choral Intent is the process in which a group determines what needs to be done.  

To me…choral intent is when a group comes together and works together for a purpose.  Sometimes, they have to work on their own for a while in order to prepare for the group purpose but in the end it always makes it better!

Music and Collaboration

If you haven’t already realized I often think and communicate in the form of song, you haven’t read enough of my blog entries;) I don’t go through the day without having had many concourses of songs pass through my mind by the simple expresses of a word or phrase given to me in conversation with students, colleagues or family.

I was just reading an article about how bringing music and song lyrics into the classroom can impact the learning in your classroom.  The author even goes so far as to say:

“It’s amazing how song lyrics dig themselves deep into our minds and stay there our whole lives.

However, when we want to learn something and try to memorize it, it won’t stick as easy as a song will.”

That got me thinking.  

What do you when your WHOLE CLASS is all about music and especially song lyrics? Well, in my case, you try to make sure the lyrics mean something to the students.  You discuss them together, you listen to the student’s thoughts and feelings about the text, you try your best to make them understand why the composer and/or lyricist wrote the lyrics in the way they did.

But this article was about those OTHER CLASSES. 

“Music and lyrics can play powerful roles in the classroom. They can help students remember key content. They can encourage conversations. Plus, there’s great fun in creating music that relates to class content.”

That brought a thought to mind I’ve had many times before:

WHY AREN’T TEACHERS FROM THOSE “OTHER” CLASSES ASKING TO

COLLABORATE WITH THE MUSIC TEACHERS,

especially those that teach CHOIR?

The sad reality is…I don’t think we always know or will always know.

I know a lack of collaboration can occur because sometimes there’s a disconnect between “CORE” subjects and “Elective” subjects.

Intentionally or Unintentionally, teachers of so-called “CORE” classes think their class in more important and don’t see benefit in a class where you prepare music, therefore no thought of collaboration happens. But I’ve seen this happens with classes that are deemed “Elective” courses just like music is.

Sometimes, there is an expectation of the music class to work on specific types of music so, in this case, it could the music teacher’s reluctance to collaborate because it might interfere with “their plans” or required competition or even the expectation the community has for the required performances of this class.

I think a lot of times, it’s just not thought of.  Collaboration is often thought of within one’s content structure.  Math teachers collaborate with Math teachers. Science teachers collaborate with Science teachers.  Choir teachers collaborate with Choir teachers.  This goes on and on.  It’s there in excess once you hit the middle/junior high school or high school realm.  Everyone is thinking about what “I” need “my” students to do in “my” class.

I have had a dream for a number of years where the bounds of collaboration are broken.  Where a Math teacher can find ways to work with any other subject and make relevance.  I know this happens often with Elementary school teachers, but that is sometimes because that teacher teaches all subjects (at least they do in Utah). My dream would be that classes cross boundaries.  We get out of the mindset of mine and yours and think “OURS”. When the classrooms become OURS, then I truly believe that learning can be pushed past boundaries, past mandatory testing, past what I keep hearing people saying is wrong with public education today. It also means that our contents become AUTHENTIC, RELEVANT and REAL to our students because they won’t see anything other than a COMMUNITY. 

 

I don’t know about you, but if I get the opportunity to find a place where that happens, I’m going to grab it and run all the way there.  It won’t matter what it takes for me to be prepared, but prepared I will be and innovation I will see.

Tuesday Afternoon

Tuesday

Somehow, Tuesday is always harder on my students than Monday was.  Those that were wide awake yesterday are exhausted today.  I’m sure why that happens.  It just seems to work out that way.  Thankfully, most were excited to come into our classroom and work to learn right away.  Those that needed more time, took a few more minutes to regroup and quickly joined in.

Today…Tuesday, was our first day with staging our pieces for our upcoming concert.  This is always a challenge because some students don’t feel comfortable “dancing” in front of an audience.  With the help and support of the other students, we find ways  to help alleviate most stresses.  Through this process, we realize that if we all work together, the show will be a success.  If someone doesn’t give their all, it will be that person the audience looks at…sometimes with a critical eye, sometimes with confusion, sometimes with pity.  If they do their best, no one will know they don’t feel comfortable.  The students are also reminded that we have about three weeks to practice and accomplish all of this…ample time to help each of us become more practiced and at ease with what we are going to do.

I haven’t told most of the classes yet that I will be singing with one of the groups.  The group I will be singing with knows, just not the others. I haven’t ever sung with my students at any of our concerts thus far. When we practice and I demonstrate what I want from them, many of my students have asked me to sing to them.  Some have even asked me to sing with them on occasion.  However, I have always felt it was their show…not mine.

Earlier this year, I went to a music training where the presenter talked about ways to enhance our choir performances.  Many of those ways are in the works for this concert.  But one stuck out to me…the presenter asked us why we weren’t singing with our students.  The responses given were very much like my thoughts.  He then went on to say…If you aren’t sharing your talents with your students, what are doing teaching them? Wow, that made me think.

So, I went to my advanced group and asked them what they wanted.  Did they want me to sing with them?  Would they rather have it be solos from the students? Although there are always students that want to sing solos, I was really surprised by the number of students that wrote on a silent/anonymous ballot that they wanted me to sing with them.  I was honored.

