Colorado Springs CMEA post-workshop notes


Colorado Music Educators Association – Amidon workshops

Friday and Saturday, January 29, 30, 2016
the Broadmoor – Colorado Springs, Colorado

see below for post-workshop notes on Peter & Mary Alice Amidons’ three workshps:

                            • Storytellng, Picture Books, Literature & Music
                                • New Dances & Singing Games for K-6
• Great Songs for Children – Classroom & Childrens Choir

Many thanks to Alicia Knox, Jeff Van Devender, Melissa Blum, Abby from Colorado Orff, and everyone else who made our visit possible.

First some announcements, then the notes:

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Sign up on our email mailing list for approximately once-monthly notices about upcoming Amidon workshops and publications.  Just go to the Amidon website and sign up on the homepage:

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MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

Stefan and Zara singing with the Starry Mountain Singers. Zara singing lead on the left, Stefan singing bass on the right.

Stefan on percussion/vocals and his wife (red head) Zara Bode with their band the Sweetback Sisters

Sam storytelling/singing

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton 

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 Go to your own local dances; they are fun, welcoming, aerobic, and it will make you a better dance teacher:

Here is a link to a web page that has listings of contra and square dances in Colorado.

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AccordionThe best place we have found to find a good smaller accordion for music teaching is “The Button Box” in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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FRIDAY – 9:00 am
Storytelling, Picture Books, Literature & Music

Chiney Doll  in Song in My Heart” book & CD. I introduced this with a story about Roger’s grandaughter Eliza. We talked about introducing songs and other activities in the music classroom with stories.

Humpty Dump – a great song for teaching nursery rhymes to older children. We have them recite the poems in a sort of formal way before putting them into the song. Challenge your students to come to class with nursery rhyme selections. Here is one of many lists online of nursery rhymes.

PICTURE BOOKS – see the picture book bibliography.
When I Grow Up I Want to Be Me – read with background music.
The Ballad of Marian Anderson – the poem of a picture book set to a song. Here she is singing Ave Maria with Leopold Stokowski directing. You can purchase Mary Alice’s setting of this poem at Amidons Online Choral Store.
Madeline – read with background music.
Mary Alice also mentioned What a Wonderful World and Over the Rainbow, both picture books of songs.

Peddler’s Dream – There are many versions of this traditional folktale in the U.S., England and Europe.

Acting out a story – See the section in the notes about acting out stories. This is a wonderful and dynamic activity to do with your students.  You also might “give” the acting out more to the students by having one of the students be the narrator.

Sam Amidon retells and sings Chiney Doll.
When Mary Alice asked 2 1/2 year old Sam to sing “Chiney Doll”, first he had to tell the story, because whenever I sang the song with him I had always preceded it with the story.  Sam’s grunting and pauses through the story were not because he could not remember the story; he remembered it perfectly well.  That was his efforts to change the images in his mind into language; the very essence of storytelling.  Sam, 34, now makes a living travelling the world singing folk songs and telling (sometimes kind of strange) stories.

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FRIDAY 2:00 pm
New Dances & Singing Games for K-6

The Shock Mary Alice was told by some of you that “this happens every year”. I welcome you in joining me to contact the Broadmoor to please remedy this dangerous situation (if you weren’t there: many dancers got repeated shocks from what seemed to be exposed circuits in the floor).

Quartz Mountain Man in the Middle in the handout
For music we used “Fancy Hornpipe” from New England Dancing Masters “Any Jig or Reel” CD.  In any circle mixer have all the dancers promenade and determine what to call the inside (traditionally ‘gent’) and the outside (traditionally ‘lady’) partners are called.  Peanut butter/jelly, spider/fly, moon/star, gent/lady.  Then I teach the “jump/clap” figure that everyone does.  You wind up by crouching and dropping arms low and back; the clap sort of launches you in the air.  The challenge is teaching the two different kinds of jumps that the gents and the ladies do at the same time.  I do a dosido/elbow swing with adults because adults get dizzy easier than children.  With children I just have them do a long right elbow swing with their new partner after the jump/clap.  I love the moment when all the dancers jump up at the same moment, and, when they land, are facing their new partner.

Sun is in My Heart
A Little Seed
Both of these are in in the handouts, and in NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.  Both are calming chants that we use as much to center ourselves as the children.  Great harmonies on “A Little Seed”!

Here We Go Riding our PoniesIn NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. Children practice handshakes and eye contact in this instantly engaging singing game.

Traffic Jam – learned from John Krumm
Use “Heel & Toe Polka” for music from “Chimes of Dunkirk” CD.
This is a terrific “scatter mixer” for any age; particularly for older students who do not have much dance experience, and for community dances.

Skipping – Skipping is one of the gifts you can give your students, and a great way to enhance dancing in your classroom.  Here are some fourth graders doing a lovely skipping cast off in the “Bridge of Athlone” (from “Listen to the Mockingbird” – music is “Reel De Rimouski” from our CD “Any Jig Or Reel“.

