Instrumental Music
with
Mrs. Ashford


Band & Orchestra Notes - What's New This Week?

May 24, 2021

Dear Music Families,

Thursday, May 20 was my last day of teaching for this school year, and I already miss it. But I am getting to see some students as I collect school instruments, and I am enjoying the opportunity to talk to parents in person!

I want to express my gratitude to all who have participated in music classes this school year. I especially appreciate those who played last spring, and signed up again, knowing how different it would be online!

My greatest joy this spring has been to hear so many students say they wish to continue next year!

I wish you all an enjoyable last week+ of school!

Musically yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


May 17, 2021

Dear Music Families,

This is the last week of music lessons for the 2020-2021 school year!

I will be collecting school instruments from Monte Gardens on Friday, May 21. I will be collecting school instruments from Westwood and Ayers on Monday, May 24. The rest of next week is all about sterilizing, assessing, repairs, and summer storage. Then I send grades to classroom teaches, and do all the end-of-year paperwork/data entry needed to start next year off smoothly!

Where will I be teaching next year? We try for consistency, but there's never a guarantee. I'll know more in August! Plans are for music to be in-person next year. Music-specific PPE, if needed, will be provided by the district. Between now and then, you are welcome to contact me. I will check my email on occasion over summer break.

I encourage you to look back at how far we've come since August of 2020. Next year, there will be even more progress!

How do you measure progress in music? There are a lot of ways, and different teachers will have different orders of priority. For 4th and 5th grade, I see progress as a certain degree of comfort reading and playing the first 6 to 8 notes, rhythm patterns in common (4-4) time, a good tone (although sometimes we do have our off-days), good posture, good instrument hold, and a certain level of perseverance and dedication. The icing on the cake is when a student wants to continue making music the following year. These are the awesome "I can!" moments.

In time, there will be more emphasis on performing for audiences. Usually concerts are in larger ensembles - as I say, safety in numbers. A few students might be comfortable playing solo or in small groups (what we call "chamber music"). Think about concert clothes - long, black on bottom (pants, long skirts) and white on top. Black dress shoes are a must for every musician's wardrobe! Shorts, sneakers, jeans, sleeveless shirts, hats, and t-shirts are generally no-nos, but we would never want a student to miss a concert because of clothes, either. Think about checking sibling's closets, thrift stores, and getting creative with sweaters, shawls, and as-close-as-you-can-get colors! You can't go wrong if you follow the school dress code and try to dress-up a little.

Even if a student doesn't continue as a music major in college, music will be with him/her for the rest of their life. Some students earn community service hours by organizing benefit concerts, helping youths get started on an instrument, or playing for special communities. Some college students earn extra money playing gigs, or even work at their school in the music department. I've known young people who played in bands on cruise ships, earned side money as DJs, started their own recording studio, and some who became music teachers (that's the ultimate compliment!).

Those who set the instrument aside to spend more time on other pursuits can always come back to it. Many musicians join community bands or orchestras for social or personal enjoyment reasons after college, after kids, or even after retirement. Musicians can continue playing music into their 80s or 90s!

If nothing else, its wonderful to have people in our audiences who appreciate the work that goes into performing live music!

I wish you all a happy summer break and a wonderful 2021-2022 school year! If you miss me over the break, feel free to scroll down and read all of my notes to you throughout this school year. :)

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

May 10, 2021

Dear Music Families,

The last day of music lessons for this school year will be Thursday, May 20. How can you keep music in your child's life over summer break and beyond? There are many answers, and I hope at least one will fit you and your budget.

Continue your listening library. Collect recordings and names of artists that play your child's instrument. You can find instruments being performed in various genres of music: classical, jazz, rock, reggae, pop, ambient, gospel, and more.

Listen to music being performed live. Live music is so different from recorded music! You might see a mariachi band while dining, a guitarist at a coffee shop, music played at a place of worship, or a few musicians playing in a park. As our county starts to relax restrictions, you will no doubt find musicians sharing their talents with the public!

Also, once COVID-19 restrictions allow, here are options for more live music: Community bands and orchestras, made up of volunteers, hold low-cost or free performances in local theatres and parks. Two examples are the Diablo Symphony Orchestra and the Walnut Creek Concert Band. You may find yourself becoming a groupie! Our largest local venues are the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek and the Concord Pavilion, both have calendars online. Community college music groups have performances as well, and of course there is the Oakland Symphony and other greats in the Bay Area. Many of these larger groups have no events scheduled...yet.

Consider purchasing an instrument, if you don't already have one. See previous newsletters for ideas, or talk to your local music store about new and used instruments for sale.

Private lessons. There are private instructors for all type of instruments. The cost and location (your house, their studio, or online) depend on the teacher and your needs.

Music camp. Under normal circumstances, music camps offer a week or two weeks of an instrument experience at various levels. The price depends on whether the students stay at home or the camp, food provided, and other details. Many music camps are for middle school ages and up. These can be pricey, but many also offer scholarships, too.

Youth groups. There are some local performing groups students can join, most start at the middle school age. Just a few examples: Walnut Creek's Center for Community Arts, Berkeley's Young People's Symphony Orchestra, and Concord's award-winning Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps (ages 8 to 22) as well as their Diablo Wind Symphony (ages 14 to 22).

Sheet music and fun music books. Local music stores often have a nice selection of solo books to learn and play from, which often include access to accompaniment soundtracks (online or CD). You can find music for pop tunes, classics, movie themes, and more! The difficulty of this music can be quite advanced, so also look at their selection of method books and fingering charts, depending on the instrument. Bring your child, so they can see what level the music is before buying the book.

If you have any other ideas, please let me know so I can post them in next week's newsletter!

I hope music continues to be a positive and rewarding endeavor for your child and your whole family!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


May 3, 2021

Dear Music Families,

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Distance-learning has caused you to step into a bigger role in your child's education. Take a moment to pat YOURSELF on the back for all of the extra time, effort, and care that you have spent this school year. The fruits of your labor will not always be evident right away. In fact, many students don't realize the positive impact their first teachers (parents, elementary teachers, and mentors) made on them until many years down the road.

It isn't easy being the "bad guy", pushing for neater writing, practicing 60+ minutes each week, memorizing math facts, and starting that project two weeks, not two days before it's due. You won't always be recognized for all of your efforts. But it's a big part of shaping young minds, and you're awesome for doing it. I appreciate you!!!

I have written my Teacher Appreciation wish in the assignment for this week - PRACTICE! There is also a survey for students to complete, which is kind of like a report card for me. I hope to read many heartfelt, honest responses!

On a sad note, I will be collecting school instruments later this month. I will send details to those for whom this applies. Please expect your child to continue lessons until around May 20. After that, I will be collecting, cleaning, and checking instruments for needed repairs before we start back up again in August.

Until next week - enjoy!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


April 26, 2021

Dear Music Families,

We are wrapping up this school year very soon--just over a month of school left! I plan to collect district-owned school instruments around the week of May 17, but details are still in the works. I encourage my students to keep working until the very last moment. They may need extra encouragement to practice, especially since we haven't had any public concerts this year. Although students get very nervous about performing, concerts are a great incentive to practice. Post-concert elation is motivating, as well!

It's time to have "the talk". No, not THAT talk, the OTHER talk!

By the end of the first year, a musician will know whether they want to continue learning the same instrument, or try a different one. Please discuss the following topics over the next few weeks or so!

  • Fourth grade students who sign up for music again next year may...

    • ...continue the same instrument as an advanced (or second year) student. Advanced students usually start the year with some review, but then move forward using the skills they have already learned to work on new skills and challenges.

    • ...try a new instrument and be in a beginning (or 1st year) group again. They would start from the very beginning - that is, how to sit, open the case, and put the instrument together, and how to hold the instrument.

    • If your child isn't sure, I would recommend playing the same instrument again unless there is a physical reason to change (for example, difficulty making a good sound).

    • Also, music classes will probably be in-person next year (pending COVID-19 progress/restrictions). Music classes might be available for students who enroll in the virtual online school at MDUSD - we are still learning more about that and working on the logistics.

  • Fifth grade students have already had the opportunity to sign up for music as an elective in middle school.

    • If you didn't sign up for music and now you want to, let an administrator know. There is often a period of time in summer or after the first week when changes are made.

    • Middle school and high school music classes make more instrument choices available, too.

      • Woodwind players tend to switch to bass clarinet, saxophone, oboe, or bassoon.

      • Brass players tend to switch to the French horn, baritone, or tuba.

      • Band classes also offer percussion (drums).

      • String players might try the double bass or viola.

      • Orchestra or Jazz class may, on occasion, allow a good pianist who can read music, but there is usually space for only one, so I would ask the music teacher first. Pianists who sign up for band or orchestra may be asked to play percussion instruments like the marimba, bells, xylophone, or even timpani when there is no piano part, or if the percussion part is needed more.

      • Instruments like the piccolo, English horn, and soprano saxophone are what we call "secondary" instruments for doublers. These instruments require the player to play another instrument most of the time (flute, oboe, alto/tenor/bari sax, respectively) because parts are not often written for them. These instruments are not usually played until high school or so.

Talk to the music teacher about borrowing one of these instruments from the school so you can try it out. Don't be surprised if the teacher suggests taking private lessons...starting a new instrument in middle school can be tricky, and starting a "less common" instrument can be even more tricky.

Families of students who know they will continue playing the same instrument should consider purchasing (or renting to own) an instrument. Local music stores are great sources of information and sell/rent good quality instruments. Two music stores nearest to school are C&L Music on Monument Blvd and Rockin' Robbies on Colfax. There is a luthier who lives in town - John Jordan - who sells good quality violins as well. Internet purchases can be iffy--some beautiful new instruments are so terribly made that they make better wall decorations. Those instruments are called ISO (Instrument-Shaped Objects) or VSO (Violin-Shaped Objects). Talk to a music repair technician about brands that are reliable. They want to see you succeed, not sink your money into fixing manufacturer "flaws". In fact, there are some brands they won't even touch, and for good reasons.

