Smolder in Tenderness

I listened to Beethoven Clarinet Trio, Op. 11 for the first time earlier this week. It was my first hearing the work; I was struck by magical textures of clarinet, cello, and piano. Listen to the second movement, Adagio, if you please:

If you don’t use Spotify, listen to it via YouTube (audio quality isn’t great, but this is one of the best examples I can find):



The movement is just beautiful. 

This is how I will describe my experience in Washington DC since Tuesday. I’m fortunate enough to be included in this year’s cohort of NAIS Teachers of the Future (ToF) program. 19 of 25 ToFs made it to DC to advocate our loves: students, passion, teaching, and learning. This particular group of educators were not only talented, they were personable and engaged. Our discussions continued over meals beyond session times. For most of us, this summit was the first time we interacted with the National Assocation of Independent Schools, its President, and staff. From large group sessions to small group breakouts (unconference model), we shared, discussed, and brainstormed ways we can better serve our students, schools, and the educational community. NAIS, thank you for making this possible!

The movement is just beautiful

Each teacher’s passion and purposeful initiatives sparked interest and excitement during this vital, two-day retreat.  It’s my hope that this movement of the independent school teachers will be more than a single spark. ToFs, let’s keep the fire going. Just like Beethoven’s tender music, let’s keep the fire smoldering in tenderness…for our students and for the independent school community. Our work is just beginning…let’s make it count!

You can follow our discussions and posts on NAIS Connect site. Look for posts from Teachers of the Future discussion group.

Closing Ceremony Music at the 2012 London Olympics

English: Fireworks during the Celebration Conc...
English: Fireworks during the Celebration Concert segment of the closing ceremony at the 2012 Olympics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s August 13th and sadly, the 2012 London Olympics is no more…

The 2012 Olympic experience was an astonishing display of passion and discipline. Danny Boyle and his team delivered a breathtaking 2012 London Olympics Closing Ceremony. What a way to capture the spirit of the Olympics! I wish that the games would have lasted just a little longer.

Wondrous. Sensational. Dramatic. Astounding. These words come to mind summarizing the athletes, the games, and the opening and closing ceremonies.

Before I share a list of songs that were included in a set called “A Symphony of British Music” (so aptly named!), I wanted to highlight the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir and the Liverpool Signing Choir who performed John Lennon’s “Imagine”. During this beautiful tribute, the world watched a surreal performance of the choirs singing with a video clip of Lennon singing the song. There were also young dancers who built a sculpture of the legendary singer/songwriter’s face. As I have mentioned in my opening ceremony post, I think Danny Boyle was brilliant for including so many adolescences in both ceremonies. What do these choirs represent? For me, they represent the beauty of many passionate young individuals coming together to build a strong community with a common love. They will grow, transform, and become stronger as they work together. They make this imperfect world a beautiful place.

I wanted to include a video of these choirs, but IOC took the video down due to copyright issues. Maybe I will get it uploaded here later. In the mean time, I will leave you with a list of the songs that were performed during the closing ceremony. The Spotify’s playlist includes the songs, but the actual performance included many tribute covers by up-and-coming artists like Ed Sheeran. So I’m including the performer list and the playlist below. I can’t wait for the next Olympic games! ~Yoon

{N.B. on August 15: Spotify playlist of the closing ceremony music has been updating since my post! You will be able to hear tribute covers by younger artists, except for Imagine.}

Closing Ceremony Music & Performers, shared by Life of a Rock Star blog:

Spotify playlist:

Charles Hazlewood: Trusting the Ensemble

I can’t get this TEDTalk by Charles Hazlewood out of my head. It’s been months since @shaugland shared this link on Twitter.  Even if you are not a conductor, you should watch this. If you are a parent, a teacher, or a musician, you need to watch this and get into the conversation:

This brilliant presentation contains much food for thought.

