Monday, August 15, 2011


My music classroom has a new addition this year:

Yup, that's my brand new SMARTboard!  Our district is in the midst of a 2-year rollout for SMARTboards in almost every classroom.  I was lucky enough to be chosen for the first-year rollout.  I was also selected as a SMARTboard Trainer...once we are trained, we are expected to help and train our colleagues/coworkers/team members, even those who don't have a board.  It's an exciting time, but also a bit of a stressful time.  I JUST finished my curriculum for the middle school, and am now trying to create lessons using the SMARTboard.  I'm hoping to find lessons online that others have created as well.

It's scary to believe that the summer is already over and we're gearing up for another year of teaching/learning.  I've had an excellent summer and am glad that I was able to have a little bit of downtime between grad school and the start of the school year!  There are lots of opportunities ahead to be excited about!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Our fearless Instructional Design leader...

Bill Miller (the Instructional Design teacher) was also one of my high school band directors.  I couldn't resist (not that I tried very hard) putting a picture up of him from the good ol' days!

Week 6

Week 6 is always an interesting experience.  Final projects and exams are being completed.  Presentations are being done in front of classes.  Rehearsals are frantically being held in order to get the ensembles ready for the Graduation Concert.  Project and work examples are being turned in.  It's a mad dash to get everything ready and finished by Saturday.

At the same time, it's also a time where everyone gets rather silly.  Everyone can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Graduating students are positively giddy with excitement over the fact that they are mere days away from graduation and that coveted diploma.  Professors are trying (in vain) to keep everyone in line and focused.  It's an exciting time, and a fun, entertaining time.

We are 2 days away until graduation!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The light at the end of the tunnel

I've been in grad school for 4 years now, taking classes during the summer months and on weekends during the school year.  I've spent hours in front of the computer typing up lesson plans, thesis papers, assessments, curriculum maps, strategies for reaching all learners, and arrangements of my own music.  I've spent many sleepless nights working on homework, trying to get my computer to cooperate when it decided to eat a paper, and working on projects.

And, it all ends on Saturday.

It's been quite an adventure, and these past three years (while I've been in "residency") have been particularly enlightening.  I've learned a lot about myself over the pat 3 years, including just how much I can handle, that my breaking point is a lot farther away from what it used to be, and that I can do pretty much anything I can put my mind into.  I've discovered that I really should be singing soprano, not alto.  I've discovered that I, as a former band director, do understand vocal and general music, and that I've build a pretty amazing program at my school.  I've learned about vocal health, choosing choral repertoire, incorporating technology in my classroom, APA style formatting, curriculum development, engaging students, etc. etc. etc.  I know WAY too much about APA formatting.  ;)

It's been a great four years.  I've met a lot of truly amazing musicians and people from literally all over the world, from Australia to China to the Bahamas, not to mention people all over the USA.  Thanks to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk, I'll be able to stay connected to many of these new friends for years to come.

But it still all ends Saturday.  And while I'm excited to finally be able to put the student cap to rest (at least for a little while), I know I'm going to miss it terribly.

So now what am I going to do to fill up my summer months?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Week 5

Hello, week 5!  This is traditionally the week where everyone shuts down due to the stress and strain of being in an incredibly intense 6-week graduate program.  There's much weeping and gnashing of teeth involved.  Just kidding...mostly!

It's been a crazy few days.  Last Saturday, I had to be downtown bright and early for the comprehensive exam (I chose to take a 3 hour essay test instead of making a portfolio).  Of course, as luck would have it, this was the morning (like several others) where my CAR WOULDN'T START!  Yup.  My car decided to have a hissy fit that morning.  Luckily, I was leaving early, and had enough time to call my parents and have them bring over my mom's car (since mine was blocking my husband's and I was quickly running out of time).  Of course, 5 minutes after I left, my car started.  Sigh.

The actual test went really well.  50 minutes goes by VERY fast when you're frantically trying to answer 2 essay questions.  It was a little hairy for the first test, but once I realized how much I needed to keep an eye on time, the second and third section went much better.  It was entertaining watching everyone in the room shaking their writing hands furiously throughout and after each section of the test.  I'm feeling very good overall about the test.  If, for some reason, I royally messed up one or more sections, I just have to meet with the grader of that portion of the test and discuss it, and if necessary, retake it. 

Week 5 is where everyone has to buckle down.  For those of us lucky enough to be graduating this year, it also marked Poster Night!  I'll be writing more about that one later, as I have lots of pics to share with it!  It was a great night, and I really feel like a HUGE weight has been lifted...my Master's Project is officially done.  Everything has been turned in, and I'm one step closer to graduating! 

If I can just get my homework done, I am good to go for graduation next Saturday!  Over the next 10 days, I have to make a semester-long assessment for beginning and advanced middle school choir, finish my blog for Gower, finish my repertoire list for Choral methods, and make a power point showing form.  Any takers?   Anyone?   Anyone at all?  No?  Fine, I'll do my own homework. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

VCM Graduate Ensembles Concert Tonight!

Tonight, the VanderCook Graduate Ensembles will be performing in a concert at Herman Hall on the IIT campus in Chicago.  For those who cannot attend, the concert will be streamed live via the website http://www.banddirector.com at 7pm CST.  It'll be a great night of music and VERY talented musicians.  Combined Choir (all majors) starts the evening off, followed by Orchestra and the VCM Jazz Band.  After a brief intermission, the Concert Chorale and the Band will end the evening.

Hope you can watch!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Week 4...Comps, Poster, and Paper, OH MY!

