Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fun with the Batman Theme Song




My mentor Kimo Hussey always reminds me that my job as a teacher is to make playing the 'ukulele fun.  That was my purpose when I taught my students the "Batman Theme Song" this past year.  I know that fun is a powerful motivation tool for students.  However, what also made this song so fun was the skill that the students developed while working on this song for many months before.  They needed the finger dexterity to pluck the notes, the memory that comes with repeated playing, and a keen ear and flexibility to play well with others.  Of course, the masks help, too.  A big thank you to "The Empty Jeeps" who exceeded my expectations with their first year of playing the 'ukulele!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Music Camp Day 5: Hawaii


We made it to our final destination:  Hawaii!  I wore my purple mu'umu'u for today's camp and we began the day with making leis out of tissue paper.


Even though this is only a two-step process, making these leis took quite a bit of time.  Each camper had to make every flower out of tissue paper and then string them together.


One of the nice things about teaching is that I always get to learn something new.  One camper strung her lei a bit differently from my lei and it looked quite nice.


The leis are finally finished!

With leis on, we all danced to Pearly Shells with one of the students showing the hula moves.  


During snack time, everyone happily gobbled up the fresh pineapple.



We then reviewed all the places we've visited this week...until we came to Hawaii.


I reminded everyone that Hawaii is a part of Oceania and explained that the earliest type of music found in Hawaii was mele (chanting).  



We watched a few videos that featured several Hawaiian instruments such as the ipu and 'uli'uli.  Since a few videos featured the Merrie Monarch Festival, I talked about that festival and about the Merrie Monarch, King David Kalakaua.  The students also learned about Hawaiian hymns and hapa haole songs.


Here are the pages we completed today that pertain to Hawaii.


I had asked every camper to write an appreciation for everyone in the group, so everyone received kind words to paste in their books.


I also developed photos of our week for each student, so they pasted those in their books as well.


Our travels would not be complete without obtaining the visa stamps in our passports.  Here is a look into one of the passports.


Here is the cover of the book we made during the week.  

Thank you to all of my campers this week!  It was a pleasure having you at camp.  I really enjoyed your enthusiasm, curiosity, and energy.  A big thank you to the parents who supported my camp--some for the second year in a row.  

I am also grateful for the people who helped me with the ideas for this year's camp, particularly my sister Jenny.  Not only is she a fountain of knowledge, but she is endlessly creative and knows what activities interest and engage kids. And finally I would like to thank my husband Jeff for his continual support and hard work that makes my creative energy possible for these big projects.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Music Camp Day 4: Israel

Before we traveled to Israel, we first revisited South Africa this morning by finishing the djembe drums. 


The paint had ample time to dry over night, so the students spent focused time drawing intricate designs on the drums.  Most of the students also added yarn to look like the rope that is often a part of these drums.



Two students wanted make braided handles but did not know how to braid the yarn, so another student kindly taught them. 


Here are the finished djembe drums.


Of course, we had to test them out.  Everyone danced and drummed to South African drum beats.


One of the students brought in a calabash rattle to show everyone.  She passed it around and all the students admired the beautiful work inside and outside the calabash.  The sharing that has been happening this week has been remarkable.  Another student brought in treats from his home country to share with everyone.  


This is actually the second day in a row that he brought in treats.  Everyone gladly tasted the sweet caramel nuts pastries and bread sticks from Ukraine.  Thank you so much!  Yum!


When we finally journeyed to Israel, I talked about the location of Israel and how its geography lends it to many influences.  The music of Israel has been influenced by Russian folk music, Greek music, Jewish Yemenite music, Klezmer music, and many more.  We watched videos of several types of Israeli music including a group of people dancing the hora.  We then all got up and tried the dance ourselves.  There was much laughter as we twirled and kicked in a circle.


One of the students is in love with Greece, so I also showed a video of Greek-influenced music in Israel, which featured the bouzoukia (the stringed instrument above).

