Make a Keyboard Worksheet

A while back, Rebecca – of the fabulous Piano Teacher’s Retreat blog – solicited ideas for one-minute games to use with students. (Plus, I really like Rebecca now that she has told the world that she thinks I’m a genius… 😀 ) From there, I linked over to another wonderful website that I’d never seen before. Susan Paradis has a bunch of great music worksheets and games available to download. Notably, I saw this Make A Keyboard worksheet and thought it would be fun to use as a timed game for young students. Just cut out the pieces, give the whole set to the student and time them to see how fast they can put the keyboard together in the correct order. I’m looking forward to giving this a try as soon as I resume lessons for the fall!

Interview with Stephen Battaglia

Today I am pleased to welcome Stephen Battaglia, author of the Mr. McSymphony book series, to Music Matters Blog for an exclusive interview.

Music Matters Blog (MMB): What is your musical/education background?
Stephen Battaglia (SB): Piano lessons for six years and violin lessons for two years. I now play the harmonica, mostly in schools.

MMB: How did you get started doing school music presentations?
SB: A long story but to make it as short as possible here it goes: Every year my wife, Beverly, and I give each of our four grandchildren a weekend with their grandparents. Well, in the fall of 2001 it was six year old and first grader Kate’s turn. On Sunday Beverly asked if I could take Kate home to La Canada, California about two hours drive from our home in Palm Desert, California. On the way, I turned on my favorite station 88.5 FM, the classical music station, and asked Kate if that was OK for a little while. It was fortunate that Mozart, Beethoven and Rossini were playing during the trip. Along the way we discussed the sounds of instruments, the pitch of various instruments, composers, conductors and the different types of classical music. Two hours later she was home and she enjoyed every two hours of it. Well, two weeks later in class, the teacher asked if any of their parents could come in and teach the class about classical music. You know what happened next. Kate raised her hand and said “My grandfather knows everything about music and would be happy to come to class.” That night I got a phone call and Kate told me what happened in class and I said that I would be pleased to present a music program to her class. One month later Mr. McSymphony’s “It’s All About a Symphony Orchestra” was born.

The next week I was playing golf with an individual whose daughter was the principal at a local elementary school. After he heard the story he suggested that I contact her. I did and she was excited to have me present the program to each of her six first grade classes. She then suggested that I contact other schools in her school district and six other schools were signed up for the program in the spring of 2002. After that 2002 spring school year I decided to expand the program to the second through the fifth grades to make it more interesting for me and keep me busy in my retirement years. Now I have presented Mr. McSymphony’s programs in 16 schools and to over 25,000 children. I have also presented the Opera program to adults.

MMB: What does one of your typical school presentations look like?

SB: Mr. McSymphony’s It’s All About Classical Music
Props: 3’ x 4’ board with a list of composers, country born in and music period; 3’ x 4’ world map, CD player with CD.
Program: Discuss the type of music to be presented- Baroque, Classical period and Modern Classical music. The students are then told that there will be a music identification test at the end of the program to see if they can pick out the composer’s music which they previously heard. The world map is used to identify the country and capitals of the country where each composer was born. When naming the capitals I encourage them to use associations to remember them. For France I tell them to picture a fruit and I draw a picture of a pear on the board representing Paris. They take a trip from Italy to Russia and learn most of the capitols besides music and have fun doing it. The program starts with a story of the composer to be presented and the music of that composer is played. Each program lasts about 40 minutes. As an added note, at the end of the fifth grade program I tell the story of Dr. Ben Carson once called “Dummy” in the fifth grade and now a premier neurosurgeon.

MMB: What kind of feedback have you received from teachers and students regarding the programs?
SB: a. Teachers have asked me to write Instructor Guides for Mr. McSymphony’s programs so other individuals could present these programs in the future or in other schools.
b. Students had fun learning and look forward to my next presentation.
c. The Palm Springs District “Performing and Visual Arts Director” sat in on one of my programs and immediately purchased Mr. McSymphony’s books for her schools and suggested I present the programs in her schools.
d. Many teachers have said “We look forward to your return next year.”
e. “The program and books not only help the children learn music and composer lives, but geography and other school interests. Some schools have music programs but nothing to follow up their music learning. Your books do the job.”
f. David Karlquist, principal of James Madison Elementary School in Palm Desert- Students look forward with eager anticipation to Mr. McSymphony’s programs. A great way to help the students learn about music. Why not write books to go along with the program?
g. Mr. Jeff Hisgen, principal of James E. Carter Elementary School, Palm Desert- Students absolutely loved your presentations and would love for you to return next year. You books will be great educational tools.
h. Jean Hammond, piano teacher,- All five of Mr. McSymphony’s books are excellent reading lessons and should be especially good in school classrooms and libraries. I keep the books in my waiting room for the students to read before their lessons.
i. These books will turn children on to music and help them read at the same time.
j. Barbara Panaway, 3rd grade teacher at James E. Carter School: Great program and outstanding books. After the program I require my students to write a composition on which composer they liked best and why.

