Illinois IMEA Conference

Illinois Music Educators Conference
Peoria Civic Center
Thursday and Friday, January 23 and 24, 2014

Peter and Mary Alice Amidon post-workshop notes

 Many thanks to West Music generally and Kathy Bohstedt particularly for sponsoring us at IMEA 2014.  Thanks also to Donna Zawatski for setting up our workshops and looking after us during the conference.  We were thrilled with the enthusiastic participation of all of the teachers in our workshops.

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Workshop notes on the four workshops:

I’m Growing Up – Singing Games for K-2
Teaching Dance to Upper Elementary
Storytelling, Picture books, Literature and Music
Great Songs for Children – Classroom & Children’s Choir

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 Amidons teach 3-credit music teacher course at Hartt School of Music:
Rich Traditions and New Creations:
Dance, Song, Storytelling, and Literature in the Music Classroom
July 7 – 11 at Hartt School of Music in West Hartford, CT
The foundation of this class is the wealth of songs, dances, singing games, and folktales that spring from the Anglo American/African American oral traditions. We will sing and dance through a rich repertoire of old and new songs, dances and singing games that you can take back to the classroom; discuss how to make dance a successful, dynamic, ongoing experience for you and your students; and learn how to organize an evening of dancing for the school community as well as an all-school sing. The Amidons will share their discoveries of the power of connecting music and literature: telling stories, creating songs from poems, introducing songs with stories, creating a performance from a folktale, song writing, and bringing picture books alive with music.  Each participant will write at least one song and tell a folktale.  Limited to 24 participants

Fifty-five Anthems for the Small Church Choir and
Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith and Community Choirs
are two collections (books) of SATB and SATB/piano choral arrangements and compositions by Peter and Mary Alice.  “Fifty-five Anthems” just came out and can be purchased off our website  “Twenty-five Anthems” will be released sometime in February or March 2014.  Companion CDs to the two books will be released later in the year.  You can hear most of the songs on the website pages that are linked above.

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NOTE: “NEDM” refers to our publishing company “New England Dancing Masters”.

    *       *

 Thursday 12:30-1:30 pm-
I’m Growing Up – Singing Games for K-2
CC 220 – 221

Sun is in My Heart
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. We find this to be calming and comforting both for us and the children.  We like to do it regular, miniature, big, and silent.

A Little Seed
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. We love “the little wait…” in this fingerplay/song.  Your harmonies were absolutely delicious.

 Five Little Bunnies
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. One of our all-time-favorite finger plays.

Form the Corn
In NEDM”s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVDWe call this “scatter formation” where you can do the dance, without partners, standing anywhere in the room.  It is a great singing game to do on the spot between other activities.

Strolling in the Park
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.  Mary Cay did strolling, flying, swimming, crawling, sleeping and finally strolling again.

Sleeping Bunnies
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVDChildren are wild about this singing game

Sing a Song of Sixpence
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVDTry working with your students to make up singing games for other nursery rhymes.

Shake Them Simmons Down
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVDA great first circle partner dance for young children

From the Seed in the Ground
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD and the Amidons “Song in My Heart”.

      Peter's SSAA/piano arrangement
is available for sale on the Amidons’ choral music listening and sheet music download page.   Mary Alice led this with simple motions children could do sitting down.  Then Peter led it in the style of a flash mob dance:
If you got the sun
*Walk sideways with hands miming sun rising.
and if you got the rain
*Walk sideways the other way with hands miming rain.
and you plant a little seed
*Crouch down.
in the old back lane
Then jump and turn halfway with arms moving directly over head, end pointing in opposite direction.
And you wish and you hope
hands clasped together in front,  take step to diagonal left, then diagonal right,
And you keep the weeds down
Crouch down, keeping head up.
You might find, oh
standing up, step and gesture with arm to left.
You might find
step and gesture with arm to right
a root growing down from the seed
mime with hands
in the ground
take one step forward (leaving other foot in place) ending with forward  leg bent a little and back leg straight as arms and hands sweep from front to both sides (separating) as if miming the flat surface of the ground.

