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:



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.



Confusion can happen at any moment.  

Confusion is just that…confusing.  

Confusion can be frustrating, especially when it comes with the caveat of a needed decision.

  • What do you do when you know what you want and you can’t have what you want so you have to find something new?
  • What do you do when you think you know what you want and you are told it’s not possible so you have you look in a new direction?
  • What do you do when you have what you think you want but are told it has to change?
  • What do you do when you’ve done the work to look somewhere else and you found, not just one but two valid possibilities?


Decisions can be just as frustrating.  It’s hard enough to make a decision when you don’t see any options or when there are two options presented.  It’s worse when there are three.  Because then you can take those three options and make SO MANY MORE.

All of this reminds me of Cinderella’s lament from Into the Woods.

“You think, what do you want?
You think, make a decision…It’s my first big decision,
The choice isn’t easy to make.”

Too often people decide not to decide.  They put off the decision. They leave it until it’s too late and they lose out on a better life or at least the opportunity of one.  They might even hurt the ones they profess to care for through their indecision.

Decisions may be hard and even sometimes painful, but you have to make them.  Life does not go on without decisions.

How do you make the right decision? 

Well, I can’t tell you the RIGHT way for you or even for every situation.

I can only tell you what I do.  

Start with the pros and cons of the situation.  Are the pros and cons equal? Are there more pros than cons or vice versa? Are the pros and cons equivalent? Can they even be compared? Does your list contain feelings or logic or both?

I would tell you to eliminate the feelings, at least initially.  To me, if you are going to do a Pros & Cons list, feelings can’t be there.  This is supposed to be the logical part.  Feelings and intuition will come into play later.

Once the list is done, look at it. Does it make sense? Do you get any sense there is a distinct way to go? YES? Great, you probably made your decision and it was rather quick.  NO? Unsure? Yep, you’re like me.  You probably somehow, intentionally or unintentionally, made sure the lists were equal in length.  Yep…you and I have a problem.  Our need to have things even made it so the list isn’t as helpful as it is intended to be.

So what next?

I say…look at that list again.  Is there anything on the list that when push comes to shove you would say it’s not really important?  Is there anything on one side or the other on that list that you simply dismiss because you really have already made your decision, you are just prolonging the potential joy or agony?

For me, sometimes the list tells me everything I need to know.  Sometimes it tells me what I already knew.  Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to really help at all.

So…I ask again…what next?

If you have faith of any kind, this is the time to use it.  If your faith is a huge part of who you are, I would recommend praying since that is one of the inherent qualities of having any kind of faith. If not, keep trying with different logical situations and deeply ponder it. Talk to friends, etc.  Either way, process completely yet don’t take too long.  You don’t want something to pass you by that would benefit you, your family and/or others you are intending to help or work with. You may also have to process quickly because you are given a time limit.  We all know that adds to the stress but is sometimes a necessary requirement of an organization.

Confusion?…Process and make a Decision.

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.

Word Cloud and Interactive Poster

I wanted to share a couple of projects I have been working on for my Educational Technology Endorsement.  The first one is called a Word Cloud.

One of my choirs, Crescendo, sang this song for residents at the Beehive Homes in South Jordan.  My students love to share their talents with people, especially the residents at the Beehive Homes.  They know the power they have to impact the lives of the residents and they are grateful for the opportunity, even if it means missing three class periods;)  This is created by going to (previously known as and entering whatever text you want and choosing a shape.  It is extremely easy to create a visual where repeated words are highlighted and often links to important concepts in the text like my example did.

The second project was to create an Interactive Poster.  There are a lot of websites that you can use to create them.  However, I wanted to see if it could be done using the Google products since I have found how user-friendly they are and how easy it is to share with colleagues.  I found that you can create your own using Google Drawings.  This is a really fun way to use pictures you already have or find free ones using the Google search (only looks up ones that are available).

The link to view the poster is below.  Let me know what you think.  Use the comments to share constructive thoughts I can use to tweak the idea.