TRUST is an important word. I would guess that many of us like being on the receiving end (ie. people trusting us). Boy, isn’t it hard to trust others? 🙂

This quote by an unknown author deeply resonates with Maestro Hazlewood:

Trust is the best medium for success. It creates an environment in which people feel free to be authentic, passionate, committed, and willing to share all they have to offer. ~author unknown


I reflected a lot, thinking about the simile (conducting is like a small bird in your hand) and the lessons learned through the South African Music project, the singing demonstration by the TED Choir (the F-E-D motive), the extraordinary story behind the Paraorchestra, and of Haydn‘s wordless, but apparent revolt in Farewell Symphony finale. The Maestro challenged me as a musician and teacher to assess myself as an artistic leader.

What am I doing to create a safe and passionate space for my students? What needs to change?

Musicians and music teachers, think of your ensembles. What is your story? What is your experience building trust with your group? How do you inspire the young musicians to feel free to be themselves, but give all to their ensemble?

And do you agree with this statement?

Where there is trust, there is music, and by extension, life. Where there is no trust, music simply withers away….


Why or why not?

~ Yoon (will post a post regarding my experience with my choirs)

Opening Ceremony Music at the 2012 London Olympics

Andrew Maunders designed this alternative Olympic poster

It was an amazing night of celebration in London last night. The opening ceremony, under the direction of Danny Boyle, was full of spectacular visuals, integrated social media, tech, doused with delightful surprises and humor.

And of course, MUSIC.

It was a great mix of pop and classical music. I loved hearing two children’s choirs (were there more?) and the London Philharmonic under the direction of Simon Rattle. It was wonderful to see conductor and musician extraordinaire, Daniel Barenboim, carrying the Olympic flag with seven others.

I also loved that happy, energetic drummers stood on the sidelines as the athletes marched in. The drummers kept the atmosphere upbeat and moved the marchers at a fast pace.

Music, once again, played a vital role in the opening ceremonies. Congrats to Danny Boyle and the people of the UK. You have a great wealth of creativity. Thank you for sharing with the world.

So if you were looking for a list of music heard during the entire ceremony, here it is (thank you, Spotify)! My absolute favorite is Elgar’s Nimrod. What’s yours?

(N.B. I started watching the ceremony a bit late so if I missed something, let me know. I know there were some things I missed due to commercial breaks, too. Leave me a comment below!)

~ Yoon (PS. I absolutely love sharing world events with friends from all over the world. Tweeting during the ceremony was memorable!)

Arts & Culture: The American Right

I just watched Kevin Spacey on Hardball ( It doesn’t matter what political side you are on. The arts and culture are should be rights of all Americans to have and to protect. As Spacey says in this segment, it’s not about who hates the arts (the act of cutting budget on programs such as PBS or Metropolitan Museum of Art), but it’s about making the Arts and the Arts Education a must-priority of our country.

We need to fight and protect the ARTS. This is for our children and their future.

Who’s with me?


Vodpod videos no longer available.

Visiting Artist Week: Learning from Other Teachers

by J Bennett

Our school devotes

One week

out of year

to Art and Music. I don’t mean by offering classes, but by inviting other professionals to work with our students in addition to regular arts classes. The idea is to immerse the community in arts and the week finishes with a collaborative assembly where one might see performances and sharing of what had happened during the week. I believe it is one of the most special part of my school. And I’ll admit, this was one of the things that drew me in to teach here.

We invited two very different musicians.

Joe Tayoun, Middle Eastern Percussionist

Joe is an approachable and friendly guy. With big smiles, he talks with you – about everything. Put a  Doumbek in his hands and he can transform a huge group of middle school students into a percussion ensemble – an ensemble who work together because it’s fun. Joe had a tight schedule on a 2 hour-delay day. He brought his cousin, Michele, who taught our students Middle Eastern Dance (Belly Dancing) to a song (they learned the words and melody to this song as well). Each group had a chance to  drum and dance; at the end of each 45-min, we had both groups put their work together. It was so much fun.

Things I learned:

Joe is an effective communicator. He was clear in his direction, goals, and conveyed respect for the kids. I was happy to see my students responding respectfully and engaging themselves in some serious fun learning. Joe covered culture (he is Lebanese-American) and the origins of the rhythms, background of different drums that were being used, and connected to the kids with what they know with the material he was introducing. I particularly loved that he read his audiences well and adjusted naturally to their listening and playing abilities.  My 8th grade students enjoyed learning this 7/8 rhythm, Kalamatinio:

Because of snow and delay to our school day, we invited him back in February to rehearse with our students and put a performance together. I can’t wait!

