School Design and Philosophy


Schools are always striving to be innovative in educational technology, curricula, teaching techniques, classroom management, behavior plans, and more, but it’s rare for a school to create innovation through architecture. Japanese architect Takaharu Tezuka describes a kindergarten school building that he designed in his 2013 TED Talk entitled “Best Kindergarten You’ve Ever Seen,” in which architectural decisions were based on the kind of learning environment they would create.

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Planning for Stress-Free Sick Days


Music For Learning Blog: “Planning for Stress-Free Sick Days”

Being home sick this week gave me the opportunity to consider what goes into the better sub plans that I’ve written. Planning for a music sub is unique in that it can’t be assumed that the teacher will have as much knowledge of the subject as the students are expected to. Some subs are great musicians, others can’t even read music. Music sub plans can’t be the lesson plans we had planned to teach if we were there. Rather, they should be carefully constructed to ensure that any teacher, no matter what they’re musical background, can be comfortable while engaging students in musical activities.

Making the Most of Music Class Guests


Music For Learning Blog: “Making the Most of Music Class Guests”

Next week, my elementary music classes will be visited by freelance composer Charlie McCarron. My students are just finishing up composition projects of their own, and are eager to ask him questions about what it’s like to be a composer, how he writes music, and where he finds his ideas and inspiration. Inviting guests into the classroom not only enhances what students have been learning, but provides them with meaningful, real connections to music making outside of school.

In my latest blog post for Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s Music for Learning blog, I outline a variety of ways to bring guests into the classroom, no matter where you teach, and how to build student learning around the visit.

Music for Learning

For a little over a year, I have had the privilege of being a blogger for Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s Music for Learning website. Unfortunately, this blog has been neglected during that time as a result. I’ll start posting my Music for Learning articles here, but I encourage any music educators to check out the site for the many other great (and free!) teaching resources. My personal favorites are Audio Backpack and Class Notes Videos.


Making the Mundane Musical

Rhythmic Behavior Management

I’m excited to be embarking on a new blogging project, writing for Minnesota Public Radio’s music education website. My first article, “Making the Mundane Musical,” is about finding ways to better utilize time in my elementary music classroom by making the details of classroom management and lesson structure into lessons about music. Please check it out!

Gamifying Music Lessons

I’ve been noticing that some of my piano students seem to be motivated by “passing” a piece in their books. I have had a lot of conversations immediately after a student plays through a piece that go something like this:

Student: “Did I pass it?? Please can I pass? PLEEEEASE???”

Me: “Do you think that you played it well enough that you don’t need to do more work on it?”

Student: (without pause to consider) “Yes! Please can I pass it?”

I’m not sure where this fixation on passing pieces came from, as I hadn’t been using that kind of approach in my teaching. Nevertheless, I have noticed this trend of students seeing each page of their books as a hurdle on the way to some future goal. They seem to be gamifying their own piano lesson experience. Continue reading

Father’s Day Special


In honor of Fathers Day, this post is about one of my two greatest mentors in life and in the field of education: my dad.  With an estimated 50% of teachers dropping out of education within five years of earning their licenses, most schools are using their resources wisely by providing mentors to their new teachers.  In my first year of teaching, it was essential for me to know people who could help me figure out HOW to teach.  However, this continuing high dropout rate could be a symptom of new teachers not having mentors that show them WHY we teach.  My dad has been this latter type of mentor to me.

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The Science of Music

My transition from the end of the school year into summer has been focused on the common theme of sound science. One of my favorite topics! During the last two weeks of school, I offered to cover the unit from the third grade science curriculum on sound. Exactly one week after my students’ last day of school, I was teaching a 21+ crowd at the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Social Science event on the theme “Science of Music.” Continue reading

Our Concert, ‘Tis of Thee, Sweet Music of Liberty

My students have begun preparations for our spring concert in mid-May.  As a performer, I always like to have some sort of theme or cohesive element in a concert, and I approach planning my students’ concerts in the same way.  Last year, I was very excited about our spring concert theme of “Music From Around the World.”  Each grade performed music from a different continent–Africa for kindergarten, Asia for first grade, South and Central America for second grade, and Europe for third grade.  The kids enjoyed singing songs in different languages and I enjoyed using some of my training in ethnomusicology to teach them about the music.

This year, I figured we should do some music from the one continent that was left out last year, so we’re working on “Music From Around the United States.”  I was a little wary of this theme.  It brings to mind images of children singing patriotic songs and waving tiny American flags in a cheesy and nostalgic way that I would prefer to avoid.  However, this theme is becoming far more interesting and educational than I expected. Continue reading

Second Grade Compositions: Step 4

Composition with tempo and dynamics added

Composition with tempo and dynamics added

My second graders have completed the final steps in writing their compositions.  After choosing and writing rhythms and pitches, they added expression markings to their pieces.  Each chose andante, moderato, or allegro as a tempo (some more than one).  They also added dynamic markings, using at least forte and piano, although some who take piano lessons added mezzo piano, mezzo forte, crescendos, and diminuendos. Continue reading