March isn't just a month on the calendar; it's a symphony of celebration – Music in Our Schools Month®! 🎵✨ For 40 years, the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as the month to recognize the importance of music education for all children. Let's take a moment to appreciate the profound impact that music education has on our students' lives, transcending beyond the notes on a staff.

My school operated on a year-round calendar for many years and was regularly on break for two weeks in March. This made planning large, month-long activities impossible for me. Still, I found several simple ways to call attention to our school music program. Choose one or two to implement this year!

Simple Ways to Celebrate MIOSM®

  1. Bulletin Board: Create a bulletin board outside your music room featuring photos of students making music. Include a "There's Music in Our School" list of field trips, guest musicians, and performances. You may amaze yourself at the number of music events that have taken place in your school this year!
  2. Staff Survey: Send a brief survey to your faculty and staff asking them questions about their past and present music involvement. Were you involved in a music ensemble in school? Are you currently a member of any music ensembles? Do you play an instrument? What is your favorite style of music? Post the answers on a bulletin board for students to read. For a more interactive board, separate the staff names from the answers and ask students to guess who is who.
  3. Guest Musicians: Invite a guest musician to perform for or with your students. The guest musicians can be local professionals, parents, school administrators, or school board members. If you have a large musical community, consider inviting different musicians for each grade level or class. These guests can be spread out over the month. 
  4. Teacher/Musician Performance: Another option is for YOU to perform for your students. Sing or play your instrument for them. Choose whatever style of music you are the most comfortable with and one that your students might be different than what you do with them in class. 
  5. School Announcements: Create several short, informational announcements supporting music education that can be included once a week or even daily in the school announcements. Topics might include composer or musician facts, brief listening examples, or music advocacy statements.

Show Off Your Students with a Concert

Planning a student performance in March? Whether you're organizing an elaborate concert or a casual gathering to share some musical fun with your school community, consider incorporating these ideas:

Highlight Diversity: Showcase the various performing groups, guest artists, or music field trips that enrich your school's music program each year. Celebrate the diverse talents and experiences within your musical community.

Amplify Advocacy: Take the opportunity to read aloud several music advocacy statements during the performance. Raise awareness about the importance of music education and its positive impact on students' lives.

Informative "Informance": Consider hosting a simple "informance" to give insight into the types of music learning happening in regular music classes. This could involve short demonstrations, explanations of musical concepts, or even interactive activities to engage the audience.

Interactive Elements: Incorporate interactive elements into the performance to actively involve the audience. This could include sing-alongs, audience participation segments, or opportunities for students to share stories or reflections about their musical journey.

Collaborative Projects: Showcase collaborative projects involving multiple disciplines or departments within the school. This could involve joint performances with the drama club, art installations inspired by music, or multimedia presentations combining music with other creative forms.

By incorporating these suggestions, you can create a memorable and impactful student performance that celebrates the joy and importance of music in our schools.

Music Advocacy is Important

As we celebrate Music in Our Schools Month®, consider how many ways you might use this curated collection of music advocacy statements.  These powerful affirmations highlight the transformative impact of music education on students' lives, making them perfect additions to concerts or school announcements.
Unlocking Cognitive Potential: 
Music instruction isn't just about hitting the right notes; it's a cognitive workout for young minds. Studies show that students engaged in music programs often exhibit higher IQ scores and enhanced academic performance. It's like a secret code to unlock their full cognitive potential.

Orchestrating Reading Success: 
Reading and music dance together in a harmonious partnership. Learning to read music enhances language processing skills, creating neural connections that fortify reading abilities. It's a literary symphony conducted by the magic of musical notes.

More Than Musical Notes: 
But it's not just about reading music; making music has its own set of benefits.  Actively participating in music creation strengthens memory, attention, and executive functions – skills that seamlessly transfer to reading tasks. So, whether they're composing their melodies or decoding musical notes, students are gearing up for success in the literary realm.

Rhythm and Melody: 
A Cognitive Ballet: Rhythm and melody skills are the unsung heroes of cognitive development. They boost language and math abilities by enhancing pattern recognition, auditory discrimination, and a deep understanding of mathematical concepts within the structure of music. It's a cognitive ballet where every beat and note contributes to a well-rounded mind.

Building Communities through Music: 
Beyond the cognitive perks, music education is a community builder. Collaborative music-making teaches teamwork, communication, and mutual respect. Group performances create a sense of belonging and pride, fostering a supportive community within the classroom. It's about creating connections that resonate beyond the music room.

Emotional Intelligence in Harmony: 
Music classes are a playground for Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Through playing instruments, singing, and collaborating, students explore self-expression, emotional regulation, and empathy. It's a symphony of emotional intelligence where every note contributes to a more emotionally aware and connected community.

Music for Joy's Sake: 
Yet, amidst all these cognitive and emotional benefits, let's not forget the simple joy of making music. Music for the sake of making music is a celebration of creativity, self-expression, and the sheer delight of creating something beautiful together. It nurtures a love for the art form that lasts a lifetime.

Let's Celebrate!

I encourage you to consider ways, either small or big,, that you can highlight music in YOUR school. For even more ideas,  and the official graphics, sample news announcements, and more, visit the National Association for Music Education website.