I hope this has been helpful. Please let me know if there is a music topic you would like to know more about. Have a fantastic week!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


April 19, 2021

Dear Music Families,

We have only about 4 weeks of music lessons left for this school year. Every year seems to go by faster than the last!

As the beautiful spring weather beckons us outside to enjoy some natural vitamin D, I encourage my students to remain vigilant about practicing daily. Consider taking the practice session outdoors! If the wind keeps turning your pages for you, try holding them in place with clothespins or large paper clips. Don't forget to use a music stand, or prop your music up somehow - so good posture and proper instrument hold are being practiced along with those new notes and songs!

As COVID restrictions relax over time, you might be wondering what guidelines apply to band classes. Here is a page from the NAfME (National Association for Music Education) website, which may help explain. These guidelines may, or may not, still be in effect next year for in-person classes (we'll have to wait and see). MDUSD is purchasing specific music PPE to be provided for music students, including: bell covers for wind instruments except flute (washable), blow hole masks (washable), flute masks (washable). The plan is to have two washable masks per student, so one can be worn while the other is being washed. It has not yet been determined whether the bell covers will be collected at the end of the year. We hope to know a lot more in August/September 2021. String classes, as far as I know, will not need specific music PPE.

In addition to the music PPE information, here are some instrument cleaning guidelines that I will be following when cleaning school instruments during the last week of school. If you are borrowing a district-owned instrument, I will clean the instrument after it has been returned. For this reason, I will ask instruments to be returned before the last week of school (more information to come). If you are renting an instrument, the music store will probably clean the instrument for you, or they will inform you if they have any specific cleaning requests. If you own the instrument, feel free to apply these recommendations along with your regular instrument cleaning regimen if you feel they are necessary. For general instructions on how to clean your instrument, read the Helpful Reminders page on this website.

The next four weeks will test your child's perseverance--only four lessons left! And soon after, it will be summer break. Let's make the most of the time we have together. I truly look forward to hearing your child's progress between now and the week of May 17th!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

April 12, 2021

Dear Music Families,

I hope you were able to get some quality R & R during spring break! As usual, I have only done a fraction of what I wanted to get done. Speaking of getting things done, this week your young musician(s) will probably fit into one of three categories:

  1. Did not practice, now wondering why the instrument sounds terrible, getting frustrated.

  2. Practiced a little bit, and now realizing "a little bit" only sounds "a little bit" good.

  3. Enjoyed the instrument, figured out some cool songs with the notes we finally learned, and loving how easy it is to play now! (I will never forget, one year several of my students figured out their neighborhood ice cream truck song. They played it together at the start of every rehearsal!)

For this reason, I plan to give students extra time and help with current karate goals this week, rather than push forward.

This is the time of year many students start to lose steam. This might be due to allergies, "spring fever", or the excitement that there's light at the end of the tunnel - another school year is coming to a close. Remind your child to take advantage of the time we have left. School-owned instruments are to be returned at the end of May, so now is the time to use them as much as possible.

Please also remind your child to complete the typed "Check-in Weekly" assignment in Google Classroom. This assignment is packed with tidbits of music theory, music culture, and answers a lot of the questions your child might be wanting to ask. It contains:

  • A practice guide for the week.

  • A heads-up of what will be covered in class the following week.

  • Music theory and expressive terminology for the week.

  • Blanks to fill-in, including # of minutes practiced the prior week, and a quick check for understanding of new concepts.

  • Links to useful tools like a metronome, tuner, and special FlipGrids.

  • Current news and announcements from me.

Don't forget! The music class Meet code is "ashfordmusic" for all instrument classes now. My schedule changed a little bit (hopefully for the better?!) to accommodate everyone's needs after moving to the hybrid schedule. If your child can not attend any of the classes I have listed, please let me know and I will find a time that works!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

March 29, 2021

Dear Music Families,

There are so many exciting things going on! Thank you for your perseverance as we go through some changes together!

My schedule has changed a little bit, so I have posted it on this website. I hope I have accommodated all students, but if you can not attend any of the days or times I have listed, please contact me. I will find a way to Meet with everyone!

My Meet code has also changed--it is now the same for every class ("ashfordmusic"). Students will need to practice good etiquette when logging in. If a student logs-in early to a class, it is appropriate to wait patiently if I am working with other students. While waiting: have your instrument out and ready to play, have your book and a pencil next to you, prop your book up so it is easier to read while online, practice current karate goals, look at the lesson for the week, make sure you've done any typed or handwritten assignments that are due, recall questions you want to ask me during your Meet.

Some parents and students are wondering, why is music still being taught online? While we would be super excited to teach students in-person, music has been identified as a higher-risk activity (lots of singing and blowing). Also, music teachers are not able to stay within a certain cohort. We generally see students from each 4th and 5th grade classroom at two or more schools during the week. The time between classes would not be enough to wipe down chairs, music stands, etc.. And for this year, we also would not be able to see all students at our sites twice each week for 45-minute classes as we normally would. So we will keep our distance for now. We do not yet know whether music classes in elementary school will be taught in-person, online, or both, next year.

Google Classroom: I have extended the due date for our weekly assignment to April 12. Many music students take advantage of weekends to work on their lessons, when assignments from their classroom teacher lighten up. Spring Break is an extra long period of time for students to enjoy their instrument and get some goals achieved. I have assigned a listening activity which features YouTube videos of Children's March performed by the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony and In the Hall of the Mountain King performed by the Polish Youth Symphony Orchestra. I chose younger performing groups so students can see people closer to their age performing the music. If you wish, feel free to compare for these two selections being played by professional adult groups, for example the U.S. Marine Band and The Seattle Symphony. I hope this assignment is fun for both students and also their families! The point is to hear quality music, standard repertoire, but also watch and listen to how "dynamics" are used in the music to make it more expressive and meaningful. These recordings total about 12 minutes combined, so I know your child (perhaps the whole family?) can find the time to view them! I hope this listening assignment inspires students to practice frequently - keeping their posture, instrument hold, and tone in good condition. While practicing, work on finishing more karate goals and make a Spring Performance video in FlipGrid!

I wish you all a very pleasant and healthy Spring Break! Please don't hesitate to email me for any reason. I will not be checking my emails over Spring Break, however, so expect a reply soon after we return!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


March 22, 2021

Dear Music Families,

Happy Spring!

Now that our schools are opening up for the hybrid schedule, you might be wondering, what will happen to band and orchestra classes? All elementary instrumental and general music teachers in MDUSD will continue teaching from a distance. I plan to alter my schedule to accommodate the hybrid schedule changes, but without too much disruption (I hope!). If a change makes it impossible for your child to take lessons from me, please send me an email ASAP and I will find a way to make it work. This may take some patience, so I thank you ahead of time!

At this time of year, our MDUSD music community usually celebrates Music In Our Schools Month by holding our annual Area Music Festivals. For those of you who have never seen one of our festivals, it's an amazing evening! We spotlight musicians in band and orchestra (on separate nights), seeing and hearing the progression between grades 4 and 12 in the span of just two hours. The festivals are often held in the high school basketball gym - the only building large enough to fit students and families all at once. Performers include students from the host school, plus the middle and elementary schools who are in that high school's feeder pattern. The musicians are seated in the basketball court, with chairs and folding stands. Families fill the bleachers, and often stand in every unoccupied space as well.

The elementary group performs first, often 200 or more students seated by instrument, wearing black on bottom and white on top as is customary. The tunes are simple, fun, and usually very recognizable. This eases the tension for our youngest players, who are often very nervous.

The middle school(s) perform next - a smaller ensemble, playing more intricate music with harmony and bass line. Middle school students also traditionally wear black on bottom and white on top.

The high school performs next, and wowing us with arrangements of music from movies, pop tunes, classics, and other greats. Some festivals treat us to pre-concert music performed by the high school jazz band! High school students often wear "concert dress", which is usually a suit/tuxedo or full-length gown in formal black. "Concert dress" is a standard, used by musicians all over the world.

The grand finale of each Area Music Festival is a combined effort. One selection, every musician in the room playing their part, played simultaneously. When the groups end together, the audience is compelled to jump to their feet and applaud, whistle, and cheer the young musicians on. The energy can be felt throughout the room.

As the audience heads for home, young students who walked in with butterflies on the inside, are now like butterflies on the outside. They can hardly contain themselves. The adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment give them a burst of energy that continues from concert to concert, for months and years to come.

My description can never replace the actual feeling of an Area Music Festival. I hope that each and everyone of you will experience it firsthand in March of 2022. This spring, we will make our way towards Spring Break less energized than we would ordinarily, and will finish the year with much accomplished but a lot less applause for it. Hang in there - next year shows much promise!

I would like to share a few things with you:

1) I have added a Spring Performance invitation to your child in the "Resources" topic in Google Classroom, and also on the Stream page. These performances will remain private until your child has given me permission to make them visible for others. It's important for young musicians to perform - a big hurdle, but an important one. I recorded my own video for students to view, on my main instrument: the oboe.

2) One of our MDUSD music teachers, Mr. Ravina, has created a wonderful introduction to middle school music. Although he teaches at Foothill Middle School, he may provide answers to some of your questions, or perhaps give you ideas of things to ask the music teacher at your middle school.

