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.
January means just two things in the GITC office...winter programs and The NAMM Show! Put on annually in Anaheim, CA by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), this is the music products industry’s largest trade show. Manufacturers and distributors of every sort of musical instrument, accessory or music education publishing from around the world come to show their latest products to music retailers, and a fortunate group of music educators and music nonprofit leaders. The show is closed to the public, so attending is a privilege. It spreads across the whole Convention Center/Disneyland region of the city each January!
One of the most important opportunities for our non-profit is to receive an education in the latest strategies to advocate and fund music education. A small team of program managers with GITC attended the NAMM Foundation's Coalition on Coalitions to learn about the E.S.S.A. mandate for music as part of a "well rounded education" and to hear about strategies and successes accessing Title IV funding to support music in the schools. NAMM Foundation Director, Mary Luehrsen led an outstanding panel of experts coaching music education leaders from across the country on ways we can support schools to provide more robust music education programs.
As a grateful NAMM Foundation grant recipient organization, GITC participates in Music Education Days at the NAMM Show every year. We view this powerful event as an opportunity to gather our faculty trainers and teaching artists for a time of collaborative learning and sharing. Several staff members and key volunteers help out, too.
Over the course of four days, we attend NAMM Foundation workshops for nonprofits and classes or events for music teachers. Also, as part of our annual pilgrimmage to the show, we hold a special breakfast event during which we thank the many incredible advocates, volunteers and music sponsors who support our mission to make music accessible for all students. We are so grateful to board member, Judy Roberts for making this annual celebration possible! Keep scrolling to learn more about that event.
In this photo above, taken at the Martin Guitar booth, you are looking at (L to R) GITC Teaching Artist in LAUSD, Maria Ochoa, GITC Outstanding Faculty Trainer Dan Decker, Blues artist Kenny Sultan, Martin's awesome Mari Groller, GITC founder Jess Baron, and Martin Guitar visual artist, Robert Goetzl.
Robert created the artwork for the gorgeous new David Crosby Tribute Guitar. Martin Guitars was one of GITC's founding sponsors and has helped us build our work in schools for almost two decades!
Learning and visiting are not the only things we do at the show. We also hold our annual face to face board meeting, and we participate at the NAMM Foundation Grand Rally for Music Education! Each year, it's a jaw-dropping artistic experience. Last year, we heard from the irreducible Todd Lundgren! This year the event started with a delightful performance from the Langley Ukulele Ensemble, followed by a stunning interactive performance by Bobby McFerrin and Gimme 5! Check out this great recap video by Jimmy Edwards -- you may even spot a few familiar GITC faces at the Grand Rally!
We all felt inspired by NAMM Foundation Executive Director Mary Luehrsen’s passionate message about the power of music education to change lives and build human connection. Here she is with the directors past and present of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble, Peter and Paul Luongo. She made a great joke about the three of them being Peter, Paul and Mary!
Of course, one of the most special parts of NAMM is reconnecting with GITC supporters and sponsors who return to the show year after year.
GITC Executive Director, Jess Baron, makes time throughout the show to visit with individuals who have gone out of their way to support GITC’s mission. Chris Meikle of Alvarez Guitars is an avid supporter of music education and music therapy. He is committed to helping us establish services this year in the St. Louis schools with GITC Faculty Trainer Terrie Catlow! A designer, engineer and business wiz with a very full plate, Chris always takes time to check in, brainstorm, and offer support.
One of the pleasures and privileges of being at The NAMM Show is experiencing the innovation and creativity of the engineers, designers and builders of instruments, accessories and new music technology.
Our faculty has a chance to explore how specific instruments might be useful in classrooms, and hospital or home settings for medically fragile students, and in music education. Our questions are welcomed and we learn so much! Abby Dorsey, Director of Media & Outreach, was in ukulele heaven at Kala Brand Music, while Dan Decker and Felicia Fis enjoyed a hands on demonstration of digital music technology of the Jamstik. We also popped in over at Korg Education to find Tiffany Stalker sharing the GITC SmartStart Ukulele Method Book for Beginners along with their Tiare ukuleles with interested visitors. Tiffany co-authored this book with Jess Baron and we now use it in all of our beginner level classes!
Of course, our favorite part of NAMM is the GITC Annual Friends & Sponsors Breakfast which takes place annually on NAMM Sunday at the Red Lion Hotel. This year’s breakfast was packed with friends, sponsors and musicians who were excited to share their love of GITC over a warm bowl of oatmeal. Jess Baron also presented awards of recognition to Uke Like the Pro’s Terry Carter (Sponsor of the Year), Dan Decker (Outstanding Faculty Trainer of the Year), Dunlop Manufacturing’s Jasmin Powell (Sustaining Sponsorship Award) and Joan Maute (Outstanding Board Service). Director of GITC Special Education Services, Desiree Cera, gave a short and powerful presentation on the impact of GITC’s Adaptive Music for Achievement in Inclusion and Special Education (AMAISE) Program and GITC teacher, Teresa Adams, shared her original problem-solving song she calls "There Are Four Things I Can Do."
