Year in Review – Glad it happened!

When having a Skype meeting with Randy Wong, he thanked us for staying with the internship for the whole year and told us how much he appreciated it. In my head I was thinking, “Why leave? Is that even an option?” Even if it was one, I wouldn’t have. I saw no reason to. There were good kids and I personally felt it was a yearlong commitment, considering that MusicLaunch is a year long. We had an internship, a bunch of kids to teach, and experiences to encounter. Why not?

This year was a great year. Many of my visual teaching examples that I’ve learned and that my brain did a “who’s line is it anyway?” on were made right at the Wang YMCA. Nothing was a one fix solution, correction had to continuously be made. Students were late, students weren’t practicing. Parental involvement wasn’t as high etc.  Sure there may have been frustrating times, but it’s useless to get frustrated and all worked up. Getting upset at yourself is normal, but at the same time it only makes it worse and you’re spending more energy making the problem worse than is rather than solving it. We can count the things that are going “wrong” till the cows come home, but sometimes we just got to learn to count our blessings.

I’m really glad for all the experiences I’ve had with this internship. Essentially the YMCA was my lab and the kids there were my guinea pigs for many of my pedagogical tricks and ideas that I’ve developed over the past year. Going to college means you tend to see people from a certain age demographic and so it’s very refreshing realizing that there are people of different ages in existence. The best part is interacting with them and connecting to them. On my part it’s nice to see some Asian-American kids as it gives me a “big brother” feeling/responsibility which is fun and great. Maybe it’s just me? I’m glad to spread guitar to the greater community! Spreading music is always a good thing!

Semester in Review

I’m overly grateful for the opportunity to teach that MIE has allowed me to have without going through screening interviews that look for the right teachers. This semester has actually completely changed my teaching style and opened a new door way into creative and “childish” but effective thinking and teaching!

Here’s a list of terms/concepts I used that I’ve come up with for teaching mnemonics that have really ingrained in my students. This is a list that is continuously growing and has helped me explain things to kids so much easier!

Chipmunk: Going and down the strings vertically in the first position just like how Chipmunks and squirrels go up trees.

Caterpillar: Going up and down the strings horizonally just like catepillars and worms crawl across benches at parks!

Ninja: For a good LH position (so that the thumb doesn’t just lean over the neck like other styles of guitar). A ninja always stands ready and in the middle of the neck so it can attack all sides without a flinch.

Sloth: Sloppy ugly left hand position if we do the opposite of a ninja, it’s a pretty dramatic different.

Triangle: For good RH position (I stole the idea, but not the word from Stephen Rak) I tell them to go to the 3rd strings, all the parties are going to have a party, but when they gather, the fingers and thumb must be seperated and have a triangle between them. Then I tell them to send everyone “home.” The thumb goes to the 6th string, and the IMA, go to the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st respectively.

Social class seperation (not the term I used in the class): I had to come up with something to make the kids remember the above. So I said the Rich guy (thumb) has 3 houses (strings), everyone else has 1. A hilarious story, my kids asked me “Well what about the pinky?” I responded saying, I don’t know. Another one says, “HE’S HOMELESS!” Kid humor, hilarious, although not safe for the pc friendly.

Walking: (partially stolen from Scott Tennant) for the idea of IM for playing scales. I also tell the kids, you wouldn’t walk on one leg, that’d be skipping/tiring and ridiculous. They always laugh and then they don’t forget!

Hope you enjoyed these fun ideas and will use them in your teaching!

Link to portfolio:

http://portfolios.mieatnec.org/digital/preview_units.php?id=347&page=home&preview=c5ff2543b53f4cc0ad3819a36752467b

Intermediate Guitar Curriculum

My proposed guitar curriculum for Fall 2013. Many adjustments were made due to absent students and late arrivals, but this is a comparison of what I had planned from the beginning of the semester to what actually happened.

Dates Plan What actually happened:
October 20thDATES HAVE BEEN SHIFTED UP TWO WEEKS BECAUSE THERE OF ABSENT STUDENTS. Arpeggio exercises, PIMA/Sunset song. Introduce playing “block chords” and get students to play 3 strings simultaneously.Try doing some ear training with Major and Minor chords.
Sit and listen to a piece and color what it sounds like/feels. (Wild Mountain Thyme or something familiar)
Review images/new musical vocabulary that are made in class for hand positions and other musical ideas.
Student was sick so we didn’t get to do any of the things listed, but I did learn a few things from Devin’s teaching of the younger kids. Speak loud, involve the children, and tell them to “table top” to keep the guitars flat so they don’t play them when you’re teaching.
‘October 27th Am, C, G, Dm, F Em? Introduce some this week and some next. Happy Birthday?Try singing major scales and fit them into scales. Then put iPod on shuffle and have children guess if songs are in major or minor keys. Playing them at same time possibly. Try solfege syllables.Play a song from a different country, have them guess, and name the instruments. New acoustic guitar student. I had to transfer actual student to the other guitar class to get to know this student for a little bit. I taught her chords, hand positions etc. Lots of good work, but she needs to go to beginner class next week.
November 2rd  Introduce E major, B7, and A to get started in playing a blues.Review all the singing/ear training and iPod shuffle. Frère Jacques learned EM chord. Appegiation, and playing notes, (walking) lots of basic review and going over basic technique.
November 9th Introduce to Blues pentatonic scale. Talk about different types of guitar that there are and play a few examples on the iPod for the kids to hear. Same things as last week to better ground it because 45 minutes is too short. Taught them Am, E major and they enjoyed it. Good review. They really enjoyed learning it. Next week I plan to work on new materials that Devin has given me. I really do feel working with his book again would be beneficial.
November 16th Introduce the idea of intervals to students and how they work. Ask them to identify octaves and fifths, harmonically and melodically. No students showed up for various reasons.
November 23rd Build students motivation and get them to encourage each other. Talk about what they like on the guitar. If there’s a popsong they’d like to learn, we can decided to learn it for next week as well and rock it! Student was was a bit late so we didn’t do much other than review, but I did present new concepts and things. Good stuff. Only worked for 20 minutes… Other student didn’t show.
December 7th Really play Jingle Bells and get to play the chords just in time for relatives! Do duets and switch off with each other between the chords and the melody! Only one student showed, so I reviewed with her and then taught her a combination of what Devin had taught her and grew it from there. I called it Chipmunk Ninja which was playing a Chromatic scale up and down the strings in the first position. It went well. I also tried to get her to sing, but she wouldn’t and then it turns out we were doing some singing as a group activity so she finally did.
December 14th Play a bit and let the kids listen to the music and see what they think. Sing a few Christmas songs that I’ll print and play along and see if they can follow! Student showed up late again to help with sister’s birthday, other student didn’t show. We reviewed Chipmunk ninja, and then I taught her what I call Caterpillar ninja where we go up and down the neck instead. That was fun, she really enjoyed and learned it quickly. We reviewed Happy B’day because it was her sisters that day.For the group activity we reviewed Jingle Bells, sang and played it all as a group.