3) Here is a link to several YouTube videos created by music students at Concord High School. These are students who have participated in Area Festivals. They understand the process of learning to play an instrument, and the impact music class has had in their lives. With creativity, courage, and energy, these students have created videos with elementary and middle school students in mind, with the goal of inspiring them and introducing them to the culture of instrumental music from a student perspective. I hope you can watch these with your child and discuss some of the finer points...for example, can you tell which music is played by professionals in a studio and which music is played by students? Do you see the PPE musicians can use, and view glimpses of the high school campus and music room?

Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns. I'm happy to help!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

March 15, 2021

Dear Music Families,

This newsletter contains information that was written in the Check-In Weekly assignment for all of my students. It's good information, and it really does concern a musician's whole family!


Why Practice?

My heart sinks every time I hear someone say, “I don’t have time to practice.” The truth is, you do have time, it’s just hidden. Way back, when television stations always had commercials, I used to suggest having the instrument out during a favorite tv show - then practice during the commercials. That’s all the time you need! Nowadays, you might ask a parent to help you find the right time of day to practice. Set a timer. Don’t be surprised if you want to keep practicing after the timer has rung!


Practicing keeps your skills up, keeps your muscles in shape, and keeps you moving forward (who doesn’t like that?!). If you are super busy on a certain day, then practice a few extra minutes on the other days. Maybe practice in the morning and again in the evening on a slow day. A good friend of mine says, “If you skip a day of practice, only you will notice. If you skip two days of practice, the people near you will notice. If you skip three days of practice, EVERYONE will notice.”


Don’t forget, always start with a gentle warm-up. Then, play something you enjoy. Tackle something challenging from your current goals. Then end with something fun. If you’re frustrated, go back and play something you can do, even if it’s just one note. There is just as much value in playing beautiful long tones as there is playing quick notes or tricky rhythms!


Practice smarter, not harder.

Find patterns! If a measure repeats itself during one song, practice just that one measure. After you can play it five times without mistakes, try the whole song.


Play “Whack-a-Mole”! As tough spots pop up, whack them down by practicing just that small bunch of notes. Then play it from the beginning again, looking out for more of those moles to whack.


Another practice trick is to play the last part of an example (maybe the last two measures), then work your way to the beginning gradually by moving back a couple of measures at a time. We always start at the beginning - why not start at the end once in a while?!


Did you know? “Practice” is what we do at home, on our own, to get ready for the next class or rehearsal. “Rehearse” is when we play the music together, and work on making the music better as a group. The more we all practice individually, the better we can rehearse together!


A side note for parents - one thing I have noticed that is affecting student progress (and posture) is the lack of a music stand. Purchasing a music stand is always a good long-term solution, but there are alternatives if that isn't in your budget right now. If students are sitting at a desk while online, they should be able to prop their music book up - maybe a pulled-out drawer, a stack of books (with another in front to prevent sliding), or maybe even a table-top easel (search: copyholder). Another chair with pillows or folded blankets can also hold a music book. Be creative!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

March 8, 2021

Dear Music Families,

Happy Music In Our Schools Month, continued!

Last week I received a very nice compliment - a notification that I have been nominated by someone to be a MDUSD teacher of the year! Thank you, anonymous friend! I am honored to be included on that list of deserving teachers.

Last week I wrote about reasons to continue learning how to play music, even if you aren't going to major in it or pursue a career in it. There are so many benefits, including the skills you learn that can be used in many aspects of life. One skill musicians learn early is to "practice smarter, not harder". I will be reminding students of this skill this week, and probably for the rest of the school year.

We find patterns in nearly everything we do, and if there is no pattern, then that is noteworthy as well! If a tune has a difficult part that repeats often, you can learn nearly the entire song by working on that one, tough part! Some students will diligently practice every line of the song, every note, painstakingly. But if you can practice half of a song by learning a 4-note combination, that simplifies it so much, and gives you time to practice other things as well.

Or, perhaps there is a difficult rhythm that comes back often in a piece of music. Just get that rhythm under your fingers, and the rest of the tune will fall in line quite a bit easier.

Just like cleaning as you work, you will end up ahead in the long run if you organize your thoughts and put forth a little extra effort from the start. This is a great lesson for students to learn at this age.

I wish you a wonderful week!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

March 1, 2021

Dear Music Families,

Happy March, and happy Music In Our Schools Month! This month we celebrate every school and school district that is committed to teaching music!

Last week I wrote about many different kinds of careers in music. This week I'd like to share with you some thoughts about why students should keep up their music skills even if they don't want to major, or have a career, in music.

Music classes fulfill the required Arts credits required to get into certain colleges and universities. In fact, MDUSD began a program a few years ago called the "Creative Arts Honor Roll". Click the link to read more about it!

Speaking of colleges and universities, admissions departments know that student who have been in music programs for several years have the dedication, perseverance, and excellence that will help the student succeed and reflect well on their institution. Having several years of continuous training in music (or another subject) will make a potential student shine brighter than otherwise identical applicants.

My experience: Holy Names College (now University) in Oakland, CA recommended scholarships I that qualified for based on my music experience and GPA, and also suggested a work-study program to gain experience while helping pay for my tuition. Being a musician, having good grades, and being a student-worker in the music department office paid for half of my college for all four years.

Some high schools require community service hours. Why not tutor a less experienced musician, or host a fundraising concert? High school and college-age music students sometimes earn extra money by teaching private lessons, or performing local gigs.

Many music students decide to have a double major, or minor in music. Common subjects for musicians to study are computer science, medicine, and law. "Double Majoring with Music: Questions You Need to Ask" has some very helpful tips for those of you who are already looking into the college realm.

In the article "How Being a Musician Prepared Me for My Dream Career", Ms. Jen Lee Koss describes how her music studies directly relate to the dedication, preparation, and trust in others that lead to success in another career.

Some people realize their non-music career is not as fulfilling as they had hoped. Music may fill that gap. Or, perhaps music provides the outlet needed for a very stressful job. When you play music, it's like being in the eye of a storm. While you play your instrument, it's seems as though everything around you stands still. When you are done, you are calmer inside, and you have a better perspective from which to tackle the day's challenges.

Even during these times of social media and access to communication, anyone who is no longer in school can understand how difficult it can be to meet and connect with people in a meaningful way. Community bands and orchestras, junior college music classes, and adult education groups offer a way for musicians of many different levels to gather, rehearse, and perform.

  • Music draws many different people together. A community group may have older high school students, senior citizens, and every age in between. They may be students, teachers, engineers, plumbers, retirees, CPAs, chemists, IT, construction workers, mechanics, and more. It's a fantastic opportunity to network!

  • Great friendships are made, even though most of the time is spent focusing on the music! Chats during breaks, parking lot conversations, and open invitations to a local burger joint or pizza parlor following a rehearsal or performance are some ways we connect. Sometimes members of a group create a trio, quartet or quintet, and hold rehearsals of their own in addition to the other, larger group. Coffee shops, assisted living residences, and parks are great places to share the music you've worked on.

  • Nobody sits on the bench in music. Everyone is important, whether they sit in the front row, the back row, or in the middle. People of every race, creed, and color are valued in music. I've just learned about an amazing program for students with disabilities called United Sound. Hopefully United they will continue to grow! For more information, here is a video. If you're like me, you might need a kleenex nearby.

If, after reading this, my students and family members are thinking about continuing lessons, learning to play an instrument, or dusting-off skills from years ago, then I am a very happy music teacher!

Have a fantastic week!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

February 22, 2021

Dear Music Families,

While discussing whether to continue music classes in 5th grade and beyond, it's always good to look at the big picture. Many parents already know firsthand the benefits of playing an instrument. Some still do, and many wish they had continued. But for those of you who still need more reasons, let's talk about careers in music.

The most obvious is performance. Performers in music can be the popular musicians that perform solo or in a small band--like the ones who make millions of dollars, travel the world, and are featured in magazines. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. There are professional musicians who perform in symphonies, "pit" orchestras, back-up orchestras, and military groups. They perform for audiences, special events, and in music studios to create the music you hear in movies, tv shows, sports events, commercials, and more!

All of the music you hear being performed requires a composer - someone who writes the music. Composers and arrangers (arranging is rewriting a composition to fit a different event or performing group) write music for every occasion, every season, every reason. Did you know, many professional performers don't write their own songs? There is also a career called a lyricist, someone who writes words to fit music that was already composed.

There are many music careers in the recording industry, as well as managing, sales of the recorded product, advertising, sound technicians, sales of all of that sound equipment, and repair, too. When musicians tour in the United States or the world to perform their music for live audiences, there are professionals who handle all of the travel details, move equipment, book the concert halls, handling ticket sales, manage the stage, design the sets on the stage, and don't forget the T-shirts, posters, and other merchandise fans will want to purchase. Think of the lighting, choreography, videography, sound equipment, security, special effects, and even pyrotechnics in music concerts! All of those things require people who specialize in those jobs.

There are also very fulfilling careers in music that are related to education, church, and music therapy. There are cities that hold music festivals, where music groups come to perform for audiences and/or complete against each other for titles and trophies. There are luthiers, and makers of other kinds of instruments, both acoustic and electronic, and repair technicians who repair instruments. There are music retail shops, who sell instruments, products that musicians need, and there are companies that make those products (guitar picks, valve oil, violin rosin, microphones, sound software, etc.). Careers in music are still evolving, too. As new forms of music become popular, new jobs are created.

I hope this has been interesting and helpful! Next week I would like to tell you about how music can benefit people who have, or want to have, careers outside of the music world.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


February 16, 2021

Dear Music Families,

Last week we talked about kind words, helpful gestures, or playing music in honor of someone as wonderful gifts. Playing music for someone goes beyond simply being a gift, and here's why!