Well, we're into week 4 at VanderCook.  Week 4 is when things start getting, well, interesting around here.  This morning's Instructional Design class was a perfect example of this.  All of the students were incredibly slap happy, and our poor instructor just about lost his mind.  Yeah, we took advantage of his ADD as well.  Highly entertaining for all around! 

Besides everyone becoming completely loopy, week 4 is when people start to crack under pressure.  The homework load greatly increases, and doesn't let up until the end of week 6.  The second concert is this week, which just adds to the fun, especially when everyone is trying frantically to get their work done at the same time.

For students who are graduating (myself included), portfolios are due this week.  Comp exams (for those of us who didn't want to make a portfolio) are this week.  Papers are being revised and edited at a frantic pace so that they'll be ready to turn in one last time.  Posters are being made (or printed digitally) and prepared for Poster Night. 

So, in general, things are getting very interesting and VERY intense around here!  The only thing more entertaining (well, at least for the professors and the casual observer) is week 5.  That's when the nervous twitch begins...

Fun with Audacity!

Last week, in class, we learned a few new tips and tricks about Audacity.  I have worked with Audacity, however I don't use it as much anymore as there was so much that I could do in GarageBand just as well.
I'm starting to see differently, now.  I learned how to reverse a track, which will be a lot of fun to do with my 7th grade students as we study Rock & Roll music in class...hello Beatles!  I also learned how to remove the vocals from a track (well, mostly), which will help when I need to remove certain words from a song for our dance line group, or when they need a karaoke-type track for the variety show, and you can't find one on iTunes (it HAS happened before).  If you'd like to know how to do this, let me know and I'll try to make a tutorial for it.  I have a feeling I'll be doing this anyways for some of the teachers at my school...that way THEY know how to do it and I don't have to do everyone's work!
I love having all sorts of new tools and tricks at my disposal!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The coolest invention ever made! (Ok, maybe not the coolEST, but pretty awesome!)

I introduce guitar to my 7th grade students, and continue into 8th grade with an advanced class.  One of the problems that I have run into is the problem of guitar picks.  I've had so many guitar picks either grow legs and walk away or they simply vanish into thin air...have you ever had this happen?  I've tried so many different systems to keep them, from making a little holder to labeling each of them, to simply banning picks completely unless they bring their own in.  Still, they vanished.  It's hard to narrow down who helped the pick escape the classroom when up to 3 or 4 kids are using that guitar/pick on a given day.

On plurk, a friend of mine shared a link that made me so excited for this fall.  It's called a Pick Punch. You can either buy sheeting from them in various colors, OR you can use items such as old, used up gift cards, credit cards, club cards, etc.  So, instead of me purchasing picks over and over again, I think I'm going to buy a Pick Punch and start saving up old gift cards (and ask teachers, students and family/friends to do the same).  Gift cards have so many designs. 


2 down, 4 to go!

Friday marked the end of the second week of grad school. I have four more weeks to go before I am official a "Master of Music Education." Ok, maybe not that EXACT title, but it sounds cool! I know my husband will be VERY happy when this is over...I've been slightly neglectful of him lately. It's a good thing he's pretty self-sufficient and can take care of himself (mostly).

Friday also marked the day that I turned in my Master's Project. I will admit, there were a few moments when I wondered if I would EVER get this project finished! I had an additional moment of "WHAT" when, at about 12:30 in the morning, I seem to have lost my project. After a few moments of freaking out, I was able to recover a backed up copy (minus about an hour's worth of revisions). PHEW! I have no idea what I had done, but, being 12:30 in the morning, I didn't have my head on enough to realize that I had saved it in about 10 places. That, and when I looked at that original, messed up 12:30 am copy last night...it looked fine. Maybe my brain was over-tired...or the mere thought of having to start over just put me in a whole new place of panic.

So, here's my life in the next 4 weeks.

Week 3: not much specifically. Mostly homework. And studying. And making a poster.
Week 4: Keep making a poster. Comp Exam! YIKES! 
Week 5: Turn in final copy of Master's Project. Present project during Poster Night. This is also the dreaded week 5 where everyone goes bonkers from the stress. It's not a rumor, it's true. I've experienced it.
Week 6: BREATHE. I graduate at the end of this! I'm a Master of Music Ed!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Test, test, test

This is not an emergency.  This is just a test.

I'm trying to see if I followed all of the directions and settings correctly to post my blog directly to Facebook and Twitter.  We shall see!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Who I Am

I'm hoping to get back into blogging again, and thought it would be a good idea to reintroduce myself to the blogging world.

My name is Jennifer Kolze, and I am a music teacher and musician.

I teach 3rd-8th Grade General and Vocal Music for a small school district in the western suburbs of Chicago.  My students sing, play recorders, guitars, and percussion instruments, learn about music around the world, compose their own music, and explore their own musical interests and tastes.  They are exposed to tools such as GarageBand, Audacity, NoteFlight, MuseScore, SmartMusic, and much more. 

Music has always been an important part of my life.  I have been singing as long as I can remember.  I've been playing clarinet since I was 9 years old, and have added many other instruments to that list since then.  I currently play in a community band and am hoping to get back into singing in a community choir.  I love to surround myself with music, whether it's creating my own or just listening to music while I'm working around the house or in the garden.

I am currently a graduate student at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, IL.  This is my final summer of residency (yay!).   One of the classes I am taking is called Instructional Design (I'm actually in class RIGHT NOW!), and am hoping to share a lot of new tips, tricks, and tools that I learn in here and can use with my incredible students!