Please join us in welcoming Musical Instrument Reclamation Corporation (MIRC) to the GITC family! MIRC is the nation's largest wholesaler of quality used guitars and we are thrilled that they are joining our effort to infuse music into classrooms during this challenging time.
We are so grateful to GITC Board Member Tom Dougherty for connecting us to MIRC CEO, Jason Gano. Gano became the CEO of MIRC in January 2020, when founding owner, Monte Richards, retired after 27 years. He had no way of knowing that just a few months later, a global pandemic and economic crisis would hit. He also had no way of knowing that many Americans would use the pandemic, and resulting home-quarantine, as an opportunity to learn how to play guitar! As a result, he reports that business is “through the roof!"
“I’m hearing lots of people say that they need something to take their minds off what’s happening, so they are focusing on guitar,” says Gano. “It’s my hope that we can help people turn this interest into a lifelong thing.”
MIRC is a Franklin, Tennessee based company that takes “distressed” instruments from the industry’s leading guitar brands and rehabilitates them so they can be sold, or in GITC’s case, donated. Their small, dedicated staff is made up entirely of musicians who are passionate about their craft and pride themselves on being able to repair a broken headstock to where you can’t even tell it was broken.
“We are saving guitars from ending up in landfills,” Gano explains. In GITC’s case, MIRC was able to donate 5 Fender nylon string guitars that will go directly into the hands of teachers and students who need them, along with two beautiful Washburn cutaways and 11 Cordoba ukuleles.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without classroom guitar so I do what I can to give back,” says Gano. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his wife, Rosemary, has been a guitar and piano instructor at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, VA for the last 20 years! We are so grateful to welcome the Ganos and MIRC into our GITC family!
For more information on Musical Instrument Reclamation Corporation (MIRC), please visit their website www.mircweb.com.
Blog contributed by GITC Executive Director, Jess Baron
San Diego, CA
July 27, 2020
It's the end of July now, but back in late January, 2020, I began meeting meeting with the leadership of SAGE Magnet, a first-of-its-kind middle school named for promoting Sexual and Gender Equity that resides inside the larger Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks, California. We were meeting to explore designing a teaching artist residency to teach 6th grade students about social justice through making music. SAGE's mission is to provide opportunities for all students to become self-motivated, life-long learners in a safe environment where students are encouraged to become self-reliant and disciplined citizens. The school promotes academic and character development and fosters individuality, creativity, and teamwork.
Mr. Joseph Porter, the SAGE Magnet Coordinator, had an inspirational vision to teach SAGE students how social change can be brought about in different ways. In alignment with the mission of the school, he wanted students to understand how working towards social justice can go beyond attending rallies and protests in the streets, chanting and carrying signs. He wanted to teach these sixth graders to discover the power of music to move hearts and minds toward justice. When we met, introduced by Shana Habel in the L.A.U.S.D. Arts Branch, there was no turning back. GITC has been sharing music from the Civil Rights Movement with teachers for 20 years. It couldn't have been a more natural setting in which we could bring music to learning.
We began planning these music integration classes for the students at SAGE 7 weeks before the Coronavirus began turning life as we knew it into a fond memory. The plan was to teach voice, ukulele, songwriting and group music in service of encouraging students to use their own voices to become agents for social change. Little did we know we'd need to overcome technical hurdles galore to make it happen. But everyone hung in there- parents, teachers and students- and with leadership from Mr. Porter, we figured out how to create inclusive, authentic, student-centered instruction, even though we were all separated and could only see each other inside of little rectangular boxes.
The project had been set to take place in person at the school, but when schools closed and teachers and students went home to shelter in place, we immediately pivoted the project to conduct the classes online over ZOOM. GITC sent instruments for students to Los Angeles and participating families picked them up safely from the porch of the SAGE parents foundation's president.
The design of the project included 10 weekly group music lessons revolving around learning about social action for civil rights that included music, and instruction in singing, playing and writing additional lyrics. This allowed sixth grade students to connect current advocacy for justice with the history of change.