MMB: Do you have any suggestions for how an independent or classroom teacher could effectively use your materials with their students?
SB: a. Use the Instructor Guides to present the program in individual classrooms. The programs work best with separate classes or small group of students about 30 maximum. It is easier to interact with individual students with this size group.
b. Have students read the Mr. McSymphony’s book on that program and write a report on a musical topic of the program. This helps the children learn about music, reading, and composition.
c. After a school’s music class using instruments, have them read one of the Mr. McSymphony’s books to discuss.

MMB: Do you have plans to develop any further books or resources?
SB: a. Future books of Mr. McSymphony are in the planning stages to cover other types of music including country and cultural music from around the world.
b. Plan to present a program at teacher’s conventions to show them the ease and effectiveness of the material.

MMB: Thank you so much for joining us today, Mr. Battaglia! And thank you for the tremendous work you are doing to help foster a love of music in children!

Review of Mr. McSymphony Book Series

Originally conceived as school presentations to expand students’ knowledge of music and increase their interest in musical development, the Mr. McSymphony series has been presented to over 25,000 children in over 16 elementary schools in California, Oregon and Washington. The books and teachers guides that are now available for purchase were written by Stephen Battaglia in response to the suggestions of teachers who wanted to be able to present the same material in their classrooms.

Mr. McSymphony Book CoverThe books are written as though one were speaking to a group of small children. While this makes the information very accessible and understandable to the target audience, it also results in less-than-perfect grammatical structure. The books could use some better editing and improvement in the flow of the information that is presented, but they still make an enjoyable read for the intended 6-11 year-old audience. The books are more of a cursory overview of the subjects, designed to pique the curiosity of their young audience rather than give them a comprehensive education. The content is both educational and interesting, and handy appendices at the back of several of the books provide the teacher with additional listening resources related to the topic of the book. The hand drawn, black and white illustrations are just enough to give readers a visual picture of the information presented on each page and draw the students into the story. Here’s my brief review of each of the books in the series:

Mr. McSymphony’s The Life of a Symphony Orchestra
There is some fascinating information revealed in the pages of this book. For instance, did you know that the word “symphony” comes from two Greek words? “Sym” means “together” and “phony” means “sound.” I never knew that! In this book, Mr. Battaglia gives an overview of each of the instrument families and some of the individual instruments contained therein.

Mr. McSymphony’s Musicians and their Instruments
This book starts by painting a picture of the reality of the hard work and time that musicians have put in to learn their instruments. Various questions directed to the students are scattered throughout all the books and provide a great way to engage students in discussion. Mr. Battaglia goes on to introduce the different types of notes and their values, followed by the treble clef and a brief explanation of how to identify the pitches on it. The reader is then introduced to each of the instrument families and one famous player of one of the instruments in the family.
Mr. McSymphony Book Cover
Mr. McSymphony’s It’s All About Jazz

This books starts with a brief history of Jazz music and then familiarizes the reader with some Jazz terminology. Extra little educational tidbits (like a discussion of heteronyms) are thrown in occasionally throughout all the books. Through the pages of this book, the reader will meet some of the most well-known Jazz musicians and learn a little bit about their lives.

Mr. McSymphony’s It’s All About Opera

Much like It’s All About Jazz, this book begins with a brief history and some of the terms one might hear associated with Opera. Mr. Battaglia goes on to give the reader an idea of what they should expect when attending an Opera, from where to sit to how to understand the storyline. The book concludes with a review of some of the more famous Operas.

Mr. McSymphony’s It’s All About Classical Music
This book introduces the reader to the periods of music history (although I was surprised to see these identified only as Baroque, Classical and Modern Classical) and identifies a few of the composers of each period. There are anecdotal tidbits scattered throughout that students will find quite interesting. For instance, did you know that it would take about 200 continuous hours or 8 days to play all of Mozart’s music? That’s a long time! 🙂

Each of the above books has a corresponding Teacher’s Guide and CD. The Teacher’s Guide contains an overview of the musical excerpts included on the accompanying CD and a story that can be read in conjunction with each piece.

You can purchase a set of the Mr. McSymphony books for use in your studio or classroom by contacting Stephen Battaglia:
37593 Pineknoll Ave.
Palm Desert, CA 92211

The five-set book series costs $37.45 and the five-set Instructor Guides with CDs cost $53.60. Shipping is included in the price.

