I Ain’t ‘friaid of no Frankenstorm!

It was a dark and stormy night…The week leading up to Halloween is always one of my favourite times. When we started off our ‘Hello’ song this week we had a pretty small group, but as the time passed many familiar faces came to join in with the Halloween festivities. We sang songs about dressing up, Jack-o-lantern pumpkins, and even made a scary witch’s brew made up of suggestions from the group. The kids took turns playing the Darabuka before shaking the rainbow ghost…er…parachute. We also did quite a bit of howling, as it was a full moon.

Movin’ and Groovin’

We had another great class this week at Jessie’s Centre. Our group was as young as 4 months and as old as 2 today, but my, did all those kids know how to move, no matter what their age! This group was right into all the actions showing off the sticky bubblegum between their toes and noses, waving their fingers in the air and taking those sharp corners as they hurried in their firetrucks! Our group was eager to get to their feet and we really came together with the song, “Elephants Have Wrinkles.” As we found our toes, hips and trunks there were lots of giggles as moms and shelter staff gave tickles, as well. And, as usual, we finished off with lots of parachute fun, which seems to be what these babies and toddlers like the best! It’s always difficult to turn off the music and put the parachute away because they enjoy it so much.

“What Will You Be For Halloween?”

This week I prepped Robertson House for Halloween Week. We started with a song called “What Will You Be For Halloween?” to get everyone thinking about their choice of costume. It was fun to hear which costumes were clearly the favourites of the group (Spiderman, Princess, Cowboy,) and it also built some excitement about dressing up for the big night. We learned two songs about pumpkins (Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Big And Round and Five Little Pumpkins,) and I shared a spooky version of The Itsy, Bitsy Spider. We moved onto some other animal songs about bugs, including Poor Little Bug On The Wall, and marched around the room for The Ants Go Marching. 

 The Instrument of the Week was the Ocean Drum. It was a bit loud and intimidated some of the younger ones, but I showed them how to play the drum softly by slowly tipping it from side to side. We passed the drum around and took our Yellow Submarines under the water.

For the Jam we stuck with the Beatles theme we had going and sang one of my favourites, Twist and Shout. Some of the girls started creating choreography and it was wonderful to see the “Girl Group” come alive for one more class!

No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!

It is always refreshing when one can return week after week to the same place and still have a completely new experience each time. This week we sang through a wide assortment of songs, some new and some familiar. During the songs we explored body percussion, lots of actions and high energy dancing and jumping – especially as monkeys jumping on the bed. We also explored the recorder, the second wind instrument we have looked at this session. At the end of it all we had a rousing jam session with all of the instruments.

Apparently, I’m not as scary as I thought.

Lots of people today! Students that were absent last week returned (very glad to see them, because they’re so much fun) and a new parent and child. A staff member that came to investigate the goings-on last week also returned to sing with us this week, and a completely new staff member showed up to see what all the fuss was about. She ended up staying – awesome!

The mothers of the students who have been with me for the previous three weeks are really, really getting the hang of this – I sense less and less hesitation, and they’re singing loud and proud even when they’re learning new material. They seemed to have a lot of fun with the Halloween songs I introduced today, especially “The very scary spider,” based on “The eency weency spider” and mode shifted from major to minor, sung in my best Bela Lagosi accent.

Should I be offended they laughed out loud and weren’t scared at all?

“Let’s Start A Girl Band”

Today was a memorable day at Robertson House. I arrived a little early to help the staff set up the room, and as people started to arrive for class I noticed a family of four girls who looked exactly alike. They had just arrived the previous evening, and seemed a little unsettled, but the oldest girl quickly introduced herself and her sisters. Then, she boldly stated, “we are going to start a girl band!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I noticed immediately that she had an enthusiasm for performance and decided to create a “set list” for class. We chose songs that would be both familiar to the group and had an element of dance (otherwise referred to as choreography). Of course we had to start by warming up our voices (The Flea Song and One Button, Two Button) and it was important to have our body parts warmed up too (I Wake Up My Hands, The Tickle Song). We also practiced keeping the beat with 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and and Clap Your Hands and Sing 123. We prepped knowing the difference between the right and left side of the body with Dat Is The Right Hand, which proved to be useful for our grand finale, The Hokey Pokey. The class certainly had a different energy with participants who were slightly older, but it was a change that I welcomed and appreciated. It was also fun to see the group “performing” for an audience. Some grownups were VERY confident in their dance moves, much more so than myself! We also sang a couple of our growing favorites; Clean-O, Mr. Sun, Roly Poly, Itsy Bitsy Spider and Old MacDonald.

