Monday, November 21, 2011

JAMM's Winter Concert: Make Room for 120 Young Musicians

Mr. Xia, JAMM's violin instructor, leads his ever-growing orchestra (Photo: Michael Penn, Juneau Empire)

A sea of blue JAMM t-shirts filled the Glacier Valley Elementary School gymnasium, as 120 kindergarten and 1st grade students stood proudly, ready to share with families and friends what they've learned.  One year ago, the first kindergarten class of JAMM violinists graduated from their Paper Violins.  It was an exciting moment for these young musicians because this performance represented a rite of passage: one that acknowledged them as responsible and skilled violinists ready to play the real violin.   

Now, as 1st graders, they not only had the thrill of performing in front of a packed audience, but also the honor of giving the next class of kindergartners a glimpse of where they might be a year from now. 

Here are highlights from their two performances:

JAMM would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their generous support of this fledgling program.  In just over a year's time,  you have ensured that all kindergarten and 1st grade students receive access to quality musical instruction during school hours.  From the entire Glacier Valley community, thank you!

Association of Alaska School Boards
Great Blue Heron Fund 
Greg Burger and Mary DeSmet
Classics for Kids
Douglas-Dornan Foundation
Glacier Valley Parent Group
Juneau Community Foundation
Juneau School District 
Stan and Amy Lujan
Kim Poole
Rasmuson Foundation

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What About Those Test Scores?

Kindergartners proudly sing "This is My Violin"
The arts are often difficult to quantify.  When Glacier Valley first launched JAMM, we knew we were in a unique position.
  1. JAMM takes place during school hours, which eliminates variables connected with after-school programs or charter schools whose families may be self-selecting based on interest, transportation, etc.
  2. ALL kindergartners receive violin instruction, which solves the challenge of establishing a random sample.
  3. Glacier Valley is a Title I, which means many of our children are eligible for free and reduced lunch, identifying them as at-risk
Should make for a solid research study, right?  Not exactly.  In order to establish a causal link between instrumental music and academic success, JAMM would need to identify a control group among its kindergartners.  This would mean denying some of our students free violin instruction, something JAMM would not consider.

What we could do is establish a correlational link by comparing the kindergartners fall and spring MAP (Measurement of Academic Success).  By doing so, we'd also be comparing their scores before and after receiving eight months of violin instruction.

What were the results?  In the words of Phil Loseby, the Juneau School District's Assessment Coordinator, "Significant!"

Here are the results in graph form:

GV Kindergartners' Fall Reading Scores:  No Violin Instruction

GV Kindergartners' Winter Reading Scores:  5 months of Violin Instruction

GV Kindergartners' Spring Reading Scores:  8 months of Violin Instruction

Here are their year-end scores in math:

GV Kindergartners' Spring Math Scores

These scores certainly caught the attention of the school district!  Even though JAMM can't make a causal link between music and academic success, it mirrors the ever-growing body of research that can. 

Glacier Valley continues to work with the school district to identify ways to measure JAMM's success. In the eyes of the participating teachers, students, parents and sponsors; JAMM's success is apparent and meeting its goals of community pride, parental involvement and student engagement.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Abreu Fellows Intern at JAMM

This year, three of the ten Abreu Fellows from the Class of 2011 chose JAMM for their internship.  Alsyia Lee and Stephanie Hsu are here for three weeks and Julie Davis, for four.  These talented women wanted to extend the teacher training experience I provided in Boston - observing the first, team-teaching the second and teaching on their own while I supported them on the sidelines, observing and filming. 
JAMM is the ideal place for this kind of embedded professional development.  It's a place where teachers can observe all age-ranges, teach the same lesson to several classes with the opportunity to reflect and refine each time and participate in before, during and after-school music programs.  The fellows' internship also coincided with the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council teaching artist series, which all three were able to attend.  Sessions focused on classroom management, brain theory, curriculum standards and dynamic lesson planning. 

Some of the effective teaching practices they applied included:
  • developing an attention-getting hook
  • using positive language
  • making transitions fluid and connected to the lesson
  • presenting information in manageable chunks
  • building a lesson that breathes in and out
  • practicing a credible body and voice
  • creating episodes using location, emotion, movement and relevance
  • providing choices for students
  • using enforceable statements
  • giving consequences with empathy
  • experience first, intellectualize later
JAMM and Juneau have benefited greatly from having Alysia, Stephanie and Julie here.  Alysia is a vocalists who started her own non-profti; Stephani taught at an alternative high school in NYC and plays viola; and Julie holds a music education degree from Northwestern, during which she taught in an after-school strings program, the YOURS project.  During their stay here, Julie and Stephanie played in the Juneau Symphony concert of Sweeney Todd.  Alysia spent hours at the Juneau Public Library using the Foundation Research Center to identify grant-giving organizations for JAMM, and all of them choreographed a dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller for Glacier Valley's Harvest Carnival. 

Every time I observe another teacher in action, I always come away from the experience a better one.  Whether it was watching Alysia teach breathing exercises to the Morning Musicians, Julie encouraging partner activities in violin class (see photo above) or Stephanie inspiring students to create a soundscape from a painting, my teaching toolbox expanded. 

Alysia sings "Frog in the Meadow" for Mrs. Peters' Kindergarten class using novelty to make repetition engaging

Thank you, Abreu Fellows, for making the journey to Juneau, working with JAMM and making us feel very much a part of a larger El Sistema network.  Below is a video of Julie and Stephanie serenading Mrs. Peters' class during a very special moment:  the first time the entire class held the real violin.  In addition there are more photos documenting their time with us.  Stephanie, we also appreciate you dedicating a blog entry about your experience here. 


The Abreu Fellows' first week with JAMM observing our team-teaching model in action
Julie helps one of our Morning Musicians "pass off" on a piece for an upcoming concert

Stephanie joins Mrs. Steininger's kindergarten class for "This is My Violin"
Alysia explores creative movement with Mrs. Peters' class