AOSA Conference Reflectons, Part 2

This was the third Orff conference I have attended, but the first one where I have been a clinician!  This was the highest profile audience I have ever addressed; music teachers from Maine to Alaska come to this conference, from college students to seasoned teacher-educators.   I was more than a little excited and nervous!

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My session was entitled “Jump, Jive, and Patsch!  Processing Swing Music and Dance for Children” and I presented it twice.  This workshop is the intersection of my dancing experience, and my Orff Schulwerk teaching experience, and I am really proud of how it came together!  So much of Orff teaching involves creative movement improvisation and folk dancing, and swing dancing is a natural fit for both of those.

I was nervous because they had me assigned to present in a really small room, and 130 (!) people had signed between the two sessions.  I squeaked as politely as possible, and the conference director was able to move me to a larger space, which really  helped with the success of the workshop.

I played swing music as people walked in, and I had bought Hershey kisses for the door monitor to distribute.  First impressions are everything, and I figured it would also give people energy for participation.  =)  The introducer read my bio (which is starting to sound pretty impressive!) I took a deep breath, and the lesson just started to flow.  Swing dance is something that I really love, and something that I am very comfortable teaching.  I had prepared the best I possibly could, so I was really able to be present and enjoy the ride.

It was so much fun to see all these teachers movin’, groovin’,’ and enjoying the music and dancing.  Swing is such a joyful dance, I really think that no other dance form can compare to it!  Seeing the delight on the participants’ faces as they performed in our final jam circle was priceless.  I was especially happy to see one particular person enjoying himself immensely.  Doug Goodkin is a nationally-known educator and clinician who specializes in combining jazz music and Orff, and he came to check me out!  I was really excited to get his stamp of approval.

I finished off the workshop by sharing the children’s book Jazzy Miz Mozetta.

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The story is about Miz Mozetta and her elderly friends who used to be swing dancers.  They are old and creaky now, but they end up teaching their young hip-hop -dancing neighbors how to jitterbug.  I read the story aloud, and briefly shared the story of Frankie Manning, an original lindy hopper who spent the last 30 years of his life traveling the world teaching the next generation of dancers.  I actually got choked up and teary as I urged all the teachers to pass this culture on to their students, and there were many moist eyes in the audience as well.  If I can make people cry (in a good way!) I think that means the workshop was a success. =)

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AOSA Conference Reflections, part 1

I just returned from the American Orff Schulwerk conference in Denver, CO. Teaching music isn’t without its challenges, but music teachers have the Best. Conferences.  Ever.

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I started each day with Early Morning Song Sessions, led by past presidents of AOSA.  These were my favorite sessions of the conference!  The past presidents are all dynamic and inspiring educators, they have a presence that fills up the room and draws you in.  We sang and danced to an Argentine Joroba, harmonized and hemiola-ed to a Zulu play song, moved and sang in 4-part canon, and read some soulful feel-good choral music.  If every day could begin by singing “The Storm is Passing Over” with 50 trained musicians, I think my coffee would become unnecessary.

Over the course of the conference, I danced inside of a stretchy silver body bag, led a Chinese dragon dance (with train of people wearing a long vinyl table cloth following me!) learned a stick dance from India, sang 8 part double canons, and made silly backwards videos on my iPad.  I experienced some absolutely incredible children’s performances; trash Bands, marimba ensembles, choral groups, and more.

It is so energizing and inspiring to be around other teachers at these AOSA conferences.  Every presenter has a different strength to share.  Some are recorder gurus, some have amazing processes to teach mallet instruments, some know how to bring the dance out of the most tentative mover, and some are ethnomusicologists who collect songs and stories from all over the world.  It can be daunting to experience so much excellence.  There are so many great ideas presented, and most clinicians make it seem so easy and effortless you wonder how you could possibly be as great!  It definitely gave me some new goals for myself and my teaching!

Conference is educational, but it is also FUN!  Music teachers are mostly crazy to begin with, and Orff teachers are a special kind of crazy.  We burst randomly into improvised complimentary rhythm ostinatos, compose canons in the elevator, and don’t even blink when a clinician hands out scarf and tells you to create a water dance in five minutes GO!

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I wish I could have attended the late night folk dancing sessions, but I have become an early-to-bed person, and the 2-hour time difference didn’t help matters.

I probably could have caffeinated and sucked it up, but I was actually PRESENTING on Saturday and wanted to make sure I still had some juice left for that!  More on my presenting experience tomorrow!

Another Nut Butter Trick

Previously, I shared a recipe for Peanut Butter Hummus, one of the recipes I use to make protein more palatable for my sweet boy.  I have a similar trick, one that yields a delicious dip for fruit and veggies.  It can also be spread on bread, crackers, waffles, stirred into oatmeal, or eaten with a spoon. 😉  Bryce loves it, and it kicks the nutrition of nut butter up a notch.

Buttery Yogurt Dip

1/4 cup nut butter (I love almond butter or peanut butter)

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

dash of cinnamon

1 T maple syrup or honey (can be omitted)

Stir everything together until well blended.  It is wonderful on graham crackers with thinly sliced apples!

Know Your Limits

I almost titled this post “Admitting Defeat.” I stopped myself, because I am totally not defeated,  I just know when to seek help.

