The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
How do we engage students and educators to inspire a love of creating and performing music and also further Core Standards?
Link Up was selected as the program by which to inspire a love of creating and performing music for fourth grade elementary school students and their music educators for many reasons. Link Up is the curriculum used in schools by music educators from the beginning of the school year and offers a wide-ranging repertoire of age-appropriate music that is engaging and fun. Repertoire includes both vocal pieces and recorder pieces and the culminating concerts include two listening pieces. Dance and movement is incorporated in the final piece, ?Oye.? Students and educators have a goal they are working towards from September until the mid-March culminating concerts when they perform with the ISCS musicians.
Arts Core Standards are furthered as follows. Creating (anchors 1 – 3) begin at the start of the school year with students and teachers using the LU curriculum to learn vocal and recorder pieces and continue to improve abilities through the school year until the culminating concerts. Performing anchors are furthered at the culminating concerts when students perform the repertoire together with the ISCS musicians. Responding (7-9) occur both in music classrooms at school and at the culminating concerts as does Connecting (10-11).
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
Creating (anchors 1-3). My teacher is very patient in teaching us music. We get better every time we meet. We are working towards a big concert in March and we want to be prepared. I am happy to sing and that Covid is over.
Performing (anchors 4-6). We’ve been practicing our songs and are ready to perform with the Symphony. The musicians onstage are really good, and we sound good singing along with them and playing our recorders. What a fun concert! I wish it were longer and I could do it again! Teachers were smiling and almost crying.
Responding (anchors 7-9). We’ve learned about the composers that wrote the songs we’re singing and playing on recorder. We have learned about the instruments in the orchestra that we’ll be playing with. My teacher helps us with melody and rhythm so we improve and sound better. The concert with the ISCS in Jensen Hall was amazing and so much fun. I couldn’t stop smiling.
Connecting (anchors 10-11). The music we learned and performed was fun and not boring because the pieces were all very different. I loved playing with the professional musicians with my classmates. I learned to sing in Spanish for my favorite song `Oye!`
I was surprised by how greatly Link Up impacted the music educators that worked closely with their 4th grade students to prepare the vocal and recorder pieces to perform with the Idaho State-Civic Symphony at the March culminating concerts in Jensen Hall. After the concerts, I was able to speak directly with most of the music educators and get their immediate and moving responses. They described the event as ?pure joy? and couldn’t believe how engaged their ?most challenging? students had been during the concert. And, all expressed how much the program meant to them and how important it was to have Link Up continue in 2022-23.
One teacher captured the sentiments of all in a beautiful email, writing `. . . we music teachers can get a bit overwhelmed and worn-out, even to the point of forgetting why we do what we do. This concert was a reminder for me of how much I love music, and how much fulfillment it brings me to see my students enjoying making music. I left the concert feeling refreshed and excited to teach again . . . Please keep doing what you’re doing and remember that when you use your musical skills and talents it can make a big impact on people’s lives that you might never know about. You brought a lot of joy today!`
Communication with all involved was key to making the project a success. Communication began with music educators in early September of 2021 to ensure that they understood the goals of the projects, were comfortable with and had the materials needed to teach the Link Up curriculum to their 4th grade students, and felt confident about their students? abilities and preparation and expectations for the March 2023 culminating concerts. Communication with others was also key, including other admin staff (librarian and personnel manager), the conductor and musicians, production crew and board member volunteers. Early, clear and frequent communication helped to make the project a success. Planning well ahead for various steps leading up to the culminating concert was also essential to success and to productive communication. I worked closely with Link Up National and the staff helped greatly as I had never produced a Link Up event.
If I had had an assistant to help with this very detailed and labor intensive project, I would have gathered more information and data from music educators about what was happening in the classroom and student connection with and responsiveness to the Link Up curriculum and related educational resources. I would also have been able to gather data before, during, and after the concert. It would be nice to have more data on what went well for students and educators rather than anecdotes about how positive it was for all involved.