We have now experienced FIVE snow days in a row here in FCPS. Not that I begrudge the county these days, but man, I am ready to get back into the classroom! So, since I don’t get to see my students in person, I have taken to a few different things to keep them somewhat aware and interested in our music. I have been posting regularly on social media (in the hopes that they are paying attention), have made video tutorials on my youtube page for problem spots within their music, and have been making song parodies for them to watch. While these methods may seem silly and unnecessary, I have found that they often reach a group of students who may not be intrinsically motivated to practice.
The students who are motivated to practice regularly will probably still be motivated. They will still be interested and active (somewhat) in their musical pursuits. It is mostly my younger musicians with whom I am concerned. Posting on social media is so easy. And somehow, it seems to engage some of the students who are just sitting around on their computers. Even if they don’t touch their instruments, at least they are seeing the posts. Perhaps these posts will spark a “rabbit hole” effect in which they search for additional musical cartoons, stories, and pieces of randomness. This is also a way for me to keep them socially engaged in music. I don’t want the students to lose interest over the break simply because we are not in school.
The youtube tutorials are some of the best things that I have done for my students. I have created tutorials for the problem-spots in our music. While there may be other tutorials out there, my students prefer the ones on my own page because it is me teaching and they are comfortable with me. They know what to expect and like the familiarity of these tutorials. If you plan to do something like this, work to make them short: under 3 minutes. This way, the students can watch quickly and then practice. They may watch the same video as many times as they want and this can significantly improve their playing! It is also important to note that I do NOT make my tutorials perfect. Yes, they are in tune and on time, but they could certainly be better. If I were to perfect these tutorials, it would take much more time and might set an unrealistic standard for my own students. I have a very strong conviction that our students must see that we are not perfect and so while I strive for excellence in all that I do, I do NOT record until I reach perfection. If you are interested in seeing the videos, just click HERE.
One of my favorite activities is of course writing song parodies! I love comedy and I find that it reaches some of my students who wouldn’t normally stay in orchestra. I have various goals in each of the song parodies, but mostly, it is to engage my students in laughter within a musical context so that they feel closer to music and identify more as a musician rather than a student. Each song parody has a different goal. One of my more recent ones (Basses&Bows) was made to encourage students to continue in orchestra whether they have stayed in the entire time, or perhaps have taken time off. Within this video, we also tried to embed as many “urban dictionary” terms as possible to add humor. We also added a super cheesy rap. All of our song parodies are written to Billboard top 10 charts so that students especially enjoy them. The most recent video (I’m So Sick of that Open E) is my silly way to encourage them to use 4th finger instead of Open E. These videos are made with teachers in my pyramid so that all of the Annandale students might be interested and can identify.
So, there you have it. Just a few ways to engage kids even on snow days so that we continue their interest in our subject and further their identity as a musician. Thanks for reading and stay warm!