The breakfast ended with a lively group jam session -- and likely a second or third cup of coffee for all! Please scroll down for a full slideshow of photos from the breakfast...
GITC would like to thank all of you teachers, specialists, principals, volunteers, board members, artists, donors and sponsors who have contributed to an awesome 2020 NAMM experience! And yes, these are the new T-shirts! We debuted them at the breakfast and we will be figuring out how to make them available online soon!
Got stories to share, questions, ideas, requests? Please feel free write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office (619) 578-2326!
We received a wonderful note in December from Mr. Bernstein (Mr. B. for short), the enthusiastic principal of Morningside Elementary School in San Fernando, CA. We will share that note below, but first a little background…
This Los Angeles Unified School is one of the oldest in the district. It has 620 students in grades K-5 with a student-teacher ratio of 24 to 1. According to state test scores, 31% of students are proficient in math and 32% in reading. 96% of the students are Hispanic and just one in six are classified as English Learners. The school has a high percentage of students living at or below the poverty line. The academic success of this school speaks well of the students, their families and the teachers.
I met Mr. B this fall when he stepped in to lead the school. He has an optimistic spirit, loves music, and is all about bringing creativity to his students and faculty. Despite the challenges that people experience each day in low income schools, everyone I met was smiling and generating hope and love in their work. The spirit of grit, optimism and dedication is alive and well there and they have the right guy in charge!
Mr. B jumped into GITC with both feet! The day I turned up with ukuleles, he was opening the garage and personally lugging the boxes up to the office. When teachers gathered for a faculty meeting the next week, he asked who wanted to learn to play, sing, compose lyrics for learning and teach through the power of song and 20 hands went up!
Thanks to his advocacy, we launched the after-school training class with our faculty trainer, Miss Kristen, and this led to our being able to designate funding for teaching artist residencies paid for by a generous grant from the NAMM Foundation. For 10 weeks, Ms. Shiri was able to work one on one with highly engaged classroom teachers to impart the GITC approach and music education activities so they can carry on independently this year. All of this happened between October and today! Now in February, we will be offering a new level of training and Morningside Elementary has become a GITC Flagship school- one that sets an example for possibilities and success. We are so grateful to everyone there who is participating, especially Ms. Maria.
Ms. Maria teaches transitional kindergarten and kindergarten, and she had voluntarily been attending GITC PDs and our Teacher Retreat for 3 years on her own! In our book, she is an unsung hero and deserves a great song. Her actions speak to the power of one individual to change the world. Her passion led to all of her colleagues and students in the region having a chance to bring music to learning every day.
This is the note I recently received from Mr. B. sharing about his visit to a GITC residency classroom:
“I went to Mr. G.’s class today because it was the last day with Ms. Shiri for GITC. They invited parents to come in at 10:40 AM. The room was filled with parents, smiles, and engaged students. All of it was happening in the name of developing, honoring, and respecting a love for music and music education.
Goosebumps, clarity, and a renewed sense of purpose. I was floored. Just beautiful.
Thank you for creating what you have created and giving us the opportunity to benefit and share in your creation.
We are fortunate indeed.”
He also shared these photos with permission from everyone in them.
This is the magic GITC is unfolding around the country. Where there is a school in need, a supportive leader and enthusiastic teachers ready to embrace music as a teaching approach and learning modality, we want to serve. Because of YOU, we can.
Thank you for your gifts, your care and the value you place on the Arts as a vital part of every student’s education. We applaud and celebrate you!
This year, GITC is receiving its first ever Operating Support grant from the City of San Diego. We are exceptionally grateful to the Commission for Arts and Culture and to all the volunteer grant panelists who gave GITC the highest possible score on our application for the current fiscal year. This grant is allowing us to provide better staffing in the office in ways that help our faculty members deliver instructional services in San Diego schools.
In addition to this profoundly helpful “OSP” grant, GITC also applied for specific CPPS grant support in districts where our work in schools in those neighborhoods need additional funding in order to meet the needs of the students. We have been blessed by receiving program dollars to help out in Districts 1, 3 and 4 this year.
What will happen as a result? Bird Rock Elementary kindergarten teacher, Lorraine Turner taught her first GITC Beginner class this fall at La Jolla Elementary, a school located far away from any programs we have held in the past. That program trained 26 early childhood and primary grade teachers to sing, strum, and write songs for early literacy and social emotional skills. Now Lorraine has big goals for 2020.