Classes started well before the tragic murder of George Floyd sparked international uprisings to protest police brutality against Black Americans, bringing #blacklivesmatter to the forefront of public conversation and into the heart of vibrant, widespread social action. When people began taking to the streets, SAGE students were already studying the power of music to change hearts, minds and policies when they began seeing civil protest in action on their screens. The project became more real and important to students as they began coping with the complexity and seriousnes of the situation.
"This Little Light of Mine" was chosen as a focus song for the class because it is simple, powerful and positive and is recognized as one of our nation's most jubilant and effective civil rights anthems. Today, demonstrators still leverage its message to push back against injustice.
Mr. Porter's guidance and direction to students to study the history of the song and its role in civil protest was critical to the success of the project. In fact, highlighted in the SAGE video is footage of Reverend Osagyefo Sekou who used "This Little Light of Mine" to curb passions during a counter-protest, before a crowd of white supremacists and alt-right supporters gathered for the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The students speak to this use of song to combat violence with compassion and unity.
Mr. Porter explains the heart of this collaboration. “For this specific project, I wanted to teach SAGE students how songs and singing have been used as successful tools for voicing specific needs for change throughout the history of social justice,” he says. “I feel it is important for them to know about the history of the traditional protest songs- who wrote, led and sang them, and when, where, and how they have been most effective in promoting non-violent movements for justice. To top it all off, I wanted the students to actually learn how to play and sing those same songs.”
In addition to teaching the traditional lyrics, as the music teacher with the beginning students, GITC's hallmark student songwriting was woven into the class. Students composed their own verses of resilience to “This Little Light of Mine.” This allowed students to use the song to reflect on where resilience in their lives comes from. Students identified the positive activities they could engage in to uplift and encourage themselves despite the risks and losses caused by the spread of the Coronavirus. Each created a personal line or verse to the song. Together the old and new lyrics provided SAGE students with a way to help themselves and others.
The project was made possible through a generous grant from the Rosenthal Family Foundation. Monica Rosenthal, an enthusiastic supporter of SAGE got directly involved with the project, attending class with Mr. Porter and the students. Her presence added extra enthusiasm and energy to the music making.
Thanks to their own determination and a supportive learning environment, SAGE students found learning about social justice through making music to be an engaging experience. Their attendance online was excellent. The end result was a team process, involving the classroom participants, GITC staff and SAGE family members who supported the students to practice and to make their own videos and wonderful leadership.
"This truly was the result of the village all joining hands to lift up its children,” Mr. Porter explains. ”Together, the adults worked to encourage and empower these dedicated students to shine their lights with intention and clarity into our world during a pivotal moment in history and these kids came through wiser, more musical and empowered.
We share this project with great gratitude to Mr. Porter, Ms. Habel, LAUSD's Arts Education Branch, and to the Rosenthal Family Foundation and Ms. Monica who made all our lives brighter by joining the class.
Now, one parting shot. Please enjoy this little backyard recording Mr. Porter, a new musician himself, made to contribute to the overall class piece. Each time I listen to Mr. Porter's voice, I wonder how on earth he has escaped stardom!
Some teachers go the extra mile -- literally.
Francesca Miller is one of those teachers.
When the pandemic hit and Ms. Miller’s kindergarten students transitioned to distance learning, she wasn’t ready to let go of the music they’d been making together in the classroom. Instead, she organized multiple Guitars and Ukes in the Classroom (GITC) socially-distanced Porch Pickups℠ so that her students could safely pick up free ukuleles to strum and sing along with their teacher from home. If families were unable to make the trip, she literally went the extra mile and dropped instruments off at their homes. Now her students, who are on a year-round academic calendar, play music daily as part of their distance learning curriculum. Ms. Miller reports that the ukuleles and interactive music making continue to have a profound impact.
