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Morning Music

On that verdant Tuscan slope the wine grower played classical music to encourage his wine grapes to develop into their full character. He believed with his whole heart that music would enhance his buds to grow into a delicious maturity. Well, I thought, while watching this interview, maybe it will work for my little ones.

So began my adventure with music as a prelude to learning. Imagine for a moment, my classroom: high poverty black and white second graders, most from housing projects and ramshackle, rented houses. I felt it my duty to expose them to things they might never see or hear about again in their limited lives. And, besides, it made my morning pre-class ritual more enjoyable to ME.

Having been inculcated in my elementary school to the virtues of the American Melting Pot, I began my venture in October with the now defunct (in many places) Columbus Day. Italian music for a week. Yay! I had warm memories of the concertina, an accordion that my grandfather played. He even let me try my hand occasionally as a youngster, but I could not even control the air, without worrying about the keys. No monkey, either, —just fond remembrances. I am not a fan of opera, but I had to play Pavarotti, of course. I also found a copy of Volare, sung by Dean Martin, which I remember being played often on the radio in our home in the ‘50s. Memories, memories! I did not play any more than 2-3 minutes softly in the background, before we began class. My heart sprang when one of the students would ask me about the music.

Even though I can’t carry a tune, in December I taught one verse of several different nationalities’ (French, German, Swedish, Italian) holiday songs acapella. I had learned them for our giant holiday play for remedial reading students. You can read about that event here:

The Superintendent’s Tears

The play was also the basis of the grammar review set that explains the origins of some of our holiday traditions:

Grammar Review: Holiday Traditions

In February, for the Chinese New Year,  I played Chinese instrumental music, mostly strings, woodwinds, and drums. Much of this music uses a 5 note scale. Very relaxing… I still enjoy listening.

March was dedicated to the songs the nuns at my Irish Catholic school taught us in class and on the piano. For me, it is always easy to listen to Irish vocals. Oh, Danny Boy…

In May I played a little mariachi and, stretching a bit, my favorite, Spanish guitar. I enjoyed every moment of those pre-class tunes. I had a large selection, too. Way before Pandora existed, I found a 45 (45!!!) record of the Mexican Hat Dance which we used to learn that dance for our Cinco de Mayo fiesta. BTW, kudos to gym teachers—I did not realize how many kids had two left feet.

At the end of that month we enjoyed our own style of patriotic Karaoke music for Memorial Day. You can read about that development here:

Patriotic Karaoke

During other months, I often played classical music—Mozart, especially. I think he lights up different areas of my brain, I can almost feel it, and I hoped he would do the same for my students. I actually played Mozart for my granddaughters, too, every time I visited them when they were babies. Today, unlike most kids their age, they do not dislike classical music.

There are many other types of music that I would now include in my musical prelude to class—African, Pacific Island, Ukrainian! The list goes on and on… I began this particular adventure after I Ieft middle and high school teaching, but I would now definitely include it before all classes at all levels. Everyone should continually broaden their musical horizons, and it doesn’t take even one minute away from class time.  I am still broadening my own… horizons, in more ways than one.

 Now I’m going to listen to the lyrical strains from Out Of Africa while I enjoy my daily glass of wine. I hope the grapes matured with music. Imagining that they did makes the wine taste delicious!


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