In some ways, talking about music in Israel is much harder than other regions we have covered because it is so diverse.  Thanks to my sister Jenny who is immersed in the Jewish culture, I learned about many aspects of Jewish music and discovered the song "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu," which we all sang today. It's a song about peace with lyrics in Hebrew and Arabic.  Here is a wonderfully upbeat version that we listened to today.


These are the pages we completed today in the World Music Book.  


Our treat from Israel comes from the Jewish tradition.  The matzoh and haroset (above) are a part of the Passover celebration.  I thought they would be more enticing than the horseradish and salt water.  I told the students the story of Exodus and the origins of these foods.


Every day in camp, I make sure the students are able to recall the important aspects of all the cultures we have visited.  Here is a fun and furious question and answer session as everyone tries to answer questions about music from Argentina, Taiwan, and South Africal.



Our craft today was tambourines, which is made from an embroidery hoop, jingle bells, pipe cleaners, and ribbon.  The most tedious aspect of this craft is wrapping the yarn around the hoop to cover every part of it.  I was impressed by the focus everyone maintained to complete their tambourines.  


We have one more day left of camp.  Our final day will be spent in Hawaii, and some of my students are already preparing 'ukulele pieces to play.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Music Camp Day 3: South Africa



We traveled to South Africa today and learned about the different kinds of music in this country.  The students learned about Call and Response, and then we sang a song called "Shosholoza" which uses this technique.   Pictured above are the pages each student completed today in their books.  

One of the students came to camp this morning and told us about her father's trip to South Africa two decades ago during apartheid.  I did not expect to cover politics during music camp, but it was great education for everyone to hear about another country's history, discrimination, and how things had progressed.  




This led me to talk about Nelson Mandela, who is on one of the coloring pages today.

The craft for South Africa today was a small djembe drum and its construction required several steps, so that was our first activity.





I made this djembe drum out of two plastic cups, paper mâché, a balloon, and yarn.  I first hot-glued two Solo cups together (bottom to bottom) for the structure.  The second step is to add paper mâché to make it stiff and give it a surface for painting.



I had no idea that paper mâché paste made so many of my students squeamish.

To speed up the drying process, I used a hair dryer to dry the paper mâché on everyone's djembe drums.  Next came painting.


No squeals of discomfort--only delighted smiles.






Here are the painted drums.  Since camp is only 4 hours long, I did not have time to dry the paint with the hair dryer, so we will construct the rest of the drums tomorrow.  Stay tuned to tomorrow's blog to see the finished product.



One of the things I've learned through the years is the importance of building group rapport.  This group's age range is fairly big (6-11) and there is only one boy the group.  I want to make sure no one feels left out and instead feels safe and supported in this group.  I designed all the activities and games so that everyone feels recognized and is able to participate.  




Here we are playing a game called "I Am, I Like" where each person says her name and two things she likes.  As we go around the circle, each person has to remember everyone who has gone before him.  Everyone enjoys this activity a great deal and it gives equal and positive attention to everyone in the group.




After lunch, we played a game called "Instrument Order."  I wrote down instrument names on pieces of paper:  jew's harp, piccolo, soprano 'ukulele, viola, bandoneon, and grand piano.  The students each drew a piece of paper and had to arrange themselves according to the size of the instrument, smallest to biggest.  



The "Instrument Order" game also came in handy the past few days when the students all clamored to jump on the trampoline right after lunch.  Once the students knew which instrument they drew, they knew their place in line:  the smallest instrument goes first until the largest instrument, which is last.  



Today's snack from South Africa included dried mangos, dried apricots, and beef jerky.  It was gone in no time.

It is wonderful to see friendships develop during music camp as the days progress.  I look forward to tomorrow's adventures when we travel to the Middle East to visit Israel.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Music Camp Day 2: Taiwan


The second day of Music Camp began with a similar energy of excitement.  As students came in, several instantly began coloring pictures of Taiwanese musical instruments and celebrations.




Can you guess what instrument she is coloring?  It's a two-stringed instrument from the Chinese tradition.  (Answer is at the end of this blog.)

I must admit that today's country is near and dear to my heart since I was born in Taiwan.  I was five when I arrived in America and still travel back to Taiwan every year to visit my family.

