Mrs. Niu - Mrs. Rzasa -
For all information regarding the Memorial String Orchestra Program, please click HERE.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

String Update/Assignment

We had another great day of lessons today!

Not much to share except….Practice! :)
To play along with the recordings, click HERE.

Only 2 orchestra rehearsals left until the concert.  I'm excited…are you?!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Weekly Review 11/23-11/27

Since we only had two days of music this week, our 4th and 5th graders tried out for dancing and instrumental parts for their Winter Concert while our 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders continued to play the, "Turkey Tango" game. Mrs. Ferullo's class also performed "The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven" to Mrs. Cyr's class. Here is their performance:

Here is Mrs. Cyr's and Mrs. Ferullo's class performing the Turkey Tango:

Mrs. Rzasa and I are so thankful to be a part of your child's musical life. We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

Monday, November 23, 2015

String Update and Assignment

We had an excellent day of lessons today, and an AMAZING orchestra rehearsal last Thursday!

Of course, the assignment this week is for all students to continue practicing their concert music.  Today we worked on Jazzy Old Saint Nick, and everyone was able to play through the whole song - it was great!  Here are a few things to remember:

  • Violins - you have a low 2 on the A string: C natural.  Your first finger will land on the tape, and your second finger will squish up against it (between the first and second tapes).
  • Violas - There is a tricky part right before rehearsal 11.  Play the C natural (low second finger) on the A string, followed by a regular F# (on the tape) on the D string.  
  • Cellos - Keep counting those half notes!  You play your notes for two beats each, while the violins are playing (faster) quarter notes.
  • Bass - Focus on the quarter notes you have, especially the ones you play when the rest of the orchestra is playing a whole note.
Visit the Orchestra Recordings page to play along with the piano accompaniment.  This will help you practice. 

PLEASE NOTE:  Next week, there is no school on Thursday due to parent/teacher conferences.  Orchestra rehearsal will be at recess on TUESDAY, December 1st.  

Here's a video of our violin/bass 4th grade lesson group.  It's so exciting to have a bass player this year to round out the orchestra!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Weekly Review 11/16 - 11/20

Happy Friday!

This week, the first graders reviewed their fun "Hello Mr. Turkey" activity from last week.  Then, they watched the Marvelous Musical Mansion.  It follows three children who visit a special musical mansion to solve a mystery.  They sing folk songs and familiar rhymes, learn about instruments, and compose a tune.  We will finish the video next week!

The second grade students finished the "5 Fat Turkeys" song.  They played two different ostinato patterns on the Orff Instruments:  metallophone, glockenspiel, and xylophone.  They also reviewed their mallet technique so that the accompaniment would sound beautiful!  For their second music class, they learned about a popular dance style called the tango.  They played the Turkey Tango game which helped them review how to read rhythms.

Third grade students learned about verse and refrain form while singing a hilarious song called "The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven"(to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean").  There are 5 verses in this song, and each was assigned to a different group of students.  The groups acted out and sang their verse in front of the class.   When we got to the refrain (also called a chorus), the whole class sang together!  Check out the videos from Mrs. Kipp and Mrs. Gerry's classes:

The fourth and fifth graders have been working hard to prepare for our December 16th concert.  They finished learning all chorus songs, and now we will be memorizing the lyrics!  Students may practice at home by using THIS LINK.  We also auditioned the students who are interested in the solo parts - they all did an amazing job!  In addition, the fifth graders played the Turkey Tango game, reviewed some tricky music terminology, and finally watched the video for the haunting orchestral piece, Danse Macabre.

We hope you have an awesome weekend!

Monday, November 16, 2015

String Update/Assignment

As we approach our concert (only one month away!  December 16th), students should be practicing ALL concert music!!

Here is a list of our pieces:

  • D Major Scale and Round
  • Frere Jacques and Round
  • Carol of the Bells
  • Jazzy Old Saint Nick
  • Tango and Cha-Cha (5th grade only!)
  • Concerto for Triangle
4th graders will be starting Jazzy Old Saint Nick in their next lesson. Other than that, students should have all concert music.  

Don't forget:
  • Our full orchestra meets Thursday at recess.  Bring all of your music to this Thursday's rehearsal!
  • Play-along recordings will be added as I finish them.  So far we have two - you can check them out HERE and play along to Jazzy Old Saint Nick and Concerto for Triangle!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Weekly Review 11/9-11/13

Although we had a short week in school this week, three days of school did not stop us from having fun in music!

Congratulations to all our 4th grade students who sang so beautifully at our Veteran's Day Assembly! 

Our first graders learned a Thanksgiving song called, " Hello Mr. Turkey How Are You?" Every time we sang the phrase, "hello Mr. Turkey," we had to find a new friend in the room to shake hands with. It was also fun to gobble and wobble like a turkey. We also learned a song called, "Over the River and Through the Woods." It is also a children's classic which we read in class last week. After learning the first verse of the song, the students learned how to sing the song in sign language. Here is Mrs. Panagiotopoulous and Mrs. Farrell's class signing and performing the song:

The second grade students sang "Five Fat Turkeys," then learned two percussion ostinato parts to go along with the song. The ostinato parts were, "Cook- Cook" and "Five-Fat-Tur-keys." An ostinato is a repeated rhythm or a phrase. Each of the students played the ostinato parts either on a xylophone or on a glockenspiel.

