Voices of the World: Virtual Choir 2.0

I was excited all day.

Feeling like a little kid waiting for a beautifully wrapped big present, I waited for the premier of Sleep, Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 2.0 project. You see, I wasn’t waiting for the virtual choir video as an audience, I was waiting for all of my fellow choir members.

I had every intention of submitting my video before the end of December (2010) due date, but that month got the best of me. After school was out, I was so worn out and feeling sick, I gave up on learning the music or taping my singing.

But due to a bad storm in Europe, the submission date was extended by 10 days! When I read the update, I caught a second wind. I was determined to get this done and participate.

I had no idea that I would be one of (over) 2000 voices.

While learning Eric Whitacre’s eight-part music I was reminded of the days when I realized singing breathed a new life in me (a pianist). These were the days when the power of human connectedness through singing became so real to me. We didn’t need words – we were a group of singers working to interpret music with every ounce of feeling, thought, and intention.  

Although the process of “choir” was different, people were brought together. Over 2000 people’s singing captured in a moment (like a time capsule) gently layered in beautiful sounds. It’s not perfect – but my choir sang with feeling, thought and intent. Besides, who says the goal of music is about perfection?

What this experience has shown me:

  • {Holy cow!} I’m listening to a lot of musical people singing.
  • I’m listening to many generations of good singers.
  • And I’m listening to hope. I’m listening to individuals who embrace other people and communities way beyond their own culture or race.

The role of contemporary composers are changing. I’m grateful that Eric Whitacre had a vision to bring people together this way. Thank you, Mr. Whitacre!

I thought it was rather cute that my students kept asking me if I “made it” on Virtual Choir after I told them about how I got to submit my video. I had no idea if all the videos would be accepted, so I just told them I had to wait. Coincidentally the 8th graders who had shown most interest in this project were in class last period today. We talked about the premier and listened to Eric Whitacre on this post. They listened with anticipation.

When I see them next, I will play this video for them. I am thankful that I can share this project with them. I am grateful that I can make music everyday with them.

Enjoy this video. Hear the words being painted in phrases. See the world come together.

My hope is that you will take music with you. I cannot imagine life without it.

~Yoon, so grateful and feeling so alive. See you at Virtual Choir 3.0!  In case you’re wondering – I sing my part (soprano 2) every time I watch this video. 🙂


Sleep, poetry by Charles Anthony Silvestri

The evening hangs beneath the moon

A silver thread on darkened dune

With closing eyes and resting head

I know that sleep is coming soon

Upon my pillow, safe in bed

A thousand pictures fill my head

I cannot sleep my minds a flight

And yet my limbs seem made of lead

If there are noises in the night

A frighting shadow, flickering light

Then I surrender unto sleep

Where clouds of dreams give second sight

What dreams may come both dark and deep

Of flying wings and soaring leap

As I surrender unto sleep

As I surrender unto sleep

 

Here’s the livestream of Eric Whitacre at Paley Center on the night of the premier  (April 7, 2011):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

World Premiere of Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir…, posted with vodpod

 

For laughs – here’s my video

April iPhone Picture Project

I heart my iPhone! I use it for just about everything –  (ironically) with the exception of making phone calls (because I hardly ever phone people).

So when @aforgrave tweeted this to me and 4 others,

I’m thinking of an April iPhone-Pic-a-Day theme. Who’s in?

he got my attention. I’ve been learning to use whatever camera I have better. I have to say that some apps have made my picture-taking hobby really fun. Read Andy’s post here and join the fun!

We’re using the hashtag #iPPP and tagging pics as #iPPPDayXX. I’m also thinking of suggesting to my multimedia class to take daily pictures on their smartphones and share. I’ll see how that goes as the boys who are in this class are really into making movies right now.

Perhaps I can get @berkshirecat or @teaching_music on this project!

Here’s one of my iPhone pics I took today!

Caught my eye2
#iPPPDay02

~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.

School…

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:

Hi!

So do tell what you have in mind 🙂

Edna

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

Reflection

  • 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!

Yoon

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? 🙂

 




 

 

MiM Project: A Review

The thought of summer seems so long ago now that the school is in full swing.
I stop now to think back to the glorious days of summer.

This past summer was full of learning. I read books, blogs and checked out all of the wonderful sites my PLN had shared every day. Each day was packed with great discoveries.

So I started making a list of things I wanted to try this fall.

First project I wanted to start this year with my 8th graders came from @JaworskiMusic (Nick Jaworski) whom I’ve recently gotten to know. He has a fabulous blog about music education and teaching. One particular post, Music as Identity, caught my attention. Intentionally, I didn’t listen to a student project Nicholas had posted, but wanted to adapt this project for my students*. Thanks, Nick, for a great idea! This is how I remixed your lesson (now I can listen to your student’s project). * Nick’s students are High School students and mine are in Middle School.

Neon music sign
Image via Wikipedia

Music in Me Project

Make a 2-3 minute audio collage about the music you like and what you think it says about you.

This was a perfect way for me to learn several things about my students in the beginning of the year:

  • What role does music play in students’ lives?
  • What kind of music affects them or have meaning?
  • How will they express their thoughts in narrative writing?
  • How long were they going to take to edit music and audio recording in GarageBand/Audacity?

