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Monday, October 27, 2014

Local Teachers Visit Mason to Share their Expertise

On Friday, October 24th, music teachers from  local schools participated in a panel discussion on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University. Each panelist had three things in common: 1) they have 2-5 years of full-time teaching experience, 2) they were recommended by the music education faculty, and 3) they are all successful Mason alumni.

The topic for the panelists to discuss was Techniques and Strategies for Managing Student Behavior in the Music Classroom.  When asked to describe their "number one pet peeve involving student behavior," the panelists were clear: talking during rehearsal. Abby Izzo set the tone for the discussion, "Students talk if they are having a good day, a bad day, about the music, about all kinds of things. Sometimes it is about the music, sometimes it is not; your job is to keep talking from distracting the flow and pacing of the lesson by re-directing this off-task behavior." Kelly Hood shared and demonstrated her tip for managing excessive talking by using a chime to remind students when it is time to re-focus on the lesson. She also stressed the importance of understanding that teachers must evaluate their own teaching behavior as that will greatly influence student behaviors; both good and bad. Vincent Prinzivalli described a powerful lesson he learned while engaged in his student teaching experience with local band director Andrew Loft. According to Prinzivalli, "the best thing you can do [in a large ensemble rehearsal] is to get off the podium and circulate throughout the classroom. By doing so, your proximity to the students will quickly remind them not to engage in unnecessary talking when you are standing right next to them."

Peter Kadeli stressed the importance of being overly prepared. Upon accepting a position at his current school, he learned he had to teach a course in music technology. According to Kadeli, "Keep all your notebooks from your method courses. In this case, I was fortunate to take Dr. Jesse Guessford's class in music technology, this proved to be a valuable foundation for building the curriculum for the course I teach. When the students are engaged in learning, behavior problems are minimized." Patrick Smith echoed this sentiment, "It is true what they say, the students can't talk when they have their horns to their face." In addition, Smith talked about the importance of realizing the variety of ways that students learn in order to develop plans that incorporate a differentiated instructional approach  presenting the material in an organized but flexible way in order to accommodate all student learning needs in order to achieve maximum growth.

When sharing her number one tip involving student behavior, Michelle Fleischman described the importance of contacting the  students' classroom teacher. According to Fleischman, "Often the student who exhibits unusual behavior has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that describes specific accommodations and strategies for helping students with special needs. The classroom teacher who sees the child regularly can also provide important suggestions that will clue you in on how to work with the student."

The session concluded with questions from the audience. One question pertained to working with students (and their parents) who speak languages other than English. Nicole Scher, who minored in Spanish while at Mason, offered this advice, "If you can work it into your schedule to take a foreign language like Spanish. that will be valuable. However, there are resources such as translators available to teachers through their school and district to help communicate with students who have Limited English Proficiency (LEP). In addition, these students really do want to learn English and sometimes it is important to engage them in conversations in English in order to help them build their ability and confidence in speaking English. At the end of the day we must remember that we teach music, and that is a language all unto itself."

  • Abby Izzo, Band, Centreville Elementary School (FCPS). Dwayne A. Young, Principal
  • Michelle Fleischman, Orchestra, Robert Frost Middle School (FCPS). Eric McCann, Principal
  • Kelly Hood, General Music, Oak Hill Elementary School (FCPS). Dr. Amy Goodloe, Principal
  • Peter Kadeli, Chorus, Bishop O’Connell High School (Private). Dr. Joeseph E. Vorbach III, Principal
  • Vincent Prinzivalli, Band, Stonewall Middle School (PWCS). John Miller, Principal
  • Nicole Scher, Orchestra, Bailey’s Elementary School (FCPS). Marie Lemmon, Principal
  • Patrick Smith, Band, Lake Braddock Secondary School (FCPS). Dave Thomas, Principal
  • Special thanks to the GMU NAfME Collegiate chapter for providing food. Sara Martin, President

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Music Education Forum

Techniques and Strategies for Managing Student Behavior in the Music Classroom

Friday, 10/24/2014     12:00 – 1:00 pm     PAB 3001 – deLaski Hall

Guest Speakers

Abby Izzo, Band, Centreville Elementary School (FCPS); Michelle Fleischman, Orchestra, Robert Frost Middle School (FCPS); Kelly Hood, General Music, Oak Hill Elementary School (FCPS); Peter Kadeli, Chorus, Bishop O’Connell High School (Private); Vincent Prinzivalli, Band, Stonewall Middle School (PWCS); Nicole Scher, Orchestra, Bailey’s Elementary School (FCPS); Patrick Smith, Band, Lake Braddock Secondary School (FCPS).