Music is therapeutic. Music therapy is useful for various reasons. We all know music soothes, energizes, and relaxes us. But wait, there's more! Music therapy can help premature babies increase weight and decrease stress. Music therapists work with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Music therapy can help create new pathways in the brain, helping to rehabilitate people who have brain injuries. Music therapists work with people who are in crisis or who have experienced trauma. Music therapy is used for patients with Alzheimer's Disease, as seen in the documentary Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory. There are many more ways to help people through music therapy. Here is another good article which describes music therapy and it's uses.

The goodness music brings to our lives has been described by many, diverse people. Here are some quotes for your enjoyment.

“The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.” – Roy Ayers

“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.” – Sarah Dessen

"Music is life itself." - Louis Armstrong

"He who sings frightens away his ills." -Miguel de Cervantes

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” – Confucius

“Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Anderson

“Music cleanses the understanding; inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.” – Maria von Trapp

“Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.” – Pablo Casals

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” – Victor Hugo

“When we listen to music we are not listening to the past, we are not listening to the future, we are listening to an expanded present.” – Alan Watts

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato

"Music is well said to be the speech of angels." - Thomas Carlyle

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Bob Marley

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” – Kahlil Gibran

“Music is the only language in which you cannot say a mean or sarcastic thing.” – John Erskine

These quotes and more from: https://www.keepinspiring.me/music-quotes

I hope you have a fantastic and musical week!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


February 8, 2021

Dear Music Families,

This week and next week we will have 4-day school weeks, which is wonderful (an action-packed 4 day weekend!), but also requires some effort for students who usually attend music lessons on Mondays or Fridays. I have sent students a reminder e-mail, which also includes a copy of my schedule, so they can find another day and time that fits their needs. If your child can not attend any other day/time, please send me an email to let me know. Thanks!

Valentine's Day is coming soon! This is a popular time of year to sign valentines and have them delivered to classmates, friends, and loved ones. I'd like to remind you of two other kinds of valentines, the ones that are free to give, and they can be done any time of year:

1) Acts of kindness - Simply say what's in your heart. "I love the way you..." "One thing I admire about you is..." "Let me help you with..." "I drew this picture for you..." "I really listened to what you said..." Kids CAN do this, and it's a great habit to get into! Just imagine what it can bloom into as they get older.

2) Gift of music - Sharing music with others is a really big step, and it can be the sweetest gift for a friend or loved one. Whether it's in person or over a video call, encourage your child to choose a song they've already learned, polish it up, and perform it for someone. This gift contains no calories!

Many beginning musicians are shy. In school, we often perform as members of a group. "Safety in numbers" is how I describe it. That's easier than playing solo, which is what we do while learning at a distance. For very shy students, have them line up some plush toys, dolls, or action figures--play a song for Ted D. Bear, R2D2, and friends. Then, add a family member to the audience (2-legged or 4-legged). As the audience grows, your child will realize the applause and compliments also grow! By the time we resume in-person learning, your child will hopefully have overcome the fear of performing. But if not, being in a group will really help! Soon your child will be accustomed to being in front of an audience of any size. This really prepares for nearly any occupation, whether it requires public speaking, presenting a project, or requesting a raise!

The Year of the Ox is said to bring career advancement, success in business, prosperity, and wellness for all. Let it begin! I wish you a wonderful Presidents Day weekend.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

February 1, 2021

Dear Music Families,

This week I would like to discuss the benefits being a musician.

Music is a universal language. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video of the Bach Double is worth a million. The music they share can be appreciated by people of all ages, all over the world. There are so many more performances to see and hear, it would take more than a lifetime to experience them all.

Another reason - because you love it! We all have a beat, a style, a sound - something musical that moves us, lifts us, and gives us an outlet. Some people dance, some people play music, and some people do both! Music reaches the soul in ways words can not.

Music is lifelong. You don't age-out or sit on the bench. Music is something you can enjoy, solo or in an ensemble, for your entire life if you wish. One example is shown by the combined efforts of the rock band Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony. I have played in community bands and orchestras alongside teenagers and octogenarians; retired professionals, teachers, hobbyists, and students. You can play in bands and orchestras, smaller ensembles like trios, quartets (4), and quintets (5), with one other person (duo or duet), or by yourself. You can perform for audiences of all sizes - thousands, hundreds, under 100, and even just for your non-human friends at home.

Third, music can be therapeutic. I have shared with several students a story from my past when, in 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake shook our area, and my college was just across town from the ill-fated Cypress Structure. The power was out all night, and students in the dormitory were pretty frightened. That night, a couple of violin students played the Bach Double as a duet. Students turned off their radios and listened. It was calming, and for a while, we turned our ears away from the sounds of sirens outside. But you don't need a natural disaster to benefit from music! Some musicians will concentrate on playing a single tone with clarity and depth, much like meditating.

For fun, compare these recordings of the Bach Double: 1958 (France), 2014 (Poland), 2015 (Venezuela), early 2020 (Los Angeles), and 2020 (London).

Anther benefit of being in music is a wonderful and unique connection to others. Your band or orchestra becomes a social network. At rehearsals and concerts, I have met people of varying occupations including chemists, tax consultants, dentists, engineers, lawyers, therapists, school principals, and computer programmers. When you are no longer in school, it can be very difficult to make new friends. With music, you have a variety of people to reach out and say hello - before, after, and during rehearsal breaks!

Opportunities happen! In my experience with music, I have:

  • performed in competitions

  • traveled to and performed in Europe

  • met composers

  • met outstanding musicians, some of whom have disabilities

  • served on the board for two music organizations

  • performed solo, in small ensembles, and in bands & orchestras for thousands of people

  • spoken at public events

  • recorded in a professional music studio

  • made lifelong friends of all ages and from all walks of life

Music students have more reasons to stay in school, and fewer reasons to develop bad or destructive habits. Music students are known to have a high acceptance rate for colleges and universities. Perseverance and commitment to study and perform music are skills college admissions offices look for. Some of you know this from personal experience!

Here's a brief follow-up to a previous note about purchasing instruments. This video, the Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Violins really helps explain the difference between less expensive and more expensive instruments. Here is also an explanation of What to look for when buying a violin. Even though you might be looking for a different kind of instrument, it's good to know how quality changes with price.

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District



January 25, 2021

Dear Music Families,

We're already making plans for next year! I will be asking my students what their intentions are, but I realize situations can change over the next few months.

Parents of 4th grade musicians, please have a talk with your child about signing up for band or orchestra in 5th grade! As you know, it takes about a year to really know whether the instrument is a good match for the student. By May, you will definitely know if your child wants to continue the same instrument, change instruments, or try something entirely different.

Parents of 5th grade musicians, your child will soon be asked by a middle school administrator whether they want to sign up for band or orchestra as an elective at their middle school for next year. I highly recommend you say "yes"! It is important to discuss this with your child first, because there are many enticing electives to choose from. If, by any chance, your child is not signed up for music and realizes later that was a mistake, middle schools often allow students to join a music class after the school year has begun - so don't be shy!

If you have been borrowing a school instrument or renting an instrument from a music store, think about purchasing your own instrument for middle school and beyond. If your child loves to play that instrument, owning one provides consistency, which fosters success and life-long enjoyment. Beware of 'lemons' for sale - make sure it is a good quality (see the November 30 newsletter, below). ISOs (Instrument Shaped Objects) are tempting to purchase because of their cheap price and sparkly appearance, but will cause a lot of frustration in the long run. A good used instrument is by far a better choice over an ISO, and will sometimes appreciate in value!

Specifically about string instruments - as you know, string instruments come in different sizes. It is common for parents to rent until the child can fit a full-size instrument. You can also ask your music store about a buyback policy - if you purchase a smaller instrument, will they buy it back from you when it's time to move up a size? Maybe you will want to keep the smaller size instrument for a younger sibling. Or perhaps ask a music teacher to connect you with another parent who is looking for an instrument that size, and put that money towards the cost of a larger instrument.

I am sending a second music parent survey to learn your perspective about how our online music lessons are working out. I welcome your suggestions! Also, we music teachers want to be positive and proactive about our elementary instrumental music program in MDUSD, so this is a place for you to speak your mind if you wish.

Have a fantastic week!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

January 19, 2021

Dear Music Families,

My thanks to all of you who continue to support and encourage your children in music!

Although there is always plenty to do, I welcome questions and comments from parents and students. I am available to parents by email, and in Meet (by appointment). Feel free to email me at any time of day or night that works for you. I will, however, respond during school hours or a little after.

I am available to students during our Meet classes, and e-mail, too. In addition, I have added a FlipGrid video link. Some questions really need to be asked in person, and if I'm not available, then this FlipGrid video is a good substitute. For example, "Are my fingers in the right place?" or "Am I playing this rhythm correctly?" or "Does this sound like a D?" Look for the FlipGrid link on assignments, but also in the Resources topic and on the Stream page!

I hope these newsletters are helpful. If there is a topic you would like to be addressed, I'm happy to do so. Just let me know!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


January 11, 2021

Dear Music Families,

We're building momentum! At this point, students have the ability to move ahead in the book if they wish, stay on the pace I have set, or move slower if needed. Everyone is different, and I am here to help each of my students progress at their own comfortable pace. However, I do want students to check-in each week and participate.

If your child is doing those three things, everything else should fall into place:

  1. Read and complete the Check-In Weekly assignment in Google Classroom (GC).

  2. Perform karate goals for me by either 1) FlipGrid/Practice & Perform in GC, or 2) in person at the end of our Meet classes.

  3. Attend one Meet each week, preferably Option 1 or 2 (Monday -Thursday).

Sometimes students start to feel overwhelmed. If your child is losing heart, here are some tips:

  • Ask your child if they need music supplies or repairs.