“Some students weren’t showing up to classes online at all, but the ukulele brought them back,” Ms. Miller explains. “It’s like that line from Field of Dreams...If you play it, they will come. Even if they are not turning in any assignments, they will come to class for the music.”
Ms. Miller is no stranger to using music as a tool in the classroom. Even before she joined GITC in 2015, she started every class playing songs from a carefully crafted mixtape. But it was GITC that gave her the encouragement and the training she needed to do something she’d always dreamed of -- learn to play the guitar.
“I had my guitar but I wasn’t playing it. I like to say it had a really nice place hanging on my wall,” jokes Ms. Miller. “But then my principal at the time sent out an email about GITC, saying we could learn to play guitar and incorporate music in the classroom, and I said to my friend who was also a teacher, ‘Let’s do this!’ We took the class together and it was great because I really felt like I was on the verge of something.”
Turns out she was on the verge of something greater than she’d imagined. With GITC’s support, Ms. Miller learned how to play ukulele and guitar; she also equipped her classroom with ukuleles to share at school and began strumming, singing, and writing songs for learning with her students. She saw positive effects almost immediately.
“My favorite part was the songwriting,” she explains. “Something would happen at school and the kids would spontaneously say, ‘We should write a song about it!’ They were so excited and engaged.”
Ms. Miller remembers one student in particular who was profoundly affected by the music. “I had a student in my class in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and he had lots of absences. His mother didn’t want to send him to school if he didn’t want to go, so he rarely came,” she explains. TK students are 48-60 months old.
The following year she had him as a student again, this time in Kindergarten, and this time she was equipped with her GITC training and tools, including her own new ukulele!
“Adding the ukulele changed everything,” she explains. “He would be the first one at the rug, ready and attentive. He was excited and alert. And when we first put that uke in his arms, he held it and looked like a master -- he had rhythm immediately!”
He also attended school more regularly and became a more active participant in class. “I truly believe the ukulele contributed to him becoming more verbal in class. [Before the uke] he would talk with his hands in his mouth or spin and dance while speaking. After the uke, he learned to keep his hands by his side and to speak in a loud, clear voice,” says Ms. Miller. “Music is a language that everyone speaks and it reached him.”
Music continues to reach Ms. Miller’s students as they explore the new realm of online learning. Although the class is currently strumming together online daily thanks to GITC board advisor, Jasmin Powell, who “adopted” the class and provided ukes for home, Ms. Miller hopes to devote one full day a week to the ukulele. She has of course encountered a few challenges -- Zoom delays, video that freezes, and students who can’t resist fiddling with the uke tuners -- but overall she views music as her greatest tool during this national crisis.
“I can see it literally waking up their brains,” she explains. “I can see it shining out of their eyes, like laser beams!”
Don't believe us? Check out the personalized thank you notes below!
When San Diego schools transitioned to distance learning in March 2020, Gage Elementary third grade teacher, Maria Weiss, joined the legion of educators suddenly pivoting to online learning. But Mrs. Weiss, a passionate GITC teacher, had one very special tool in her toolkit to deal with challenging transitions-- her ukulele!
Mrs. Weiss had already begun the semester singing and strumming with her students in person, and she knew the benefits -- increased student engagement, enhanced literacy and math skill-building, and an overall boost in class morale. She also knew it was important that they continue to have access to instruments at home to deal with the stresses of being out of school.
Luckily, with support from GITC’s unique Porch Pickup℠ team, Mrs. Weiss was able to provide a free ukulele, as well as some fun accessories, to each student in her class who elected to participate.
“Distance learning is hard,” Mrs. Weiss explains. “Getting students to turn in work is a challenge. Keeping their attention on Zoom for long periods is a challenge. The ukuleles were a big help. We played music every day for fifteen to twenty minutes and it ended up being the best part of their day.”
Music makes learning more fun and engaging, and Mrs. Weiss was able to see this in action, even in an online setting. “During math, all of a sudden I could hear them singing a song [that we’d worked on] to solve a problem. I could see they were using all parts of the brain and not just staring at the screen,” she explains.
