I was working recently with a classroom at the school from which I retired last year. The teacher was having her students present the play “Anne of Green Gables,” which her classes have done several times over the years that I taught at the school. To add more to the play I found music to go along with the dialogue.
An instrumental group made up of string and flute students played the title song from the musical “Anne of Green Gables” as an introduction to the play. When the orphan Anne euphorically rapturizes over the beauty of her first morning at the home where she is adopted by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, the class sang “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning.”
When Anne is introduced to Diana, who becomes her bosom companion, the girls portraying Anne and Diana sang “Kindred Spirits Are We.” Later, when Anne bought what she thought was a bottle of black hair dye from a traveling salesman because she wanted to change her hated carrot-red hair to a glistening romantic ebony color and her hair instead turns green, the song “Bein’ Green” was sung.
Anne, in her excitement over making a cake for the visit of the pastor and his wife, mistakenly uses cough syrup as she mixes up the ingredients. The result is a very bitter-tasting concoction. The class sang “A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down.”
Being part of this class production was such an enjoyable experience. It brought back fresh memories of the pleasant times I’ve done this before and my teaching sojourn spent in my music classrooms for 46 years.
Several months ago I spent two days as a music substitute teacher at the school. Unlike most “subs” who probably don’t know many of the students in the classes they are to be teaching, I was acquainted with nearly all of the young people. I knew the ones that zestfully participated in the music-making. I also knew the ones who might take a little “encouragement” to continue their focus in class.
And even though many months of my not being an active teacher had gone by, the teaching routines quickly returned as I stood before the students. Overall, it was a joyful time seeing my former music scholars and helping them prepare for a singing appointment that was coming up in the next few weeks.
It also reminded me of more of the quirky and humorous comments made by my students in my music classes. Such as:
Mr. Koch, to a class when learning a song in Spanish: “Can anyone speak Spanish?”
Student: “No. But I can speak Washington!”
Mr. Koch, teaching a lesson on beats in music:
“See my cuckoo clock over there? By watching the pendulum, you can see that it is keeping a steady beat.”
Student raises hand, and Mr. Koch, assuming the student was going to comment on my masterful presentation on beats in music: “Yes?”
Student: “We’re building a tree house at home!”
Mr. Koch, during a unit on the musical composition “Carnival of the Animals,” teaching the selection called “The Elephant”: “What do you notice most about an elephant?” — (thinking they would answer that pachyderm movements are of a slow and ponderous nature like the tempo of the music).
Student answer: “Their weight. They weigh more than a human — almost 160 pounds!”
Student in music class when learning a patriotic song about Washington and Lincoln: “Abraham Lincoln was our second president when George Bush died. He’s still alive. He’s 29 years old today.”
In third- and fourth-grade music classes we were creating haiku poems — a Japanese poetic form in which the first line contains five syllables, the second line seven and the third line five. We then set these poems to original pentatonic (built on a scale containing only five tones — Do, Re, Mi, Sol and La) melodies that were composed by the class. I wish I could share the tune with you, but here is the mouthwatering text one class came up with for their song. It’s entitled “Dessert.”
Delightful. Extra yummy.
And finally, a student answered in music class when asked a question about the music we were learning: “I don’t know nothin’. I know video games!”
Mr. Koch: (Sigh.)
Terry Koch is stepping into the life of a retiree after 46 years of teaching music at the grade school, high school and college levels. He can be reached at 509-529-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.