Noble Duke of York – in NEDM’s “Rise Sally Rise” (formerly “Jump Jim Joe“) Also NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” book/CD/DVD.
Here is my shortcut way of teaching the cast off:
* Have top and bottom couple each take two hands with partner.
* All other couples leave the set.
* Bottom couple makes a two hand arch.
* Top gent (or you) demonstrates skipping around to left in a cast off, down below and then up through the arch back to place.
* Top lady demonstrates same thing, starting her cast off to the right.
* Top gent and lady cast off at the same time and take one hand with partner as they go through the arch.
* Now all the other dancers rejoin the set and the ladies follow the lead lady and the gent follows the lead gent.
* The next time you do it, have the bottom lady and gent follow, respectively, their lady and gent lines, and the top couple makes the arch when reachng the bottom.
I added the up, down halfway up and jumping movements that the rest of the dancers do while the top couple sashays down the middle and back.  My favorite moment is when the top couple’s sashay back up the middle turns into a skipping cast off just as the other dancers land from their jump and, skipping, follow the lead couple in the cast off.  We were inspired to teach skipping as an art form by watching the wonderful Mark Morris Dance Company.  If you have the older “Jump Jim Joe” CD but would like the updated mp3 of the music we used in the workshop (which is only on the “Alabama Gal” book/CD/DVD and “Rise Sally Rise” CD) send me an email and I will send you the mp3: <>

CREATING AN ORIGINAL DANCE WITH YOUR STUDENTS I start with the question: “What is a dance?” A dance starts with a formation (or a shape): longways (line of partners facing each other), circle (partners in circle) or  square (four couples facing in). There is also the Sicilian Circle formation (couple facing couple around a circle)  And also the concentric circle formation where couples are in a circle with, say, the gents facing out and  the ladies facing in. Then there are the figures, which is, simply what the dancers do in the dance.  Some obvious figures include some you do with the whole group (let’s say we’re doing a circle mixer)       Forward and back      Circle left, Circle right,       Grand Right and Left         etc. and figures you do just with your partner (or neighbor)      Right hand turn     Dosido and some that are a bit of both like      Promenade. It is OK to have an original figure or two in our original dance, but not too many.  Mostly you should have familiar, common figures that dances can learn quickly. Once we (or I) decide on a formation, I simply say, “What first.” and do whatever the first person suggests, in our case, “forward and back”. As the suggestions come in I might invite discussion about which suggestion to choose (if there are more than one).  I try to use as many of the children’s  ideas as possible, and I almost always have the children try out dancing a suggested figure before discussing it. Your job is also to facilitate the children creating a dance that is fun to do.  You might make a small suggestion here and there, especially one that might help make a student’s suggestion more successful and flowing. The children can help figure out how to make the dance fit the AABB of the music.  It is also an option to ignore the AABB and make up a dance that goes across the AABB pattern of the music. Once you and your students have made up a dance, it is important to name the dance.  This is the same process as making up the dance.  I take in suggestions and facilitate the decision making.  Sometimes we combine the words in two or three different suggestion.  Sometimes we vote on two or three different name candidates.  Sometimes someone comes up with a suggestion so inspired that I declare it the official name by acclamation. We ran out of time so we did not get to do this.  Mary Alice told me someone suggested the word “shock”, and so, because there was a notable grand right and left figure in the dance, Mary Alice and I came up with the title “Grand Right and Shock” When students create their own dance, they really take ownership of it.

Grand Right and Shock – created by participants in this workshop.
Circle mixer.
Music: use any reel medley
A1: All forward (raising held hands on 4th beat) and back. (8)
Gents forward, clapping on fourth beat. (4)
Ladies forward, clapping on fourth beat as gents go back. (4)
A2: Ladies stay put, and gents move forward to join them. (4)
All take hands and go back to place. (4)
Clap both hands three times with partner and turn. (4)
Clap three times with neighbor and turn back to partner. (4)
B1: Grand right and left three changes (right, left, right) (6)
The fourth person you meet is your new partner.  Gents twirl lady under gents arm with left hand. (2).
Promenade new partner. (8)
B2: Continue promenading (4)
Step back into circle and take hands. (4)
All grapevine step to left, starting with left foot going behind right foot. (8)

Great dance; Mary Alice said it was quite beautiful to watch!

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Great Songs for Children – Classroom & Childrens Choir

My Heart Is Ready by Cindy Kallet
We have been friends of Cindy Kallet since her 1981 “Wings to Fly” days. She is now with Grey Larsen, another gifted musician.  We find this a great song for teaching all four parts quickly by ear. This is in our “Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith & Community Choirs

I’m Growing Up by Mary Alice Amidon
We know a few schools that have used this as a “graduation song” for Kindergarten students. This is in our “Song in My Heart” book & companion CD.

Brotherhood & Sisterhood by Peter Amidon
I prepared for writing this by reading Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Barak Obama’s 2008 Speech on Race.

New Jerusalem by Jeremiah Ingalls
The link on the title is a traditional Sacred Harp sing in Texas. Here is a recording of New Jerusalem Mary Alice and I made with the Word of Mouth Chorus in 1978.  And here is the webpage on all things Sacred Harp.

Turn Around by Alan Greene, Malvina Reynolds and Harry Belafonte.
Sung on the webpage link by our daughter-in-law Zara Bode. I learned this song from a 1960 Kodac TV advertisement.

From the Seed in the Ground – by Connie Kaldor.
Connie is a Canadian singer/songwriter.  Of course you could do this song with children singing unison melody with the piano accompaniment (which you can purchase off our Online Choral Store).

How Could Anyone – by Libby Roderick.
We learned this song from our friend, and our favorite storyteller, Eshu Bumpus . Here is Libby Roderick singing it herself.

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We had such fun with you; keep on singing and dancing, and tell your students stories!


Peter (and Mary Alice)