World-class performances in the DC area this week!

World-class performances in the DC area this week!

We are so fortunate to have many opportunities to experience live performances by world-class artists here in the DC area, and this week provides two great choices:

  • The Choir of the Sistine Chapel -- also known as the "Pope's Choir" -- performs a rare US concert this Wednesday, September 20, at the Basilica, at 6pm. More information here. The event is free, but seating is first-come, first-served. For more on the Sistine Chapel Choir, watch this video:
  • Opera in the Outfield, a live simulcast of an opera being performed by Washington National Opera at Kennedy Center, takes place this Saturday, September 23, beginning at 5pm at Nats Park. This year's opera is Verdi's AIDA. See the video here. The event is free, and the opportunity to enjoy this great baseball stadium and opera at the same time is really extraordinary!

We hope you get out this week and experience live music!!

Boomwhacker & Double Ostinato Project

Students in 2nd and 3rd grades have been working with Boomwhackers and rhythm sticks to create improvisatory group compositions (they've also learned to play Bob Marley's One Love and David Bowie and Queen's We Will Rock You!). They are given an obstinate (repeating) harmonic line (in this case C-E-G in a pattern over two measures) and four possible rhythmic measures (one-measure beat patterns are written on sticks, and the students select two sticks for a two-measure ostinato beat pattern). Then students are asked to select two to three additional pitched boomwhackers and improvise a melody over the ostinato rhythm and harmony. 

This video shows the process in its early stages. Listen and notice that the ostinato pattern -- and the whole room -- begins to come together to form one large piece. Pretty cool!

As always, thanks for sharing your students with us!

Mrs. Andrews

Live Music: A great way to connect with your child (and have fun!)

Did you know that attending live performances is good for child development? Not only do we learn important social and listening skills when we attend concerts, we experience the magic of collaboration, and we are part of a unique event that can never happen in exactly the same way again. And the opportunity to experience live performance may spark interest in learning a musical instrument. One great thing about living in the Washington, DC region is the wide variety of low-cost and free concerts on nearly every night of the week. In our music room, we display concert and venue brochures for The Clarice Smith Center at University of Maryland, programs through Prince George's County Parks & Recreation, and others. Ask your student if they've seen anything in those flyers that might interest them!

Mrs. Andrews is a great fan of performances at The Clarice -- it's close and there are many excellent student recitals, which are always free. The calendar is here, and over Easter break, there are great opportunities to expand your world with performances in opera, chamber music, and dance. There's something really special about witnessing young musicians on the cusp of their careers -- you'll hear adventurous repertoire and exciting, exuberant interpretations in a more intimate setting. What a treat!

There are many amazing performances through Prince George's County Parks & Recreation, too: concerts at Harmony Hall, Montpelier Arts Center, and Publick Playhouse -- as well as in the parks over the summer -- we have a treasure trove of cultural experiences in our own backyard! 

Of course, there are also great, world-class performances at Kennedy Center and throughout the region (we're awfully lucky to have both Washington, DC and Baltimore so close), but in this blog post, we encourage you to take a look around at what you might find even closer to home. Share these experiences with your children, and encourage them to share music they like with you. It might be a whole new Easter Break adventure for thew family!

Here are some other great local venues with free or low-cost performances:

"Music is the exaltation of the mind derived from things eternal, bursting forth in sound." - St. Thomas Aquinas

Wishing you an Easter filled with faith, love, and the promise of renewal, 

Mrs. Andrews


Music education is good for developing brains!

For many years, researchers have known that music education can positively impact the young brain. According to a study by University of Southern California, music instruction appears to accelerate brain development in young children, particularly in the areas of the brain responsible for processing sound, language development, speech perception and reading skills in initial results of a five-year study by USC neuroscientists (read the full article here).

Twelve Benefits of Music Education

By Carolyn Phillips, Children's Music Workshop

1. Early music education exposure helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning – our first example of the twelve benefits of music education. It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds.

2. Music education research shows a causal link between music and spatial intelligence (the ability to perceive the world accurately and to form mental pictures of things). This kind of intelligence, by which one can visualize various elements that should go together, is critical to the sort of thinking necessary for everything from solving advanced mathematics problems to being able to pack a book-bag with everything that will be needed for the day.

3. Students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions. Questions about the arts do not have only one right answer.

4. Another example of the twelve benefits of music education is found in recent studies that show students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT. They also achieve higher grades in high school. 

5. A study of the arts provides children with an internal glimpse of other cultures and teaches them to be empathetic towards the people of these cultures. This development of compassion and empathy, as opposed to development of greed and a “me first” attitude, provides a bridge across cultural chasms that leads to respect of other races at an early age.

6. Students exposed to music education learn craftsmanship as they study how details are put together painstakingly and what constitutes good, as opposed to mediocre, work. These standards, when applied to a student’s own work, demand a new level of excellence and require students to stretch their inner resources.

7. In music, a mistake is a mistake; the instrument is in tune or not, the notes are well played or not, the entrance is made or not. It is only by much hard work that a successful performance is possible. Through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete rewards of hard work.

8. Music education enhances teamwork skills and discipline. In order for an orchestra to sound good, all players must work together harmoniously towards a single goal, the performance, and must commit to learning music, attending rehearsals, and practicing.

9. Music education provides children with a means of self-expression. Now that there is relative security in the basics of existence, the challenge is to make life meaningful and to reach for a higher stage of development. Everyone needs to be in touch at some time in his life with his core, with what he is and what he feels. Self-esteem is a by-product of this self-expression.

10. Music education develops skills that are necessary in the workplace. It focuses on “doing,” as opposed to observing, and teaches students how to perform, literally, anywhere in the world. Employers are looking for multi-dimensional workers with the sort of flexible and supple intellects that music education helps to create as described above. In the music classroom, students can also learn to better communicate and cooperate with one another.

11. Music performance teaches young people to conquer fear and to take risks. A little anxiety is a good thing, and something that will occur often in life. Dealing with it early and often makes it less of a problem later. Risk-taking is essential if a child is to fully develop his or her potential. Music contributes to mental health and can help prevent risky behavior such as teenage drug abuse, which often leads to institutionalization or rehab.

12. Our final example of the twelve benefits of music education is that an arts education exposes children to the incomparable.

Music at St. Mary's Landover Hills

We are more than mid-way through the year, and learning so much in our music classes! Mr. Dino (grades 4-8) and Mrs. Andrews (preK-3) are throughly enjoying working with your children and helping them to discover the joys of music! 

In March, we celebrated "Music in Schools Month" with a great display that our students helped to create. Everyone learned a new song for Lent, and we discussed how singing hymns is a special form of prayer. 

This year, we have studied Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, jazz and Duke Ellington, Debussy, and Ravel. As we look ahead, students will learn about American composers George Gershwin and Aaron Copeland,  modern classical music, and more. Students in the lower grades will continue to work with Boomwhackers (pitched plastic tubes) to create their own compositions, as well as learning about music theory using Kodaly methodology. We have so much to share!

Thank you for sharing these amazing kids -- it is truly a joy to work with them and watch them grow. 

Kathryn Andrews & Dino Efantis

The music classroom in an unusually quiet gets loud in here!

The music classroom in an unusually quiet gets loud in here!