  • Set aside 5-10 minutes to practice every day.

  • Focus the most on the things you CAN do.

  • Challenge yourself with just one new thing, no matter how small it may seem.

  • Always end your practice session with something FUN.

  • Give yourself breaks when you need them: walk around, stretch, roll your shoulders, shake out your hands, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and visualize something awesome, smile!

  • Skip a line if it has become a hurdle. If it is a karate goal, come back to it later.

  • When ready, add 5-10 more minutes to your practice time.

  • Send Mrs. Ashford an email or FlipGrid to request help!

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

January 5, 2021

Dear Music Families,

I hope the last two weeks gave you some extra time to enjoy family. Music is always a big part of that - whether it's a phenomenal soloist, the sound track to our favorite movies, songs to heighten holiday celebrations, or even the introduction to your favorite tv show or sporting event. Music is everywhere!

This week we will be wiping the dust off our instrument cases, or (hopefully) showing what has been practiced and polished since we last met. It's a good time to review before moving forward again, and that's what this week's assignment will be all about.

Many of us are ready for the new year. 2020 has not only shown us an awe-inspiring display of the human spirit, but also how we define what is essential in our lives...music is certainly one. To the dedicated students and selfless parents: I salute you and your positively life-changing contributions to both present and future.

May 2021 bring your family excellent health and good fortune!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

December 14, 2020

Dear Music Families,

Winter Break is a great time of year - out with the old, in with the new...making reflections and resolutions...and time to rest and relax! I always hope my students will use this time to catch-up on late assignments, play for FUN, play for family entertainment, and keep their skills and muscles in shape. For this reason, the current assignment, which normally would be due on Monday 12/21, is not due until 1/5. I don't expect students to work over vacation, but if they wish to, they may. If any questions come up during that time, mark it in pencil and find something else to work on. I'm happy to answer those questions when we return!

Students have an open invitation to perform for an "optional" FlipGrid which will be viewed by me, then made available for others to see and comment on. There should be no "I'm bored" complaints over Winter Break from music students!

This is the time of year beginning students start to differ in rates of progress. ALL progress is good! Some students will be working ahead, while others are working at a slower, methodical pace. My Meet classes (internet connections willing) will review goals on a steady schedule. Meanwhile, students may continue to work as quickly, or as slowly, as they need. In this way, students who are still mastering previous lessons get a preview of what's ahead, and students who are moving quickly get a good review and confirmation their work was quality.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do let me know. I will not be teaching nor checking my email during Winter Break, but I will respond asap when school is in session.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


December 7, 2020

Dear Music Families,

I hope your home is being filled with wonderful (and improving) musical sounds!

4th and 5th grade responsibilities can be demanding. I wish to be flexible for my students, yet offer structured goals. I have the karate goals in place to provide motivation, which has been a big plus in "normal" years, district-wide! But if your child is overwhelmed, try attending one music Meet each week and practice a little of the current lesson (found in the Google Classroom). Always end with something fun--an easier song or a favorite sound. Keep this perspective: enjoy playing the instrument all year, and learn something new each week.

Here are Trimester 2 goals for a Satisfactory grade:

  • Participate in one Meet lesson each week (Email me if a Meet is missed, if you can!)

  • "Pass" 3 to 5 new karate goal songs (Master 3 songs over 12 weeks? Extremely do-able!)

I also highly recommend:

  • Practice 60 +/- minutes each week (that's just 10-15 minutes, 5 days a week!)

  • Perform for family (and/or friends and relatives online) to get accustomed to having an audience (and spread good cheer!)

  • If earning karate belts is not important to your child for motivation, or if you have a different motivation that works better for your child, that's okay! Please let me know, but still work on passing enough songs to show progress.

Please read past newsletters for more info, especially November 30 notes about buying instruments.

When MDUSD moves to a hybrid schedule, please know that I will adjust my schedule. My classes will most likely continue to be online. I apologize in advance for any missed time we may have during the transition, and I will need you to communicate with me if there are conflicts. I will be sure to contact parents directly with information as changes occur.

Musically Yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


November 30, 2020

Dear Music Families,

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Break. Cooler weather is here, and the hustle and bustle of December holidays may prove to be challenging while learning at home as well!

If your child has been practicing outside, it's time to bring things inside. If your household is getting busier with special guests and holiday projects, your child may need your help finding a time and place to practice (daily is preferable). Please offer your child some suggestions, because many students this age will "forget" to ask (wink, wink).

If you are looking for gift ideas, there are a lot of options for musicians. The most common gift for a new musician is a music stand. There are many kinds: wire or sturdy, collapsible or one piece, color or plain, standing or table-top. I recommend a collapsible stand for easy storage, but get what works for your home and budget. Local music stores, like C&L Music and Rockin' Robbies (and others) have them. You can also look online, or go to thrift stores, garage sales, and flea markets to find previously-loved music stands. Other gift ideas: tuner (especially for string students), music themed jewelry/pins, t-shirts, ties, stationery, pencils, mug, artwork, recordings by professionals, gift card (iTunes, etc.), a music stand light, and for advanced players, an easy level play-along book for their instrument featuring tunes they love (Movie Themes, Jazz, Pop, Country, Gospel, etc.).

If you are thinking about purchasing an instrument as a gift...

I do not recommend purchasing an instrument without researching it first. There are a lot of "ISOs" for sale (Instrument-Shaped Objects), and these instruments may work for for a little while, but will soon be a disappointment. Repair shops will not touch these instruments because they can not guarantee their work will make any difference. These instruments can be very frustrating for beginning students to play, sometimes experienced musicians, too! If a repair shop won't work on it, it's best not to buy it.

Instruments come in three levels: student, intermediate, and professional:

  • Student-level instruments of good quality can potentially last a student through high school.

  • Intermediate-level instruments are usually purchased between the 4th year and college, depending on the seriousness of the student. These are a little more specialized.

  • Professional-level instruments are not recommended for this age. They can be very specialized and are quite pricey.

Used instruments can be better than new - in fact, some instruments will appreciate in resale value. For this reason, you should have it on your home insurance list, and be sure you have the make, model, and serial number stored in a safe place -along with any identifying marks that make it unique. It is common to purchase a previously-loved instrument for a beginner. Often, the seller is upgrading to the next level and using the old instrument to help pay for it!

There are popular brands of instruments. These vary based on what instrument you are purchasing. Here are some common brands for Student-level instruments:
Flute- Gemeinhardt, Armstrong, Yamaha
Clarinet - Selmer, Buffet, Yamaha
Trumpet - Bach, Conn, Yamaha
Trombone - Bach, Conn, Yamaha
Strings - Klaus-Mueller, Eastman, Scherl and Roth, Franz Hoffman.

Instruments are best purchased from knowledgeable sources.
Local resources for band instrument are C&L Music, Rockin' Robbies, Village Music.
Local resources for string instruments are Ifshin's, and Jordan Music is a luthier right here in Concord!
Online band instrument sites: Woodwind & Brasswind, Sam Ash, and Musician's Friend.
Online string instrument sites: Shar, Southwest Strings, Baroque Violin shop.

A repair shop can verify whether the instrument you are looking at is a reputable brand. They can also look at it and tell you if it needs any work to make it playable. New instruments, in general, cost over $300. If you find a new instrument online for around $100 or less, it's probably a lemon.

I hope this is helpful information.

Musically Yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


November 18, 2020

Dear Music Families,

We're headed for a week of rest from our crazy online schedule! Please note, there are no music lessons during holidays. However, students are welcome to use my Google Classroom and website if they want to do some catching-up or getting-ahead during their time off. I hope this will be a peaceful, pleasant, and healthy time for everyone.

I have added the last (I hope!) component to this year's music lessons: Practice & Perform. This assignment gives students a link to the FlipGrid video maker, each assignment is connected to a song needed to earn a music karate belt.

So what is necessary for music students to do each week? Here it is in a nutshell:
1) Visit the music Google Classroom for the current week's assignment. Often there are a few things to type into the document and "mark as done". The document also has a practice guide for the week, and information typed in the FYI section at the bottom of the page.

2) Practice daily, or almost daily, for approximately 60 minutes each week. Use the practice guide to stay on track.

3) Perform karate goals. Students may play them for me during out Meet classes, but time is limited. The "Practice & Perform" topic in the Google Classroom has a link to FlipGrid, which should be a more user-friendly way to record and upload belt songs. If you don't want to use FlipGrid, you can upload your own video from your computer or cellphone, although it can be tricky for some people. You will see these assignments added to the Google Classroom over the next week or so, so students can work ahead if they wish. There is no due date on these assignments, so students who need more time can do so.

4) Attend one Meet class with me each week. There are 4 options to choose from, because things like dentist appointments, power outages and bad internet days happen!

This week's lesson includes a special assignment to present a recital for family at home, any day in November. This can be a simple impromptu single-song performance (5 minutes, tops) or a big, fancy project to reach family and friends near and abroad. I have given students some performance tips in their assignment this week. The purpose of this assignment is to get students performing a polished product for an audience, while giving families a big THANK YOU for supporting their music endeavors. I hope it brightens your day! This assignment will be a good rehearsal for yet another performance project, coming next month.

Please know that as long as students are trying, I'm happy to work with them and help them move forward in their own time. Feel free to contact me if you feel your child needs extra 1:1 help!

Musically Yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

November 9, 2020

Dear Music Families,

Little by little, we are progressing! I am hearing great things from my students every day!

I have titled the belt progress portion of my Google Classroom "Practice & Perform". Each group has a different Practice & Perform topic.:

  • Beginning (1st year) Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, and Trombone use "Practice & Perform - Beginning Band".

  • Advanced (2nd year) Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, and Trombone use "Practice & Perform - Advanced Band".