Curtis Blues, a Delta Blues Musician

Curtis, a passionate and energetic musician, introduced lower elementary students to the sounds of Pre-War Delta Blues. He was fantastic at talking to our younger students. He made the instruments come a live to children through storytelling and songs. Students giggled, danced and looked at each instrument with awe. They were amazed at his harmonica playing. And his drum playing. And his guitar playing. All of these instruments were played simultaneously! When he didn’t play the harmonica, he sang!

Things I learned:

The rich history of the Blues was sung and explained to the young children in a language they understood. I liked how he used posters of the Delta Blues Greats – Robert Johnson, Bukah White, Memphis Minnie, and Muddy Waters as a part of the history. He never got too talkative, but balanced flow of music and talking. Students were definitely engaged and learned in a fun way. My 8th graders also had a chance to sit in a session and Curtis was great to bring them into a conversation by referencing the use of language of Blues lyrics. I loved the differentiated learning and the students appreciated being in the conversation!

* * *

Sharing from my experience~

If you would like to start something like this in your school, consider the following:

  • Begin a conversation with other arts teachers. Even if your school offers dance, music, art, and theater, consider partnering up with 1 other arts field to start.
  • Partner with the administration of your school and get an approval for a week-long (or a few days) of arts celebration. Find time in the year where things aren’t too crazy. We chose a week in January for this reason*.
  • Begin to budget for this event. Consider extra fees for travel, lodging, and food. And do look for grants locally and statewide for educational events like this. Money, always, will be an issue.
  • Begin researching for artists! Talk to arts teachers around your area or ask your PLN for visiting artists. Also check local art and music alliances for programs for schools. Many artists who have in-school residencies have a promotional CD/DVD. Ask for one. Also ask specific questions and the conversation going.
  • Keep a log of people you contacted and keep their contact info. You never know how people’s schedule will turn out.
  • Plan early and get agreed details  in writing.
  • Be flexible with the artist as much as possible for changes, but know when to go back to the “contract” or change the details of the contract.
  • Be a learner: get involved during the week, engage in conversation with the artists, get your hands-on experience with the students and reflect with them.
  • If possible, build an assembly time at the end of your arts week to bring the community together. Live performances, presenting pictures or movies of learning that took place that week is a nice way to close out the week together.
  • Evaluate the week as a team! What things were good? What can you improve for next year?

I am still learning and working on many of these suggestions :-). I need to address the (*) on the second bullet on scheduling the event went smoothly for 6 years – there were no changes once we had musicians were lined up. This year, however, we were thrown off because of inclement weather. My teaching partner and I worked early mornings and late nights those 2 days to reschedule everything. Thankfully, things worked out, but there was a chance we could have just given up on the week. Perseverance won that week!

In the end, it’s about creating a learning space for students. You are creative – share this week with your students and your community! I’d also love to learn from what you do during visiting artist week!

~ Yoon

So Do Tell What You Have in Mind: Start of a Collaborative Project

Happy New Year!

The first 25 days of December was insanely busy for me. There were simply too many happenings at my school to mention, but I wanted to try to get this post out before around the new year.


One way our school learns about cultures and traditions is through presentations during our weekly community meetings (we call them chapels, but they are assemblies. See here and here for examples and explanations). My department was asked to present for two of the December all-school chapels: Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Our music department is always involved with preparing music for every chapel (to perform, to sing or both), so this request had us look for other ways to present to our community. My teaching partner and I decided early on that I would organize Hanukkah chapel while he works on the other. We let these ideas simmer for a while :-).

December was approaching fast. So while mulling over ideas, I decided to make 2010 Hanukkah celebration about our community and elsewhere. Some questions I wanted to explore were:

  • What makes Hanukkah special for members of our community?
  • What is Hanukkah to them?
  • How do other people celebrate Hanukkah?
  • (Because I’m a music teacher) What songs are sung during Hanukkah in their community?
  • How do we learn about people outside of our community and how do I bring them to our school?