So with excitement, I explained the project to my students (given to them as well in the project handout). There were a lot of legit questions from them:

  1. Could we use songs with explicit words? Answer: Yes, as this was a project about them. I wanted them to own their project and create something they were going to feel good about. Each student were to bring their 4-5 selections of MP3s to upload into school iMacs. We also planned to get rid of explicit songs so that younger students wouldn’t access them.
  2. Do we have to start writing on Google Docs? – Answer: No. But eventually, what you write should be shared with me so that I can give some feedback or assess their progress and for easy access.
  3. Wait, what is an audio collage?Answer: Selections of music pieced together, edited by the students. The narration will either introduce the songs or be playing while the music is playing.
  4. I don’t know how to edit songs. – Answer: You will! Let’s get working so that you will learn.

So for next three weeks, students (we meet twice in 6-day rotation):

  • chose 4-5 songs they love and reflect who they are.
  • created their narratives on Google Docs. This made it so easy for me to instantaneously check their work and make comments and communicate with them.
  • learned to export MP3 files from their personal collections and import them onto school iTunes.
  • learned to use GarageBand to create and edit the project: trimming mp3s, fading in and out, controlling volume, balancing overall volume.
  • recorded their narrative and edit it to lay it over the edited music tracks. I use H2 Zoom recorder in my classroom. It’s the first generation of the Zoom recorders, but I love using it!

What I’m Learning: The Teacher’s View

Students were free to work on any part of the project during the class times so students needed to manage time well. When they started, it was a usual start: the motivated students started brainstorming, writing down ideas feverishly.  And then there was a group of students who sat around, doing very little. The momentum of this project was definitely set by the “busy” guys.

I was helping students recording their narratives and occasionally reminding students to work. Some students ended up not having much done (they wrote a couple of sentences on GoogleDocs) by the end of the first class. Why were they not being creative? Did they have too much freedom to explore and learn?

So much for that thought.

By the second and third class, I began to see something interesting. One by one, those not-much-producing students, began to show me what they were working on. After each class, these students went home and worked on their projects at home on their laptops. [N.B. Our school allows students to bring their own from home for school use.]  Because they didn’t use the class time, these students worked at home. They edited their narrative and recorded it on their own. Exploration went beyond classroom walls and über cool and creative projects ended up coming from these students.

Another interesting discovery was in students’ reflections. I found so much maturity in their voice in expressing the “whys”. Here are some examples of my students’ reflections:

Music reflects a lot about me because it’s what makes my personality. I listen to music whenever I’m on my computer. I listen to music when I am doing homework because it blocks out all other noises and it helps me to concentrate.
I can’t say music defines me, but I can say I love to listen to music.  It helps me concentrate when I do my homework.
Music means a lot to me because my life would be a lot less happier and nicer without it. I love the feeling you get when your favorite song just came on the radio and that rush of needing to belt out the words along with it! Music helps me gain more energy in the morning- it gets me excited for the day. Music makes the world have more pizazz, and is extremely entertaining.
Music is important to me in many ways. It brings me up when I’m down. It pumps me up and makes me feel like I can do anything.    Music is a must have.

It didn’t matter if the student was a girl or boy. For 98% of my students music mattered more than I had expected [one students did not like to listen to music or owned an iPod. We tweaked the project to something he can relate to. I’ll be honest – we struggled a long time to find this tweaked version, but in the end, the student did a fabulous job talking about the role of music]. I discovered how deeply my students were connected to music. I especially loved the way they expressed their identity tied to stories of family and friends. I was also surprised to hear playlists that consist extreme genres from classical to punk rock.

Technically speaking, students spent a lot of time editing and learning to use either GarageBand or Audacity. They learned a lot by making mistakes, taking chances, and asking questions. I really liked how many students helped other students when a question was being asked. Needless to say, our two rooms were never quiet (except for recording times).

Listen to some tracks from my students:

Moving Forward  ~>  ~>  ~>  ~>  ~>

Students’ finished mp3s were loaded up to iTunes. Using SoundCloud, I got an embeddable player so that I can embed it onto the class Google Sites page. Students listened to each other’s collage and gave constructive feedback. Since they all took a long time make these projects, I also wanted to give them a personalized feedback and assessment. I filled out this form and gave each of my students a feed back. I wrote everything in detail except the final grade and asked each student what they learned from this project. Their responses included how excited they were to learn to use GarageBand to create their project. A few were annoyed at how hard they had to work using the application. Some were so surprised to hear what different musical tastes everyone had. A handful of students recommended that I should start next year’s 8th grade year with this project because they had so much fun.

I learned  so much about my students. I also learned that I need to encourage them to be creative by creating a creative space and time. I’m learning to be patient!

My students ARE passionate about music and life. Now what?

Here are some questions I’m thinking of answering in a future post:

What am I going to do with this discovery now that I know what huge role music has in their life? How can I channel this passion to help them to learn more about music and guitar (all students learn how to play)? What other ways can I connect with them and learn about what I need to teach them?

Stay tuned!