Domain Projects

In today's political climate, Iran has a challenging relationship with the United States. They were on the list of countries on President Trump's "Travel Ban" in January of 2017, just seven days into his term, while he continually tears down the "Iran Nuclear Deal." In a recent trip to the Middle East he criticizes the comparatively moderate, and democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister and Iranian Culture, while sympathizing with the much more extreme Saudi Arabians, much more closely associated with terrorism against the United States. At the same time, the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently gave the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film to Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman, possibly as an act of political retaliation. Farhadi, while allowed to attend the ceremony in spite of the travel ban still in effect at the time, he did not attend the ceremony out of protest, despite his eventual win. 

For young Americans, understanding Iran and their relationship to it may be difficult, especially in an environment where they may not have contact with Iranian immigrants or other middle eastern peers. And the news media makes any mention of Iran purely political, and often through an American political lens (specifically that of our President). Now is the time where students will benefit most from a less overtly political exposure to the nation of Iran, as a means of better understanding a culture often spoken of, but rarely meaningfully explored in the mass media. 

This virtual field experience traces Iranian musical and cultural history from ancient classical and folk music to the underground indie rock and hip-hop movements of today. It draws integrates and draws musical connections with centuries-old Persian poetry, and contemporary underground cinema. And though the aim of to enrich students' understanding of a present, yet unfamiliar culture through its art and music, the political nature of studying Iran in 2017 is still present in the lessons. Though rather than 'othering' Iran for its unfamiliar cultural forces, the lessons guide the students to draw connections with other musicians and musical traditions, highlighting the universal artistic experiences of all people. 

Also included here is additional commentary and analysis on the evolution of this project from December of 2015 to June of 2017, noting global and personal changes, and my own evolution as a music educator.

A detailed description of this project is contained within the downloadable document itself, but I will here highlight the major changes from its original incarnation when created for Choral Methods II in the Spring of 2016. 

1) The unit now uses familiar popular music as a way INTO listening for form, rather than as a reward. While songs by Wiz Khalifa and Carly Rae Jepsen were initially placed at the end of the unit, I have moved them to the beginning and designated them "Intro Lessons," and added another example with some notable formal variation (DNCE's Cake by the Ocean). Macro forms and segments in popular music may be easier to listen for, and the buy-in will be higher by students for music they are more familiar with. Plus, it's just a fun way to start.  These specific examples may be outdated to the students by the time this unit actually gets used this Fall, but they are included here as examples of the way the even newer pop music (that possibly hasn't even been written yet) will be treated once incorporated into this type of a unit. The examples chosen have concrete, exciting connections to Rondo, Strophic, and Ritornello forms, and can serve as great jumping off points for analysis of the works of Vivaldi, Schubert, and Mozart. 

2) The order of the lessons is no longer bound to the chronological. The original version of this project gave an option of moving less chronologically, but this new version insists against it, letting connections to contemporary examples, and connections to the class choral repertoire dictate the more historical examples chosen for further study. Sticking to the chronological order could have some benefit from a historical-contextual perspective within the Western European Art Music Tradition, but the ability to jump around chronologically in order to make stronger connections with contemporary examples and class choral literature is a much higher priority. 

3) An important note has been added about the 'absolute' and 'right vs wrong' nature of this kind of formal analysis. While the "teacher notes" do contain my own interpretation of the form, the philosophy of the unit has shifted to give students a chance to have more dialogue and debate, allowing the class to decide on a way to interpret the form of a piece of music that may not be exactly what the teacher has written down. So long as students can defend their decisions, the evaluation of the assessments is more open to such variation of interpretation and response.

4) Concrete objectives for the unit as a whole are listed as "students will be able to" style bullet points within the overview, providing clearer directions and outcomes for these 27 activities viewed in the aggregate. 

5) The instructor feedback on this assignment in its original iteration also contained question about HOW the musical examples were chosen. Through research about various typical musical forms from WEAM, moving to the more abstract in the 20th century, pieces were chosen to reflect a variety of structures within Western European and American Art Music, and a variety of time periods and sub-genres. Some choices came from works I was familiar with, but many I had to dig around for to meet the needs of particular forms and composers I wanted to be sure to include. It was a non-regimented, organic process, but I'm fairly satisfied with how it turned out. 

Complete details about the unit, which reflect these changes, can be found within the document itself. 

Curriculum project for my upcoming employment as the choir teacher at Pritzker College Prep in Chicago, IL, beginning Fall 2017. Documents include the distributable curriculum document with accompanying table for curricular organizational scope and sequence, a academic, contextual support and analysis of the curriculum, and several discussion protocols for developing learning and assessment contracts specific to many projects noted in the curriculum's scope and sequence table. 

Research Questions

It was not until less than twenty four hours before completing these projects that I even realized it, but all three of the following research questions have a structural theme to them. Each one stems from a potential conflict between theories, practices, methodologies, with the research conducted serving as an attempt to reconcile that conflict, and allow the opposing forces to benefit one another in practice. While theory and practice in music education differ greatly from teacher to teacher, and student to student, it is my hope that my own understanding and personal reconciliation of these conflicts can improve my future teaching, and the musical lives of my students. 

Question #1

Virtual, Informal Learning in the School Classroom

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More and more, the world’s knowledge is becoming more digitized, and accessible from anywhere. As such, musical activities are following suit, with online guitar tutorials, instructional videos, virtual studios for collaboration, and endless amounts of stream-able tracks. This kind of online education in music happens primarily in the realm of popular music, so it stands to reason that the realm of pop music education is changing as a result of the prevalence of these virtual spaces. How does implementation of digital spaces and instructional methodologies into the classroom influence music teacher philosophy and educational practice?

Question #2

Reconsidering Traditional Sight-Singing in a Progressive Landscape

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A key part of many high school choral experiences is regular sight-singing exercise with a push towards musical literacy using the standard method of notation. With music education moving in a more progressive, democratic direction, the processes and methodologies of traditional sight-reading can be called into question. And with ever-increasing diversity in musical repertoire in the schools, the need for sight-reading diminishes as we spend less time on music where traditional sight-singing based on traditional musical literacy is appropriate. What properties of and potential developments in traditional methodologies and use of solfeggio for reading and ear training in choral music reading can still increase its relevance and effectiveness outside of the goal of traditional music literacy? How can progressive democratic ideals of repertoire selection still be integrated with valuable and effective sight-singing practice?

Question #3

The Interaction of Musical and Social Motivations in School Music Ensembles

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Particularly at the secondary and collegiate level, social motivations for musical participation are very well documented. Desire for more specifically musical achievement is also well-worn territory, in terms of determining students’ motivations. However, they are often treated as more separate entities, with minimal effects on each other. The pinpointing of a meaningful intersection of these two large of umbrellas of motivation could do a lot to better foster motivation in musical practice, directly parlaying social desires into musical achievement and vice-a-versa. With better understanding of how musical and social motivational factors can work together, how can music teachers promote more effective synergy between the two to the benefit of both?


DOwnload Accompanying Presentation File

complete with pics, vids, and colors

1) General Methods I Final Practicum

2) Kenilworth Union Church Youth Choir Retreat Campfire

3) Libertyville High School Fall Concert Conclusion

4) R.E.M. Medley at Spring MERP

5) Legally Blonde at Kimball Union Academy

6) Tom Cruise Crazy at Winter MERP