In my High School Student Teaching Placement at Cass Technical High School, I created a multi-week lesson unit on chord progressions and following “lead sheets,” that finished with a performance project. Students had to play a song of their choice from a lead sheet, performing with their own rhythmic “comp,” backing track or beat, and following the form of the song. Below are the lesson slides from this unit, and below that are examples of student work.
In my seven weeks at Pembroke Elementary School, I worked with 300 kindergarten through fifth grade students, as well as teaching music to 4 self-contained classrooms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students. Teaching in a four-day rotation schedule, classes received one fifty-minute music class in each rotation. I received Orff, Kodaly, and Gordon pedagogy training from my mentor teacher, and gained confident classroom management skills.
At Pembroke, I had the privilege to work with their four self-contained ASD classrooms of students. In teaching these students, I worked with para-professionals and classroom teachers to understand the abilities, strengths, and interests of these students, and crafted lesson plans that fit their individual needs and skills. Each step in my lesson plan could be easily differentiated. We would repeat the same song multiple times, allowing students to build their confidence and skills each time to participate in different ways. In this video, you will see us use manipulative materials of a bear and mouse to represent “forte” (loud) and “piano” (soft).
In my High School Student Teaching Placement at Cass Technical High School in Downtown Detroit, I was able to teach a program and teach a piece to the school’s treble voice ensemble. I selected Craig Hella Johnson’s setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Will There Really Be a Morning?” (2006) because of it’s simple instrumentation and form, but complex harmonic and rhythmic language that I knew would be the basis for gaining great aural and vocal skills.
Below are a perusal score, my score analysis, and the lesson plan for the 3 part lesson above. In the Warm-ups, I built the exercises around needed techniques from the piece, including moving in and out of harmony and unison, and large melodic leaps the force a connection between chest and head voice. In the final two videos, I coach the students through learning the rhythm and melody of the piece on their own using Kodaly rhythm and Solfege syllables.
As Music Director of the Sirens A Capella group at the University of Michigan, I arranged and directed two songs that were performed on one of our concerts. Check out our performances of my arrangements below!
“Hard Place” by H.E.R
“Issues / Hold On” by Teyana Taylor
A teacher must, above all, be a champion of their students by understanding them as being people first, and learners second. Recognizing that all students in a classroom come from their own unique cultures, backgrounds, and family lives puts their experiences on par with the my own, creating a shared classroom culture where all are equal contributors. I believe that an outstanding teacher centers instruction not around their own interests and experiences, but around those of their students. This creates a shared and safe classroom culture for their students to scaffold new knowledge onto, allowing them to be more confident learners and contributors to their school community. The music classroom could not be a more perfect setting for this, because the nature of music instruction and ensemble performance requires students to work together in order to succeed.
I believe that students of every age and ability have the means and right to meaningfully engage in music learning. My greatest interest as a vocal music educator is bringing diverse students together to create community through singing together. I believe that singing is the most accessible, and inherently human, way to connect with others through music because our instrument is our personhood. This intimacy creates bonds through shared experience, and allows students to empathize with their peers and understand how their own unique cultures fit into our ensemble. However, I recognize that there are many reasons why students may be unable or unwilling to sing in choir, whether due to physical or cognitive disability, religious beliefs, gender based worries, paralyzing anxiety, or other reasons. When I am able to create a classroom in which all students can feel that their individual and collective needs are met, they will be empowered to learn.
The musical genres, composers, and repertoire that I teach and perform reflect my commitment to creating a music culture that is diverse and inclusive. For my senior degree recital performance in completion of my piano concentration, I presented a recital that featured a program written only by composers from underrepresented groups. As a pianist and vocalist, I have trained in classical and jazz technique, and have experience performing in a wide array of vocal and instrumental ensembles. Teaching and leading ensembles in all of these disciplines is of great interest to me, because as a performer, participating in various ensemble experiences allowed me to meaningfully engage with all sorts of music genres, cultures, and people. I am prepared to offer my students a diverse musical repertoire and ensemble experience that reflects them and their interests, but also challenges and grows them as learners, performers, and people.
As a passionate advocate for arts accessibility, I reject the idea that embracing diversity and inclusion in my classroom means sacrificing musical excellence. I have seen firsthand how those from underrepresented communities and with learning differences are often intentionally and unintentionally excluded from the same opportunities as their more socio-economically privileged, neurotypical, or cis-gendered peers. Witnessing the mistreatment of my autistic twin brother in public school music settings is in part why I am so committed to pursuing a career that challenges inequities in music education and access. In my work as an intern with the Detroit Harmony initiative, piloted by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, I worked with experienced music educators, artists, cultural leaders, and inclusion experts to address external barriers to music education, including transportation, resources, and teacher recruitment and development. While these systemic issues are not easily solved, taking approachable measures like eliminating after-school rehearsals so students can work after-school jobs, providing practice tracks for students with learning differences to practice at their own pace, and constantly changing my instruction methods to reach a variety of learning styles will begin to make my choir classroom a more equitable learning environment and fulfilling ensemble experience for all students.