Professional Development

On June 20, 2010, I hosted my second music teacher professional development.  The first was in November 2009.  The idea sprang from the notion that the best professional development might come from having the opportunity to share with your colleagues.  It seems that this notion was correct.  These professional developments allowed us to explore activities and the pedagogy behind them.  It also allowed us to share great ideas for using props, visuals, classroom management tips for the music cluster teacher, and many more valuable ideas that we don’t often have access to since most of us work in isolation from other music teachers.

Jazz & Kodaly/Orff/Dalcroze Connections

As a jazz saxophonist, I’m very interested in finding ways to teach my students about jazz and the blues.  As a Kodaly-trained (and some Orff training) educator, I want to find ways to make connections between playing and learning about jazz and the blues to developing music literacy skills.  At this PD, we explored using the song “Bag’s Groove” by Milt Jackson to play in an ensemble setting using Orff instruments, recorders, vocals and movement.  Each section also performed an improvisation over the blues form.  

What is the connection between Kodaly and Jazz/Blues?

“Bag’s Groove” is a pentatonic melody.  I put it in the key of E-la minor pentatonic in order to facilitate my student’s recorder work (G Major pentatonic and E minor pentatonic are the most accessible keys for beginning recorder players).  I started teaching at my current school this year, so my students have not had musical literacy.  With my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, I’ve taken an “older beginner” approach and focused on teaching them to aurally recognize and visually read on the staff the mi, re, do pattern.  Once we got to minor, we added E on the first line of the staff.  Students explore the tone set used in “Bag’s Groove” (DE  GAB) by singing it in solfege and with Curwen hand signs.  They also make connections between this tone set and other songs that we have a similar tone set (“Yangtze Boatman’s Chantey”, “Sioux Lullaby,” “The Birch Tree”, and more).  They learn about form and how the 12-bar blues is a special form of its own.  Also, they learn to sing the I, IV, and V chords, starting with the roots (later, the other tones in the chord can be used for harmonic singing).  By having a portion of the class sing the melody and a portion sing the root bass notes, students also practice 2-part singing.

Live Jazz for Kids

As a culminating event in this jazz unit I am developing, I will bring my students to the world-class jazz club The Jazz Standard.  They have a program that provides students with the opportunity to hear professional jazz musicians perform at at the club during school hours.  The cost:  FREE.  For more information, check out the page on their website:


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