Janice DaCapo

Junior High and Middle School Methods (Music 4822)

Music Education Internship (Music 4860)


[ ] = personal comments or questions

Mrs. Anderson, John Adams Middle School

8:15-9:10: Intermediate Orchestra


          Mrs. Anderson begins tuning right when the bell rings. She plays the pitch and requires the students to find it the best they can on their own. "Who has a G that's out?" she asks and points to a section of violinists. One student raises his hand, and she comes over to help him. [I noticed that she was able to discern who was having trouble, but wanted to let them hear the difference on their onw before fixing the pitch.] She lets him play the note for her. Then she takes the violin and adjusts the string. He plays again, this time with the correct pitch. A couple other students have pitch problems and she helps them in the same way.

Class Announcements:

          After everyone is tuned, Mrs. Anderson asks them to hold their instruments quietly. She reminds them that their practice records are due. "Remember you don't need a parent's signature for this class, but I will know if your playing doesn't match the practice hours you have listed." She reminds the students of a sign at the front door that says, "I can be trusted." Practice records are a 100 points assignment. Two hours of practice a week is the minimum requirement.

Discussion on Practice:

          Mrs. Anderson asks the students about a video they watched the week previous. The video was about effective practice by Winston Marseilles. She explains the importance of efficient practice techniques and how they can help not only in playing an instrument, but in other areas as well: "You are all going to be driving in a year or two. How do you think you can become a good driver? Did you know you'll be required to practice 40 hours with a parent before taking your test?" [The talk of driving seems to really capture the student's attention.] She stresses then that the students must become "good practicers." The students help her list the 12 practice techniques from the video.

  1. Seek private instruction: She stresses the importance of this and the rate of progression.
  2. Schedule practice time for fundamentals: They talk about scales, arpeggios, crossing over, bowing technique, etc.
  3. Set goals: She challenges the students to set a goal of what they want to accomplish during their personal practice in the next week. This will be an assignment to turn in.
  4. Concentrate/Focus on your practicing: Mrs. Anderson asks the class, "Does practice make perfect?" A few students nod their heads, some tilt their heads and others simply sit and stare at her. [They seem to be thinking, is this a trick question?] So she asks, "What if you practice mistakes?" A student responds, :"Then you'll play mistakes." Mrs. Anderson nods and adds, "So, PERFECT practice makes perfect."
  5. Relax. [There wasn't any commentary on this.]
  6. Practice the hard parts a lot: Mrs. Anderson suggests the students organize their practicing in the following order; fundamentals first, then the hard parts of a piece-practiced slowly and carefully, finally the students should play something fun.
  7. Play everything as if you were singing: expression.
  8. If you make a mistake, don't be too hard on yourself: Mrs. Anderson used an example of her daughter playing in a big scholarship contest. Her daughter's piano solo turned into a disaster, despite hours upon hours of practice and perfection. She thought her daughter would completely fall apart, but she remained very composed. [She used her daughter's good attitude and example to inspire the students.] "You are all going to have experiences where you totally blow it. Everyone does. Don't let it get you down. Keep going and you'll do better the next time." [I noticed the student's really enjoyed the story. I think the example was very helpful for them to relate to the advice and to keep their attention.]
  9. Be optimistic: She used the example above, and then added that this is important counsel for anything in life. She encouraged the students to stay positive in their school work, with friends, family, etc.
  10. Don't show off
  11. Think for yourself.
  12. Look for connections to other things.

          Due to lack of time, Mrs. Anderson didn't expound much on the last three topics. She took up a bit of time with this discussion, but the students all participated and stayed interested and involved. [I really like the idea of taking time aside to explain how to practice. This is a vital concept for students to understand.]

Scales and Arpeggios

          The class plays a G major scale and arpeggio. When they finish the scale, she comments that the tone isn't very nice. She demonstrates with a student's violin using only a small part of the bow to play vs. the whole bow. There is a great difference in the tone. She has them repeat the scale. As they play she comments, "100 % better! Good job!"

          They play a G major arpeggio all together at first. Then she listens to each section individually.

March of the Bowmen

          The students are sight-reading this piece for the first time. Just as she is about to begin, a student raises his hand. "I don't have this music," he comments. Three more students raise their hands after he says this. Mrs. Anderson moves the players around to be able to accommodate everyone. She adds, "You need to bring all of your music every day," before she begins the piece. [I could tell she was a little frustrated, but she was quite patient and understanding. I was impressed.]

          She has the violins play the melody line alone to begin. While they play, she claps the rhythm for them. A few students play C# instead of natural. "That's why we played the G major scale today. Remember your key signature,"she reminds them.

          The students are playing quietly. Mrs. Anderson pushes them to make everything bigger. "I want you to make BIG mistakes. If you're going to make a mistake, make a big one." the students respond well by playing more confidently. They finish, and she asks them to finger their part while listening to the others play.