I still want them to shine more than me so I gave into their requests for me starting the song with a black stage and spotlight, them slowly joining me on stage singing as they enter but then I will back off so my voice blends rather than stands out.  It will be an interesting evening as this piece is our closing number.  It will be interesting because many decisions should have been made by then.  It will be interesting to see what some of the parents say about me performing with their students.

For now, I worry not about those things.

For now, I care much more about getting the students ready and finding my groove with how we want to perform it.

For now, I will continue to look for Tuesday afternoons:

I’m just beginning to see
Now I’m on my way
It doesn’t matter to me
Chasing the clouds away

 

Monday, Monday

 

Everyone knows that Monday can be an awful day.  It can be drudgery coming off of an amazing weekend.  It can be the day we dread for any number of reasons.

However, my Monday was really good.  My students came to school tired but excited to be there.  This made it so much easier to work with students I already care a lot about.  It made is easier because my Sunday didn’t end the same way it began.

Sunday was a hard day to get through.  I made it through because of my wonderful children that rode the horrible ride with me.  I made it through because of a whole lot of faith that I could.  I made it through because some wonderful people stopped by just when I needed them to.  They brought laughter and joy and celebration.  I couldn’t return to my previous thoughts and stresses with that kind of reception. I made it through because I couldn’t worry any more.

This made it easier for me to show up to school with the hope that my students and I would make beautiful music together…And WE DID!  They are making so much progress each day that I just can’t believe it.  They are literally taking everything I can give them and making it even better.  A teacher can’t ask for more than that.

Well…I could only hope for one other thing.  A possibility that started last Tuesday, manifested itself in all of its glory on Friday and came closer to reality today. It is a dream I have never shared with anyone.  It is not reality yet but I am hopeful that it can be.

Monday ended up being unlike most.  It didn’t contain any drudgery.  It left a lot of questions that can’t be answered right now, but it definitely left me feeling as though “it was all I hoped it could be”.

A Really Interesting Day after Spring Break

Today was my first day back after having a week off for Spring Break.  Although I had really enjoyed my time off because I got to spend time with my children, start this website and blog and clean my house a bit, I was really looking forward to school today.  I couldn’t wait to work with my students again!

I teach six choir classes every day😉  My 7th grade Men’s Choir is an awesome group of young men!  They come enthused every day for class.  They jump right in whatever we are doing, whether it’s our starter, sight singing, rhythm practice, physical and vocal warm-ups, or working on our pieces for our final concert of the year.  They are simply wonderful!  If I have come in a little down, worried or in pain, they help me start the day with joy.

Today, I was excited to see them.  They were energetic as usual and worked right through all everything beautifully.  I love to see how quickly they learn and master a song!  I love that they look or try to look into the music to see how it fits their lives.  I love how they emulate the music they are preparing.  Of course, it helps that they love the pieces they are working on and they know how we are going to set up the concert with lights, choreography, slide show, etc. and that a lot of their thoughts and ideas are going to go into the preparation.

Each class I go to…2 Women’s Choirs, Concert Choir, Chamber Choir and Cantata Choir, reacts very much the same way every day.  Crescendo Choir (my after school Jazz/Show Choir) is always enthused and it sometimes amazes me that they come diligently EVERY Wednesday to practice.  It is a simple joy to teach them all.

Today, in Concert Choir, we had some hard decisions to make.  We hold two concerts each time because we don’t have a traditional auditorium. We have what’s called a KIVA (basically the set up of an outdoor theater inside) We had eight songs (wow, I know, crazy) that we were preparing for the concert.  I showed them how many pieces were supposed to be in the concert they would share with Chamber, Cantata and Crescendo Choirs.  When they saw and heard how many pieces there were, they realized that they needed to give up a few.  We quickly discussed the realities of all of the pieces and then they voted.  I think they did a great job figuring out which ones should stay in the concert.  We cut three pieces.  I was so proud of them.  Crescendo and Chamber will also probably have to give up one piece but they know it, so it won’t come as a surprise.

One of my favorite things to happen today, occurred during Concert Choir today.  In addition to figuring out the changes in music, we had time to begin auditions for the solos in one of the pieces.  I was so pleased to hear the growth the students have had over this year!  As most of them are 9th graders so will be leaving me at the end of the year to go to Bingham High, I didn’t do the mid year vocal checks I did with all of my other groups.  I was impressed by how much their voices had grown.  There was one girl who auditions for everything!  Last year, she tried out for everything but never got a solo.  Today, she rocked it.  I still haven’t decided who will get the solo as there were a couple of other girls that did just as well, but I can say that I was immensely proud of her and her accomplishments.  We ran out of time as class is only 50 minutes to give all of the feedback I wanted to give, but I was grateful that she stopped in my room at the end of the day as she always does so I could I tell her how impressed I was.  Her smile made my day even brighter.

My favorite thing about teaching choir (and just about any subject) is the connections I make with my students and the growth that I get to see.  I know I see long before they realize it.  That’s why I try to give them feedback that is specific and constructive as quickly as I can.