“I want to continue to bring music into classrooms because I think it’s so valuable. With arts programs being pushed out of many schools around the country, GITC is such a great way to bring music to children,” she explains.
Lorraine not only implements GITC in her own kindergarten classroom; this fall she will also spread the work by teaching other teachers the fundamentals of making and leading integrated music! Next, she will continue the work with a new group of teachers at Bird Rock Elementary. Each Monday afternoon, she will continue to guide new GITC beginner teachers through a vocal warm-up and basic ukulele chord instruction while introducing a new musical concept and putting it into practice. Then she will lead the teachers through collaborative group songwriting geared to reinforcing learning of mutually agreed-upon curricular content.
She describes GITC classes as taking place in a “no risk environment,” where everyone is welcome to learn, make mistakes, and grow together. “I explain that there is no pressure here and we are all learning,” Lorraine says. “I tell them that I am learning, too.”
Lorraine’s class is the first of its kind for La Jolla, an area that is new to GITC programming. The class was made possible through City funding. Council President Pro Tem and mayoral candidate, Barbary Bry in District One had this to say about GITC’s work:
“I’m proud our city supports Guitars in the Classroom after-school teacher trainings and family music time. Their work is crucial in helping to promote learning and to equip students with the skills and confidence needed to achieve long-term academic and emotional success.”
This thumbs up from District 1 is also making it possible for two highly engaged GITC classroom teachers and their students at La Jolla Elementary to learn with GITC teaching artist and jazz musician, Sharon DuBois, a lifelong musician who describes her style as “Evolutionary Jazz.” Sharon will co-teach and coach primary grade teachers Ms. Dyer and Ms. Rice with their students to deepen literacy and language learning through strumming, singing, and composing songs for learning using traditional Blues and folk music forms. These 10-week residencies will culminate in student informances, sharing their new knowledge, abilities and compositions with others.
“I’m excited to get started,” she explains. “Through GITC I received one of David Broza’s One Million Guitars, which means I get to play it for a year and then pass it on to a student who shows potential. I’m so excited about that! I’m also looking forward to incorporating some jazz into the GITC program, which is predominantly folk-based.”
Whatever 2020 has in store, it definitely includes growth, expansion, and a whole lot of strumming and singing in classrooms throughout San Diego! The best part? “The teachers are loving it,” says Lorraine Turner. “They know four chords so far and they are already songwriting! This is very quick learning for adults who are coming to music making at this time in their lives. I’m so impressed by their creativity. GITC really is something special.”
Dear friends, please meet the AMAISE-ing Terry Tasby.
As you probably know, AMAISE stands for Adaptive Music for Achievement in Inclusion and Special Education. When Terry started coming to GITC classes, there was no such thing. Dedicated and caring teachers like her are the reason we took on the charge of developing a distinct and comprehensive approach to adapting music instruction for students whose needs span a wide array of medical, cognitive, behavioral, neurological and psychological conditions.
My name is Gail Wingfield and I am the Programs Manager for Guitars and Ukes in the Classroom. At the GITC AMAISE conference in October, I had the opportunity to chat at length with special education teacher Terry Tasby. She works with special needs preschoolers in the Los Angeles Unified School District and is passionate about making a difference for her students, her school, and her community. Even though the recent conference was for teachers in San Diego Unified, Terry made the journey to join teachers here and help out.
GITC Founder, Director Jess Baron introduced me to Terry and asked that I get to know her better. "She is always here with a smile, ready to learn, explore and assist, " Jess told me. "Let's find out where all that passion and dedication comes from. Terry is very special!" Fortunately the conference, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts gave me a chance to watch Terry in action and visit with her at length.
When I asked Terry how she became a Special Education teacher she laughed and said that throughout her career she always comes to something “backside first” - she takes an unconventional path to arrive where she is meant to be. We find this is the case with many people who become special educators, resource teachers or music therapists. They tend to discover the importance of the work and their own propensity to innovate.
Terry grew up in Southern California and she was marching to the beat of her own drum even as a teen. When she graduated from high school she rebelled against parental expectations and went into the workforce instead of continuing her education. After a number of years in a wide variety of jobs, Terry took a position working with residents of the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana, California. She discovered that their literacy skills were extremely low, severely limiting their opportunities as adults. In fact, a recent study showed that 70 percent of inmates in California prisons are functionally illiterate. When Terry saw the inmates’ low level of literacy it made a strong impression on her. She realized she would make a bigger impact if she helped young children gain those skills. So, in her 40’s, Terry decided to go back to school and complete her education. She entered Mills College through their Resuming Student program and in 1999 earned her teaching credential.
