“Sara, Stop Singing!” The Advice I Never Took

By Sara Alipanah Slattery, Performing Arts Teacher

When I was a child, I sang all the time – even my mom couldn’t convince me to take a break. (You won’t be surprised to learn that this trait has followed me into adulthood!) Music has always been an outlet for me, and I decided to make it my life’s work to share it with others.

My teaching philosophy about music closely aligns with the First Steps in Music approach, created by John Feierabend.  He outlines a 30-year plan in creating Tuneful, Beatful, and Artful people who can: sing ‘happy birthday or lullabies to their children’ (tuneful); clap at sporting events or concerts, and dance at weddings (beatful); and be moved by music when listening to concerts, choirs, public radio, or more (artful).

After teaching this musical approach, I’ve noticed a change in student engagement – because of the frequency and repetition of the activities, the students can become masters of memorization. At every lesson they are developing language, reasoning, and fine tuning their auditory skills in age-appropriate ways.

Throughout this school year monthly, I’ll be posting “Ask Me” cards to the parent resource board post called “Magical Adventures: ‘Ask Me’ Cards”. These cards will outline simple songs we’ve learned in class. I would love it if you would ask child to sing these songs to three different people (family members, neighbors, or even pets!) in person, over the phone, FaceTime, or Skype. Positive encouragement and support is essential for their musical growth.  This could be something you talk about with your child in the grocery store, at home, or even in the car!  Once you get them talking about the “Ask Me” cards, they won’t want to stop or take a break – just like me as a kid! Your students might already be talking about the songtale called “Jenny Jenkins.”  You can hear Jill Trinka sing the song and see the book at the website here: https://www.giamusic.com/store/resource/jennie-jenkins-book-g8893.

Below you’ll see an example of the “Ask Me” card and description of the steps of the program. I can’t wait to hear about the musical adventures you enjoy with your children outside of the classroom!

Ask Me Card Directions

The musical workout consists of 8 different parts.  I’ll explain each part of the work out.

1. Pitch Exploration (Vocal Exploration)
The first step, pitch exploration, uses sliding sounds which help the students engage the vocal muscles used to sing in the head voice. Just as an athlete warms up certain muscle groups before exercising, singers should warm up the correct singing muscles.

2. Song Fragments (Echo songs & call and response songs)
For the second step, song fragments, these songs provide an opportunity to sing a short phrase alone. “Echo songs” invite the child to repeat the same tune and words, while “call and response” songs require children to remember the original pattern after a different pattern has been presented.

3. Simple songs
The third step, Simple Songs, is meant to encourage independent singing while assimilating the whole song.

4. Arioso (Child Created tunes)
The fourth step, Arioso, offers tunes that children spontaneously create.

5. Movement Exploration (Movement Warmups)
The fifth step, Movement Exploration, is the movement warm-up just like the first step is the warm-up for voices.  Through these activities students will develop body coordination as well as expressive sensitivity, especially when carefully coordinated with recorded music that complements the expressive quality of the movement.

6. Movement for form and expression
The sixth step, movement for form and expression, is a time when students experience musical form through organized movement.  Classical music examples, songs and rhymes are used.

7. Movement with the beat
The seventh step is Beat Motion activities.  Having an intuition for the beat in music is central to all later rhythmic development.

8. SongTales
The last step, SongTales, is an opportunity for students to develop their listening skills.  It’s a time when students can hear the expressiveness music should include.