Mrs. Sherwin's Music Room Musings

Thoughts and Information from the Music Room

Welcome to Music! Glad You’re Here!


“Welcome to Music! Glad You’re Here!  Gonna Do some singing! Gonna use our ears.  We are going to have a lot of fun because music time has just begun.  Welcome to Music! Glad you’re here.”

This is a song by Denise Gagne from Red Deer.  We sing it all together at the beginning of class.  It is one of our favorites.

I am so glad to be back to school and singing.  Over the past couple of years, we quickly discovered that music and making the arts is a valuable use of time.  It is valuable in so many ways.  It stretches our minds, exercises our brains, engages our soul, expresses our feelings when words can no longer.  Music soothes thMusic Therapy: More Than Just Entertainment | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illnesse spirit and lightens the heart.  Music was the thing that echoed around the world when there was eerie silence.  One often thinks of the scene from Italy, when it was all quiet and people, artists would take to their balcony to sing and share their extraordinary talent.  Or the different videos that were compiled as peopled still played music from their own homes and from around the world.  The explosion of music and art during the past few years was amazing.

We are back! We are back singing and making music is the music room in all of the ways that we have and enjoy!  It is a very exciting time here at school.  The beginning of a new school year is more exciting than New Year’s Eve in January.  The new school year with the weather still bright, the children all arriving with their summer glow and grown like weeds, makes it much more open for new experiences, new routines and new chapters. There is something about the rush of excitement at this time of year.  It is hard to put into words.  I am looking forward to all of the things coming in the music room this year and seeing all the students here once again!

Welcome to Music! Glad you’re here!

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We are Playing a Woodwind! Viva the Recorder!


The year is quickly up and so are all of our lessons and fun in the music classroom this year.  The older students (grade 3-5) are winding down this year with a unit on the recorder. 

When I tell people we are doing the recorder in Music class, I am usually, am met with a wince, a shudder and sympathy.  To that I say, “Nevermind you! The recorder can be a beautiful instrument.”  I say that and I am not lying.  A good quality recorder and well played, can be a beautiful instrument.  It has a very sweet and cheery sound.  The sound and noise, that parents hear from a recorder is the kind that kids make for the sake of making.  Who knows why?! It kind of falls under the same umbrella as picking a fight with their siblings, walking through the house with muddy shoes on, leaving Lego on the floor from one end of the house to the other to be stepped on in bare feet.  That insanely high pitched screeching squeal that kids like to do has given the recorder a bad wrap -a bad wrap indeed!

Recorders were popular with composers in the Renaissance and  Baroque era of music.  So how did it become a staple in elementary school classrooms?  Carl Orff, a composer, worked extensively with making music with children.  His philosophy was to give children a small musically fenced (metaphoric) yard to play in and they will create their own music and become composers and explorers of music.  Give the children instruments that match closely to their voices and see what they come up with.  He also favored the glockenspiel, metallophone and xylophone.  All easy instruments to play and create layers and sound.  Turns out Orff was onto something fantastic with the recorder.

A soprano recorder is an excellent beginning instrument to any of the woodwind instruments.  Through playing the recorder a student will work on playing posture, embouchure, mouth exercises (your tongue separates the note sounds), air control and breathing,  finger positions to create different tones, body awareness, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, reading and processing.  Along with all of that, the students are working on aural skills also known as a ‘musical ear’ and a sense of tonality and rhythm.

The processing in the mind is huge while playing an instrument.  Both sides of the brain are firing at the time of playing an instrument.  You have to work both the mathematical logical side and the artistic side at the same time.  You are reading from left to right, notes, thinking about the notes, then changing your hand positions to match the notes, counting the beat, breath control, muscle control, making many things match to what your are reading on the song to have it all line up to make a note.  A single note.  Then this process continues as you read on in the song to the next note and note after that.  You are also listening and making sure it sounds correct, fixing mistakes, making sure everything is just so so as to make a perfectly pitched note.  Your body and brain has to work on quite a few different things at one time, note to note,  in order to play an instrument, even a simplistic beginning instrument like a recorder.

Experience and learning of an instrument, such as this,  develops musicality and a sense of musicianship in the students with an economical, practical and easy to play instrument. Many other factors that come into play when creating music.  Factors like: pride in success of making a song, making music, working together with others to make one unified sound, a sense of accomplishment in working on something and practicing something to make it perfect.  Resilience and perseverance for when it isn’t just right and working on it to get it just right.  As well, as working memory, an appreciation for music and the arts and just a genuine sense of joy in making something like music.  Creating a song that sounds like a song can be astounding!

