Saturday, September 06, 2008

Only the beginning

Inside something there is a rush of
Who knows what stands in front of
Our lives
I fashion my future on films in space
Tells me secretly

James Rado & Gerome Ragni
“The Flesh Failures” from Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical
We start this year as we do every new year at the same place that every piece of music ever written or improvised begins: with an inhalation of breath in silence. All of our journeys lie before us. The ground before us is untrodden. The plough has yet to break the soil. In our ears and in the air around us are the reverberations of the past.

We may have a plan for our journey this year. Concepts, style, manner, repertoire and expectations are some of the things we bring to the door of our classrooms. Our students will return to school refreshed and changed from the students who left at the end of the previous year. Not only because of the transient nature of the international school. Our students are growing and changing daily and they certainly did not stop over the summer. How many times has your best treble boy singer left in June excited about the prospect of Middle School Honor Boy’s Choir and not returned in the autumn because the family has suddenly been transferred to a new city?

You have been changed over the summer as well. You have reflected on your season and made mental (or physical) notes about what to do differently. You may have taken part in a workshop or course that has radically revised your pedagogical approach. You may have explored, if you followed the advice in last year’s finale, new software and played your way into a new appreciation and understanding of technology or even a new instrument. Whilst we expect our rate of growth and change to be somewhat slower than out students, we are all still growing and changing.

One tip from the world of the technology is the excellent iTunes Store. It used to be the iTunes Music Store, but it has grown and expanded with the addition of movie and TV rentals and sales, the iPhone Applications Store, and iTunes U.

ITunes U is a companion to the wonder that is YouTube. The Observer recently ran a feature on the 50 Greatest Arts Videos On YouTube. Here is a teaser from their Jazz section - John Coltrane performs 'My Favourite Things', 1961; Billie Holiday sings 'Strange Fruit', 1959; Ella Fitzgerald duets with Dinah Shore, 1960s; Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie perform 'Hot House', 1952; Barbra Streisand on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar, 1961.

Fine art performances abound as well – Nureyev dancing The Nutcracker, Jack Kerouac reads from On The Road, accompanied by the jazz stylings of Steve Allen, Callas, Von Karajan, Bernstein. Follow the tinyurl link above and then start searching to compile your list of performances.

Back to iTunes U. I open iTunes (free ar and go to the iTunes Store. I click on iTunes U. At first glance I see Smithsonian Folkways Recordings for those looking for archive recordings of folk and world music. There are videos, discussions of music and technology and an outlined series of lesson plans using Smithsonian videos and music to introduce music of world cultures. I do a search for Jazz History in the iTunes store and find the NPR Podcasts. First few titles: Jimmy Smith: Organ Grinder Swing; Village Vanguard: A hallowed basement; Betty Carter: Fiercely Individual. How About Marin Alsop’s Clueless About Classical Music, also in the podcast area.

Best thing about these resources? They are free. Yes. Free.

Download iTunes, go to the iTunes Music Store, stock up your library of teaching resources for free. That should help fill your year with the colourful reverberations of happy voices and instruments.