  • Beginning (1st year) Violin and Viola students use "Practice & Perform - Beginning Strings".

  • Advanced (2nd year) Violin and 'Cello students use "Practice & Perform - Advanced Strings".

Within each group, each student has (or will soon have) their own karate goals sheet. Students may check off the items on the list as they are passed, which means I have typed or said "Passed" after hearing it played in a recording or during a Meet. Students may work ahead as much as they want, but remember, belts are earned in order.

At this point in the year, some students get worried about presenting their belt songs for me. Please know, I will always tell a student at least one thing they are doing well, and at least one thing they can improve upon. It should be painless!

Another thing to watch out for - your child may reach a "plateau", or a place where progress feels like it has stopped and going further is frustrating. If/when this happens at your home, the best remedy is to go back and enjoy previous accomplishments. It might be a song, or it might be a favorite note or sound. Make the next step smaller - instead of a few lines of music, try just one. Go slowly, start with just a few notes. I call this "divide and conquer". Last week's impossibilities become next week's favorites, with a little grumbling, and perseverance!

Speaking of grumbling, and perseverance, please do let me know if any of the online tools I am using aren't working well. I'm still learning how to use Flipgrid, slowly but surely. If there's anything I can improve, send me a note!

Musically Yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

November 2, 2020

Dear Music Families,

I hope this letter finds you healthy and in good spirits! I certainly hope you are hearing a lot of music in your home, both from your child's practice sessions and recordings of professionals! I have been impressed with the motivation and effort I am seeing from students in Meet and Google Classroom!

The Trimester 1 grade is a record that your child has been participating - attending our online Meet meetings and turning in the written Google Classroom assignments. Grades are E (Excellent), S (Satisfactory), N (Needs Improvement), and N/O (Not Observed).

But participation doesn't reflect how well your child is doing with the instrument, it just makes it possible. Instrumental music progress for elementary students in MDUSD is measured using a color system, similar to the belts earned in traditional karate classes. The first belt students earn is the white belt, then yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, red, brown, and then the ultimate goal: black belt. Beginning students are working towards their first belt this coming week. Our advanced students are finishing their first-year book belts before moving on to their next book (making up for lost time from last Spring). I will be posting an individual progress chart for your child to use on the Google Classroom, which will outline the belt goals to be achieved this year. Your child can check items off as I hear them and let them know if they passed, and work ahead as fast as s/he wants. However, each belt will be earned in order.

How does a student pass a belt song? There are a few ways, but they all start with practicing!!! Musicians of all ages and levels practice often. After a brief warm-up and reviewing a favorite tune, students should tackle challenging tasks in small bits, and slowly. Gradually get them faster, and add the small bits together into larger chunks as they get a little easier. By the time a student can play the example from beginning to end with few stops, it's time to polish it up and show me the finished product. End the practice session with something fun!

I can listen to students perform their belt song performances during our scheduled online Meet meetings, but that will take quite a bit of our learning time. To help save some time and allow flexibility, students have the option of recording themselves using the camera on their computer and attaching that file to the Google Classroom Check-In Weekly assignment, any time of day they like. I am also going to make Flipgrid an option, which I hope will be user-friendly for students. This is new technology for me, so I'm learning as we go. The camera and Flipgrid belt song videos will only be seen by me, I will not share those with the class. If students can not use any of these three options, I may make individual appointments to Meet with them and hear their belt songs.

The Trimester 2 grade will reflect how far your child has progressed by how many belt songs have been passed. How many songs can your child pass before February 26, 2021? Try for 1 or more each week!

Musically Yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District



October 26, 2020

Dear Music Families,

Now that we're having some Fall weather, we will be experiencing a new challenge with online learning: power outages. If you are having trouble connecting with me online, it's possible there may be a power outage in my neighborhood and/or at my school sites. My recommendation is to 1) check to be sure you are logging in at the right time and day, 2) check to be sure you are using the correct nickname/code, and 3) double-check the spelling of the code. If all of that is good, then try logging in again in a few minutes, just in case I'm running late. If you still can't find me, send me an e-mail, and I'll know you tried. If you don't have power during your usual Meet time, don't stress! You might be able to Meet with me later in the week. Practice the assignment--preferably by a window for good lighting. Don't forget to end your practice session with something fun!

It is important to end each practice session with something enjoyable. Go back and review something you have already mastered, or a song you enjoyed learning. Play your favorite note, beautifully, for as long as you can. Try to play something you've heard before, maybe from your favorite tv show or video game. Make-up a melody using your favorite notes and rhythms. Music lessons are getting more difficult now, so it's important to remember how fulfilling and fun making music can be, while we dig-in to the technical challenges!

The band or orchestra grade will be on your regular report card. Although there are so many things I would like to grade (posture, tone, rhythms, etc.), I can only assign one grade to your child: E, S, or N. Using the old-fashioned grading system, E = Excellent, S = Satisfactory, and N = Needs Improvement.

Translation for parents:
E = Meeting and possibly exceeding current expectations. Practice sessions sound fantastic, with new tunes each week.
S = Meeting many of the current expectations. Practice sessions sound good, some tunes are lasting more than a week.
N = No progress is being attempted. Practice sessions aren't happening, or the same song is played every week.

Translation for students:
E = Wow - I've done everything as asked with great posture, tone, and rhythms and I'm working ahead!
S = Yay! I can do the assignments, but I am not completely happy with how they sound...yet.
N = Uh oh...I need to find my instrument and start practicing again!

Although there are always a few students who earn an E, most students will easily earn an S. Very few students, if any, earn an N. It takes a lot of effort to NOT progress in music class!

As always, you are welcome to contact me by e-mail with questions, concerns, or comments.

Musically Yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


October 19, 2020

Dear Music Families,

I'm sending parents a survey this week. Traditionally, music teachers don't hold conferences. But I do appreciate reading your feedback, and I will make appointments to visit parents online who wish to do so!

I hope all music students are enjoying their instruments now! This week's Google Classroom assignment is all about taking the time to look closely at the book and see how it's designed. There are many gems I didn't point out in the Music Book Scavenger Hunt, but I am hoping students will find those while looking for their main resources.

All String students should be using a tuner at the start of each practice session. We will check tuning at the start of the Google Meet online lessons, to be sure we're all doing okay. But if students (and parents) tune on their own, it will save us a lot of time during class. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Stringed instruments need to be tuned every time they are taken out of the case - including, and especially, professional players!

All Advanced students should know their current karate goals (if not, just ask!), and should be working on them while reviewing with me lesson by lesson. Everyone should have a chance to lead, and a chance to follow along, while we review last year's information and move towards finishing this book. When we're done with this book, I will have another one ready! In the meantime, all students have three or more karate belts to earn, so I'll be using breakout rooms for students to play individually and earn those belts.

All Beginning students should have a book by now. I sent e-mails to parents about how to pick them up at school - most of them are being distributed from the school office area, but a few have been handed out with classroom teacher materials. Each online Meet lesson will include a warm-up exercise (review), introduction to new material, and very soon, a chance to play karate belt goals for me individually. I'll be using breakout rooms for most of the individual (solo) playing, but some students have expressed an interested in playing for the group as well.

Students are allowed to work through the book at their own pace. I will be teaching concepts lesson by lesson, as well as music theory (which advanced students should review, too!). Some students have family members who can help them, while others are working entirely with me. It's all good!

Musically Yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District



October 12, 2020

Dear Music Families,

You should be hearing some interesting sounds every day (or almost every day). It is my hope that each week these sounds become more refined, and your child feels happier at the end of each practice session. Music really is therapeutic, and while we are safely learning from a distance, this outlet may be more important than ever. At first, learning new things can be a little scary. Using the life skills of curiosity and perseverance, new abilities emerge. What was once frustrating is now our new favorite thing. Then a new challenge appears, and the cycle begins again! Isn't this true for nearly everything in life?

I really enjoy seeing and hearing students during our Meet meetings, and I'm really impressed with how well the students are handling the technology factor. Google has been adding new features to our Meet sessions, and I may try some out over time. I'm also thrilled so many students are turning in their written assignments, though I sure would like to see 100% of them turned in. If your child hasn't been doing them, try! It is my goal to make them short and sweet - just enough to show me you've been learning and doing something each week.

If there are tears or other signs of great frustration during practice sessions, I recommend taking a little break and going to something that CAN be done - focus on something easy and fun, or maybe try some improvisation. Take the difficult part of the lesson and use a "divide and conquer" strategy. Small bits add up and will eventually lead to good results. All musicians learn to practice this way. Please remember, though, that blasting is never a good thing in music (loud does not mean ugly), and can hurt the instrument, the player, or both. If it hurts your ears, there's a better way to do it!

As we approach a sweet time of year, please remember your child should wash their hands before practicing. Band students should also rinse their mouths with water (or brush teeth) before blowing into a wind instrument. Sugars and other food particles damage the instrument, and make it smell bad, too. It's okay to blame me - "Mrs. Ashford says you have to!"

Thank you for supporting your child - getting the instrument and supplies, providing a good place to practice, finding a way to hold that floppy music book up so your child can use good posture, tuning those stringed instruments, and your positive comments after practice sessions! I appreciate your e-mails, good or bad, to let me know how things are going. Not every lesson will be perfect (especially this week - oh my!) but I'll keep trying to make these lessons motivating and at a good pace.

My best to you and yours,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


October 5, 2020

Dear Music Families,

The dust is settling, and nearly every student has an instrument now. Beginners music books are coming soon! I will e-mail families when they are ready to be picked up at school. I apologize for the inconvenience.

