Top Ten Things Learned in the 4th Grade Band

Some of you will recall that I joined the fourth grade band at SES at the beginning of this school year. If you don’t remember, you can read about it here. Every Tuesday the plan was for me to join the band (about 45 fourth grade students) at 2:30 and then in a small group for our clarinet lesson on Thursday. Then there were the hours that should have been devoted to practicing and you can see where I’m going with this. This was a bigger time commitment than I originally understood!

Today is the culminating clarinet activity for me, as I join my fourth grade friends for our Winter concert. We have four songs to play and I’m frantically practicing in the hope that I won’t embarrass either my friend Anna, who has had to share her music stand with me these last four months, or the rest of the students. I keep hearing BOE president Allison Duwe’s words in my head, “you don’t have to be perfect Kim; you can even make a mistake up there and it’ll be okay!”

Without further ado, here are the top ten things I learned in the fourth grade band this year.

  1. When the conductor lifts her hands, I’m in the ready position. Likewise as an audience member, I’ll now know to applaud when the conductor lowers her hands at the end of a performance. You’re thinking, “Duh, everyone knows that!” Um, no, I didn’t.
  2. I know what the notes E, D, C, and F look and sound like. I also can identify whole, half and quarter notes as well as a rest.
  3. I’m not tone deaf. I just needed to learn more about the subject.
  4. There were days when I felt much like Billy Madison. I’m not sure our fourth grade students will ever be able to take me seriously as an authority figure.
  5. Practice is important. (I already knew this one)
  6. Mrs. Briggs calmly and effortlessly garners the attention of all 46 of us and has the confidence to allow us to play, mess up, even fail. Learning is messy. That’s good.
  7. In the last lesson before the concert, I asked a question. Mrs. Briggs reacted much better than I would have done. I would have felt the need to keep the students practicing to get all four numbers right! Instead she stopped, allowed the students to answer my question, and took as much time as we needed, even though we only practiced two of our four songs. She was CHILL.
  8. Our students love their instruments, lessons and band. Band is noisy, chaotic, expressive and fun.
  9. I’m pretty darn good at the video game “Staff Wars” and this may be the only way in which I gained the respect of the students in my lesson group.
  10. You can teach an old dog new tricks. If the old dog is willing to take a risk, be vulnerable, and learn.
  1. I would like to underline a comment Jamie Briggs makes above about inviting Kimberly Moritz to learn instrumental music with 4th graders when she say: “… I also knew that you weren’t the typical Superintendent of Schools.” Jamie is right about that – which may explain why I have followed Kimberly’s blog for many years — longer than I have followed any other superintendent’s across the country. It is always worth reading.

    Jay P. Goldman. Editor, School Administrator magazine, Alexandria, Va..

  2. I would like to thank you for everything you have done these past few months in the beginning band. When the idea first came to me to ask you to participate in my beginning band, I thought I might be a little on the crazy side to think that you’d ever be interested in doing that. However, I also knew that you weren’t the typical Superintendent of Schools. Your words on opening day this summer gave me the courage to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never found the opportune moment… until this year. I hope that in the past few months you have not only learned about music and a little bit about what we do as music teachers, but I hope you value the true joys of participating in an ensemble (even if clarinet wasn’t your favorite) and understand how our ensembles become a family during our time together. We make mistakes (squeaks, wrong notes, many misunderstanding, and the list goes on), but they are always excited and comfortable enough to teach each other and leave no student left behind. This is why music in our schools has such a big impact on our students… sometimes it’s the family and support they don’t get at home. We provide an safe outlet for expression, comradery, and uniqueness. Thank you, again, for joining our family. You are already greatly missed in your lessons! Feel free to stop in at any time 🙂

    P.S. In your lesson group yesterday, we discussed why you wouldn’t be joining us anymore and they were truly sad. We talked about what your job is and they thought that was pretty cool, and understood that you are a pretty busy lady! One student, however, was a little confused… she thought that when you weren’t in band or calling snow days, you were at home sleeping… 🙂

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