Christmas Camp 2011

This year in the studio we are using Key to Imaginations, A Walk on the Wild Side program.  So for Christmas camp this year I really wanted to stick with the animal theme but was struggling how to combine animals with Christmas.  Finally I decided that even though it had nothing to do with Christmas, I really enjoyed Carnival of the Animals and wanted to implement that in our Christmas camp program this year.  I thought for sure that some of my students would be familiar with Carnival of the Animals, after all, it for sure would be in their music curriculum at school.  After asking each of my students if they had heard of Carnival of the Animals and/or Camille Saint Saens, not one said that they had.  On one hand I was shocked but on the other I wasn’t.  A student would be considered very lucky nowadays if they had a music program at their school at all anymore.  So sad.

I was able to put most of my younger students (4-6) in their own group so I would be able to have more activities that were geared for their age.  For the older kids we did a lot of listening and ear training activities.  They would guess the animal they were listening too, figure out the instruments that were in that piece, listen and figure out tempo, dynamics and melodic characteristics.  Each student had a worksheet that they would write their answers on and then we would share our answers with each other.  For the younger students that needed to be in the same group as the older kids I would have them draw what they heard.  We learned more about Camille Saint Saens and also played a fun BINGO game after becoming familiar with each animal piece.  I would play one of the animal tracks on the CD and they would mark on their BINGO sheet which animal it was.  I always like to have a couple of crafts to do as a “break” so this year we made an animal scratch ornament and an animal sun catcher.

Now since we were at Christmas camp we had to have some Christmas activities of course!  We played guess that Christmas carol rhythm (using a boomwhacker) and learned several Christmas songs with the Boomwhackers.  Students also performed Christmas pieces on the piano for each other.  We ended our Christmas camp with a traditional game of Name that Christmas Tune.

Here is a video featuring our Boomwhacker Christmas Carols:

Have yourself a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Holiday Social: Drum Circle

Each year our MTA chapter holds a holiday social in December.  In the past we’ve had artists perform, teachers perform, mingled, ate, and so on.  The social also included a library music sale where teachers can buy old or barely used music.

This year I really wanted to do something interactive that would bring the group together in music.  In my own studio I have held drum circles and every time I do I have loved it!  The kids have loved it, the experience is not like any other.  The great thing about drum circles is you can’t go wrong.  Even if someone isn’t musically inclined it doesn’t matter.  It’s a way to literally unite everyone involved.

I had contacted Frank Thompson of AZ Rhythm Connection almost a year ago to ask him to present and then approached him about doing a drum circle the following month for our social.  When he agreed, I can’t tell you how excited I was and was looking forward to it all year-long.

What I found interesting is when Frank started drumming and inviting all the teachers to join the drum circle how hesitant most were to join in.  Many sat “outside” the drum circle thinking they would be more comfortable in just watching.  While I can understand being a little leery with new experiences, I have to be honest and say that I was a little frustrated when I saw that.  It was defeating the purpose of what I wanted this social to be… a way to bond with each other through music and rhythm.  When you have some that sit on the “outside” there is an immediate feeling of division.  However I am happy to say that even though many were hesitant, everyone did eventually join the circle.

Drum circles are no longer for “hippies” as some might think.  After all isn’t that the first thing you think of when you hear the word drum circle?  Drum circles are for EVERYONE no matter age, ability or status in life.  It is a way to heal, to release stress, to unite, to bond, and to make music together.

If you ever have a chance to participate in a drum circle, take it!  If you don’t have the opportunity, then why not facilitate one yourself with your students?  My favorite resource in ideas on facilitating some really fun drum circle games with your students is Kalani.  He has a couple of books, one of which includes a DVD, which is very helpful.  Together in Rhythm and The Amazing Jamnasium.  If I were to just buy one, I would start with Together in Rhythm because you will get the DVD.  Totally worth every penny!

Lastly, I just have to share something one of the teachers shared with our other teachers about the drum circle.  It just totally made my day!

“I started the day so stressed out with everything I have to juggle this week – – little sleep and a million places to be and things to do – – but I’m SO glad I was able to participate in the drum circle. Seriously, it was like getting rehydrated with an I.V. when you’re parched as a bone – – only without the pain of needle.”

Enjoy the pictures and videos…

Drum Circle Fun (video)

Frank Thompson drum solo (video)

Fun games for your Christmas Camp or Party

I just shared a couple fun games that I have done with my students on a piano teacher forum and thought I would share them here as well.  These are a couple of my students favorite games that we have done.  The great thing about both of these is you can adapt them for anytime of the year.  Here they are Christmas style…

I don’t remember what this game is called but it’s a mix of musical chairs and hot potato. I think it’s called “fruit basket”.  Come up with a word, in this case if you are doing it for a holiday get together, you can have “Christmas” as the word.  You can give everyone a word that is Christmas related.  For example maybe give them a reindeer name.  When two names are called (ie: Dasher and Blitzen), those two students with that name switch chairs.  (or places if you do this on the floor)  The leader (calling out the names) tries to steal the chair during the exchange.  If they are successful, the person without the chair is the new leader (who now calls out the names).  Now to make it even more fun, when the word “Christmas” (or whatever you decide) is called by the leader then everyone switches chairs while the leader again tries to steal a place.

It is so fun, students really love it and it’s fun for all ages!   We played this game for group lessons a few months ago using the word “Safari” and each student had an animal game.  (This goes along with our theme this year).  It was a blast.

Another fun one is Musical I Spy.  How I do it is someone is sent from the room while a small object is hidden.  Then they are called back in and the kids start singing a Christmas song.  They get louder the closer the person is to the object and softer the farther away.  Again, this is perfect for all ages.  I’ve done this game for Christmas camp in the past and they really enjoy it.

My last day of Christmas camp is Thursday and then I’m off to celebrate my 20th Anniversary with my husband.  So chances are high this is my last post for the year.  So…
I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!