First Explorations in using ‘Multiple Representations’ at MusicLaunch

The video below shows a peak into one of our first explorations of using ‘Multiple Representations’ to teach musical concepts at the YMCA in Chinatown. The video shows intern, Pui, taking the lead in demonstrating rhythmic concepts, numeric pitch identification and solfege using Lego blocks that we found in the classroom at the YMCA. The students were surprised by this use of the Lego blocks initially, but caught on quickly.

At the beginning of the video is the initial introduction of rhythmic concepts. One sees intern MusicLaunch intern, Pui, pointing to a block and together with intern Devin Ulibarri demonstrating the desired action – in this case, clapping according to the size of the blocks. The clapping patterns were introduced separately (1,2 and 3 beats), but were combined to create an 8 beat pattern consisting of three of the smaller patterns. The students were then asked to manipulate the blocks in order to come up with their own structures. For example at 0’53” in the video, one observes Kayla’s pattern (2+1+3) and then her brother changing the pattern (2+3+1). This moment is important because it empowers the student and demonstrates that musical concepts can be mastered and manipulated – it develops their creativity.

At 4’22” into the video, one can see the culmination of the entire lesson. In this final review, Pui asks students to identify the solfege names of the notes by hinting at the numeric name. Pui asks the class what the second pitch in the scale is to which a student answers, “Re”. Pui then asks the class to answer using pitch to which the class accurately sings the intended pitches that she is identifying using her fingers (numeric name). At the end of the review, Pui tests the students mastery by asking them to skip “Re” and accurately sing “Mi” from “Do” – the students have some difficulty doing this, but this is their first time and subsequent videos will reveal their progress.

The video ends with quick demonstrations of other types of multiple representations that we have used in the break off sections of MusicLaunch. Future blog posts will keep you posted on the significance of these other forms of multiple representations and how they have helped the development of the students in MusicLaunch at the YMCA in Chinatown.

Janea & Jason Play for Each Other

Editor’s Note: This post is the fourteenth in a series by MIE guided intern Devin Ulibarri. Devin is a first year graduate student of Eliot Fisk. His internship at the Wang YMCA is supported both by the MIE department and NEC Prep’s Community Engagement program. Read others in the series here.

Both Janea and Jason have put in good work and displayed performances the reflect their progress!

Jason’s First Rock and Roll Song!

Editor’s Note: This post is the fourteenth in a series by MIE guided intern Devin Ulibarri. Devin is a first year graduate student of Eliot Fisk. His internship at the Wang YMCA is supported both by the MIE department and NEC Prep’s Community Engagement program. Read others in the series here.

“Real learning is a volitional act…”– Eric Booth
Journal for Learning Through Music/Summer 2003

Jason was the first one to learn ‘My First Rock Song’ during one of the weeks that Janea was away (she learned it the following week). I think that the lead in to this piece was a very good example of what Eric Booth is talking about when he says that “learning is a volitional act.” The lesson that day was very spontaneous. Jason asked many questions and I answered them with improvised, musical answers. For example, he mentioned how the thumb seems to attack more comfortable when it is the lower strings and when the motion is opposite to that of the other fingers. This was a very astute observation in itself and I was taken aback by his making it. Then, I decided to keep the momentum going by taking it one step further. I asked myself, “why not learn about the thumb now? He is asking good questions, what can I do with the thumb and open strings?”

So together we played a blues progression in A major, using the open bass strings, E, A and D. He did very well following along and asked, “Is this ‘My First Rock Song?’ I replied that it wasn’t and that we had just made it up together, then he asked me if we could learn ‘My First Rock Song’ today. Again, I decided to go with the momentum that Jason was providing and we learned ‘My First Rock Song’ together. The following week we reviewed and showed Janea how to play and sing the piece.

You Can’t do This With a Pick! – March 5th

Editor’s Note: This post is the twelfth in a series by MIE guided intern Devin Ulibarri. Devin is a first year graduate student of Eliot Fisk. His internship at the Wang YMCA is supported both by the MIE department and NEC Prep’s Community Engagement program. Read others in the series here.


Janea always asks very good questions. Today’s big question was, “why do you play with your fingers?” The simplest answer is that you can’t do what I do with a pick. I hope that my demonstration speaks for itself.

As for strumming – I think that is cool too and there are definitely sounds a pick can make that fingers can’t, but I think that there is a lot more benefit to be had from starting with finger-style, especially in the early stages since the possibilities are almost limitless.