The third graders learned a harvest song and sang about pumpkins, autumn breezes, and Thanksgiving! Once they mastered the song ("Pumpkins are Ripe"), they were able to play an ostinato (accompaniment part) on the Orff instruments. They reviewed mallet technique and focused on playing with a steady beat and accurate rhythm. Half the class performed on the Orff instruments while the other half of the class performed an interpretative dance to this song. Here are some performances:

In chorus, our 4th and 5th grade students finished learning Happy Holidays/Auld Lang Syne and Five Favorite Holiday Songs. Please start memorizing your lyrics!

Have a fabulous weekend!

Monday, November 9, 2015

String Update and Assignment

Fourth Graders
4A:  Today we played through "Frere Jacques" - the students did an excellent job learning the song by rote, and then we went back and checked our staff notation!


  • D Major Scale
  • Frere Jacques
  • Continue to work on Concerto for Triangle

4B/C:  Today we rehearsed Concerto for Triangle. Some of the violinists received an adapted part - you may recycle your old one!

  • D Major Scale
  • Frere Jacques
  • Concerto for Triangle
  • Carol of the Bells

Fifth Graders
5A/B:  Today we ran through Carol of the Bells and Concerto for Triangle (and one group also did Jazzy Old Saint Nick).  We played with the piano accompaniment, and it was a blast!

  • D Major Scale
  • All concert tunes!

This Thursday is an orchestra rehearsal for Violas, Cellos, and Bass ONLY.  Violins- please continue to practice at home.

I will be added recordings to the blog for you to practice with.  They can be found HERE.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Weekly Review 11/2 - 11/6

This week, the first graders performed different rhythmic patterns as solos!  It was fun to read each rhythm on the board, then translate them to body percussion (clapping).  We also discussed some important musical opposites:  high vs. low pitch.  We explored our high and low voices with the Splat Game, then learned how to sing "Bluebird."  The end of the song goes from a high to a low pitch!  Then, the students played the Bluebird circle game.  To prepare for Thanksgiving, we read "Over the River and Through the Wood" - next week, the students will sing the song.

The second grade students read a story called "Old Wind."  There are many different characters in the story, and each was represented by a different instrument.  The students played the hand drum, sand blocks, ratchet, vibraslap, whip, glockenspiel, chimes, or made sound effects with their voices.  Next week, we will share their recordings!

The third grade students finished their Ghost of John activity on the Boomwhackers.  We even added fun hand percussion instruments - the triangle and thunder drum!  We also brought out an old friend, Bony Legs, and he helped us learn the "Funeral March of the Marionette" by French composer Charles Gounod.   Then, we started a Harvest song: "Pumpkins are Ripe." Next week we will add the Orff instruments!

The fourth graders rehearsed their Veteran's Day music. We invite you to attend their assembly on Monday, November 9th at 1:15 p.m.  Please remind your child to wear red, white and blue. We can't wait to see you there!

This week, the fifth graders have been learning about Danse Macabre, a tone poem composed by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.  A tone poem is "a piece of orchestral music, typically in one movement, on a descriptive or rhapsodic theme" (source)   Danse Macabre is based on a poem (of the same name) written by Henri Cazalis- you can read the translation from French to English below:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.
The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden-trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking.
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack-
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the rooster has crowed.

We discussed the story behind the poem, and how it served as an inspiration for Saint-Saëns.  We followed a listening map and identified the various themes in the music.

It's an amazing piece of music, with haunting melodies and an incredible violin solo- please check it out below!

In chorus, all fourth and fifth grade students continued to work on Happy Holidays/Auld Lang Syne. Then, we rehearsed our newest piece, "Five Favorite Holiday Songs."  Some groups also worked on their grade level songs.

We hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Monday, November 2, 2015

String Update and Assignment

Fourth Graders
4A:  Today we played the "Concerto for Triangle" up to measure 9, then started "Carol of the Bells."  Remember to check the fingering guide (highlighted strings) if you have difficulties with your notes!


  • D Major Scale
  • Concerto for Triangle - see how far you can get!  Play pizzicato first, then add the bow.
  • Carol of the Bells
4B/C:  Today we played through all of Carol of the Bells.  Sadly, we only had time to play a little bit of the Concerto for Triangle.

  • D Major Scale
  • Concerto for Triangle - Try to play through the whole piece!
  • Carol of the Bells - G F# G E pattern - play this 20 times in a row.  Good luck! :)

Fifth Graders:
5A/B:  We played through all of Carol of the Bells - great job!

  • D Major Scale
  • Concerto for Triangle - All
  • Carol of the Bells - All.  Practice switching between pizzicato and arco (bowed) sections!
I'm looking forward to this Thursday's full orchestra rehearsal. See you there! :)