For the next eight years Terry was a general education teacher in grades Kinder and first. This gave her a close view of how students acquire spoken, written and visual language. It got her wheels turning! During that time she took Quinn Fitzpatrick’s GITC training, and discovered how music could enhance her students’ learning. GITC's songwriting Lyrics for Learning made sense to her. And like most teachers who come to GITC, Terry shared that she had no musical background “at all!” This did not dampen her enthusiasm a bit. In fact it made the chance to learn to make music even more important. She now strums the ukulele and writes songs for learning, integrating music into her classroom every day!
In the summer of 2007 Terry moved to Los Angeles. She thought it would be easy to get a job, but discovered there were no K-5 General Education teaching positions available. While standing in the Human Resources office she saw an announcement that the L.A. Unified School District was hiring general education teachers who were interested in teaching special education. Terry immediately registered for Special Education training and was assigned her first class that fall. She started using, and writing, songs and chants for her special needs students right away.
Terry has attended several AMAISE conferences as well as other GITC events. She says each deep dive into the GITC curriculum adds layers of knowledge, and she always gains more confidence in her abilities. I asked her what she would offer teachers who are thinking about taking the GITC training. She said, “I see my kids make so much progress! If I can pick up a uke, cold, with no musical background, you can do it, too!”
Terry’s vision is to take GITC outside her classroom to become a more integral part of her school and ultimately make a bigger impact in her community through music. She wants to be known by all the kids in the school as “the fun uke teacher” and encourage other teachers to bring GITC to their classrooms. She loves how music crosses over into students’ learning and their socio-emotional development. GITC brings more structure to her classroom, enhances learning, and makes everything more fun!
Guitars and Ukes in the Classroom (GITC) may be based out of Southern California, but GITC programs are growing in schools and communities across the country. With fall classes in full swing, we took a moment to peek in on Franklin County, Tennessee, where GITC teacher Jonanne Hammer is leading the charge towards greater access to music for all students. Keep reading for more on her GITC “aha moment” and her goal to have at least one GITC teacher in every school in her district.
GITC: How did you get started with GITC? What made you take the leap?
JH: I came across GITC during a Google search looking for grants for my music classroom. It looked interesting and I sent a very generic email to the address given asking for more information, really not knowing what the organization was all about. This was a case of asking the right thing at the right time. Jess Baron was going to be close by in Nashville for the weekend and we were able to meet. She told me all about GITC and the methods used to teach guitar and ukulele. I left our meeting with two guitars, a ukulele, a bag of teaching materials, and a commitment to provide ukuleles for our summer music program! I also left with my head spinning with so many ideas of how to use this in our district's music programs, regular classrooms, and special education classes.
GITC: What experience did you have with music prior to GITC? How has GITC changed your relationship to music?
JH: I have been a middle school band director for going on 17 years. I play all brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments, but have never learned the guitar or ukulele -- though it has always been a goal of mine. GITC has broadened the availability of music for our school and district. Music happens outside the music room now. I now have a tool to reach non band students with music and can share that tool with other teachers in our district.
GITC: Can you share an "aha moment" or successful experience incorporating music into the classroom?
JH: GITC is still very new to me and our district. Our sixth grade science class was learning about energy earlier this school year. I used our ukuleles generously donated through GITC to lead the students in writing a song about the different types of energy. They learned and performed the song, then made a video. The science teacher said the experience was the most fun she has ever had teaching, and the students performed well on their assessment. The classroom environment remained very positive and the students stayed engaged throughout the entire process. We are a Title 1 school and some of our students do not have a lot of joy at home. To see them finding joy in learning through music is very satisfying as a teacher.
GITC: What results are you seeing with students and/or other teachers?
JH: Other teachers are becoming more interested in what we are doing. We are just now doing our first Beginner Course for teachers. Some of them are already stepping outside of their comfort zone and incorporating music into their classrooms! The students think they are rock stars!
GITC: What's on the horizon for you? Any upcoming music education goals?
JH: I am hoping to offer the Intermediate Course next and to enroll more classroom teachers into another Beginner Course. My goal is to have at least one teacher from each school in our district using GITC in their classroom and to empower them to lead other teachers in their school to become involved. As a trained music educator, I know the benefits playing music has on a student’s brain, as well as the transforming power of music. Now, for the first time in our school district, classroom teachers can experience this as well.
GITC: If you had to capture GITC in one word, what would that word be?
JH: Accessible. GITC is making music accessible for students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in the music making process. GTIC is providing access for teachers who may not otherwise be involved in music, especially in their classroom.
GITC: Anything else you'd like to add?
JH: Sometimes things happen around us and we know that it is just meant to be. That describes my experience becoming involved with Jess and GITC. This has very much been about being in the right place at the right time. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of GITC and their supporters and the difference it is making in our school district.