          The rest of the class reads their parts. Mrs. Anderson stops for a moment and says, "Matt, I can't believe you are chewing gum in class." She doesn't sound angry so much as appalled that he'd even think of doing such a thing. The whole class gasps [at least half-sarcastically, I'm sure]. Matt apologizes and goes to spit out his gum, as the class gets back to playing.

          They being to struggle with the rhythm in one section, so Mrs. Anderson has the students count out loud as they play. Then a boy who doesn't have an instrument with him is invited to clap the beat for the others. They play the song through, improved this time.

          Now she puts the two parts, melodic line in violins and harmony in lower strings, together. they read the piece all the way through. There isn't time to go back and work the piece, so she has them put their instruments away.

End of Class

          The class waits at the door, where she stands by the door. A couple of students try to open the door, but she catches them. "You won't get anywhere faster, just by having the door open. Shut it, please." They students obey. She reminds the class about practice records and writing their practice goal for the week. The bell rings and the class is dismissed.

9:15-10:10 - Advanced Orchestra

Channel One and Announcements

          The class starts with the television turned on. [This must be home room.] Channel One news, a news program for public schools, comes on. The students and teacher all watch the program. No one is talking privately. The room is quiet [to my surprise]. Mrs. Anderson even asks a few questions to the students during the commercials. There was a program about Hurricane Katrina. They showed a high school football star who had lost everything and changed schools. "That would be hard wouldn't it?" commented Mrs. Anderson. The girls closest to her nodded in response, and commented something more which I failed to understand.

          After the news program, there are school announcements. [I noticed once again at how attentive the class is. I'm amazed, to say the least.]


          Mrs. Anderson has this class tune be section and by string. As before, she lets the students do everything they can on their own to stay in tune. When she hears something that is out of tune, she points out, but doesn't fix it. She lets the students find the pitch all on their own.


          They play through Etude #2 from their book. It is full of arpeggios and scale patterns. The students are rushing the eighth-note patterns, so she claps the beat along with them. When they finish she comments that they should practice the fundamentals, scales, arpeggios and etudes first everyday with a metronome. Some students are looking at her and appear to be listening, while others are looking at what they just played and fingering.

Scales and Arpeggios

         Before she gives the downbeat, she warns, "Watch for the tempo." When she starts the students follow her well. They fall apart at the end of the scale, moving into the arpeggio. She stops, thanks them for following her tempo, and then reminds them of the sequence they are playing. They go back and re-do it, but the transition was still rough. "Okay, work on that at home you guys." She reminds them of a test in two weeks.

Bach and Before

         Mrs. Anderson asks the students to pull out a new book. "Bach and Before." she explains that the book is full of Bach chorales. Each book has each of the four parts written, so the instruments can trade voices. Excitedly, she mentions that reading this will ehlp them listen to one another better, improve intonation, and play more expressively.

           They begin by all sight-reading the soprano line. The line is simple and they read it well, but she challenges them to do more with it. "I'm not going to tell you how to play this expressively, but I want each of you to play it this time with feeling. I'll decide the tempo, but you decide how you want it to be played." [She gives them the liberty to create something meaningful with the music, while at the same time keeping control of the tempo.] They play the soprano line one more time. She compliments their expression and thanks them for following her.

          Now they read the alto line. She gives the same counsel, to play expressively at her tempo. They continue and read the tenor and bass lines as well. When they play the bass line, she notices a few students are struggling with D#. "How do you finger D-sharp?" she asks the class as a whole. One student raises his hand and demonstrates. "Good, is there another way?" Another student volunteers a second fingering. She doesn't choose one fingering over the other, just points out that there are two ways. "Is that clear to everyone?" she asks. the class nods in agreement.

          After the class has played together through every line, she asks for volunteers to play in a small ensemble. Eight players are assigned a line to read. Before they begin she reminds them of the importance of playing expresssively, and listening to the rest of the group. She counts them off and they play the chorale through. When they finish she compliments and thanks them. She then asks the class, "So why are we playing chorales?" They answer, "To play more expressively." She nods and adds the importance of listening as an ensemble and improving intonation.


          This is a piece the class appears to have been working on for some time. There isn't much time, so she tells them she will not stop unless they absolutely have to. After playing the first strain she stops. The class is rushing, and she asks the violins to sound like "only one violin-listen to each other." They restart the piece, and I notice a big difference. [She knows what these students are capable of and requires it of them.] they make it about half-way through, and it begins to fall apart. She just picks it up where they left off, and they play it through to the end. When they finish she makes a couple comments, "You guys are playing so well! We'll have to put this one away for a bit, we don't want to peak too soon. However, keep practicing the more difficult sections. Take them slowly in personal practice."