So in the music room is the recorder-it is happening.  In the music room, there are some pretty big skills we are learning and practicing with a very handy-dandy little woodwind instrument!  It is definitely not that bad-not that bad at all!  But just to spare everyone I won’t send them home for practice and they won’t be sent home from school until the very end of Grade 6!






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Music Education – It’s more than Fun! It’s important.


I finally had the chance to watch the Oscars.  I am not going to lie; I was brought to tears a few times, by the music. It began with Queen and Adam Lambert bringing a full scale stage show of ‘We Will Rock You and We are the Champions’.  The pomp and circumstance of the event, went right out the window.  All of the politics; left and right, women, men, ethnicity, LGTBQ and every single difference that has been discussed, shouted about, tweeted about and discussed some more gone because of song.  Every. single. person. was on their feet singing along with Queen! United as one voice.  That right there is the power and joy of music.  The universal language of song.  Later, I was brought to chills again with the Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, sang a beautiful piece, “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from the new Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack.  Her voice is so stunning and the piece of music was classic Disney.  Another “American Idol”, Jennifer Hudson, brought down the house with “I’ll Fight” a song that was written for a documentary speaking of the life of supreme court Justice Ruth Gainsburg. The evening was brought home with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper singing “Shallow”.  I swear, it was better than the movie!  The entire audience was mesmerized.  For as long as I’ve watched, I can’t remember being so emotionally moved by the musical performances.  The overall mood of the show was different.  Less political, joyful and fun, a true celebration.  Celebration and joy for music makes us appreciate it so much more.  It seems to weave its way into all faucets of life.  Waking up to a song in the morning.  Listening to music while working, while shopping, while driving, while doing household business, basically there are uncountable moments in the day where music is suddenly a part of it.  We always appreciate music and like its capacity to change the tone of a single event, it can change our lives and even our brains.

Education in music is most sovereign because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way to the innermost soul and take strongest hold upon it     


It seems fitting then, that March is Music Education month.  A celebration of Music education.  This is my first year teaching music and it has been a journey.  One that I am thoroughly enjoying. I have the extraordinary privilege of working with every grade 1-6 student in the building.  It is a true joy.  As the year progresses, I am hearing differences and seeing differences in the students abilities and knowledge. I am seeing the value each day of have a more developed music program in our school.  I have also become more aware of the learning that occurs in each different area and as I do I add notes to my plans of different ways to join music to their learning.  The music helps lock in an idea.  Ask any of the students who had me for grade 5 science about ‘The Water Cycle’ song.  Music adds depth to a student’s capacity for learning.

Music education is a very important piece of whole student’s learning puzzle.  Music education is proven to increase student learning, testing, understanding of their surroundings, empathy, compassion and thoughtful evaluation, criticism and discussion on a topic.  I recently read an article from Northwestern University, that the ability to keep a beat helps with the beginning processes of learning to read.  The study, a first of its kind, found link between reading ability and beat keeping ability.  Beat keeping link that parts of the brain that need to work in tandem for successful reading.  It works with the trifecta of visual, auditory and movement in learning.  So any practice in different arenas of learning that make the brain engage this way is very important.  A more recent study from the University of Southern California showed, “that as little as two years of music instruction has multiple benefits…it encourages change in the white matter and also boosts engagement of brain networks responsible for decision making and the ability to focus attention and inhibit impulses”.  This same study which was done with HOLA a group that brings music education to underprivileged, inner city students of Los Angeles also had other findings.  The study has found that the “music training accelerates maturity in areas of the brain that are responsible for sound processing, language development, speech perception and reading skills.”  And added that these changes and developments from music training, “can offset the effects on the brain developments that living in poverty can create.”  The findings of this study in collaboration with other brain studies of students who a musicians suggest that, “musical training is a powerful intervention that could help children mature emotionally and intellectually.”  Your feelings and mood can be affected by music.  Learning music actually can change the development of your brain and the whole self.

Early Music training seems to shape the young brain, strengthening the neural connections and perhaps establishing new ones.     

Dr. Frances Rauscher

Music learning in the same studies has also shown a growth in self-perception and self-esteem.  Children who learn to play an instrument also have more confidence in learning other skills.  We’ve been studying the art and structure of various composers in various ways since Christmas, along with singing and playing instruments.  I am looking forward to the spring here when we get going on the recorders.  Don’t fret! I don’t really let them leave the building as they don’t make it back (sometimes)!  As well, the older ones will be spending some time on the Ukuleles.


Bibliography – The Importance of Keeping the Beat: Researchers link ability to keep beat to reading, language skills.   Submitted by Northwestern University.  September 17, 2013 Summarized of the study done by Dr. Nina Kraus for The Journal of Neuroscience

TheBestBrain Possible – Music Training Strengthens Children’s Brain, decision making network.  Submitted by University of Southern California.  November 14, 2017

Assai Habibi et al. Childhood Music Training Induces Change in Micro and Macroscopic Brain Structure: Results from a Longitudinal Study, Cerebral Cortex (2017)







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Finding your why…

I have been thinking about this lately.  This is especially true when ‘finding your why’ has been placed on our radar as part of our professional development.