As we celebrate Music in Our Schools Month®, let's amplify our voices in support of music education. It's not just about playing instruments; it's about orchestrating a future where every student has the opportunity to experience the transformative power of music. 🎶💙

Musically Yours,

Picture a lively music class where students embark on a rhythmic adventure, guided by the playful notes of the jazz era. It's not just about learning notes; it's about creating a vibrant symphony of skills that will stay with them for a lifetime. Using jazz music to introduce these musical skills brings a bit of lively fun to your lessons. Because the musical elements that make jazz music so fun are also present in many other genres of music, once students have a grasp on the concept, it will be easy to transfer the skill to a different style of music. 

Here's your guide to fostering essential music skills with a jazz twist, tailored for our budding maestros.

1. Syncopation - Adding a Dash of Surprise: Introduce syncopation as the spice that adds flair to the rhythm. By emphasizing off-beats, students not only develop a sense of timing but also a groove that'll get their classmates tapping their feet. Syncopation is the secret ingredient that turns a simple rhythm into a musical adventure. For an introduction to syncopation, consider listening to Harlem Stride Style Piano music, contrasting the left and right hand parts. You can find a complete lesson that includes a Syncopation Chant here: The Great "Jazz" Migration and Harlem Stride Style Pianists

2. Improvisation - Let the Creativity Flow: Jazz is the perfect playground for unleashing creativity. Encourage your young musicians to explore their own musical ideas. Picture the joy on their faces as they compose their melodies, even if it starts with just a few musical doodles. One simple way to encourage improvisation is to choose a very familiar melody, and then sing the melody using neutral syllables such as "bah." Finally, improvise new rhythms for the melody. 

3. Scat Singing - Vocal Jazz Magic: Invite your students to discover the joy of scat singing, where words take a backseat, and voices become instruments. It's like a musical conversation where they get to express themselves freely. Jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald would be proud! One of the earliest jazz musicians to use scat singing was Louis Armstrong. Learn more about Louis and early New Orleans Jazz, including a scat singing practice activity here: Louis Armstrong and New Orleans Jazz

4. Listening Skills - Tuning into Musical Stories - In the magical world of jazz, listening isn't just hearing; it's like following a musical story. Encourage your young ears to pick up on the different instruments playing in harmony. It's a bit like solving a musical mystery – can they identify the saxophone's smooth whispers or the lively conversation between the drums and piano? As their listening skills grow, so does their ability to appreciate the rich tales woven by jazz musicians. Swing music and big bands go hand in hand. Learn more about swing, the instruments of a big jazz band, the Harlem Renaissance, and Duke Ellington here: Harlem Renaissance Musicians: Duke Ellington & Bennie Goodman

Instrument Exploration - Discovering Jazz's Sound Palette: Transform your classroom into a mini jazz club by introducing the concepts of a jam session and collective improvisation. Let the kids get hands-on with simple percussion instruments or even makeshift ones. This hands-on exploration not only sharpens their listening skills but also deepens their appreciation for the diverse sounds of jazz. 

One of my favorite lessons in 4th & 5th grades used "found sounds" like cardboard boxes and shakers made from soda cans or plastic water bottles. Following listening examples and discussion of complementary rhythms and leaving space for others to play, we jammed. We created a groove. Of course, our early efforts fell apart quickly. After a short discussion about what sounded good and what went wrong, we tried again. Each attempt at creating a groove was a little better. I did not assign any parts, the students were improvising on their own and making corrections as a group. It was awesome! The same activity would work using classroom percussion instruments. I encourage you to try it!

5. Jazz Lingo - Adding Some Swing to the Vocabulary: Infuse your music lessons with a touch of jazz slang just for fun! Introduce terms like "ax" for instruments, "chops" for musical skills, and "gig" for a performance opportunity. It's a playful way to teach music while also immersing your students in the vibrant culture of jazz. Imagine their smiles as they confidently say, "Let's jam, teach!"

With these added words, your classroom becomes a linguistic jazz haven, making every lesson a delightful blend of education and entertainment. Need some inspiration? Try out this Jazz Terms Word Wall & Write the Room.

Done-ForYou Jazz Lessons
Planning time is always at a premium, right? I have prepared five done-for-you lessons on Early Jazz & Blues that will keep your students engaged. Each lesson includes some jazz history, biography info on an influential musician, listening examples, and at least one activity to get your students to make music using one of the jazz elements. The bundle also includes printable exits, an Easel quiz activity, and an Easel assessment. 

Take my jazz resources for a test drive! Learn more about my free resource, in this post: 
Bringing The Swingin' Big Apple Dance Craze Of 1937 To Your Music Classroom.

Grooving into Musical Mastery:
Now, let's groove into the heart of our elementary music classroom. In a survey conducted with elementary music teachers, 90% reported positive changes in students' musical engagement after incorporating jazz elements. 

With these five key elements, your elementary music class is set to swing and sway with the delightful rhythms of jazz.  So, fellow music mentors, let's embrace the spirit of jazz in our classrooms. It's not just about teaching music; it's about nurturing a love for it that will echo in their hearts for years to come.

Musically yours,