Mrs. Weiss noticed another important benefit of the work quickly as well -- the boost in self-confidence that the students showed as they continued to practice. The students started saying things like, "just by practicing every day, we sound so good!" and "I can kind of do this, I’m getting better!"
As far as music was concerned, Mrs. Weiss had only one solid rule for the class, a rule that had been passed on to her by GITC Faculty Member, Dan Decker. “I said ‘you have to share your music with other people. That’s the one rule. Who are you going to call today and play a song? Who are you going to share this music with?’”
Mrs. Weiss reports that many students shared the music with friends and family members, some of whom even joined in the fun on Zoom. "The class took the story The Big Red Lollipop and broke it into beginning, middle and end. Then we split into 3 groups. A couple of parents helped in the Zoom breakout rooms while students wrote their section to the tune of “Hush Little Baby,” she explains. “The process took a week but it was almost like a celebration when we finished!”
In another effort to the share the music, Mrs. Weiss also put together an incredible Google Slides Ukulele Class that GITC teachers can download below.
“Of course, playing at home is not as fun as in person,” Mrs. Weiss clarifies. “But just hearing the students getting their voices out has been amazing.”
During this time, we each have a chance to do everything we can to express our care, concern for and commitment to the cause of creating social justice. Doing our absolute best to address and cure prejudice, vanquish racism and disarm hatred is all-important. There are many different ways we can go about this and our choices are very personal.
One way we can make a musical difference is to speak up and sing out for social justice with the beautiful, powerful and historical songs that have helped people build solidarity and work for civil and human rights for over 60 years. So many of these songs have always had an important place in the GITC curriculum.
"This Little Light of Mine," "I'm On My Way," "Oh Freedom", "We Shall Overcome" and "We Shall Not Be Moved" are just a few of our favorites. Each one gives us and our students powerful, uplifting messages to share at all times, and especially in times like these. Newer songs like Ben Harper's "With My Own Two Hands" carry the message forward.
When you sing, play and teach any of these songs, you can feel the positivity, power and presence of all those who have come before to advocate for social justice in our lifetimes and throughout history. Please enjoy the amazing videos and recordings below. They are performed by the very people who have sung them for the purpose of changing society for the better.
Here's hoping you'll join us in letting your light shine brightly for the causes of compassion, understanding, peace and justice in our
time. Black lives matter! https://blacklivesmatter.com
When the news hit that Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was closing schools in response to COVID-19, band director and longtime music educator, Billy Coane, wasn’t sure what to expect.
“It was a Friday when the Superintendent announced the closures and it was sudden,” Billy recalls. “I remember saying to myself, ‘Oh gee, what’s going to happen now?”
It wasn’t long before Billy and the rest of the state of California got their answer -- “distance learning” would become the new normal and the classes Billy taught for both LAUSD and GITC would move online. And while this transition would prove challenging for many teachers, Billy didn’t miss a beat. He was already familiar with Zoom, having spent the past year taking classes online, pursuing a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. He knew how all the bells and whistles worked, so much so that he was already mentoring other LAUSD teachers on how to use the platform creatively and successfully.
Billy has been a GITC faculty trainer for 6 years. He has trained hundreds of teachers in LA Unified in GITC’s developmental approach in afterschool Professional Development classes supported by Guitar Center’s community giving and the NAMM Foundation.
This year before COVID-19 necessitated sheltering at home, Billy was training teachers in free GITC courses at both Morningside Elementary and Vista Del Valle Dual Language Academy in San Fernando. Fast forward to May 2020 and Billy now finds himself with a very busy online working schedule, and one that has become a family affair. He is quarantined with his wife, Andrea, also a teacher, and his two children -- William, age seven and a half, and Elise, age five -- as well as an armory of instruments he has collected over years of teaching band and orchestra.
