Chris: What Are Some Ways You Used The Guitar During Your Chorus Practice?

CK: I did not use my guitar during choir practice, but I use my guitar in my first placement in a general music setting for kin- dergarten to third grade. The students loved the guitar and loved to sing along while I strummed simple chords. Ways that I could have used my guitar in choir could have been during warm-ups. The only thing that held me back about using my guitar with a choir was the very quiet nature of the guitar. On on hand I thought that it might make the students listen more closely, but on the other I was afraid that the students would not be able to hear the pitch as well as a piano. I think the guitar can be very useful as an accompaniment instrument, but maybe not practical for a full choir.

Nic: Please Share A Little Info About Your Best Lesson Plan During Class Instruction?

NB: Toward the end of my student teaching placement at

RFIS, I did a group songwriting project with the sixth grade classes I was teaching, where the students had to come up with lyrics and chord progressions to play together. I liked the idea of this project because it allowed them to be creative and make practical use of the skills they had been learning during the marking period (i.e. guitar chords). I began the lesson by showing the students two songs I had written, one a setting of “Captain Hook” by Shel Silverstein meant for young children, and the other a song with lyrics and a style that took influence from punk music. I used these songs as examples of the ways a songwriter could make music in different ways depend- ing on what they were trying to express. I felt that it was necessary to emphasize to the students that I was not expecting them to come up with completed songs in the two lessons that we would be work- ing on the project because many of them felt uncomfortable sharing their ideas. I really just wanted the groups to share what they had come up with as a way of showing each other even more ways that songs could be written. In retrospect, I think that the project would have benefited from having a few more restrictions than what I gave them, because many of the students felt overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities. The next time I try a similar lesson, I’ll probably try to give the students more structure to start off with.

What Aspect Of Being In Front Of Children Was The Most Challenging For You Both?

CK: The most challenging aspect for me was staying on topic;

many times I would discuss a side thought or the students would ask a question that would get me off topic. Sometimes this helps the lesson in a good way, and other times it turns the lesson ugly. By try- ing to stay on topic I would write down key objectives of the lesson and keep them handy whenever I felt as if the lesson was going off topic. I did not start doing that until the second half of my second placement and it helped me immensely. For anyone who thinks they really know how to stay on topic in front of kids without a simple re- minder might want to think twice; kids are very elusive but this can be used to a teacher advantage! Turn their curiosity into enthusiasm regarding your class and lessons. NB: I almost always felt very comfortable in front of the stu-

dents. I have a very silly, dorky sense of humor which seemed to be pretty compatible with that of a 6th

grader. However, children that

are this young can lose focus pretty easily, so it’s imperative you make sure they remain engaged in some way for the entire class. I found

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this to be particularly challenging because I am generally a pretty low-energy individual, so I was often concerned that there would be too long of a transition from one activity to another and the stu- dents would disengage. I also found differentiation to be a particular challenge due to the wide variety of learning styles and levels of the students. There were often students that I had to sit down with and individually address certain concepts with, but there were also stu- dents who would be way ahead of their peers, so I would have to find more challenging repertoire and skills for them to work on.

What Surprised You Both The Most About Your Experience? CK: When I first began my college career at eighteen years old, I decided I was going to become a music teacher. At first, the idea of myself talking in front of a group of people for more than 5 minutes frightened me. Now I feel much more comfortable being in front of a group of people and being the center of attention for as long as needed. This confidence did not come overnight, and the most sur- prising thing about my experience was that by the time I had been in front of students for over a week, the thought did not even phase me at all. All throughout college I dreaded teaching a 10-15 minute mock lesson because it seemed like such a long time to be teaching. Now I feel as if I cannot get anything done in less than 45 minutes! Overall my boosted confidence in presenting and teaching surprised me the most. NB: When I arrived, I wasn’t exactly sure how enthusiastic the students would be about music or how receptive they would be to me as a teacher; but I quickly learned that almost all of them were interested and willing to lend me their ears if I could prove to them that what I was teaching was worth being passionate about.

Thomas Amoriello is the Guitar Education Chairperson for the New Jer-

sey Music Education Association and also serves on the NAfME Council for Gui- tar Education as the Eastern Division Representative. He teaches guitar for the Flemington Raritan School District and Hunterdon Academy of the Arts. Tom graduated from the Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University with a Master of Music Degree in Classical Guitar Performance. He is the author of the children’s picture book A Journey to Guitarland with Maestro Armadillo, available from

Michael Newman has directed Guitar Studies and Ensembles at The Col-

lege of New Jersey since 2014. During the 1970s, Michael Newman gained international recognition as one of the outstanding concert guitarists of his gen- eration. Soloist with the Atlanta, Seattle, and Honolulu Symphonies; and fea- tured in national media: People Magazine, Larry King Show, New York Times, Guitar Player Magazine. A graduate of Mannes College of Music and the Aspen Music School and Academia Musicale Chigiana, he has served on the guitar and chamber music faculty of Mannes College the New School for Music in New York City since 1979.


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