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

You Put Your Right Hand In
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.An African American version of the Hokey Pokey that we learned from Bessie Jones.

I’m Growing Up
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD. and on the Amidon’s CD and accompanying book of children’s songs: “Song in My Heart”.  Mary Alice wrote this song to go along with a kindergarten class’s theme of the different stages of life.  She made up the motions which you are welcome to use, or work with your students to make up your own.  We know of a school that used this as a Kindergarten graduation song.

Tree Song
In NEDM’s “Down in the Valley” collection of singing games.  Also you can purchase the song/piano arrangement on the Amidons’ Listening and Sheet Music Download page of their website.  We find the yoga-like movements of this song as calming for the teacher as for the students.

Bye Bye Butterfly
In NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD.  Mary Alice learned this from a kindergarten student.

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Thursday 3:00-4:00 pm
Teaching Dance to Upper Elementary. –
CC – 220 – 221

Circassian Circle
In NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” and “Listen to the Mockingbird” collection.   You can use any jig or reel for this; for example”Fancy Hornpipe” from NEDM’s “Any Jig or Reel” CD.  Always start teaching this dance by having the students promenade and defining ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ (gent/lady or moon/star or whatever).  I like doing this with fourth  graders who have a little dance experience.

In NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” and “Sashay the Donut”. A great dance for all ages! We are not sure of the origins of this dance: one source suggested it was a novelty dance based on a Russian pop song from the 60’s.  ‘Ras, dva, tri’ is Russian for ‘ready, set, go!’

 The Noble Duke of York
This is in NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” book/CD/DVD.  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.

 Choosing partners
We think it is a real gift to children to teach them  how to choose their own partners.  I like to frame this in ‘Kings’ and ‘Queens’ language to help the children get over their self consciousness over  choosing partners.  I start with a story about how Kings and Queens realized that it might be more fun to dance with more than just their own spouses, and so they needed to devise a polite and efficient way to choose other partners.  “And the method they came up with was so good we still do it today.” I have them all practice the words: ‘May I please  have this dance?’ ‘Yes thank you.’ and then practice answering me, and then practice  asking me.  Then I demonstrate what it looks like to ask a partner to dance, by asking one of the ‘Queens’.  Then, I have that Queen sit down, and I ask her again, showing the 10 steps: The approach. Eye contact. The question. The answer. King puts out his hand. Queen stands and takes King’s hand. They hang on to each other’s hand and walk to the top of the hall.  If there are  two Queens then there is a Queen on one side and a Queen on the other side.  If there are two Kings (you know the rest). If it is a King and a Queen, the King stands on the King’s side, the Queen on the Queen’s side and they face each other, nose, toes and bellybutton, taking two hands. Then they drop their hands, and, voila, there they are.

 Kings and Queens
In NEDM’s “Alabama Gal” and “Sashay the Donut”.  We used the “On the Danforth” cut that is on both the “Alabama Gal” CD and NEDM’s “Other Side of the Tracks” CD.  There is another “On the Danforth” cut, same tune but with a slightly different feel than this one on the “Sashay the Donut” CD.  You might also use “Slow G” from the “Sashay the Donut”  CD for this dance.  Before we teach this dance we will dub each child a King or a Queen, and talk to them (sometimes while the music is playing to help sustain the mood) about what it means to be a King and Queen: They have royal posture, they never rush, they make good decisions, they are very attractive; basically describing the ideal King/Queen or, which, in my mind is being the very best person they can be.  Then I “dub” each child a  king or a queen, making sure they have their royal posture before I dub them. This is in the style of an historic English country dance (e.g. dances done in Jane Austen’s time).

Grumpy March
in NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection.  We put  the “Wizard’s Walk” medley on our “Sashay the Donut” CD specifically for this dance. This is a great dance for upper elementary, middle  school and high school. I have changed one figure from the book: right after  the “grumping” across/clapping figures I have everyone take hands in a long skinny circle to circle right.  THEN they drop hands and skip back the other way.