“When I teach my LAUSD music education classes online, I’ll have my wife Andrea sit with me and run participant management, because I can have three to four full classes at a time, which is upwards of 70 something kids learning vocal music at once!” Billy explains.
Andrea and the kids also sit in on GITC classes, which the whole family enjoys. “I taught six classes in person before the closures. Now we’re teaching GITC online and I have teachers from all over the district and beyond!” says Billy. “The other day I even had one from Santa Fe and one from Kansas!”
On Fridays, Billy also teaches a group for GITC online with SAGE, the Social and Gender Equity Magnet at Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks, California. SAGE’s innovative curriculum focuses on gender and social issues woven into traditional classes, and many students choose to be in this school to receive their education in a safe, bully-free and creative environment. GITC Executive Director, Jessica Baron, co-teaches the class, leading beginning ukulele and singing with less experienced students, while Billy takes the more advanced players.
“We’re working on three songs and it’s going slowly but surely,” explains Billy. “A couple of the kids are still feeling shy but most are coming out of their shells, participating, and learning together. We wanted to prepare for an online performance but it’s challenging because there are latency issues with Zoom and there’s no way to get synced up together.” Instead SAGE students will begin recording their own parts at home and when they are all submitted, GITC staff will sync the recordings and edit them together to create a virtual choir style performance.
This class is being taught on a special grant from the Rosenthal Family Foundation and serves as a pilot program for highly qualified GITC teaching artists who wish to take on thematically focused work with older students. This is the second pilot GITC launched this school year; the first was a supportive and individualized program for teens at John Hope Continuation High School aimed at improving student grades and supporting on-time graduation. It was taught by GITC teaching artist Scott Detweiler. This important work has been given a big vote of confidence this month by the California Arts Council. GITC’s work in continuation high schools in LA Unified will continue to expand when schools resume in 2020-2021, as will Billy’s role training teachers after school.
And as if he wasn’t already busy enough, Billy is also working with his own young children during this quarantine time to build their musical skills. “I’m teaching my son and daughter a lot of ukulele and piano,” he explains. “And my son also plays violin and recorder. The only thing he’s not playing right now is brass.” Both children are passionate about music like their dad, and look forward to sharing their musical abilities with the big kids at SAGE online. Something tells us that when we follow up with Billy again in a few months, William will be an expert on French Horn and Elise might be setting her sights on Carnegie Hall! If the Coane Family has taught us anything, it’s that music education is a family affair.
Find Billy Online:
Billy Coane Official Website
Billy Coane Official YouTube
Elementary teacher, Gingerlily Lowe has been writing heart opening, powerful songs lately and we have her permission to share them with you. She is a GITC classroom teacher and a participant in our Songwriting Saturdays class online. This video is an early version of the song as she was writing it.
As an American woman with Chinese heritage, she has experienced first-hand the sting of prejudice many times and each time it comes as a shock. Born and raised in the U.S. she is a proud American. Such hatred and ignorance is frighteningly and irrationally on the rise and it injures and lowers us all.
As an outstanding educator, Gingerlily shapes the hearts of her students with love and their minds with wisdom. This love and wisdom now guides her pen. She composed this song as she calmed herself to overcome the fear of encountering such brutality before making a necessary trip to get supplies. It tells the story of how her great-grandfather came to America to build the railroads in the late 1800s. The rest, as we say, is history.
Her family refers to “America” as “Gum San” which translates to “Gold Mountain.”
“Mei-gwo” is another name for the United States. It means “beautiful country.”
Gold Mountain Night © 2020 by Gingerlily Lowe
My great grandfather came to this land,
A railroad builder laying tracks with his hands
A brave new world he was sent to see
What he could do to help his family
Mei-gwou now without its slaves
Needed new workers so the land could be paved
Join east and west with an iron road
Through summer’s heat and winter’s cold
Toiling in the dirt, dust and sweat
Blood like paste on his back all wet
The food that he ate, a bed where he slept,
The passage of his voyage, all added to his debt.