I love music.  Is that enough reason?  Probably not.

We were allowed to start learning an instrument for school band in grade 5.  I remember we had this thing in the gym. There was a concert and then a ‘look and learn’ about the different instruments.  I was deciding between the flute and the oboe.  It was quite a discussion at home.  My mom thought that the Oboe was beautiful and do something unique.  I thought the flute was the cat’s pajamas.  Plus all my friends were picking flute too.  So there was that.  It was quite the standoff, but eventually the flute was rented.  So there was six of us on the flute.  The poor music teacher.

Our band teacher was called a ‘district teacher’.  He drove all over to the different schools and taught band.  We had to miss regular class to go to our sectional sessions.  This was a large commitment, as it was expected that we stay on top of our work plus the additional commitment of practicing our instrument for 20 minutes, five times a week.  He would come to our school once or twice a week. Sectionals and then we’d convene as a beginner band.  Once we were really going, on Monday evenings, we would take the bus to a neighboring town and have ‘division band’.  All students from across the would gather and we’d rehearse.  Talk about a massive undertaking.  We even had band uniform! It was a rather smelly, totally polyester red sweater with black stripes on the sleeves.  It didn’t matter though.  It meant that we were a part of something.  We made music together.  We made something that was more than just ourselves.

In  1991, my family moved to Lacombe, Alberta from the deep southeastern corner of Saskatchewan.  I was in junior high and this move was a culture shock to me.  I went from a class of 18, all of whom I can still name, to a class of 150.  The music room though, that was the only place I didn’t feel weird and awkward, an outlier.  It was a place of acceptance. Mr. K was my cheerleader.  It was there, where I learned of the Broadway Musical.  The first organ chords of the ‘Phantom’ blasting through the room.  The chorus of the people in ‘Les Mis’.  In that room we still had a common goal.  We made music together.  We made something that was more than just ourselves.  I continued on through to high school.  I was so envious of Ms. A.  That woman has more talent in her little finger than I will ever have in my lifetime.  I continued on into University.  It was a constant. A place of acceptance.  A place where we all worked together to make something larger than ourselves.

Why Music? Music has been a constant for me.  I want music to be that for our kidlets at PES.  A place of acceptance. A place to try.  A place to be brave.  A place to share our creativity.  And most of all a place of joy and fun.  A place where we just simply love, share and enjoy music and art.  To shine and see the best in each other.  That’s why I chose music. I love it.  I want to be that place for the kiddoes at our school that it was for me.

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Music! Music! Music!


Hello Everyone!

I am writing to let everyone know about some big news here at PES!

MUSIC is now going to happen for each (1-6) student two times a week.

In grade 1 and 2 this month we are learning each other’s names.  We are also working on being ready for learning in music and what a good music student looks like.  We are singing different songs with actions and we do a wee bit o’ dancing too!

On Thursdays, Mr. Bowman joins us for music and it is awesome! Sometimes this crazy dog named “Frankie” will join our class too.  He talks about being a good student ready for learning.  It helps that he’s funny! (That can mean both Mr. Bowman and Frankie!)

The grade 3 – 6 classes are talking rhythm, a little theory about the value of notes.  This theory shows the students a very clear connection between Music and learning that they do in Math.  We talked about factor trees which is a grade 5 and 6 math outcome!

Looking forward, I am going to start a grade 5 and 6 recorder club.  We will meet on Thursdays this Fall.

As well, there is nothing that makes my skin become covered in ‘Gooseys’ (goosebumps) than our entire student population gathered together to sing a song.  The song in particular is ‘I Can Make a Difference’.  We sing it every year just before we head out for our annual Terry Fox run.  This song was written many moons ago by a former PES Music Teacher, Mrs. Linda Lauer.  Every year, we have joined together in song before our Terry Fox run.  Last summer, I had the privilege, of seeing the Terry Fox foundation exhibit at the Telus World of Science.  It was a tremendous and deeply moving experience.  I saw a quote as part of the display.  Terry was saying that he hoped that ‘cancer can be beaten’ by doing this enormous task.  Ponoka Elementary School has a very long standing history with the Terry Fox foundation being, very often, in the top 10 fundraisers in the province.

“I Can Make a Difference”

I can make a difference, I am little but I can.

I can make a difference, for my fellow man.

Just show me what to do, I will walk the walk with you.

Oh, cancer can be beaten it can start with one to two!

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