Before we delved into Taiwanese culture and music, I took a moment to talk about ethnomusicology.  I explained how ethnomusicology is the study of different nations or ethnic group's music.  All of us have embarked on an ethnomusicological journey that will take us to five different cultures this week.


Here are the pages we made with a nice big pocket to hold the passport. 

Next, we explored Taiwanese music and I talked about the different types of music such as Aboriginal, Holo, and Han Chinese.  We also watched videos that featured a variety of instruments.


This is the ocarina I received from my cousin Brian in Taiwan.

I had made several attempts to play the Jew's Harp, another instrument found in Aboriginal Taiwanese music.

My Jew's Harp skills were quickly surpassed by an 8-year-old.  So much for that career!

We also learned a famous song in Taiwan that talks about the national flower, the plum blossom or "Mei-Hua."


Everyone received a copy of the lyrics in Mandarin, ping-yin, and the English translation.



We sang along to Teresa Teng's version.

When we talked about Aboriginal music, I told them about the importance of respecting other cultures and their property, which includes music.  I explained what happened when the group Enigma used Taiwanese Aboriginal music in their song "Return to Innocence" without using their permission.  Because Enigma did not acknowledge or compensate the singer of the Amis tribe, they ran into ethical and legal issues.  

This was not the case with a recent music album using Taiwanese Aboriginal music.


We listened to Daniel Ho's songs from his album "To & From the Heart" where he collaborated with the Taiwu Children's Ancient Ballads Troupe, thereby respecting and honoring their music and culture.

Lunchtime came by much too quickly today.


Growing up in a Taiwanese family, we often had scrumptious Taiwanese treats.  I wanted to share with everyone some of my favorites:  red bean bread and yang le duo which is also called "Yakult" (as pictured above).  I found out that I live in a very Asian-friendly area when I discovered that both items were sold at the local Safeway supermarket.  (Sorry to ruin the mystery.)


After lunch, we played some collaborative music games.  The students had to use their knowledge of rhythms while running around.


The students also made a couple of pages in the World Music Book to feature Taiwanese music.

And last but not least, everyone made something to take home.


Rattle bracelets and anklets similar to the ones worn by Taiwanese Aboriginal dancers. 


The answer to the question about the name of the 2-stringed bowed instrument is here:  erhu.

We have now traveled to South America and Asia.  Tomorrow we are headed to Africa, to the very south:  South Africa!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Music Camp Day 1: Argentina

This sign greeted all campers this morning when they came to Music Camp.  The theme of this year's camp is "Music Around the World" and our first stop was Argentina.

As they entered the door, each camper received a passport to accompany them during their travels this week:


A blank passport ready to be filled out!



Each student also received stamps for entering Argentina.

There was an air of excitement as everyone talked loudly and enthusiastically about their countries of origin.  I was particularly enthralled to see so many familiar faces.  After a few ice breaker games, I talked about tango dance and tango music.  We watched a couple of videos which showed tango dancing and featured some tango instruments, particularly the bandoneón.  

The feature of the day came next.  Ben Jong, a master tango music arranger, singer, and bandoneón player visited our camp to talk about tango history and give a demonstration on the bandoneón.  


Each student had a chance to press the buttons on the bandoneón.


When he took apart the bandoneon to show everyone what was inside, there were gasps of surprise.


Ben showed everyone the reeds and explained how the bandoneón is similar to the harmonica.

After a break, we worked on our World Music books, which I designed to be similar to a lapbook. All students worked hard writing, coloring, cutting and pasting.


These are the pages we completed today. 

At lunch, when the students were finished eating, I served up crisp toast with dulce de leche, a common snack in Argentina.  Everyone enjoyed the treat.

Our last activity was to make an "Envelope Bandoneón."


These are made with 4 white envelopes pasted together, two pieces of bandoneón-designed paper, and some red ribbon.  


The white circles are the buttons, so they may be "pressed" from both sides.

The "Envelope Bandoneón" also serves another purpose.  It functions as a wall hanging for notes.


I had a wonderful first day of camp.  I can't wait for tomorrow when we travel to Taiwan!