You're gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright
The moon is shining bright
Over the Gold Mountain night
Over the Gold Mountain night
Many lost their lives, those Chinamen
Blasting tunnels through rock and mountain
Hanging from baskets to light the fuse
His slanted eyes and hair in queue
When the spike went into the ground
A photo taken, no Chinese to be found
Being the other, to live in fear (resume train strum)
Bullied, harassment through the years
You're gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright
The moon is shining bright
Over the Gold Mountain night
Over the Gold Mountain night ////
And here I am in Gold Mountain, my home
Generations born in this land we roam
“China man, get out of here”
America’s my home I wanna live without fear
The train keeps rollin’ on, my home my nation
And hate continues on--station to station.
Plowing the land with its engine on fire
Hatred passed on to the next sire.
Too many years to live in fear
Being the other, enduring taunts and jeers.
You're gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright
The moon is shining bright
Over the Gold Mountain night
Over the Gold Mountain night
*Our family refers to “America” as “Gum San” which translates to “Gold Mountain.”
“Mei-gwo” is another name for the United States. It means “beautiful country.”
Creativity & Songwriting to Express Student Stress: Mrs. Lowe's Second Grade Sings, "Don't Worry, Be Happy!"
When Ms. Gingerlily Lowe, second grade teacher at Nye Elementary in San Diego began teaching online this month, she contemplated how best to get students accustomed to being together separated by COVID-19 and projecting through tiny electronic rectangles on a computer screen. No hugs. No knuckle or elbow bumps, either. The strange distance created in the online classroom environment begged for some humanizing. Children felt lost and needed to be comforted. Their confusion over how to operate their tech, raise a hand, or even to know when to speak was a big problem. Just getting laptops and internet access was a problem for many families who had never had access to the web at home. This is the reality of living near the poverty line. Some very helpful things are just out of reach.
Then, with tech turned on, there were all sorts of things could go wrong (and did). Utter confusion about apps, logging in, lost passwords, incorrect browers, unclear directions, confusing district expectations, and the human stuff... interruptions from the family pet, babies crying, Harleys zooming by out the windows, tech malfunctioning, sirens, phones ringing and um, irrelevant and inappropriate spontaneous sharing.
For teachers, learning to herd kittens in a tornado would have been so much easier. Add to the chaos, attempting to Mute, Unmute and manage students in Break Out Rooms was just a crazy tall order. But hey, teachers are smart, resilient and they love to laugh!
Ms. Gingerlily drew upon her well-earned music leadership skills. She has been with GITC for three years, teaching through the power of song. The music began to make everything feel more "normal" and yet more special. There was a lot to sing about.
Choosing a favorite song to relieve stress, Bobby McFerrin's delightful "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" Ms. Gingerlily (as parents and children call her), invited students to compose their own verses about sheltering at home. What they had to share about their wide-ranging experiences was so eye-opening, we asked to share their verses with you, below. Thank you to the students and parents who agreed to help out!
Last month, realizing students needed a way to play along with their teachers and classmates at home, GITC started emergency uke distribution. Teachers and families came forward, masks in place and staying 6 feet away from each other, began to get their ukes from one of our front porch locations. Some wanted to help those families where parents were out of work so GITC started the Play & Pay It Forward fundraising campaign to make scholarship ukuleles possible for students in need. Those parents who felt they could help quietly donated to "pay a uke forward" for another student in need to receive one, too.
In this way, GITC began supporting everyone to bridge the gap from school to home so the musical learning could continue.
If you feel moved to contribute, we hope you will. A gift of $20 helps us provide a new Diamond Head ukulele to a student! We are so grateful to Saga Musical Instruments for their help with this project!
We want to share with you the understanding of what sheltering and learning at home has been like for these seven and eight year-olds so far. Here are some of their verses and illustrations to the tune of "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" with gratitude to Bobby McFerrin for shining such beautiful light in our lives with his music. You can recite or sing these to yourselves along with this backing track in the key of C.
