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The best time to start a blog is yesterday...

In 2010, I was a part of the Teacher Principal Evaluation Pilot program as an Elementary General Music teacher in Washington State. We studied and helped develop how our new evaluation system would work. This whole new level of scrutiny and collaboration became a lens through which I sought to improve my teaching practice and refine the pathway to my core desire - an exemplary music program of high quality performers, that is a point of community pride, with excellent recruitment and retention. Over time I have realized that pathway should be:

A free, effective, and efficient set of resources for early orchestral skill development with a roadmap and toolset that is concrete, student-empowering and engaging, as universal as possible, modular, growth-mindset oriented, and standards-based.

Then, finally getting my dream job in 2017 teaching two Middle School Orchestra programs and serving between 3 and 5 elementary schools, I was immersed in a build-the-plane-as-we-fly-it Universal 5th Grade Strings program, where all students played violin or viola for a whole semester (or year!), whether they wanted to or not. In such an unusual setting, the traditional pedagogies offered more challenges than solutions, so I immediately began reinventing the wheel, never an easy or recommended course of action. But clawing and stumbling my way through years of work, only now do I have anything approaching confidence as to what I'm after.

Here's what I think I'm going for:

  • This website which organizes information and inspiration for students and teachers

  • 3 minute maximum videos of instruction, playalongs, "workouts"

  • A system of "badges" from Zero to Middle School Orchestra Competency, including "Quests" for popular method books, instrument skills and repertoire, and popular early orchestra pieces

  • Original and arranged (public domain) sheet music for solo, small group, and beginning to intermediate string orchestra

  • Curated links to other public domain instruction and sheet music resources

  • A creative commons(?) license for all these materials and work

    • Allowing free sharing, and modifications, while requiring attribution, encouraging financial contribution and preventing others from profiting off of my work or its derivations, allowing me to be compensated for my work through support donations (Yearly patreon?)

A partial "vision wall" of sites/concepts that I have found helpful along the way:

Image credit - George Bakos


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