Music Website Homepage

This site is maintained by Mr. Aaron Booz, music and band teacher at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in the Bethel Park School District in southwestern Pennsylvania. You can always contact me with questions at booz.aaron@bphawks.org.

To learn more about music in all levels of the Bethel Park School District, visit our Music Department Website.

Use the sidebar to the left or the links at the bottom of the page to navigate this site.


Monthly Music Blog Posts


May 1, 2018

by Mr. Booz


May is an exciting month for music at Bethel Park Elementary Schools. Here’s what we’re looking forward to in each grade level during the end of this school year:


As of this month, our first grade students can now read and write simple musical rhythms in quarter and eighth notes! This is just their first step towards music literacy, which is the ability to read and write musical notation. Over the next three years at Lincoln Elementary, we will build on these abilities, until they have a strong understanding of how both rhythm and pitch are written.


Speaking of musical notation, our second graders are just about to complete their fourth and final rhythm unit this school year. They can now read and write musical rhythms in duple meter (meaning 2 sounds per beat) and triple meter (meaning 3 sounds per beat) both with and without rests (beats of music that have no sound.) In third grade, they will be ready to start reading and writing pitches (higher and lower sounds) on a musical staff.


This week, parents of our third grade students will receive a letter about choosing a Band or Strings instrument to start learning in fourth grade. You can find a digital copy of that letter at this link.


Fourth grade students will be giving their Band and Strings Spring Concerts next week.


This is the final Music Blog Post of the school year. I want to wish all of our Lincoln families a healthy, happy, and very musical summer vacation. Best wishes to a great group of 4th graders at Neil Armstrong next year, and I’ll look forward to seeing everyone else in the fall!


-Mr. Booz



April 1, 2018

by Mr. Booz


This month’s post will be short one, with just a quick note about how each grade level has been making music lately:


Congratulations to our fourth grade students on an excellent Chorus Concert this past Monday, March 26! Our 250+ Bethel Park fourth graders sang five songs from memory on the High School stage, and you can hear those recordings at our Music Class Recordings page.


Over the next six weeks, both the Fourth Grade Band and Fourth Grade Strings will present their Spring Concerts:

  • Mrs. Sheffer’s Fourth Grade Strings students from all five Bethel Park elementary schools will have their concert at 7:00 pm in the Bethel Park High School Auditorium on Wednesday, May 9. The fourth graders will be joined by the Neil Armstrong Sixth Grade Strings and High School Symphonic Orchestra as well.

  • Similarly, our Abraham Lincoln Band students will combine with the students from the other four elementary schools to present their concert in the High School Auditorium on Tuesday, May 8, at 7:00 pm.


Third graders will learn about the instruments of the orchestra, and then take a field trip on Thursday, March 3 to Heinz Hall in downtown Pittsburgh to hear the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s acclaimed Schooltime Concert. (Special thanks to the Abraham Lincoln PTO for sponsoring our students’ attendance each year!)


Among many other things, second graders will learn about how animals are represented by different instruments in the telling of the classic story “The Carnival of the Animals”, with music written by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens.


In the next month, our first grade students will also learn about different musical instruments through the work of the Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and his musical composition, “Peter and the Wolf”.


Happy Spring!



March 5, 2018

by Mr. Booz

Happy Music in Our Schools Month!

March is the month in which music programs all across the United States showcase the best of what school music has to offer to children, through concerts and other special events. Here are just some of the ways that we will be celebrating Music Month at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School:


First graders will put on a dramatic performance in their music classes. They will play instruments (xylophones, glockenspiels, and metallophones) as they take turns singing a song called “The Little Mice Are Sleeping” and acting out the parts of cats and mice.

 

Third graders will also put on a short musical play. They will sing and play instruments to accompany the telling of the folk story “It Could Always Be Worse”. Some students will act out the parts of the characters, and our first grade classes will serve as our audience.


Our second grade students will attend a “FaceTime field trip” performance by the Bethel Park High School Symphonic Band. What is a FaceTime field trip, you ask? Well, all three of our classes will come together to hear an interactive performance over the internet; they will watch and listen as grades 10-12 music students demonstrate instruments, share musical knowledge, and show our students how they work together as a group to produce remarkable music. As a special highlight, some of our students will get to ask questions to members of the Symphonic Band about what it’s like to be a high school musician.


Lastly, all of our fourth graders will join with their counterparts from the other four Bethel Park elementary schools to present their annual Chorus Concert in the High School Auditorium at 7:00 pm on Monday, March 26. This evening concert follows a number of other “Chorus Day” activities, which include a morning rehearsal at BPHS, a performance by the 8th grade Independence Singers, and singing with the Bethel Park High School “Top 21” select choir. If you’re wondering how great 300 fourth graders can sound, come join us on the evening of March 26 to find out!