Friday, October 10, 2014

Employment Opportunity

The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra is launching an El Sistema program. They are seeking an Orff instructor five days a week in Alexandria from 6:30-8:00 AM.  The pay is $175 a week.  They are also seeking an accompanist for a choral program and a bucket-band instructor, each for separate afternoon sessions that are being held from about 2:45-4:00.  The accompanist position will be 3 days a week and will pay $125.  The bucket band leader is 5 days a week and will pay $175.

"The ideal candidate will have skills in her/his instrument and in ensemble music teaching and, just as importantly, a passion for improving the students' lives through music.”

For more information, contact Andrew Hitz at:

Monday, October 6, 2014

History Focus: Lowell Mason

Author: Timothy Smith,

            Lowell Mason (1792-1872), the self-declared “father of singing among children in this country"(1) is considered by many to be the father of American music education.  This is due to the pivotal role he played in the school reform movement during the early Nineteenth-century and in his work promoting music as a curricular subject to the Boston public school board in 1837 (2). Mason served as music teacher and music supervisor from 1837 until his dismissal in 1845. Mason’s method, and most famous publication, Manual of the Boston Academy of Music, for Instruction in the Elements of Vocal Music on the System of Pestalozzi (1834), was based on his understanding of the methods of the Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. This publication, although mostly plagiarized from German educator G.F. K├╝bler’s Anleitung zum Gesangunterrichte in Schulen, (3) was important because it described how music education helps develop the moral, physical, and intellectual capacities of students (4), and because it provided the Pestalozzian principles as a basis for music instruction (5).

A Portrait of Lowell Mason (6)

It is important to understand the customs of Mason’s time. First, the borrowing of whole sections of music books, especially theoretical descriptions, without giving proper credit to the original author, was common. Second, the use of the term ‘Pestalozzian’ was generally used to describe any new educational procedure during the early Nineteenth-century (7). While it could be that Mason was using the term in this way, Mason did become more learned in the Pestalozzian method later in his life. It is also important to remember that his contributions to the school reform movement are far more important than his knowledge of Pestalozzi’s principles.
            Although Mason’s tireless self-promotion led to him becoming very popular and successful during his life, his methods and motivations were sometimes questioned. In 1844, singing school teacher H.W. Day accused Mason of favoritism in hiring music teachers and of using a system of teaching designed to sell his own books. Another criticism was that, similar to the authors whose works on which he based his work, Mason's method focused more on teaching techniques rather than learning theories (8).  The lack of focus on student learning likely contributed to Day’s belief that children who were taught with Mason’s method had little musical knowledge by age fourteen (9)
            Although Mason’s behaviors sometimes reflected the questionable ethics common in the 19th-century in the United States (10), "his philosophy of teaching music to all children has become a tenet of the music education profession today" (11). The ideas that Mason introduced in American music education in the 1830's such as teaching using aural based methods before introducing music reading, using musical models instead of explaining musical concepts, teaching one concept at a time, and teaching for mastery before continuing are characteristics shared with Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory and the rote-first methods of Suzuki, Dalcroze, Kodaly, and Orff.

(1) Michael L. Mark and Charles L. Gray, A History of American Music Education (Lanham, MD: Rowman and LittlefieldPublishers, Inc., 2007), 147.
(2) James A. Keene, A History of Music Education in the United States (Centennial, CO: Glenbridge Publishing, Ltd., 2009), 109.
(3) Mark and Gary, A History of American Music Education, 142.
(4) Michael Mark, Music Education: Source Readings from Ancient Greece to Today (New York: Routledge, 2013), 48-52.
(5) Mark and Gary, A History of American Music Education, 127.
(6) "Lowell Mason," Wikipedia, accessed September 20, 1014,
(7) Keene, A History of Music Education in the United States, 116.
(8) Ibid., 115.
(9) Ibid., 124.
(10) Ibid., 108.
(11) Ibid., 127.