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Music Teachers at the Mall (By Mrs. E)

kindermusik educator ann engbergI love reading the comics in the Sunday newspaper!  This week, Baby Blues was especially funny.  Hammie, the little boy in the family, was at the mall with his Mom and sister.  He was begging his Mom to hide him because he saw his teacher "right here at the mall and she was wearing flip-flops and jeans just like a regular person!"  His Mom told Hammie that when his teacher is not teaching she is a regular person.  To that, Hammie says "wait - so teachers are part-time people?" 
I laughed so hard because this has happened to me.  I will see my students while I'm out running errands around town.  They sometimes hide their eyes or don't want to talk to me - these usually are the kids who are the most talkative in class!  They are so confused why I'm not at "my house" (you know, the one that even has my kitchen in the waiting room!)  So, if I see you while I'm around town, don't worry if your child wants to hide from me.  I'll understand and just smile.  By the time they're around 4 or 5 it all starts to make sense to them!

Hunterdon Youth Choir Welcomes Erin Chassey!

hunterdon youth choir.chasse.jpgHunterdon Academy of the Arts is excited to welcome Erin Chassey as the new conductor of our Training and Advanced Choirs.  Ms. Chassey is succeeding Kimberly Hill, who is leaving us this summer to take up a full-time teaching position out of state.  

Known to many students and parents in our community, Ms. Chassey has established herself as a masterful conductor of children's choirs through her outstanding work in the Clinton Township School District.  Ms. Chassey, who holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Education from Westminster Choir College, previously taught at the Florence Township School District, serving as general and vocal music teacher.

Ms. Chassey is a specialist of the Orff and Kodaly methods of teaching music, which she uses with amazing results.  Singing, dancing, playing, and improvising, her students develop a love for music and the process of learning it, as Ms. Chassey's impressive Clinton performances have shown.

To allow Ms. Chassey to bring the full range of her expertise and teaching talents to Hunterdon Academy of the Arts, we have redefined our traditional "Advanced Choir" to include an instrumental Orff component.  Starting September, the reconfigured "Advanced Choir and Orff Ensemble" will perform in a dual capacity, as a vocal ensemble as well as an instrumental ensemble playing a wide range of HAA's Orff instruments (Xylophones, Metallophones, Glockenspiels, and other small percussion).  Imagine how much fun this is going to be!

The new Advanced Choir and Orff Ensemble is open to all students in grades 4 to 6.  No audition is required.  Call 908-782-4943 to enroll today!

Orff What?

When browsing the social media world, one notices that the word "Orff" is used playfully in many different constellations, some funny (as in, "I'm orff to bed"), others apparently meant to be offensive (as in, "Orff You!"). Though the word "Orff" may have a strange, even ominous ring to it, conjuring up images of giant creatures in the woods or on the bottom of the sea, it actually is closely associated with one of the most wonderful methods of teaching music to children.

Carl Orff (1895-1982) was a visionary German artist and pedagogue whose work has enjoyed a lasting presence on the concert stage as well as in the music classroom.  Though a prolific composer, Orff is now celebrated primarily for his large-scale 1932 oratorio Carmina burana.  By contrast, his pioneering pedagogical research seems generally far less known, though it is very much alive and thriving in school systems around the globe.  

In 1924 Orff and Dorothee Günther co-founded the Günther-Schule in Munich--a new type of school that offered instruction in music, dance, and gymnastics.  As head of the music program of the Günther-Schule, Orff developed his educational philosophy that music should be learned in combination with movement, rhythm, dance, and speech.  Orff's ideas were highly controversial at the time, requiring music teachers to acquire special skills--knowledge of Orff's preferred instruments (recorders, glockenpiels, small metallophones, marimbas, drums, etc.) as well as the ability to improvise, i.e., to create music spontaneously.

Orff's music classroom functions as a "lab" where students explore sounds and develop their innate creativity in a relaxed and friendly group setting (Orff Ensemble).  With students singing and dancing to improvised rhythms, and communicating with each other in "call-and-response" situations, music study becomes an enjoyable, playful activity, and an experience involving multiple senses simultaneously.  

From 1932 to 1935, Orff collaborated with Gunild Keetman and Hans Bergese in publishing his Orff-Schulwerk: Elementare Musikübung, which presented an introduction to group improvisation and techniques of playing various percussion instruments, as well as a few ensemble compositions.  Music teachers at the time were flabbergasted by the Orff-Schulwerk since it ran counter to established concepts in traditional music education.  

It was not until 1950, when the Orff-Schulwerk was reintroduced with a second publication, Musik für Kinder (Music for Children).  This 5-volume work represents the basis of Orff instruction, providing teachers with a discussion of what is often called the "Orff Approach" or "Orff Method," and a number of ensemble compositions.  Due to its universal appeal, the "Orff Method" has since been adopted by music educators around the world.

For families in and around Flemington, NJ, Orff instruction is now available at our Hunterdon Academy of the Arts, starting in September 2010.  Enroll today since space is limited!


Music Lessons and the Family Budget

Though rates for private music lessons may vary between instructors and music schools, they tend to be higher than tuition rates for group classes.  Why?

As with almost anything else, you get what you pay for!  In the case of private lessons, your tuition dollars provide you with the undivided attention of your teacher, who tailors style and content of his or her instruction to meet your individual needs.  For many students, the individual lesson format provides the ideal learning environment to make progress as quickly as possible.  In that sense, a

keyboard lessons young child.jpgprivate lesson teacher is no different from your personal gym trainer, who makes sure that you do your exercises correctly for maximum benefit.

If we stick with the sports analogy for a moment, some of us are not particularly crazy about working one-on-one with a trainer, or working ourselves through all that exercise equipment at the gym, one machine at a time.  That can be tedious and a bit solitary at times.  By contrast, joining an aerobics class or a sports team to play soccer, football, basket ball, and what not, is an entirely different experience.  Although as members of a team, we may not be getting all that individualized attention, we're having fun, working collaboratively, laughing, and sharing victories and losses.  And on top of it, we're still toning those muscles and losing a few pounds!  Not bad at all.

When it comes to music education, it is similarly possible, and enjoyable, to learn within the socially interactive context of group classes.  Young beginners often express a strong preference for music classes not only because of the social interaction involved but because the group format offers them the most developmentally appropriate venue for absorbing information.  Young children may learn as much from observing each other as they learn from their designated teachers.  To be sure, for some kids, the group class format may be too stimulating and distracting.  Kids falling into this category will do better in music lessons under the guidance of an instructor, who focuses their attention and provides a firm structure for the learning process.  Parents should consult with their music teacher in choosing the option most suitable for the learning disposition of their child.

If after careful consideration you have reason to believe that your child may progress more easily through group instruction, why would you sign her up for private lessons?  And why, looking at your bottom line, would you invest the extra dollars on individual instruction before your child is actually ready to enjoy its full range of benefits?  Start young beginners age 4 through 8 in group classes as a high-quality, low-cost alternative to music lessons!  When given sufficient time to mature and learn, children are more likely to develop a life-long appreciation for music.  Isn't that what it's all about?

Hunterdon Academy of the Arts, Flemington 

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