End of Class

          The students are putting their instruments away. As they do so, she reminds them that one of the students took a book home to look at concert dress suggestions. She offers to let anyone who wants to, come and look at the book and give suggestions. [This is a great way to let the students feel involved in the program and also avoid negativity about concert dress.]

10:15-11:10: Beginning Orchestra

          Before this class enters the teacher comments to me that this class is the most challenging. They've been struggling to catch on to everything and work together. She does have tutoring sessions after school for them, and they are catching up.


          This class begins differently from the others. The students are instructed to line up with their instruments at the piano. Each student hands her their instrument and Mrs. Anderson plays the piano note, and then tunes the instrument for them. After they are tuned, the students are to sit in their places quietly while she finishes tuning. A couple of boys begin plucking their instruments. Mrs. Anderson says, "I appreciate those of you who are sitting quietly with your instruments in your laps while I tune. Thank you." The boys stop for a time, but after a minute or so they begin to pluck again and a girl across from them begins a conversation with her neighbor. Mrs. Anderson stands and says in a firm voice, "Everyone put their lips together and look at me." Everyone stops and watches her. "When we come into class, we tune, then sit and wait quietly. No talking. Keep your instruments still." She sits down and finishes tuning. The class is relatively quiet. A couple of students pluck here or there, but they stop after a couple of notes.

          The last student has a broken string. Mrs. Anderson instructs the class to practice exercise one on their own while she fixes it. The students begin to play. [They appear to enjoy the freedom of playing on their own. Everyone is playing.]

Class Announcements

          She reminds the class that their practice records are due. This class does require parent signatures for their practice. They are also required to practice two hours per week. She reminds them of the after-school tutoring sessions, and compliments a couple of boys in the back who had come the night before. She said they'd improved a lot.

          A couple of girls begin a conversation on the other side of the room. Mrs. Anderson looks over and says, "I appreciate listeners. You should not be playing or talking." The conversation stops.

          She announces that the class will have a private concert on solos for each other in five weeks. The concert will be in-class and parents are invited to attend. A couple students say, "Oh, no!" There are a few whispers around the class. "Don't worry. We'll work on your solos in class. This is a good experience for you."

          The final announcement is for a fund-raiser selling cookie dough. The students are smiling and whispering excitedly as she explains this. They seem pleased.

Pepperoni Pizza:

          The students are playing a basic eighth-note pattern (six eighth-notes in a row). While they play Mrs. Anderson plays with them. She has them say aloud "Pep-per-on-i-Piz-za." They repeat this several times and then move to a new rhythm (a quarter note followed by two eighth notes). This time they say, "Down-ki-wi, Up-ki-wi, Down-ki-wi,...." The ups and downs go with their bowing. This is also repeated several times. She has the students hold their instruments and reminds them of their up-coming rhythm test. These are two-rhythms they will need to know.

Lunch Bell

          Before starting the piece, Mrs. Anderson asks all the students to remember how they start. "Where should you be?" "On the string." She checks their hand positions, and then they start. At the end of the piece she says, "Exellent! That is the best this class has played this piece. Thank you."


          The rhythm of this piece is two quarter notes followed by four eighth notes. The class is rushing the eighth note pattern, so she stops them. She says while she plays aloud, "Yum-Yum-Pea-nut-But-ter," played in perfect time. Then she plays and says it again rushing it. "Do you hear the difference?" The whole class plays again while speaking the rhythm words. This time it is much smoother.

All for Strings No. 1

          She asks the students to say the note names aloud while playing. She does it with them. They stop and she says, "I'm a good lip-reader. When lips aren't moving you aren't saying the note names. Let's try again." This gets a few smiles and laughs. They start again, and the students say the note names louder this time.

Hot Cross Buns

          The class plays with the teacher the first time. She drops out the second time and lets them finish alone. "Good job," she says, "but do I want a weak sound?" She plays a weak note on the violin. Some of the students say, "Yuck." Mrs. Anderson asks the class to play with the weight of a 10. Hard, scratchy tones come out. Then she tells them to take it to a 9. It's still a hard sound but not as scratchy. Finally she asks for an 8, the whole class plays with a strong tone. "Great! I want the weight of an eight." They repeat the song and she comments on their beautiful sound. "Now, we are making music!"

Mary Had a Little Lamb

         The class plays this piece without Mrs. Anderson. She notices that a lot of students are letting their left wrist curve into the neck of the violin. She explains that the students must picture a little mouse living in between the neck of the violin and the palm of their hand. If they rest their wrists, they'll "squish the mousy." The students laugh at this. She has them play it again, but this time they play looking at their neighbor. They are to make sure they are not squishing the mousy, nor is their partner. The students play the piece the final time and watch their partner's wrists.

End of Class:

         The teacher reminds them again to turn in their practice sheets, and to come to the tutoring session after school. The class waits at the door until the bell rings and they are dismissed.