I have been looking at November with trepidation for quite some time, and now that it is here, I am doing everything in my power to stay sane.  I’m preparing to present two workshops at the American Orff Schulwerk Association Conference, my biggest and most prestigious gig EVER.  This means prepping visuals, notes, playlists, packing lists, and subplans, as well as mentally and physically preparing to spend five days away from my baby.  I’m traveling the following weekend to support my talented hubby and in-laws at a talent competition.  The following week is Thanksgiving; thankfully I will not be traveling again, but my MIL is coming to stay the week, and I will be hosting dinner for the three of us.

I was starting to feel really stressed about maintaining all the odds and ends of life amidst all the traveling.  Every weekend, I shop and prep food for the week from scratch, do my Home Blessing cleaning, and relax and recharge for the week.  Losing two weekends in a row, and then having to think about Thanksgiving, in addition to recovering from travel is A LOT to handle!

I take joy and pride in cooking healthy food from scratch while staying on a budget, but I knew that grocery shopping and food prep was just more than I could handle.  I made the decision that November’s dinners were going to come from Let’s Dish, a local meal assembly store, and while I was at it, I’d pay the extra $15 to have them make them up for me.  I also decided that Thanksgiving was going to get some help from Trader Joe.  I am a little sad, because it is my first Thanksgiving in my own house, and my mind was doing joyful somersaults thinking of all the great recipes I could try.  However, taking the holiday to actually rest and enjoy the company of family sounded better to me than zesting citrus and trimming green beans by hand.

It may not seem like it, but this is a huge step for me.  To accept that I cannot do it all is something that I have struggled my entire life to learn.   Accepting help with food preparation is not a sign of weakness.  It will not condemn my family to a life of pesticide and GMO riddled illness because hands besides mine assembled the ingredients.  I know my priorities, and I know that to maintain balance, sometimes you need to let things go.  I feel so much better having outsourced some of the work for my Mom/Wife job so that my other job can come first this month.  Still, any prayers and positive vibes you can send my way are appreciated!

PTX Vol. 2 Album Review

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This a completely biased review.  I watched Pentatonix on the Sing Off the very first week, and picked them as the season winners.  I’ve seen them in concert three times, I watch their YouTube videos over and over when there is nothing good on TV, and I try to slip their songs into my music classes whenever I can.  I watch Scott and Mitch’s YouTube show SuperFruit because it makes me feel like I am their friends, and was considering signing up for a Twitter account solely so that I can follow all of their tweets.  I’m legitimately obsessed.

But, rightly so.  This is one of the most talented musical groups I have ever seen,  I think the only other artist I listen to so regularly and with such admiration is Dave Matthews Band.  Do yourself a favor and download PTX Volume 1, PTXMas, and then prepare to be blown away by their newest album.

Billboard.com had a sneak preview streaming on their website today.  I thought about waiting until the album truly released to listen, prolonging the anticipation so that the payoff would be even sweeter.  Yeah, for about TWO SECONDS.  I couldn’t find the Play button fast enough!

Can’t Hold Us:  I LOVED Macklemore’s original, and I love PTX’s version even more.   Each member gets a feature moment, and the driving momentum is propelled by Kevin’s SICK beatboxing and harmonies that have an edge of Gospel.  It’s an exhilarating track; the anthem of five talented young people blessed with the opportunity to follow their dreams.

Natural Disaster:  Primal body percussion and emotional lead singing by Scott Hoying will have you pounding your steering wheel and belting out the chorus.

Love Again:  So far, this is my favorite track!  Haunting harmonies and a beat that would be at home in a dance club.  Mitch kills the lead vocals, and you can feel Avi’s bass in your intestines if you listen with the right speakers!  I found the hook of this song stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Valentine:  Tender and sparse, you can hear all of their choral backgrounds showing through in this song.  Kevin keeps the percussion deceptively low key; it has a chill vibe, but CRAZY if you reeeeaaally listen to all the sounds he’s making!

Hey Momma:  Sexy and hard hitting, makes me want to shake my booty.  Hit the Road Jack is sampled and mashed up with the melody, seamlessly mixing down and dirty swing with club beats.  Kevin somehow implants a DJ turntable into his vocal chords for a midsong breakdown.

I Need Your Love:  Another song that gives each member a little moment to shine.  It keeps the energy of the original, but adds that extra PTX somethin’ somethin’ — a little club, a little choir, a little crazy.

Run To You:  *Pin drops*  *Tears flow*

Daft Punk:  It’s everything Daft Punk does with $1000’s of electronic equipment, but with five voices.  IN. SANE.

Save the World/Don’t You Worry:  I loved this when it came out as a music video, and I’m happy that it was included!   A great high energy send-off for an incredible album!

Here is the group’s own take on the album, it’s fun to hear them talk about all the songs!

I hope that everyone who reads this blog (all five of you!) will become Pentaholics after reading this post!  They are just SO GOOD!!!!!

Challenges

Today was a challenging day.  I paid $150 for a plumber to tell me that I needed to call an electrician for the garbage disposal.  I learned that you don’t feed your child prunes right before taking a two-mile walk to the playground.  Today’s cranky hour was actually cranky two-hours, because I’m trying to transition Bryce gradually to daylight savings time.  But, these days will happen.

It actually didn’t feel like a horrible day.  I got to be with my (mostly) smiling little boy, listening to him sing along to his Wee Sing Halloween CD, and watching him do laps around the living room saying “Runrunrun!”  He’s also learned how to say “WOW,”  and he always says in in all capital letters.  WOW look at that muffin for breakfast!  WOW there’s the garbage truck!  WOW I threw a rock off the bridge by the playground!

I can’t believe how adorable my son is, and it makes it so much easier to hose down and clorox the stroller when I see his smiling face up on the porch.