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general music high school

I am starting a brand new high school general music class for an alternative school. We have varing learning styles and lots of students who need 1 on 1 attention,  some who get bored, off task, on their cell phones, listening to youtube.
We have guitars, djembes, a few keyboards, recorders and some african instruments. Some love recording and hopefully we will get some funding to buy some equipment.  I have no budget, but I need ideas, method books, websites for recording,  making beats, raps, stuff like that. 
Any advice would be appreciated
on February 13, 2014 8:23am
For several years, I have used the World Music Drumming program by Dr. Will Schmid, past president of the Music Educators' National Conference. Check out the website.  Will is also the author of the best selling method for classroom guitar instruction, published by Hal Leonard.
 
Instead of recorders, I use "Dixie Fifes" by Trophy Mfg. in Cleveland (but only available through distributors).  These are plastic pennywhistles that come 12 to a card for about $2 each in bulk.  They are well made and tuned well enough, and have raised finger holes making it easier for beginners to seal the holes.  The absence of holes for thumb and little finger also makes the instrument simpler and quicker to learn than the recorder.  The Dixie Fife is a wonderful instrument for music education, despite its cheap price and toy-like appearance.  I call it a fife and teach early American folk and patriotic tunes like Taps, Star Spangled Banner, God Save the King, Chester, Yankee Doodle, Just Before the Battle Mother, Aura Lee, etc etc; then call it a pennywhistle and teach folksongs from America and the British Isles.  I teach at the Elementary level, and do this with 3-4-5th graders, using number notation-- 1-2-3-4-5-6 --to represent the notes obtained by closing the six succesive holes.  There is also a high register obtained blowing harder and signified by a dot over the number.  The first notes of the Star Spangled Banner are thus written 2-4-6-4-2-6----- (with dot over the final 6 which is high 6).  Some will not agree, but I do not spend much time teaching music reading because our music classes are so short (two 35 min periods per week), and kids can play at a much higher level than that at which they can be taught to read.  This may well be different with high school students and your school's schedule.
 
I also have a classroom set of American Indian flutes which I made with the help of two Iroquois flute players.  I'm happy to share to plans and instructions with anyone interested (email me through the site); also Bearpaw Flutes makes plastic flutes, both finished and in kit form, only requiring pieces to be glued together.  I use instruction books by Burton(?) published by World Music Press and Naka; select a half dozen simpler songs, and convert them to the same number notation I use for the fifes.
 
Many of our special education students have full-time aides who comes to music class with them.  If your students have aides, ask your principal to assign them to come to music class with their students, and give them specific instructions so they are actively involved helping you teach and manage students.  Some aides would prefer to sit back and watch, while others would love to be more involved but don't know what to do.
 
I can see nothing but distraction and trouble if students at your school are allowed to use cell phones during class.  You should have a strict policy against use in your class, supported by the administration.  Properly used and supervised, youtube is a tremendous resource for showing singers, choirs, instruments, musicians and musical styles from all over the world; historic performances; and various renditions of songs and tunes students are learning.  We have youtube this year for the first time in my 13 years of teaching, and about half the time in my 3-4-5-6th grade classes I show a 3-4 minute clip some time duing the class.
 
Lastly, I would look for adult folk musicians in your area who might be interested in volunteering in your music classes.  With the renewed interest in music--especially folk-- over the last 50 years, and the aging of our population, there are many many music clubs, jams and get-togethers, and many of these groups are reaching out to the next generation with "Young Jammer" programs which provide instruments, instruction and playing opportunities to interested students.  Here in Arizona, for example, we have multi-instrument  "Young Jammer" programs in Tucson, Phoenix, Prescott Valley and Flagstaff; also autoharp, dulcimer, and bagpipe clubs offering similar outreach.  Rock music is not one of my interests, but there are plenty of electric guitar players around.  There are many Barbershop groups--male and female-- and some of these have programs to involve young singers.
 
I have no experience or knowledge about recording (something I'm trying to get to, one of these days...), but I think this is a great idea.  Concerning your lack of budget, I know this all too well, never having had a budget in 13 years.  Many will disagree, and it's certainly not the way things should be, but consider investing your own money in your program (and retaining ownership of your materials, of course).  Having resources provides more opportunities for students, provides more learning for us, and ultimately makes us more successful and employable.  Best wishes.
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on February 13, 2014 6:05pm
There are a lot of British and Australian resources for general music education - try searching some of their curriculum websites for ideas. I've used Heinemann Publishing's Opus series for my general music classes. Each unit focusses on one element of music through a certain style of music or through comparision. It's a good start and easy to substitute your own units into. 
 
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