SC Gordon Intitute for Music Learning – Amidon Post-Workshop Notes


Gordon Institude for Music Learning
Peter & Mary Alice Amidon
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Columbia SC

Many thanks to Meredith Trobaugh for her indefatigable work on so many aspects of this workshop, to Dr. Wendy Valerio for her part in creating such a dynamic learning environment at USC, to Eben for his help with logistics and sound, and to everyone else who did so much to make this a wonderful visit and workshop experience for us.

* First some info that might be of interest, then the post-workshop notes. (Scroll down for the post-workshop notes). *

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Here is a lovely short dancing-with-children-community-dance film from our DVD “Chimes of Dunkirk – Teaching Dance to Children”:
Intermission from Chimes of Dunkirk DVD

You can find more videos and information by following our “New England Dancing Masters” Facebook page.

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An Opportunity for Music Educators

Amidons’ Choral Arranging & Publishing

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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

Stefan is currently touring with The Devil Makes Three

Sam singing with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy”

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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 links to contra dance and other traditional dances around South Carolina.

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This is the best place we know to get a small (smaller than the standard 120 bass) accordion like Mary Alice uses for your teaching: The Button Box.

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There are a lot of great wireless headset microphone systems.  This is the wireless headset system that Mary Alice and I have used for the last ten years:

Shure PGX1 transmitter (small device you hook onto your belt or pocket)
Shure WH20 headset microphone (worn on head – plugs into Shure transmitter)
Shure PGX4 receiver (small wireless receiver that plugs into your sound system)

You can call Shure directly at 847-600-2000.
We also use Musician’s Friend a lot; they have great phone customer support: 877-513-9720

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Blaydon Races in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection
We used ‘Blaydon Races’ from NEDM’s 2010 Revision of the ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ CD for this. You can also use any jig or  reel medley for this dance. We did this is a mixer, but you can also do it with younger children without changing partners. We often call this at weddings.  We always start  teaching this, as we do with any circle mixer, by having the dancers promenade and defining the gents/moons/peanut butter/inside partners and the ladies/stars/jelly/outside partners.

Sun in My Heart
A Little Seed

Both of these are calming, centering chants for young children.  We often do them to help calm ourselves down in the classroom.

Tree Song  in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
Lorraine Hammond, who composed this wonderful singing game, is a songwriter and musician, and gifted Appalachian dulcimer player and teacher.  She is in the greater Boston area.  The piano arrangement on the CD is Peter’s.  We find this to be a calming, centering dance, both for the children and for ourselves. I introduced this with a story that I made up.  Elements of the story came from this singing game, the singing game ‘Roger is Dead’ (NEDM’s Down in the Valley) and the traditional song ‘Chiney Doll’ (on our ‘Song in My Heart’ CD).

Form the Corn in NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/DC/DVD collection
This is a great singing game for classroom teachers to know – children can just stand up from their chairs or desks and do this dance/game when they have been sitting too long. It is also great for an assembly program.

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

Kindergarten Reel  In NEDM’s Listen to the Mockingbird collection but just in the book, not on the CD. You lead this with whatever instrument you play: piano, French horn, recorder, electric guitar, whatever! If you would like the mp3 of the piano/violin music we recorded for the “Kindergarten Reel”, just send me an email <> and I will email you the mp3 (no charge).

Dance Teaching Tips Mittens; front of your mitten on the front of your neighbor’s mitten, thumb lightly on back; take hands drop hands take hands drop hands; posture; teach the forward separately  from the back in the forward and back; shake partner’s hand, hang on, take partner’s left hand for teaching promenade; while promenading: inside person is the moon/peanut butter/gent,  outside is the star/jelly/lady; four steps of making a circle from a  promenade: “Hang on to partner stop walking, hang on to partner face the center, drop hands, take hands.”; 9 ways of keeping the circle big and round on circle left and right; dosido (gents start on inside, ladies start going outside) flowing into two hand turn flowing into promenade; when music starts clapping the first of each 8 beats; doing the dance with your hands; “thick” calling, then “thin” calling then no calling; saying the call right before the ‘clap’ or before the first beat of  the phrase and figure.

La Bastringue in NEDM’s “Chimes of Dunkirk” book and CD collection.
We always do this to the specific tune ‘Galopede’ which is on the Chimes of Dunkirk companion CD. We often end a community dance with this dance. The 2nd version of ‘Galopede’ on the 2010 revision of the ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ CD has an extra C music at the end for the ‘eggbeater’ figure where, after the top couple sashays to the bottom the last time through the dance, each successive couple sashays down the middle, while the outside couples continue moving up towards the top of the set.  Sometimes we practice this final figure ahead of time, sometimes we don’t.