We're making all kinds of crazy and mysterious sounds now. However, blasting overly-loud sounds is not necessary, and can be harmful to the player, the listeners, and possibly even the instrument. We should always strive to sound like the professionals we listen to. With this goal in mind, tone will improve slowly and steadily over time.

Please be sure your child has a place to practice, and some time carved out of your family's hectic routine, so family members can be supportive of this learning process for at least 10 minutes each day.

Music stands are awesome tools. I recommend getting a collapsible style. This is one of those things you can most likely ask friends, relatives, or even your social media contacts about. Many people have old music stands just waiting to be dusted off and used! Often, you can find "previously loved" music stands at garage sales, thrift shops, or flea markets. You can find brand new music stands at local music stores or online. Some newer models allow you to use the top part of the stand as a table-top music holder--I hope they work as nicely as they look! If you know you will only need a table-top music stand, they do make them, but I don't know how well they work. If you try one, let me know how you like it!

You might already have something at home that you can use as a music stand! You could use a piano music stand, or an easel. Perhaps you have a document holder for work, or a tablet stand--just be sure to put it up at eye level. You can pull out a dresser drawer, set the music on the folded clothes while the back of the book rests against a higher drawer. You can set the music up on a book case or other thin table--you'll need a sturdy hard-backed book to keep the music from flopping around, and some paper weights to keep the book from sliding. One of my students would hang their music from a hanger using clothes pins, and the hanger was hung from the corner of another hanger. If you find another way to hold a music book up at your home, let me know and I'll share it!

Students should continue to use good posture when they play. Standing up is often the best choice, but it is also okay to sit ('cello players must-do!) with both feet flat on the floor. While sitting, remember the four Fs: fanny forward, feet flat. Be aware of the bad habits that can creep up: elbows resting on knees, hips, or ribs is the most popular. Resting a wrist on a leg is another terrible habit. These scary scenes often happen when a student practices for too long in one sitting, and gets too tired to hold the instrument up properly. Faces pointing down towards the floor is another bad habit. Not only does this promote excessive spit in wind instruments, it also strains the neck muscles and reduces air flow from the lungs. When we are learning on-site, students will need to see a conductor with their peripheral vision while they read their music, so backs straight and chins up! Think of it as pre driver's training...spooky thought!

To avoid any truly frightening scenes, remind wind students (flute, clarinet, trumpet, and trombone) to brush their teeth or rinse with water (not mouthwash) before practicing! All students should wash their hands, too, to keep the instrument clean and pleasant to hold during future practice sessions.

I hope this is helpful information. I'm always happy to answer your questions, and if you think of something you want me to mention in a future newsletter, please send me an e-mail!

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

September 28, 2020

Dear Music Families,

By the middle of this week most families will have their instruments. Music lessons will begin to move a little faster, and your child should be practicing 5 to 10 minutes each day (or an equivalent that works with your schedule).

In a nutshell, beginners are making their first sounds! Advanced students are reviewing their first few lessons from last year.

Beginning Band - Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, and Trombone students are blowing into mouthpieces. One assignment is playing a long tone (an entire breath, as long as you can make it). Time yourself, and keep a record so you can see how your times change over the next week or more. Then, use your tongue ("tah") to create fun rhythms. Maybe even a rhythm from a well-known song! As students practice, the sound should become clearer and easier to make. Trumpet and Trombone players can buzz high (fast, cold air, tight lips), low (slow, warm air and loose lips), and then make siren sounds between the two. Clarinet players are making a "crow" sound - be sure that reed has been soaked before putting it on the mouthpiece! Place the reed on (not in) the rectangular hole on the mouthpiece. Line the tip of the reed up with the top of the mouthpiece. Take care not to touch with with your fingers! Attach the ligature far down, below the angled part of the mouthpiece, be sure the screws are on the reed side. Tighten the screws so they are snug, but not so tight that you can't loosen them again. Using as little mouthpiece as you can, put the reed on your bottom lip and roll it in just enough to cover your bottom teeth. Place your top teeth on the top end of the mouthpiece (plastic). Smirk, make a seal, and blow just enough to get a "crow" sound. Flute players are covering the open end of the headjoint with their right palm (hand open and flat). Be sure you don't turn the cap on the left side! Kiss (put the tone hole in the center of the mouth while smirking), roll (roll the headjoint outward, so the edge of the tone hole is touching the middle of the lower lip), and blow (keep your "Winnie" face while blowing across the hole). Try starting the tone with your tongue, as if you were spitting a seed off the tip of your tongue. When that seems easy, try taking your right hand off the opening and you'll hear a brighter sound!

Beginning Orchestra - Violin and Viola students are going to take a lot of time tuning instruments in class over the next few weeks. I want to be sure everyone is comfortable using their fine tuners. (Avoid using the pegs!) Please use the tuning resources on the Beginning Orchestra page of this site and try some tuning with your child at home! String students will also start learning their first "song", called the Ant Chant. The Ant Chant is a fun way to remember the names of the strings: E, A, D, G for violin. I want students to chant the words to the song out loud as they gently pluck the strings. It starts with the highest sounding string, and works down to the lowest sound. This week, violin students will use "guitar position", which is holding the violin neck with their left hand and resting the body of the violin on the student's right hip or thigh. We won't put the instrument on our shoulder until next week.

Advanced students are jumping into their old book from last year, so if you haven't found it yet, LOOK for it! This is a great opportunity to get that bedroom neat and tidy. We are taking a closer look at lessons 1, 2, and 3 this week and next. Play them as much as you can, and bring your questions when you Meet with me. Don't forget to experiment with ways to hold your music up. If you don't own a music stand or an easel, maybe set your music on a pulled-out dresser drawer, or on top of a bookcase or dresser with a paper weight holding the bottom of the book. Support the back of your music book with a hard-back book. Advanced Orchestra students are encouraged to use the tuning resources on the Advanced Orchestra page of this site - with their parents! - to try to tune themselves. We'll be going over tuning during the Meets, too. Eventually, you will be able to tune yourselves at each practice session and just double-check it with me as we say hello at the start of the Meet.

I look forward to hearing a lot of musical sounds this week, and seeing a lot of written assignments coming my way! Parents, if there is something I can do to make these lessons work better for your child, I want to know. Please send me an e-mail! I do have the KIS(S) method in mind all of the time (Keep It Simple!). I purposefully stick to applications that are either already in MDUSD Clever, or don't require extra downloads. If you find the tech is getting in the way, please let me know.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

September 21, 2020

Dear Music Families,

It has been wonderful to Meet with so many of you already! I wish it were in person, but we'll do our best. Just a reminder to students and parents - if there's something I can do to help make your online music lesson better, please send me an e-mail. I really want to make your music experience educational and fun.

All musicians are lifelong learners. We learn new techniques all the time - even when we're 80+ years old. There's always someone who's better than you. But there is always someone who looks up to you, as well. Very new beginners won't feel like this at first - but you are already one step ahead of people (of all ages) who say, "I wish I could learn how to play an instrument." Learning to play an instrument has some fantastic, immediate rewards. But it isn't easy at first. Stick with it! Just by trying, you will figure out what works and what doesn't. That's a healthy part of learning!

Speaking of learning, I found out last week that I made a mistake and will need to adjust one of my classes. Beginning Violin students and parents will receive an update from me, and I will make a note in the September 14 letter as well. (In short, the Thursday 1:30 class will begin at 2:15 instead)

This week we are working on getting instruments!

  • If you have one already, you're awesome! Advanced students may start reviewing last year's book. Beginning students should leave the instrument in the case until I tell them what to do with it.

  • If you are working on getting an instrument, thank you! I realize this may take time.

  • If you are going to receive a district-owned (a.k.a. "school") instrument, you are now waiting for me to get a pick-up schedule organized. In the meantime, please review the example loan agreement I sent you, so you can sign the official one when you pick up the instrument. Dates and times coming soon!

Thank you for your patience! Please e-mail me with any questions. I'm happy to help!

Sincerely,
Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


September 14, 2020

Dear Music Families,

This week I will begin meeting with students - and you too, if you’re observing along with your child! Our first Meet is an orientation to instrumental music lessons. We will cover these topics:

  • How Will These Music Classes Work?

  • Mrs. Ashford’s Google Classroom Expectations

  • Instrument Care & Safety (for advanced, this is review)

  • Questions & Answers

Please note:

  • We will not use instruments this week. If you are still working on getting an instrument, you have time. Please don’t panic! The school instrument lottery will be held as soon as I have string sizes.

  • We will be using Google Meet, not Zoom.

  • Only one Meet is necessary, unless your child has more questions throughout the week. The other options are for your convenience.

  • If you see a conflict between your classroom teacher’s schedule and mine, please contact me!

  • Your child will receive an invitation to join my Google Classroom. Look for it next week.

  • We start the week of September 14, 2020

Mrs. Ashford’s Music Schedule

  • Find your instrument and level

  • Use Google Meet

  • Option 1 is the BEST to attend, if possible. Option 2 is next best.

  • Only one Meet per week is necessary. The other options are for your additional needs

  • Parents are welcome to attend if they wish. Please send comments by e-mail.