Thanks for reading, and once again, Happy Music in Our Schools Month!



February 5, 2018

by Mr. Booz


For this month’s blog post, I want to share some recent information about how learning music in school is beneficial for young, developing minds.


1. The first link is to an article in the journal Education Week:


Music Training Sharpens Brain Pathways, Studies Say

“New research suggests that the complexity involved in practicing and performing music may help students’ cognitive development. Studies released last month at the Society for Neuroscience meeting here find that music training may increase the neural connections in regions of the brain associated with creativity, decision-making, and complex memory, and they may improve a student’s ability to process conflicting information from many senses at once. Research also found that starting music education early can be even more helpful.”


Read the whole article here.


2. This second link is from a study in Kansas, where researchers found that regardless of students’ initial grades or individual advantages, those who joined music electives in 5th through 12th grade were the highest achievers at the end of high school:


Kansas University research establishes link between music education, academic achievement

“Analysis showed that students engaged in music programs outperformed their peers on every indicator: grade-point average, graduation rate, ACT scores, attendance and discipline referrals. Overall, the study demonstrated that the more a student participates in music, the more positive these benefits become.”


Read the whole summary here.


3. Lastly, here is a link with a short, fascinating video sent to me by a Lincoln parent that explains what happens inside your student’s brain as they play music. Thanks for reading!





January 4, 2018

by Mr. Booz

Happy 2018! It’s good to be back to school after our winter break. This blog gives a rundown of what each grade level is learning in Music Classes.

In November, my blog post explained that our fourth graders were able to read, write and sing five different solfege pitches. (Solfege is a way of labeling different notes for singing and reading – you might recognize the sounds “mi, re, do”, as solfege syllables.) Now, in January, we will be adding the final three solfege pitches – “la, ti, and do”, and this allows us to sing, read, and write songs that use all eight solfege syllables. Practice with solfege allows students to mentally read and comprehend pieces of music, and our fourth graders have just entered a more advanced level of musical understanding!

Also this month, all of our third grade students will receive their recorders. Recorders are small, plastic melodic instruments that are held like a clarinet, but composers have written for the recorder as a classical instrument for hundreds of years. They take practice to learn to play with a good sound. I emphasize to the students that even though recorders may look like toys, we need to treat them with the same respect that we give to any other musical instrument. Here’s how we use recorders in 3rd and 4th grade in Bethel Park:

  • In January, we begin with just two pitches, and we play a different song each week, adding complexity and more notes as we go through the school year.

  • Later, in fourth grade, students will play songs that use 5, 6, and even 7 different pitches.

  • Playing recorder is a way to demonstrate our knowledge of pitch, rhythm, and music-reading, and recorders prepare children to learn other musical instruments in the future.

Our second graders have now learned four different group folk dances over the course of the school year. With names such as “Chimes of Dunkirk”, “Alabama Gal”, and “The Virginia Reel”, these dances provide the children with an energetic, full-group performance experience, connect the children to the history and culture of early American life, and provide them with a good opportunity to show their classroom teacher an impressive group performance at the end of the class. These folk dances continue in third and fourth grade, and our second graders are off to a good start!

The third week of January will be a very special time for our first graders. They will be playing their first piece of music on Orff instruments! (Orff instruments are xylophones and other barred percussion instruments of various sizes.) Playing these instruments allows the kids to practice playing as part of a group of musicians, as though they are members of an orchestra or a jazz band. Although the songs and patterns that we play and sing are very basic for now, the level of challenge in playing these instruments will gradually increase as they move through their elementary years!

I hope you and your children have had a good start to the year 2018. Thanks for reading, and please continue to check our music page each month for new updates!



December 9, 2017

by Mr. Booz


Happy Holidays to our Lincoln families! Our theme this month how kids can explore music beyond the regular school day.

  • Singing in a Chorus: In addition to church choirs, there are several local opportunities for our students to experience choral singing. The Pittsburgh Youth Chorus has a South Hills Neighborhood Training Choir, which rehearses at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair for 12 weeks on Tuesday evenings starting in January. This group is open to all second or third graders, with no auditions, and it’s a good way for elementary students to try out choral singing and see how they like it. I would encourage any of our students in second and third grade to try the Neighborhood Choir, and you can click here to register.

  • Private lessons outside of school: Now and then, parents ask me for private teacher recommendations for voice, piano, guitar, or drums. Here is what I can tell you from research and experience:

    • Private singing lessons are best saved for the high school years. In elementary and middle school, singing in a choir is the best way to develop the voice, as well as a love of singing.

    • Generally, the best instrument to study before age 9 is piano, and I can recommend several good piano teachers. Piano lessons can be a great experience for students even as young as age 3!