Got a uke? Strum along! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=km-nz82SOkQ
Want to lead a short, productive, inclusive and joyful music experience in your online classroom? This How-To blog will help you make the process simple and goof-proof.
Leading your students in a song online each day can bring them together, establishing a sense of belonging, happiness and normalcy. Done the GITC way, each student can participate, feeling valued and “heard” while hearing others. Together, your students can collaborate and support each other to create something enjoyable. In the face of disruptions, bad news and stress at home, this can do a world of good. You can be the bringer of this goodness.
Bye-Bye, Perfection. None of us are trying to win a contest. We are teachers and we want to bring music to our students. They are so eager to make music, they appreciate our efforts.
So let's relax, have fun, and show the kids we can all make music. They need it. They need you to lead it.
Having the courage to strum and sing on camera will model creative risk taking for them, and will build your skills. You can ask the students for encouragement, be open and honest, and then take the plunge! Remember to mute them while you are leading so you can concentrate. Then unmute them selectively to check for understanding and facilitate class discussions.
Your students will need to learn online classroom ground rules and etiquette just like they do at school. Without being in the same physical space, and with tech at their fingertips, they need to know what is and is not okay, how to get your attention appropriately, how to respond to peers. This is all preliminary learning. We hope someone writes a song about this! Taking time to establish the order of communication operations will help so much in this regard.
Going easy on yourself and them emotionally is important because stressors are high, so rules matter but putting them across with love will work wonders. Right now students need to connect, breathe, find their friends and relax together. Teaching academic content through songs gets easier once students feel seen, heard, safe and connected. So let’s start making music to lower stress and achieve social-emotional wellness. Once this is established, content learning can happen. We’ll get to that in a future blog.
This first GITC blog will lay-out a simple process with clear, sequential instructions to unite your students through song. To assure you songleading success and help you as the online tech “pilot” our team has created this list to steps and tips so you might have a smooth experience. We recommend following the steps in order.
STEP ONE, TACKLE YOUR TECH
Like any online teaching, the first step is to know your online platform. Learning can only happen when tech is working for everyone. You will want to be able to accomplish many things well before you have to "pilot the ship."
LEARN TO SET IT UP Know how to set up your meeting. Do you want to use a secret password and share it with invitees? Can you lock down your online session to exclude any surprise unwanted visitors? Does your platform have break-out rooms for student groups to meet? Do you have screen sharing or a white board? Think ahead to what tools you will want to use, and take the time to get this in place. Only then, send your invitation out.
FINE TUNE YOUR OWN CAMERA AND MIC. Have a look on your own computer screen to make sure your students will be able to see your face, hands and musical instrument and to hear your voice.
TRY OUT YOUR VISUAL and AUDIO TOOLS If you are teaching on a platform that does not allow you to share your screen and you are working on a PC, we recommend installing and setting up open source software OBS Studio. It gives you a nice range of visual options. Practice screen sharing between a song chart/lyric sheet on your screen, and you. The students will benefit from seeing both. If you cannot screen share, ask a parent to assist you by putting the song chart up on THEIR screen.
PLAN YOUR MUSIC SESSION! CHOOSE HOW and WHEN TO INCLUDE MUSIC.
Think about the role you want music to play. Will you open class with a song? Finish with one? Or insert a song partway into a lesson to enrich the learning experience? This will help you choose songs and time the music making.
Leading even 5 minutes of music makes a very significant difference for students in their mood, motivation and self confidence So what will you need to get ready?
BEGIN WITH A WELCOME SONG
Select a familiar participatory song to welcome students. We recommend a name song or a song the children know that makes them happy. Whatever you choose, let it be one you know well enough to get through without forgetting.
PREPARE A QUICK RHYTHM WARM UP
Use clapping patterns to get kids listening to your instructions and tuning into playing together. Initiate a series of short clapping patterns and after each one, cue the students to copy you. Play them with a faster or slower tempo. Next give individual students a turn to lead a clapping pattern and have their peers copy them. The students will enjoy seeing each other and interacting this way together.