Beginning Violin

Option 1 Tuesdays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordviolin

Option 2 Thursdays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordviolin *this class time will change to 2:15-3:00*

Option 3 Fridays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall

Option 4 Fridays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall


Beginning Flute

Option 1 Tuesdays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordflute

Option 2 Thursdays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordbeginningband

Option 3 Fridays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall

Option 4 Fridays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall


Beginning Clarinet

Option 1 Tuesdays 2:15-3:00 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordclarinet

Option 2 Thursdays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordbeginningband

Option 3 Fridays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall

Option 4 Fridays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall


Beginning Trumpet

Option 1 Mondays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordtrumpet

Option 2 Thursdays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordbeginningband

Option 3 Fridays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall

Option 4 Fridays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall


Beginning Trombone

Option 1 Wednesdays 1:00-1:45 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordtrombone

Option 2 Thursdays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordbeginningband

Option 3 Fridays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall

Option 4 Fridays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall


Advanced Orchestra (2nd Year Players Only)

Option 1 Mondays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordadvorch

Option 2 Wednesdays 12:15-1:00 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordadvorch

Option 3 Fridays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall

Option 4 Fridays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall


Advanced Band (2nd Year Players Only)

Option 1 Mondays 2:15-3:00 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordadvband

Option 2 Wednesdays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordadvband

Option 3 Fridays 8:00-8:45 a.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall

Option 4 Fridays 1:30-2:15 p.m. Meet Nickname: ashfordall

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Sincerely,
Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District


September 4, 2020

Hello Musical Families,

Registration ends today! But we'll keep the link active until this Sunday 9/6, just for you!

All parents who registered their children for my music lessons will receive a confirmation next week - hopefully on or before Wednesday. The confirmation letter will tell you:

  • which instrument and level your child is signed up to play

  • whether you got a school instrument (if you asked for one)

  • the classroom code for my Google Classroom

  • the address of your Google Meet and (hopefully!) the schedule

If you get your second choice, or if you are put on a waiting list, it is perfectly okay to rent one from a music store instead. In fact, if you can rent one, that will free-up an instrument for a family who really needs one. Please note, beginners will not need instruments for the first couple of weeks, so you have TIME!

The first couple of weeks will be spent learning about instrument care and safety (beginners) and review (advanced). Students will start working on posture and breathing. We may also have a chance to review counting and rhythms.

I hope everyone gets their first-choice instrument! We'll find out next week. Stay tuned! (No pun intended...)

Sincerely,
Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

August 31, 2020

Hello Musical Families,

This is what you need for this week: https://tinyurl.com/mdusdmusic The site has information and videos for you to enjoy while you investigate being in band or orchestra this year! The virtual Instrument Petting Zoo is a great place to have any remaining questions answered, plus read or hear other parent questions & answers too! I plan to attend all three nights. You don't have to attend one, if you don't need to. If you can not make it on those days or times, I'm just an e-mail away.

Soon I will be forming my schedule, which will hopefully align well with classroom teacher schedules at all of my sites. This is always tricky, kind of like trying to carry an egg on a spoon in the middle of a dodge ball game!

How will these online music lessons work?
Hopefully very well! Here's my plan.
My apologies in advance, but I will repeat myself often for those who missed it the first time.

Please note, this information is unique to my classes. Other instrumental music teachers may have their lessons structured differently. This plan may change, if it turns out to be a disaster!

What will you or your child need for instrumental music this year?

  • Instrument/supplies (source TBA in confirmation letter, to be sent home around Sept. 8)

  • Book (to be supplied by the district)

  • Physical location and time of day to practice the instrument (we'll talk about music stands later)

  • Google Classroom - code TBA

  • Google Meet - link TBA

  • If possible, the Camera feature on your laptop. (If not, we can work around it.)

  • My website (only for reference and to read my riveting weekly newsletters!)

  • Performance venue - still being investigated

How will it work? What is the online time commitment?

I will post a weekly assignment on Google Classroom:

  • Students will almost always have videos to view and use as needed each week.

  • Students will be asked to turn-in a written assignment. This is their proof of attendance & participation.

During the week, I will have Google Meet-ings organized by instrument and level, so students can come chat about the assignment, play for me if they wish, and ask questions. These Meet-ings will include students from my other sites.

Just to clarify -
-Students may reduce time spent at music Meet-ings by submitting recordings and questions using the Google Classroom weekly assignment. Recordings turned in through Classroom assignments are only seen by the teacher.
-Students may use Meet instead of submitting recordings on Classroom, but the weekly written assignment still need to be turned in. There will be other students observing during the Meet-ings while they wait for their turn.
-If a student wants to use both - submit questions and recordings on Classroom AND also at the Meet-ings, that's fine too!

Progress/Assessment

Students have varying degrees of enthusiasm and assistance, so the rate of progress will vary from student to student. Some students finish the book mid-year, while some don't finish it at all. As long as the student is participating and trying their best, it's all good. There will be a grade for band/orchestra participants in your classroom teacher's report card. Currently there are only three grades available: E = Excellent, S = Satisfactory, N = Needs Improvement.

We have a system in place to show progress, based loosely on the karate belt system. Students will earn a belt color as they show proficiency for each level. More to come!

Sincerely,
Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

August 26, 2020

Hello Musical Families,

There is much going on. We are all impatiently waiting for instrumental music to get started this school year! We have a fantastic site for you to look at as a family: https://tinyurl.com/mdusdmusic

  • This site is packed with videos and information about band and orchestra in elementary school!

  • As you navigate through the site, you will find a letter from our MDUSD Curriculum Specialist which explains our program in more detail.

  • You will also find a link to the virtual Instrument Petting Zoo flyer. This is a 3-night event (Sept. 1, 2, 3) for families to tune-in and have all of your questions answered. Pick the night that works for you! Each Petting Zoo begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be an hour (or less).

  • Last but not least, you will also find the registration form to sign-up for music lessons.

    • The form will go "live" on Thursday, August 27, 2020.

    • Sign-ups will be accepted until Friday, September 4.

    • Missed the registration window? E-mail me at ashfordk@mdusd.org for special sign-up consideration.

The district instrument "lottery" will be held soon after registration has closed. These instruments are free to borrow, but due to budget cuts, we kindly ask parents to handle repairs as necessary throughout the year. (Usually students who take good care of their instruments end up needing no repairs.) I will try to send confirmations to all families ASAP, so those who plan to rent can start contacting your local music stores.

If all goes as planned, music lessons will begin the week of September 14th. I will not require students to have an instrument that week, because families need time to acquire an instrument. In fact, some families will need a couple of weeks, especially if they are renting from a website or receiving an instrument by mail from friends/family that are far-away). We have plenty to learn in the meantime!

I look forward to seeing your sign-up soon!

Sincerely,
Mrs. Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM)
Ayers, Monte Gardens, and Westwood Elementary
Mt. Diablo Unified School District

August 17, 2020

Welcome to the 2020-2021 School Year!

I, and all of the Elementary Instrumental Music (EIM) teachers in MDUSD, are pleased to present the MDUSD Instrumental Music webpage. It has information about elementary school band and orchestra, especially for families who are thinking about joining our music family this year. Please note, the registration link is not active yet, but it will be by the end of August. I predict sign-ups will be due around September 4 or so. More details to come, so keep checking in!

You might find yourself in one of three categories:

Advanced Students - These are students who are signing up for the same instrument that they played last year. We will begin with a lot of review and then continue what we didn't finish last year, so have your old book ready! If you used a school instrument over the summer, it will be checked out to you again unless you no longer need it (hopefully for a happy reason!).

Beginning Students - We will be starting lessons in September, date TBA. Before then, you and your parents have some important things to do. Information is coming to you the week of August 24. Very important: please do not open your instrument case or try to play your instrument until after I have given you permission. We will have safety and care lessons before we start making sounds.

Not Sure/Thinking About It - View the District EIM webpage for helpful information. We will also have a few online Instrument Petting Zoos at the very beginning of September (links coming soon). These are great opportunities to get answers to your questions!

All Music Families:

Distance Learning for Instrumental Music - After signing up, you will be invited to join Google Classroom. My students will have a weekly digital assignment to open, read, and complete. Once we start digging in, you will be encouraged to practice your instrument 10-15 minutes each day, or more if you are able and willing. You will have opportunities to turn in videos of your playing through Google Classroom at your convenience and at your own pace. My feedback to your videos will be returned to you through Google Classroom as well. There will be a lot of helpful resources for you, many supplied by my colleagues who teach at other elementary schools in our district. I will have "Meet"ings with my students weekly, which will include lessons and time for questions. Lastly, I plan to update this Band & Orchestra Notes page weekly, so please bookmark it so you can check it often. In a nutshell, my students will be using Google Classroom, Google Meet, their mdusd.net email, and my website. All student work must be turned in using Google Classroom. Parents are invited to receive information from my Google Classroom by request.

Instruments - District-owned instruments will be available for use for free, but there often are not enough for everyone, and some recipients may be offered their second or third choice depending on how things go with the randomized instrument lottery. If a school instrument requires repair, our district-authorized repair shop is C&L music. If you plan to rent from a music store, the closest music stores are C&L Music and Rockin' Robbies in Concord. They are both open and offering their services in a safe, socially-distanced manner, so give them a call if you want to rent an instrument before they run out!

Band Karate & Orchestra Karate - We will continue to use the Karate program. Students will have clearly set goals and can progress at a comfortable pace for their needs. Students earn belts by completing played and written tasks for each level. We start with White Belt, then move up to Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Purple, Red, Brown, and finally Black. Students who achieve Black Belt status have completed the book for the year and will be given additional challenges for the remainder of the year. Beginner's books will be distributed when they are ready, but we may have an online option as well. More info soon.

A few things we're still working on - Concerts/performances, days/times music lessons are offered, and how string instruments will be tuned. I'm sorry I don't have all of the answers yet, so thanks for your patience!

I'm happy to answer more questions or just say hello!

Musically Yours,
Mrs. Karen Ashford
ashfordk@mdusd.org
Monte Gardens Elementary, Google Classroom code TBA
Westwood Elementary, Google Classroom code TBA
Ayers Elementary, shared with Ms. Whitfield, Google Classroom code TBA
Ygnacio Valley Elementary, shared with Mr. Jones, Google Classroom code TBA