 Circle Waltz Mixer
In NEDM’s  ‘Sashay the Donut’ collection. We used ‘In Continental’ Waltz from the ‘Sashay’ CD  for the music. This is a wonderful dance for a wedding  where you can do it the original way we learned it, doing  a short waltz instead of the two hand turn.  In the original  dance gents are the “posts” and women are the “twirlers”, but it works perfectly fine in a non-gender community  dance with a two hand turn.  In the workshop I replaced the two hand turn with a slow bow because we were running out of time; but that is also a good way to do the dance with, say, 2nd graders.
Youtube Peter Teaching the Circle Waltz Mixer
Youtube Peter Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer

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Friday 1:15 – 2:15
Storytelling, Picture books, Literature and Music
CC – 222

We learned early on in our music teaching that introducing a song with a story is a great way to get children more involved in the song.  Here are the three we did at the workshop:

Dust of Snow a poem by Robert Frost

Whose Woods  Robert Frost story set to music by Peter.
on the Amidons’ “All I Really Need” CD.

Fox traditional song
in the Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” CD and book.

Owl & Pussycat Edward Lear poem set to music by Peter.
in the Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” CD and book.

This is another gift music teachers can offer to children; deepening their experience of nursery rhymes.

Humpty Dump – on the handout.
We have children suggest nursery rhymes for the song, and then, before we sing them in the song we recite the whole nursery rhyme with the children.

Nursery Rhyme Songs Brainstorm
There are so many . . .

Here is a longer bibliography of Mary Alice’s favorite picture books to use with music.
She shared or mentioned in the workshop:
Waking Up is Hard to Do
Day You Were Born
I Miss You Every Day
Day Is Done

We encourage you to tell your students folktales; the best ones to tell are folktales that you find interesting and compelling yourself.

Marushka and Month Brothers a folktale from Russia

Acted Out Month Brothers
Children do this quite naturally; you just  set it up and, as much as possible, get out of the way.  After telling a folktale I give them the homework to retell it aloud,  we might go through a speed through of the story or do a quick group map of the story or discuss the story (What was the funniest/saddest/most scary/most memorable moment?)   Once they all know the story well, you are the narrator, and maybe also the musician (guitar, accordion).  Pull the characters (and human props) from the ‘audience’ of children sitting in a bunch in front of the ‘stage’. All the action takes place right in the middle in front of the audience.  The ‘actors’ speak loudly so everyone can hear.  If they forget what happens next you can feed them a line as the narrator: “the mother told Marushka not to come back until she had some strawberries”.  You can use this method to create a musical performance with added instrumental music, songs and dancing, or just do it once and leave it at that.

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Friday 3:45 – 4:45
Great Songs for Children – Classroom & Children’s Choir
CC 222

Kindergarten Wall by John McCutcheon
in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and CD

Now It’s Time to Go a simple goodbye round by Peter Amidon
in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and CD

Johnny Appleseed poem set to music by Mary Alice
in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and CD

Vote for Me by Faya Rose Toure
in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and CD

Tree Song  by Lorraine Lee Hammond
in NEDM’s “Down in the Valley”.  Piano/song arrangement available for sale on Amidons’ choral listening and sheet music download page.

Brotherhood & Sisterhood by Peter Amidon
in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and CD

Silvy by Huddy Ledbetter. Available for sale on Amidons’ choral listening and sheet music download page.

From the Seed in the Ground by Canadian singer/songwriter Connie Kaldor. Simple version in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book and CD. The SSAA version we did (with a simpler ending in the Sop 1 part) available for sale on Amidons’ choral listening and sheet music download page.  If you click on the title at the beginning of this paragraph you can hear the version with the simpler ending for the first sopranos, which I prefer to the version I mistakenly had printed out for you yesterday (Friday).

Turn Around by Malvina Reynolds, arr. Peter Amidon
permission pending; I hope to have this available later  in the year.

Good Samaritan by Peter Amidon.  Email me if you would like to purchase the song/piano arrangement.

Thank you.


Peter and Mary Alice Amidon