September Surprise!

Many of you know that I hold a September Surprise! kickoff event for my students each year. Since I take off the whole month of August, this gives them a chance to work on whatever they want in order to “surprise” me at the kickoff. We held the September Surprise! last Thursday evening and it was so much fun! In addition to having the students play for me and announcing the theme for the year, we played some games and did a variety of activities.

In recognition of the Year of Collaborative Music, I’m hoping to provide my students with lots of opportunities to make music together. To start things off, as part of the kickoff, I had a Collaboration Station time segment where I split the students into groups and gave them a specific collaborative assignment to work up and then present to the rest of the students. I’m hoping to share the actual video clips next week, but for now, here are some pictures copied from the clips:

The first group went into another room where one of my older students taught them the rhythm pattern to play the cup game. Have you seen this before? It’s super fun! Definitely one I hope to repeat later this year with my students!


My favorite Pattern Play books from last year are still my favorite this year! 🙂 I assigned one of the pieces to these two girls – you can barely see the younger one! – and they had fun working up a duet.


I had to think a little harder to come up with a good activity for some of my new students this year since they aren’t as familiar with some of the things we do and some of them are just beginning so they don’t know how to read rhythms or music. So, we ended up doing a mini bell choir. Each of them had one or two bells and I pointed at them with a conductor’s baton to help them play, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” They were thrilled with it!


It was practically an epiphany for me the other day when I was looking through one of the Pattern Play books and noticed the option for a Trio or Quartet. Why didn’t I ever see that before?! Anyway, I assigned these three guys to one of the trios and they did a fabulous job putting together a cool-sounding improv!


The final group used the song, “Red River Valley,” from Lyn Freeman Olson’s, “An All-American Gathering” ensemble book. There were three at the piano, two on rhythm instruments, and one page-turner. I was impressed at how quickly they got it all put together!

Even in 15 minutes time, you can get groups of students making music together! I’m looking forward to doing similar activities at our group classes throughout the year. If any of you have other activity suggestions for collaborative music-making, I’d love to hear them!

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