Sir George Martin, music producer for the Beatles, once stated, "If you turn me upside down, music notes will fall out of my ears.” His quote underscores the extent to which the gift of music has enriched his life. Well, Sir George, the feeling is mutual. I take great delight in teaching music to my fourth graders. Hearing them enthusiastically belt out a song that they have been taught is a joyful experience. In addition, it is a pleasure to work with children in the Bell Choir and Recorder Ensemble.
Students are introduced to the recorder for the first time in grade four. We work our way through rudimentary exercises taken from Recorder Time, a Christian Schools International publication. By the end of the year they are able to play three part harmonies, duets, and they play along with orchestral arrangements. What an improvement from the days of learning Hot Cross Buns in September. For students who struggle to learn the instrument, there are videos posted on the class web page showing the fingering, to assist with test preparation.
Playing in the Recorder Ensemble is an opportunity for students to build on the skills they learned in the grade 4 classroom. The Recorder Ensemble plays at assemblies, participates in the Christmas Hosanna concert, the Christmas music tour, and is involved in the Niagara District Fine Arts Festival.
Playing the hand bells is another opportunity for students to shine musically. The Bell Choir starts each October and is open only to students in the fourth grade. The first performance for a live audience is at the Christmas Hosanna Concert, and this event generates a lot of enthusiastic excitement among the participants! The Bell Choir is also part of the Christmas music tour, and is often invited to participate in local church services.
While a good part of the grade 4 music class is devoted to recorder, they also spend time learning songs that range from sacred, to Canadian folk, to international pieces. Hava Negila, a well-known Jewish song, is one of their favourites. It is important to spend time listening to music pieces, which provides an opportunity to teach students how music is composed, and to teach the structure and form of various pieces. Students develop an ear through these exercises, to a point where they are able to discern between solo, duet, trio and quartet voices in various selections.
The grade 4 music curriculum includes music theory concepts, as well as a unit on the orchestra. By using a variety of strategies, including some games, music classes remain lively and interesting. Students enjoy creating choreography to complement the singing. Biographical tidbits from the great music composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are thrown in for good "measure”.
I cannot imagine a world without music. There is always a song playing in my head when I am not actively engaged in something else. What a treat it is for a music lover to teach something that brings such fulfilment and joy.