Dalcroze Needed in Urban Schools, Instrumental Music

The Dalcroze approach is used little, if ever, in most music classrooms, yet it is just what students need.  Please consider my rationale in the American Dalcroze Journal here.


Band Piece to Benefit Japanese Tsunami Victims – Recording Released!

Kevin Mixon’s “Japanese Pictures”, a Level 2 concert band composition, is being released through Carl Fischer Music in Spring 2012.  All royalties from the sale of the piece are being donated to Music for Relief (www.musicforrelief.org), an organization of musicians, music industry professionals, and fans providing disaster relief to survivors of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, as well as people in need around the world.

Listen and download the professional recording here:


To further enrich learning, Kevin is corresponding with students, rehearsing and conducting performances without fee for any band whose students raise additional funds for Music for Relief.  There is no set amount required for fund-raising; the primary goal is that students take initiative in some way to help the cause (e.g., collection at concert, during lunch periods, etc.).  Please contact Kevin to discuss ways your students can work directly with the composer: kmixon1@verizon.net.

This new composition, with both spirited bravura and lyrical sections, draws from tuneful folk melodies and aggressive taiko (drum) ensemble rhythms to introduce students to traditional Japanese music styles.   In addition to advancing musical skills in a multicultural context, performing the piece also teaches students that their artistry can be used to help others in need.  Creativity, empathy, and diversity skills are all part of 21st century learning standards that will adeqately prepare young musicians for future success.  This is a deeply enriching interdisciplinary learning opportunity!

Relationships before referrals: Establishing rapport with hard-to-reach students

All teachers have had these students: rude, bullying, belligerent…or maybe the opposite: withdrawn, shy, chronically absent.  We usually try much harder with the quiet ones.

What do we tend to do with the aggressive ones?  Yeah, it’s easy to throw them out and get on with the business of teaching and learning, isn’t it?  Besides, we try to call their parents and often realize part of the issue is that parents are unresponsive as well (the topic of an upcoming blog entry).  So, we kick the kid out of class and he or she becomes the temporary responsibility of the principal.  But that kid will be back…and so will the problem.

Here are some ways to reach kids who don’t seem to care.

James Comer posits that there can be no significant learning without a significant relationship.  Lee Canter offers a rule of thumb to foster this essential rapport and respect: recognize each student in a positive way each day.  But what about those kids hard-to-reach kids?

Try Allen Mendler’s “2 X 10 Technique”.  For 2 minutes during 10 consecutive days, try and build a relationship with the student, but do not mention classroom behavior or what s/he needs to do to be a successful student.  Stick to neutral topics centered on what you observe the student likes.  This might be drawing, rapping, playing a sport.  Be sincere: these kids sense a poser easily, and then they surely won’t trust you, and trust is a critical component of positive relationships.

If you’re really pressed for time (and who isn’t during the school day!?), Jim Fay and David Funk have a variation in their “Love and Logic” method called the “One-Minute Intervention”.  Approach the student 6 times in a 3-week period with a statement that begins something like: I noticed…,” completing the statement with something honest and true.  As with the 2 X 10 Technique, don’t talk about classroom behavior.

Teachers consistently report that these two techniques help establish rapport with challenging students.  But before any teaching strategy is effective, there has to be resolve on the part of the teacher.  Are we really committed to reach and teach all students?

We won’t always be successful, but we always need to try.  Fight on!  Your students need you.

–Kevin Mixon, a National Board Certified Teacher from Syracuse, N.Y., is the Fine Arts Coordinator for Syracuse City Schools, author of Reaching and Teaching All Instrumental Music Students, and co-author of Teaching Music in the Urban Classroom