Vocal (all grades): Our first vocal song that we’re preparing is “Feeling Good” (made famous by Nina Simone) Bum… Ba dum… Ba dum… Ba dum… Rather than learning this song by rote, students have been sight-reading the melody and harmony using solfege syllables (e.g., do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti do). And, for this song, the solfege is in a minor key (do, re, me, fa, sol, le, te, do). Then, as students learn the tune, the lyrics are added. We will also spend time thinking about the song’s meaning so that the final result tells a story, the expression of a feeling.
6th Instrumental: After introducing the different instrument options, we now have 21 students in Orchestra and 18 in Band! Most of the 6th graders are brand-new players, and we also have a few students in each group who have played before, helping mentor and guide the class. We are working on tuning, getting an open, steady tone, pitch, and rhythm reading, and learning short melodies from the Essential Elements method book. Many students also earn karate belts with music recordings via the program MakeMusic (formerly SmartMusic).
7th Instrumental: After a year of playing together, the 7th grade is rolling along with some speedy pieces. The Orchestra is putting together a piece called “Fiddles on Fire” while the Band is preparing the Cuban song “Guantanamera.” Each of these pieces allows each instrument group to play both the melody and the harmony, and the evolution of layering all of these parts together has been a worthy challenge for us all. Each student has recorded sections of their music, most using the MakeMusic program, which is an excellent tool for hearing one’s own part and how it layers in with the entire ensemble.
8th Instrumental: The 8th grade is also putting together some lovely ensemble pieces. The Orchestra is learning an arrangement of “Simple Gifts,” and the Band is preparing “Lo, How A Rose.” These are both vocal pieces originally and are quite lyrical and connected. All instrument groups have a chance to carry the melody and be the accompaniment to the melody. The pieces also allow our 8th graders to play in new keys (Orchestra is adding G Major into the mix, and Band is learning the E flat Major scale). As I mentioned with the other grade levels, many 8th graders have submitted recordings using the MakeMusic program, an excellent resource for practicing and showing off what they have learned.
In non-Explorer West music news, some of our students will perform in various upcoming concerts and shows. If anyone is interested in attending: Ansel Guillot is in the Seattle Youth Symphony and will be performing on November 20th at Benaroya Hall; Liam White and Kaya Parker are dancing in The Nutcracker Suite for the Pacific Northwest Ballet (various dates in December), Mila Hall and Elle Hunt are also performing The Nutcracker Suite with West Seattle Performing Arts on December 9th and 10th. If anyone else has shows coming up, please let me know, and I can put a note in the bulletin or you can share it through the EW Family Google Group.