I’m Growing Up in the Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book & CD, and NEDM’s “I’m Growing Up” book/CD/DVD
Mary Alice wrote this song about the stages of life. We know teachers who have used it for Kindergarten graduation.

PICTURE BOOKS I See the bibliography
When I Grow Up I Want to Be Me
I Live in Music
We All Went On Safari
Waking Up Is Hard to Do
Mother Earth
Find music to go with your own favorite picture books!

Psalm of Life – This was our four-part choral piece.  Here it is sung by

      The Starry Mountain Singers
, an a cappella group that our son Stefan and his wife Zara started with some of their singing colleagues.  You can hear more of our choral arrangements on our Online Choral Store. We followed this with a short sharing of what you do to take care of yourself outside of your music teaching.

Sasha In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection.
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!’  Try this at a community dance.
Here is a short Youtube film from our DVD “Alabama Gal – Nine Never-Fail Dances & Singing Games for Children” where Mary Cay Brass, one of our New England Dancing Masters colleagues, is dancing “Sasha” with some children.  Sasha from “Alabama Gal” DVD.

Alabama Gal in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk
Teach this as an a cappella singing game before trying with the CD which, as you found out,  goes pretty fast.  Here is a quick way to teach the cast-off-under-the-arch figure:
* In a demonstration longway set have top and bottom couples remain where they are and the other dancers move out of the way.  The Top gent, by himself, casts alone to the left, skipping down and back up through the arch.  Then the Top lady, alone, does the same thing, casting to the right.  Then they both cast at the same time, taking one hand with partner before going under the arch and back to place.  Then have the other dances come back into place, and simply have all of the dancers follow the Top gent and the Top lady, single file in a cast, skipping down, and taking partner’s hand before going under the arch and back to place.  Finally, have them all cast off with the lead couple making the two hand arch when they reach the bottom of the set, as it is in the dance.
* When the top couple sashays down and back, have the dancers follow the phrasing of the music, not necessarily stopping at the bottom of the set, but sashaying down right past the bottom of the set until the music tells them to sashay back up to the top.
* SKIPPING! Demonstrate skipping.  Have different students demonstrate skipping, while the other students say what they like about their colleagues’ skipping.  Look for relaxed skipping, hands swinging by sides, skipping to the beat.
* Encourage students to, as a group, time the skipping cast off figure so that it ends just as the phrase ends.

Chimes of Dunkirk In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection.
Use the “Chimes” music on the CD. A perfect early longways set dance for young children.  This is a great for a community dance; have children dance with their parents.  Note that the “Chimes” cut on the 2010 revision of the “Chimes” collection has a little extra music at the end of each time through to give the dancers more time to sashay down the middle, move up one place, and prepare for the next time through the dance.

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 & Queens In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection
We used ‘On the Danforth’ from NEDM’s ‘Other Side of the Tracks’ CD for this dance.  You might also use our other version of ‘On the Danforth’ which is on our ‘Sashay  the Donut’ CD. 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).


Vote for Me in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book & CD.
by Faya Rose Touré, lawyer, educator, judge in Selma Alabama.  She also wrote “I’m Gonna Lift My Sister Up“.

Brotherhood & Sisterhood in Amidons’ “Song in My Heart” book & CD.
I was commissioned to write a song for the Lititz, Pennsylvania Elementary School’s “Celebrate the Differences” theme.  I wrote the chorus and the first two verses, and they requested more verses about bullying.  I told them I didn’t really know what to say about bullying, except that you should not bully, and they told me the three things they teach children to do when they witness bullying: tell the person who is bullying to stop, find an adult to intervene, help remove the person who is being bullied from the situation.

