This week, Stanton’s Dan Clark is organizing some reading sessions at the OSU String Teacher Workshop. If you weren’t able to make attend the workshop yourself, here are some of Dan’s suggestions for your least experienced ensembles:
ANDALE JUANA, Joe Compello, Gr. 1
Translating as “Hurry up, Juana” – an admonishment to little Juan to break the piñata so kids can get at the candy, this simple but lively Mexican children’s song will be a fun multicultural lesson as well as practice in 3/4 time, with double upbows on the last two beats, either slurred or with separation. This rhythm is occasionally written as quarter note/half note which presents another lesson in reading rhythms. The lower strings also get to play ties over the barline. Add Latin percussion to provide a pulse on which to line up the rhythms and olé!
FANFARE AND CEREMONIAL PROCESSIONAL, Frank M. Rodgers, Easy
Does your school system have a “graduation ceremony” for elementary or middle school/junior high? Here is the perfect ceremonial march for the occasion. It’s easy to work up and sounds a whole lot more advanced than it is. The most challenging thing will be attaining a “long” staccato with both a line and a dot articulation. The basses also have to learn Bb in the G string. Wow – they get to use their second finger! You can also teach your students the meaning of simile and divisi. There is an optional advanced violin part in case you want some older students to play with the younger group and an optional easy cello part if you are shy on basses or if they are not strong. Solid and inspirational.
SCARBOROUGH FAIR, Arr. Brian Balmages, Gr. 1
Wow – this is not just another arrangement of the favorite English folk song. It is absolutely gorgeous and has only a few technical demands, which make it an excellent teaching vehicle for young players – playing C natural, using hairpin dynamics and listening to dissonant harmonies that resolve. Give it to your high school group for a Fall concert after only a couple of rehearsals, then take it down to your beginners to work on those elements and end up with a very mature-sounding Spring concert piece for that group! Your students’ parents will be proud!
SNEAKING SUSPICION, Doug Spata, Gr. 1
There are a few composers whose name instantly elicits comments such as “He/she is so creative and imaginative!” or “My students love anything he/she writes!” Doug Spata is one of those composers. Here he takes only notes on the A and D string (G and D on bass) uses nothing more complicated than eighth notes, goes back to pizzicato that students first learned when they picked up their instrument – and he makes magic! Without the bow to worry about, you can concentrate on teaching your students the rhythmic rest patterns, the effective dynamics and listening to the call-and-response of their fellow players. The piece is so much fun, with its “cartoon tiptoe” style that your students won’t realize they’re learning something!
STRING’N ALONG, Frank M. Rodgers, Very Easy
Frank Rodgers spent 30 years in the trenches at inner-city schools, so he knows first-hand that sometimes you need a piece that will be a confidence builder that is easy to teach and easy to learn for young beginners. All the notes are on the A, D and G strings, it uses detache bowing with an occasional (optional) staccato bow and rhythms are basic quarter and half notes with an occasional eighth note. The four measure introduction is the trickiest part, with eighth notes and rhythmic independence – but you can leave those measures off if you need to! The ultimate goal – make it sound good and give your group some success which will build confidence in the ranks!