Check back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Stephen Battaglia, author of the Mr. McSymphony series.

Free Crayola Dry Erase Marker

Thanks to my friend, Crystal, over at for alerting me to this Crayola Dry Erase marker freebie!

If you want to learn how to save lots of money on regular household purchases and find out about all sorts of freebies, I highly recommend that you subscribe to Crystal’s blog or at least become a regular reader. I’m not even a Mom yet, but Money Saving Mom is loaded with all sorts of great deals from which anyone can benefit!

Win a Free Practice Incentive Kit!

As I was clearing all the items from last year’s practice incentive – Go For The Gold! – out of my studio, I contemplated how I would love to pass on all these materials to another teacher who was interested in implementing the theme in his or her studio. I decided that the best way to do this would be to have a drawing here on Music Matters Blog. But I’m leaving town next Tuesday, so the deadline for entering the drawing is Monday, August 18 at midnight (CST). Here’s the scoop:

If you would like a chance to win my set of studio materials to implement the Go For The Gold! practice incentive in your studio, all you have to do is purchase the downloadable package from my previous post or click the button below. I will randomly draw one name from all those who purchase the package and will send the winner the whole set. The set I send you will include (click here to view the picture from my studio):
* Studio Wall Banner
* Studio Wall Verse
* Olympic Rings Hanging Display
* Labeled Team Placards
* Blank Student Placards
* A Complete Set of Numbers for Recording Points
* Labeled Pockets to Store the Numbers Throughout the Year

All that leaves you to do is put everything up on the wall, label the placards with your student’s names (using the pre-formatted file in the package you download) and print out the assignment book file included in the package. For someone who is really on-the-ball, you could pull this together for a practice incentive program this year. Otherwise, you can save it away and pull it out for next year and be ready to go in a matter of minutes. 🙂

Remember, the deadline for entry is Monday, August 18 at midnight (CST).

Go For The Gold!

The practice incentive I developed for last year – Go For The Gold! – is now compiled and available for purchase.

Go For The Gold Cover Image

In the spirit of the Olympics, I developed a practice incentive with an Olympic theme. One new thing I tried was assigning each student to a team and then basing the winners on the total team points rather than individual points. This worked surprisingly well! The students developed more of a sense of camaraderie than they have with any of the other practice incentives I’ve developed, so that was exciting to see. I also designed the system in such a way that every student, regardless or age or ability, had an equal chance to earn points and propel their team forward. Each team had a variety of ages and levels represented and each team color corresponded to one of the colors of the Olympic rings. Here’s a photo of my studio wall part way through one of the sessions:

Go For The Gold Studio Wall

The Go For The Gold practice incentive package contains:
* several more photos from my studio
* all the files you need to print the studio wall decorations and individual assignment books for each student that are specially designed for the Go For The Gold practice incentive
* a list of instructions to walk you through what to do to prepare for the start of the program
* an overview of how the program works from week to week
* additional notes
* a list of resources I recommend

Once you complete payment, you will receive an e-mail with a link to download the file package. Read the teacher_instructions.doc file first and you should be up and running in no time! Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail if you have any questions.

Carnegie Hall Listening Adventures

Here’s another great site you should check out: the Carnegie Hall Listening Adventures website. You can register an account for yourself and even set up multiple accounts for your students and monitor their progress as they work through the different phases of the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra program. It looks very interesting and I look forward to exploring it in more depth.

Incredible Music History Resource!

You must go check out the Keeping Score website, developed by the San Francisco Symphony! According to the website, “Keeping Score is the San Francisco Symphony’s national, multi-year program designed to make classical music more accessible to people of all ages and musical backgrounds. Keeping Score uses media in its most public and accessible forms to show that classical music can speak to everyone and instill a lifelong love of music.

There are five individual sites you can explore: Primal Moves, Beethoven, Copland, Stravinski and Tchaikovsky. Most of the sites highlight a specific work by the composer and include a variety of articles, images and videos to help you learn about the composer. The sites are aesthetically gorgeous and technologically cutting-edge. You can follow along on the score while watching a video of the symphony performers or you can explore the instruments of the orchestra and watch a short video clip of that section playing a portion of the piece and much, much more! Absolutely fascinating! I know I could spend hours working my way through everything this site has to offer!

Learn about the Instruments of the Symphony Orchestra

Here’s a handy website I ran across as I’ve been trying to track down good website resources for my students. You can click on each of the sections in the orchestra to see a close up view of the instrument, complete with labels for each of the different parts of the instrument. The information is certainly not extensive, but it’s a great overview!