Other considerations I needed to be mindful were:

  • Having the Kindergarten class take a “presenter” role
  • 15-20 minute presentation time limit

Talking to a Person I Know: @WhatEdSaid

Making our school connections were easy: My teaching partner who teaches Kindergarten was teaching a beautiful song titled, Hanukkah Shalom; I talked to several group of teachers and students to give them a framework of what is to come. While I was thinking about asking outside people questions, @whatedsaid (Edna Sackson) came to mind. What I remembered about Edna was that she was a passionate educator who lived in Australia teaching in a Hebrew school. Read her blog posts (this one and others) and you will immediately see what I’m talking about. She is a very active participant in our PLN: she shares resources, writes posts about learning and comments on many of our network authors’ works. Everyone’s busy, I know. But at least I could ask a question to see if she can help me in some way.

I direct-messaged Edna on Twitter, giving her my email address and stating I had an idea to connect our school children around Hanukkah. And then I waited.

Edna emailed right away with:


So do tell what you have in mind 🙂


So our conversations began. It was about the third exchange of emails I had realized that end-of-the-school-year for schools in Australia was in a few weeks. Even with the busyness, Edna had sent out emails to her colleagues at her school, inviting them to collaborate, and assuring them how she will be there to help video their classes.

After our initial emails, things were moving along. I exchanged emails with two other teachers saying hellos and discussing possible collaboration now and for the future. Thanks to technology, I was easily being in touch with people so far away!

Edna helped tremendously. She posted videos from music classes from her school in a Dropbox I set up. She DM’ed me when she posted, I got the footage, and started editing them along with what I was working on from my end.

Our collaboration was a direct result of  open communication(emails, Twitter), efficient use of technology (VoiceThread, Dropbox, iMovie) and a mutual love for learning and our interest to make connections outside of school walls. I am so grateful for this initial collaboration and can’t wait for more!

Here is a VoiceThread of our project. Although I MC’ed the morning, you can get a good idea of what happened through this. What you won’t see is 1) the Kindergarteners performing their song with some kids playing the bells (this live performance commenced the chapel. You can hear the beginning of this song in a video we exchanged with Edna’s school at the end of the VT). 2) When you get to a slide that reads “Listen to the Words” this YouTube video by the Maccabeats titled, Candlelight was played during the chapel. It’s a great music video with a catchy chorus. What I love about it is that it teaches the history of Hanukkah.

The VT features our Kindergarteners, 2 of our teachers, the Preparatory class (5 year-olds) from Edna’s school singing with their music teacher, Janice Roth and Year 1s reflecting on Hanukkah traditions.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Hanukkah 2010, posted with vodpod


  • Ask your network for help: I took a simple step of asking Edna. I thought about many ways not to “bother” people and come up with my own ideas. In the end, it was clear that I needed help. Your network people, especially the ones you’ve had conversations with, are respectful people. They will let you know what they can handle at that moment. If you do not have a PLN, start one today!
  • Use of video/VoiceThread in learning: Because I didn’t teach the Kindergarten class, finding time to rehearse with them proved to be somewhat difficult. Taping them on video helped me to use my time efficiently,  feature them for the presentation day and keep the presentation pretty short. Skyping with other school are great, but scheduling a live face-to-face chats are difficult when they are in a different state or country. Our school community loved listening to Edna’s school children and learning about what those children know about Hanukkah. Our students are eager to connect with them this year!
  • The learning continues for me and my students: I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am grateful for Edna and her colleagues who took the time to make this connection with me so that our school communities will learn from one another. I am grateful for future opportunities that my school sees now in making global connections.

If you are looking for opportunities to connect your class with outside people, take one simple step and look around you. Who do you come in contact with? And who do you learn from? Who can you ask? And will you have an open mind when someone asks YOU to collaborate?

Take the plunge and look around you! Here’s to great learning in 2011!


PS: Do you know who helped me to get my VoiceThread on here? (If you’re a WordPress blogger, you know what I’m talking about: WP doesn’t play nice with many embeds or files…) – Edna helped me to get it on here. Do you see how much I’m learning from her? 🙂