    • With the right teacher and small-sized instruments, bowed string instruments (violin, viola, cello) are a possibility in early elementary, or even before.

    • It’s best to wait until children are old enough (and big enough!) to handle guitar, band instruments, or percussion instruments. (In addition, a student should have a very well-developed sense of rhythm before starting to play percussion, including drums.)

  • A Fun Website: Cincinnati Public Radio hosts a free website specifically for elementary children with music lessons and games. If your child would like to try some fun educational music games on the computer, send them to Classics for Kids at www.classicsforkids.com.

  • Web-based Music Theory: For our older Lincoln students (3rd and 4th graders) who really want to dig into the details of how music works, they can check out the lessons and practice games at the excellent free site, www.musictheory.net.


Best wishes for an excellent Holiday season, and I’ll look forward to seeing your students in January for the second half of this 2017-2018 school year!



November 7, 2017

by Mr. Booz


We’re two months into the school year, and it’s time for an update on just some of what’s happening in Music classes at Lincoln. Take a look:

  • First Graders are continuing to explore their singing voices and to learn simple songs that help them learn to sing in tune. In addition, they have started to play classroom instruments such as sand blocks and hand drums in order to practice finding and keeping a steady beat.

  • Second Graders are singing songs with more complexity, and they are reviewing last year’s skills in reading and writing simple rhythm patterns. They are also building their musical independence by playing 2-part songs on xylophones and other barred percussion instruments.

  • Third Graders are about to start singing rounds and canons, which are songs that include harmony - two different pitches sounding at the same time. Also, they can now read and write a variety of rhythms, as well as 3 pitches on the musical staff. This is a big step forward in their music literacy - the ability of all students to read and write music, just like middle school and high school students do.

  • Fourth Graders continue to advance beyond the skills they learned in third grade. For example, they know the letter names of the treble clef staff, they can read and write 5 pitches, and they have recently resumed playing their recorders. Recorders are simple instruments that allow students to play everything they can sing. Recorders also help children develop their music literacy and prepare for future musical study in middle school and beyond.

  • Fourth Grade Band students have learned a Halloween song, and can read and play five different notes on their various instruments. They are now about to learn a sixth pitch and will soon start to learn several pieces of December holiday music.

  • Fourth Grade Strings students are also about to learn holiday music, and have learned to use their bow in addition to playing pizzicato (with the fingers) on their instruments. String players can also read and play an entire eight-pitch major scale.


I always ask the students to “share what they have learned at school with someone at home”. I invite you to ask your child sometime to sing you a song from Music Class, or at least to give you an update on what they are learning!


Have a happy Thanksgiving, and look for the next Blog Post next month.



October 16, 2017

by Mr. Booz


Picture this:


First graders, learning to sing in tune, and moving expressively to classical and jazz music...

Second graders, finding the steady beat, and playing fun singing games...

Third graders, reading and writing rhythms, and identifying orchestral instruments from recordings...

Fourth graders, reading and writing pitches, and performing on classroom instruments without teacher assistance...

Band students, reading and playing several pitches on their clarinets, trumpets, flutes, trombones, saxophones, bells, and baritone horns, with good posture and hand position.

String students, reading and playing several pitches on their violins, violas, and cellos, in pizzicato style.


We’re just 7 weeks in the 2017-2018  school year, and the above is just a small sampling of the skills that Lincoln students have been building in their music classes.


Our students learn all of the "music appreciation" concepts that parents may remember learning when they were elementary students - the instruments of the orchestra, composers, and musical time periods, etc. However, in Bethel Park, we place a high priority on students as musicians. Lincoln children also learn to sing, play, read, improvise, and write music with independence, and as a part of a musical team. It’s still early in the school year, but our young musicians are off to a good start!


Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our next blog post update next month!



August 30, 2017

by Mr. Booz


Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year! Around the start of each month, I will make a blog post on this page about what is new and exciting in your child’s Lincoln Elementary School music classes. Here are a few updates to get us started in this new year of music-making:


  • The Pittsburgh Youth Chorus is an excellent local program that many of our Lincoln and Bethel Park students have enjoyed in the past. Second and third grade students can join their South Hills Neighborhood Training Choir, which rehearses at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair for 12 weeks on Tuesday evenings starting this month. No audition is necessary, and I would encourage any of our students in those grades to try the Neighborhood Choir. Visit http://www.pittsburghyouthchorus.org/staff-view/neighborhood-training-choir/ for more information.

  • I know our fourth grade band and strings students are very excited to get started on their new instruments. If you’re the parent of a band student, you should have received my first newsletter in August. You can find general information about fourth grade band at this page, and please let me know if you have any questions.

  • At our Lincoln Open House Night on Thursday, August 31, all parents and students are welcome to stop by the music room and say hello!