Galopede In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection
We always do this to the specific tune ‘Galopede’ which is on the Chimes of Dunkirk companion CD. We often end a community dance with this dance. The 2nd version of ‘Galopede’ on the 2010 revision of the ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ CD has an extra C music at the end for the ‘eggbeater’ figure where, after the top couple sashays to the bottom the last time through the dance, each successive couple sashays down the middle, while the outside couples continue moving up towards the top of the set.  Sometimes we practice this final figure ahead of time, sometimes we don’t.
Formation: Longways set of 8 – 12 couples
Music: “Galopede” from “Chimes of Dunkirk” CD
A1 (16) All forward and back, clapping partner’s hands on 4th beat. (8)
All pass right shoulders with partner, crossing over to partner’s place. (8)
A2 (16) All forward and back, clapping partner’s hands on fourth beat. (8)
All cross back to place, passing right shoulders with partner. (8)
B (16) Do-si-do partner. (8)
Two hand turn around partner. (8)
C (16) Top couple take two hands and sashay down the center to the bottom of the set; other dancers clap to the music and move up one place. (16)
MORE NOTES: Remember the choreography of, when crossing over, going past your partner’s place and then turning and coming back, timing it so that you get back to your partner just in time for the 2nd clap.  Similarly, when crossing back, cross past your own spot and then turn back, timing it so that you get back just in time for the dosido.  But then at the end of the dosido, stay in somewhat close so you are ready for the two hand turn.   Remember also that the clapping pattern is clap/clap/clap, clap/clap/clap, etc., with the music, as the top couple sashays to the bottom.

Larry’s Mixer  In NEDM’s “Listen to the Mockingbird”.
We used the cut “Cheris” from NEDM’s “Other Side of the Tracks” CD, which is the band “Assembly”, a quartet that includes  our two sons Sam (fiddle) and Stefan (percussion). Also try doing this to “The Coming Dawn” from the same CD, or try “Golden Keyboard” from NEDM’s “Any Jig or Reel” CD.  All of these are flowing music, and I find that this dance can have a sublime “Historic English County Dance” feel (think Jane Austen) when done to those cuts of elegant music.
MORE NOTES: Teach dancers to time their phrasing in the A1, A2 figures with the phrasing of the music, taking more time as needed by walking in wider loops after the dosido, the allemand left, the seesaw and then allemand right.

Picture Book II
In the Fiddle Is a Song
I Miss You Every Day

Nyangara a traditional folktale from Zimbabwe
Here is a link to a pdf of my version of this story. The song is the traditional Zimbabwe song that goes with the story.

Acting out stories 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: “And then Arthur asked Sir Gromer what the riddle was.” You can use this method to create a musical performance with added instrumental music, songs and dancing, or just do it once for its own sake and leave it at that.

Creating an Original Dance with your students
Review what the most common dance figures are, 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. You might have them raise hands with suggestions to help keep a bit of order and fairness. 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. 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. When students create their own dance, they really take ownership of it.

Carolina Spin Composed on 1/28/17 by participants in the Amidons’ Gordon Institude for Music Learning workshop in Columbia, SC.
Mary Alice, who was playing accordion for us while we made this up, said that it was an absolutely beautiful dance to watch.
Formation circle mixer
Music any jig or reel
A1 Dosido partner (8)
Gypsy partner (8)
A2 Facing partner and all moving to own left, Step, together, step, together (4)
Reverse direction, all moving to own right: Step, together, Step, together (4)
Keep going to own right past partner: Step, together, step, together (4)
Reverse direction, all moving to own left: Step, together, step, together (4)
B1 Palm to palm right hand turn around partner (8)
Palm to palm left hand turn around partner (8)
B2 All forward, clap on fourth beat, back, clap on beat 8. (8)
Still facing center, Gents step together to right (passing in front of partner)
WHILE Ladies step together to left (passing in back of partner),
Then walk into a turn single over right shoulder, end facing new partner. (8)

Circle Waltz Mixer In NEDM’s  ‘Sashay the Donut’ collection.
We used ‘In Continental’ Waltz from the ‘Sashay’ CD  for the music. Here are some tips to for teaching this dance:  Start by having everyone promenade. Tell all the inside (left hand) partners they are “posts” and all the outside (right hand) partners they are “twirlers”. Make a circle, all holding hands around the circle.  All look at partner and say “goodbye”.  Posts stay in place and keep their feet planted during the “twirl” figure.  Carefully teach the first “twirl” each “Post” does with their left hand neighbor, from left to right.  Once the dancers get that twirl, the rest of the dance can go pretty smoothly.
Here are two short Youtube films of me TEACHING and DANCING the Circle Waltz Mixer with children.


Mary Alice and I had SUCH a wonderful time with all of you.  We were very impressed by your enthusiasm, your dancing and singing skills, and your level of participation.

Joy, Health, Love & Peace,

Peter (and Mary Alice)