There was particular interest in this week’s instrument of the week. I brought along two pairs of Tingshaw Bells from Tibet. Some grownups were able to recognize similarities and differences between this week’s instrument and last week’s which was the Gong from China. I always love to see those brains making connections between musical teachings, and although some children seemed a little scared of the high pitch, the Tingshaw Bells were a definite hit with the older children. The older member of our girl group (we have yet to decide on a name) took the initiative and walked around the circle “realigning” each child by ringing the bells overhead and pulling them close to the ears. It was nice to have such a calm moment after a busy, energetic beginning to class.

After finishing up with the parachute, the two oldest sisters helped me pack up my things as we chatted a little bit. I think that next week they will be in school during our class time so I wanted them to know how much I enjoyed having them sing with me. Both said they would like to play guitar one day and perhaps the flute! I am always so inspired by the resilience of the young people I meet in the places I am fortunate to teach, and hope to encourage them along their musical journey, even if it is only for a short time.

A New Beginning

This week was a bit of a fresh start for us all. We worked on some basics like sitting in a circle, clapping hands, stomping feet, and call and response. The children really impressed me when they shared some of their favourite songs with me. What a beautiful sound it was to hear the whole room singing together loudly in unison! The group came in pretty slowly. As the class began, there were only two children in the room with me, but many of the children entered while we were up on our feet jumping and dancing, and we ended up with 11 kids. They were very excited by the Jaw Harp, an instrument which many of them had never seen before. We ran out of time before getting to the instruments or the parachute, but despite that, I can honestly say that this was one of the best classes I have taught at this location in terms of parent and child involvement!

The more the merrier!

Fewer people today, but the ladies who showed up certainly brought their A game. Great to see a committed core group of parents who are bringing their children to class.

I also notice they’re getting more confident in their singing and playing – fantastic!

The parents were very excited to get their free CD, and we spent a few minutes together after class going through the tracks, seeing which songs we had learned in class, and which ones were still there to discover.

Some of the staff have started showing up, just to see what’s happening, and end up participating. The more the merrier certainly applies, and I’m glad these ladies are taking me up on my offer to join in.


It was a busy day at the shelter today, as there were various workshops taking place for residents. I arrived a little bit early and helped the staff members set up the room. I also took a bit of time to walk around the cafeteria to meet and greet some of the people I didn’t know so well. After encouraging a couple ladies to come and sing with us, we began with prepping for Halloween Week. Songs included Pumpkin Pumpkin based on the tune Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It was funny to see a couple of the grownup faces light up with recognition of the tune’s melody. I also taught them a particularly creepy chant titled I Shut The Door. Other songs sang throughout the class included Roly Poly, I Wake Up My Hands, The Tickle Song, Sticky Sticky Bubblegum, Clean-O, The Bicycle Song, Wheels On The Bus and Zoom Zoom Zoom. We also practiced “Rolling The Ball”.

The instrument of the week was the Chinese Gong. I gave a brief history and passed the instrument around, demonstrating how to vary tempo and dynamics using the mallet. It was tricky for some children, as sharing is still a challenge for this group. When I sensed a pending meltdown from a couple of participants I quickly brought out the big bag of instruments, and handed out instruments to everyone. I realized that sometimes the grownups are shy and need a bit of encouragement to play something they haven’t had much experience with. We jammed to All De’ Nations, Three Little Birds and Hot Hot Hot! After putting all the instruments away with greater success than last week, I brought out the parachute for some more shaking!

That’s alright, I have enough energy for everyone :)

My second day at the Massey Centre went well, though some faces were missing from day one; it’ll be interesting to see if those people return with their children.

It’s interesting to note that many of the same issues that seem to effect young high school students apply here. I still sense a bit of hesitation, like they don’t want to be the only “silly” parent in the room: after all, who wants to find themselves being judged by a room of people?

No one, ever.

I’m certainly doing my best to be larger than life, keeping their focus on me, and keep the lesson moving. I’m hoping that If they don’t have time to worry about judging themselves or each other, they’ll forget all about those doubts and let fun continue to work it’s magic.

That’s all presuming, of course, that this is the issue at all. I could be completely wrong about it… maybe they were just a little tired?