CHOOSE A SPECIAL SONG TO SHARE
This song can be something new or something familiar. Find one you feel fairly confident in singing and strumming. Simple is okay. Or you may want to teach a new song!
HOLD YOUR MUSIC TIME
As our country and much of the planet adjusts to the “new normal” of sheltering in place, many GITC teachers are adjusting to the new reality of teaching and learning online. GITC Board Director of Education, Joan Maute, trains teachers at Laurel Elementary School of Arts & Technology in Fort Collins Colorado. She started her semester as usual, teaching Monday evening face-to-face classes with an enthusiastic group of educators including the school's inspirational principal. Then COVID-19 hit and the class was forced to pivot and transition to an online classroom.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, honestly,” Joan explains. “I sent an email to the group saying that we were switching to online instruction and that we’d be meeting at the same time as we had our face-to-face class. I told them that if they had time, I’d love to see them in class but there was no pressure. And you know what? They are ALL showing up now, two weeks in a row!”
Joan has successfully transitioned the class to meeting on JamPlay.com, the finest online hub for GITC instruction. The link about takes you to the registration for GITC teachers and students who are being generously offered a free 3-month membership to JamPlay. Members can choose from a variety of daily live classes, as well as from a series of 66 pre-recorded, sequential guitar lessons taught by GITC founder, Jessica Baron.
Google Chrome is the required browser to navigate well at JamPlay.com. The code to register as one of our teachers or students is GITC3.
Of course, transitioning from in-person strumming to a world of webcams and chat-rooms can be daunting for some and the learning curve is real. GITC faculty trainers and participating teachers and school staff members are rising to the occasion and working through the bumps together.
“I’m learning,” says Joan. “I’m learning how to get the right angles on camera and learning to adapt. What we do first is go around and check in -- most are comfortable checking in by video but not all. I tell them either is fine. Then when we are moving on to our first song, I ask if they are ready, and if they are, they put an exclamation point in the chat. It’s fun to see all the exclamation points pop up. They can also put a question mark in the chat if they have a question. It’s kind of a balancing act, trying to do the teaching AND follow what’s happening in the chat, but it’s also funny because sometimes the teachers will answer each other’s questions.”
Kindergarten teacher, Emily Anderson, says the online platform took some getting used to but is now easy to manage. “I like that we can all be on mute and practicing as we need without everyone listening,” she explains. “We have the option to share when we are ready.”
Fourth grade teacher, Catherine Thomsen is using the experience as an opportunity to grow and challenge herself. “I had a hard time getting into the site initially, however that was my issue,” Catherine explains. “Also, I have had to really work to overcome the fact that online learning is not the best mode for me. That was even true when I was in college. This is an opportunity for me to gain more confidence in this learning environment.”
Participants are quickly learning, however, that online classes provide something even more important than the lessons themselves, and that is the innate human connection that comes along with playing music together.
“It is a great outlet, a great way to still collaborate with others, and a nice break in my remote teaching day when it is something just for me,” explains Emily.
Catherine Thomsen agrees. “Music offers hope and is a universal language we can all connect with. It helps to calm fears and anxiety.”
Joan Maute is enjoying watching her students challenge themselves, support one another, and grow in their musicianship. She is also seeing the magical effects GITC programming is having on some of the family members quarantining with her students!
“Last week, one of the teachers -- her kids are home -- so she and her son wrote an amazing song about Corona [virus] and it had a great line like ‘when it’s all over, we’ll hug, hug, hug!’ And she was playing and singing and her two sons were singing backup for her. It was amazing!” gushes Joan.
So is she in it for the long haul? Absolutely! “There’s really great interaction,” she continues. “It’s so good to see everyone’s names pop up in the chat. Even if we’re just seeing people’s names, it’s just good to be together.”
Click HERE to see a larger version of the full updated schedule of GITC online classes.