April 2017 Instrument Families

One of the first steps in teaching students to understand art music and listening is to acquaint them with the unique characteristics and timbres of orchestral instruments and instrumental families. Students can explore each of these instruments on the Classics for Kids website. Easy navigation tools lead them to information, pictures, and sound clips of each instrument. The site also provides other interactive musical activities including games.

What can you do for the arts in one hour?

Dear CO Colleagues in Higher Ed,
We live in a time when the value of the arts is being constantly challenged. I find myself constantly having to justify what we do.  It's very easy to advocate for the arts, considering the immense amount of research that prove the benefits, but it takes our personal touch, our charisma, our time, to make someone actually pay attention. 

February 2017 -- Teaching Young Students about Ensembles

Part of the art of listening stems from an understanding of not only the elements of music, but of the different types of ensembles that make concert music. Choosing fun, short, and exciting pieces that are relevant to the younger student positively introduces them to the sounds different ensembles create, while planting seeds for interest in participating in these very ensembles beginning in the upper elementary years.

 The following links introduce children to Band, Orchestra, Choir, and Percussion Ensemble: 

January 2017 A Night on Bald Mountain - Mussorgsky

“A Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky

  STOP!  Before reading any further, listen to this piece with your eyes closed using the following link!   


What pictures or storylines come to you? What could this piece be about?

December 2016 "Mambo" from 'Westside Story', Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein remains a true American legend for his excellence in conducting, lecturing, and composition. Ask your late elementary or early middle school students to check out this excerpt from "Mambo". The energetic beat will peak their interest right away!  Use the listening questions below to introduce the basic elements of music to the students, and, after they listen to the music "as an event", challenge them to answer the questions.

Piece:  Mambo from ‘Westside Story’ by Bernstein

Room for Discomfort

I was driving home with a CU colleague after playing a concert, when the conversation touched on the issue of discomfort.  Nowadays, whenever someone feels slightly uncomfortable or bored, the smart phone is at the ready to distract and relieve.  But when we give into a habit of withdrawing into our own mental gated community, we lose touch with how we fit in.   Those moments of discomfort hold a wealth of information about what is missing, and that realization motivates us to act.  When students stand at the doorway of that lunchroom, having to decide which table to join, they become more

November 2016 Debussy for the Advancing Musician

          Imagine an exotic place, something very different from your typical environment or homeland, that you have visited either in real life, through a film or book, in art, or other life experience, that intrigues you; lures you. What defines this place for you? Why does it enchant you? What about it most interests you? If it were possible, would you live or work there? How long would you stay? Did the experience of this place permanently change you, your lifestyle, or your hopes for the future?

Claude Debussy