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My Best Concert Ever!!! A Positive Shift in Culture

Okay friends… Seriously… I can hardly contain my enthusiasm for this upcoming concert as I sit here writing this blog post!!!

so happy

It’s not that my students will sound all that amazing…. I mean, they will have their moments for sure.  It’s not that they will look all that professional on stage… They will have their moments for this too… And it’s not really that we have perfected all of the notes and rhythms… Because there are definitely still some rough passages… But, there has been a culture shift in my program and it is really coming to light as we prepare for our concert.

A few important things to note about this group of students…

  1. This is the first time that I have been at a school for four years in a row.  That means that my current seniors were freshmen my first year at this school.  This also means that all of my high school students have been “mine” for their entire high school career.  This makes a HUGE difference!  I am so pleased with the culture that we have built in this program!

  2. I am graduating 5 students who will major in music along with between 3 and 4 who are planning to minor in music.  Never before have I graduated so many music majors, but it is appearing to be a trend even with my younger students.  So much interest in majoring in music!

  3. I have built into my program positions for student “teacher assistants” (TA’s).  In fact, each of my orchestras now has at least TWO TA’s.  This has been INCREDIBLE!!!  Because, my TA’s are required to be in one additional orchestra.  So, I have many of my seniors in two different orchestras (some are in three)!

So, now that you know all about the amazing students at my school… I can tell you a bit about our culture and why I am so insanely proud and excited!

  1. A Culture of Caring- First and foremost, I am proud of the level of care my students have for one another.  When I came to Annandale, I started multiple traditions for the last concert of the year.  The students now look forward to these traditions so much that they are self-motivated!  One of the important traditions is a concert seating showing our respect for the time put in by our seniors.

  2. Seating – The last concert of the year always features our graduating seniors.  As this is the case, we honor them in many ways.  One of those ways is that every senior gets first chair for at least one piece of music.  This becomes challenging with my larger groups, but my students care so much for one another that there has been ZERO arguing!  I KNOW!!!!  I was so amazed!  One of my classes even figured it out before I even got on stage.  They had a rotation worked out and even solos so that every senior gets featured. This level of conscientiousness is rare in young students and I was incredibly proud.  I am also proud to share that for the first time in four years, none of my underclassmen complained.  Even my hot shot freshman who has to sit last chair has accepted this position with grace.  #PROUD

  3. A Culture of Creativity – I have always believed strongly in the need for students to express themselves within musical performances and I have always encouraged creativity within music.  Sometimes this can get a bit chaotic, but I have always been able to reel them back in.  Besides, a little chaos can be super fun!  For the end of the year concert, I always have the seniors do something special in each ensemble.  Here are just a few examples of their creative spirit in this concert:

  4. Dance Moves – Yes, my orch dorks are going to be dancing in the concert.  My seniors for one group will actually enter in through the auditorium doing the running man…. It is going to be … EPIC!  (And a little scary!)

JFallon Running Man
  1. Solo Splicing – One ensemble has taken a solo and has spliced it into pieces so that all of the seniors can have a unique role in it.  One senior will be whistling part of the solo, another will take over and hum it, followed by a super jazzed up solo on guitar and bass, and finally ending with a kazoo.  No, it’s not quite Mozart, but it is going to be SO MUCH FUN!!!

  2. Student Arrangements and Conducting – Whenever a student arranges a song, I encourage them to bring it in and have us play it.  This year, we have one outstanding arrangement of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”  Additionally, each of my TA’s gets the opportunity to conduct a piece of music in the final concert of the year.  This is one of the best parts of the concert.  I am so excited to see these students take to the podium in front of their friends and families!

3. A Culture of Collaboration – I have been so blessed to get to work with some incredible teachers within my own pyramid.  And so I LOVE LOVE LOVE to work with them and their students.  Even more than that, however, I love to see my students working with their students.  As we prepare for this last concert, I cannot wait to see the elementary and middle school students sitting on stage and in the audience.  My own students are so accustomed to working with the younger students that they even reminded each other to look out for the young kids and were considering the ages of some of our audience members when deciding on their creative contributions.

I could go on and on and on about this, but it is just about my bedtime.  I promise to write more after this concert.  It is sure to be INCREDIBLE!!!  WAAAAAAAAAHHHH!  Thanks for reading and I hope you tune in next time!

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