Friday had some amazing elementary music ed presenters from Dr. Missy Strong to Jill Trinka. TMEA also had the elementary featured clinician, Artie Alemeida, present her 3rd and 4th sessions out of six. Other music ed legends that presented during the conference were Andy Beck, John Jacobson, and Greg Gilpin. Finally, TMEA was able to bring in Eric Whitacre for three sessions all on Friday. I wish that I could attend everything.

This recap follows the theme coming from the two previous posts and that is about “leveling up” or enhancing, engaging, and extending the learning of music beyond the classroom. It focuses on not just teaching music daily, but how to approach it in ways that further your students’ higher order thinking skills and promoting students’ reflections on their own work and listening skills.

Chromebooks, the Cloud, and Concerts, Oh My! – Shawna Longo, Hopatcong Schools


Fellow New Jersey music educator, Shawna Longo, gave a great session showing how to engage, enhance, and extend the learning beyond the classroom. She began the session by speaking to how she uses Skype to enhance her band concerts. She advised us by finding one of the band composers of the pieces that the students are studying through a simple google search. She states that the composers are usually more than happy to skype in and answer questions about their music.

Once that is arranged, have the students formulate questions to ask the composer. These questions could start with the basics from, “What inspired you to write this piece?” to more higher-order thinking questions to compositional techniques. The results give the students great, new perspectives on the piece. For the concert, look into seeing if the composer can skype in to introduce the piece. As a reflection piece for the students, create a google form (or use pencil and paper) and have them answer questions about the experience of talking to the composer. Finally, make the admin aware that this is happening. Invite them to the skype session or write up the experience from the reflections and send it to the administration.


Shawna gave two more great examples of enhancing, engaging, and extending her students’ learning through examples with google classroom and Music First. What I loved about Shawna’s session is that she is showing how she is giving authentic performance experiences in her middle school music classroom. She is using technology to “level up” their music performances and to give her students a deeper connection to the music that they are learning.

Music and the Brain: Why What We Do Is So Important – Missy Strong, Fleetwood ES 

Another fellow music educator from New Jersey, Dr. Missy Strong is one of the best in elementary music education. I first met Missy from attending her workshops about the advantages of using Dr. John Feierabend’s approach to help all students to become tuneful, beatful, and artful. Once I saw her present, I immediately began reading her work, connecting with her on social media, and researching more into Dr. Feierabend’s materials and utilizing them better in my elementary music classroom. I was thrilled when I was able to present a session titled, “Using Technology with the Feierabend Approach” with her at the last TMEA. We will be presenting that again next week at NJMEA on Saturday, 2/24, at 9 am.

In Missy’s session about music and the brain, she began by explaining “the magical, mythical brain.” She explained how the brain communicates messages to the body, one she affectionately called “the lego effect.” This is how the brain tells you that you stepped on something sharp and it alerts your body to stop, react, and probably scream (in my house). She went on to explain the central nervous system (main control), the peripheral nervous system (reacts to the central nervous system), and the cerebellum.

She followed with why we should care about neurons. The neurons are making the connections. When we communicate with children, we are shaping these connections, especially when they are young. That is an amazing, but very scary thought. If we teaching very young children, then our communication with them in music class shapes them dramatically.

When we listen to music, studies show how various structures in our brain are flashing. Our heart rates change. She quoted Koelsch, “Musicality is a natural ability of the brain.” Music is built into human beings. Therefore, we must think about what we do impacts the brains of our students. If we are grumpy, it impacts them. If we are positive, it impacts them. It also goes back to how we form relationships with students and how important those relationships are. It reminds me of Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser’s keynote at DMEA where he stressed the importance of relationships in teaching. He reminded us that he has seen great programs from teachers who are extroverts and teachers who are introverts. Those teachers had great programs because they created good relationships with their students.


Missy also stressed that what we teach is an intrinsic part of the human experience. We should never sell our programs, or ourselves, short. Amen.

Her session continued with how we play an important musical role our students’ lives. How we have the ability to mold their brains and either leave a thumbprint, turn it into a bowl, or turn it into a beautiful vase. We are the potters. I loved this visualization and it made me stop and examine the music I choose in my program and making sure that my students are doing music, making music, dancing to music, and playing music. I truly feel that I give them this and from Missy’s session, I realize how wonderful that is for them.

Help! PreK/K Music Classes Were Just Added to My Schedule – Amy Burns, Far Hills Country Day School

This was the first time I was able to present in the ballroom at the convention center. And, this was the first time in the eight TMEAs that I have presented, that this was not a technology session. Yes, I do love Texas! I try to get here every year.

This session was geared for elementary music educators who teach PreK and K and for those who are very new to it. I did not stress the approaches, as it was a session where I showed student-tested and loved materials from my 20+ years teaching PreK/K.

PreK/K are special. They are sponges. They will react to music from watching and interacting with you (just as Missy reflected upon in her session). They will think that you are a rock star. They will be your most fun and most challenging music classes. In short, PreK/K music classes are amazing.

I showed many resources, activities, and video excerpts from my classroom. I displayed the outline of a typical class that can be from 25 to 40 minutes long with this age group. I showed them some of my students’ favorite activities from welcome songs, finger plays, action songs, cross-curricular connections through books, line up songs, and how to get your music classroom’s curriculum and activities on their parents’ mobile devices through Seesaw.

Some of my favorite PreK resources are:

Another wonderful moment was meeting Traci Patterson. Traci Patterson is a K-5 Music teacher at Juan Seguin Elementary School in Fort Bend, Texas. Her entire school flooded and has been closed for the year. She lost all my books, instruments and costumes. Her students and staff are now split between two campuses and she travels back and forth between both. I have been assisting her Amazon wish list and my students have been earning recorder stars to assist as well. I am so happy to meet Traci. When you meet her, she is filled with joy and happiness. I know that it has been a tough year for her, but you can tell that she stays positive and makes sure that her students are having the best music experiences this year.


TMEA is one of the best conferences to attend. I love finding my music ed friends, who inspire me daily. If you have not attended one, and you can get the funding to go to one a year, try to make it here at some point. It is worth the trip!

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