Elementary School Music

Posted in Choral Music, Events, Prof. Development by P. Conrad on December 13, 2011

The Office of Arts and Special Projects just recently announced “Cross-Choral Training™,” an all-day Saturday workshop for NYC Department of Education choral/vocal teachers.

The clinicians are two master choral conductors: Dianne Berkun (right) of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and Jeannette LoVetri (left), BYC’s Voice Specialist.

BYCA’s Cross-Choral Training™ method is functional voice training applied in a group setting, based on the latest information on voice science and knowledge of the young voice. Through the development of vocal registers and resonance adjustments, singers develop the capacity to perform music of diverse genres and styles authentically, and to respond to musical and expressive demands of the most challenging choral repertoire.

The workshop will be held at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy, 179 Pacific Street, Brooklyn (near the Bergen Street F train) from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday January 28.


“Arts Achieve:” New York City’s arts education assessments

Posted in NYC Arts Partners by P. Conrad on November 11, 2011

This past year, the city’s Department of Education joined with a group of local arts organizations and won a multimillion dollar “Investing in Innovation Fund” (i3) grant from the US Department of Education. The project, called Arts Achieve: Impacting Student Success in the Arts, is spearheaded by the longtime DOE arts-partner Studio in a School, and includes Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute; ArtsConnection; 92nd Street Y/Harkness Dance Center, Dance Education Laboratory;  and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which is a branch of the Smithsonian Institution. An additional partner is Metis Associates, a consulting group that provides research, evaluation, program development and information technology services.

According the Arts Achieve grant application, the project is meant to create “standardized ways of assessing student achievement in visual arts, music, theater, and dance in benchmark years: 5th, 8th, and 12th grades.”  Hopefully, the assessment results will translate into better classroom instruction and higher student achievement. Use of digital technology features broadly in the project and in its eventual wider application, in tools for communication, for assessment feedback, and for accessing arts curriculum.


NYC DOE Resources

Posted in NYC DOE Resources, Where-ever by P. Conrad on October 12, 2011

Teaching of music in NYC schools is supported and directed citywide by the The Office of the Arts and Special Projects, in the Department of Education’s headquarters in Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street. Dr. Barbara Murray is the Director of Music Education.

The Office of the Arts and Special Projects is set up to support and enhance instructional programs in art, music, dance and theater, in grades preK-12. Each school receives a budget line for arts education based on pupil enrollment. How these funds are spent is determined by the school’s principal, in accordance with established guidelines. During the reorganization of the Department of Education, budgeting is a far more transparent process than it was in the past, and a great deal of information about how schools spend money is available publicly, on-line.

The OASP site is an on-line source for several critically-important documents:


the curriculum guide Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts (it’s a PDF file, heavy in color and graphics: not practical for downloading and printing). Note: The Blueprint “strands” on Music Education are also available in a more practical poster format (both are available for purchase; see below).

Getting the Blueprint:
Your school’s principal can order it through FAMIS: E-Catalog, search under the category “Internal Services” with the following item numbers:
TLAR10032- Music Blueprint Book- $7
TLAR10033- Music Blueprint Poster- $3
Include specific contact information on the purchase order for the delivery of materials. The necessary funds should be scheduled in Object Code 0998. For a free download of the Blueprint in a PDF file, click here.

The DOE’s brief Benchmarks for Music Learning can be examined online — a series of general statements that summarize expectations for children’s learning and abilities in grades 2, 5, 8 and 12.

In addition, the OASP page offers much valuable information on ArtsCount. This is the Department of Education’s program to ensure that arts education is not overlooked in the drive toward accountability in city schools (see post below). Components of this program include the Annual Arts in Schools Report, the Learning Environment Surveys, and Annual Compliance Review. Some of this information can be accessed on each school’s DOE-hosted website, if you click on the link to “Statistics” on the left column.

The OASP site offers links to many other valuable resources including grant sources and activities for students, including the Mr. Hollands’ Opus Foundation, and VH1’s Save the Music Foundation.

Learning Support Organizations

Each school is associated with one of the School Support Organizations (SSO). Music teachers should seek to contact the arts coordinator for their school’s SSO, and to be aware of any workshops or other SSO initiatives to promote arts education.

“P” In-Service courses for Music Teachers

Posted in NYC DOE Resources, Prof. Development by P. Conrad on November 14, 2009

“P” courseThe New York City After School Professional Development Program offers a selection of “P” In-Service courses that are designed to equip educators (teachers, secretaries, and other school-based personnel) with the skills and abilities to increase student achievement.  Course offerings are high quality, low-cost alternatives to traditionally offered college courses.  Available across all content areas, courses may be applied toward salary differential requirements and meet the New York State 175-hour Professional Development requirement. (ASPDP classes do not offer academic credits toward fulfillment of licensing requirements.)

Summer “P” course registration will begin on June 2nd after 4 PM.  Mark your calendar for the Fall 2009 registration which begins on August 4th after 4 PM. Fall courses begin meeting on Sept 21st. Visit the ASPDP website to view the catalog of courses. For additional information contact Helaine Schwartz, Director at 718-935-5753 or via e-mail at aspdp@schools.nyc.gov

Past offerings that may be of interest to music teachers included Using the Recorder in the Classroom, Composing with Garage Band, Technology Through Music and Other Arts, and The American Musicals Project – History, & Literature through the Arts.

(Click on the last title to see a description of the course.)

Two DOE-designed tools for reflecting on your music program

Posted in Music Standards, NYC DOE Resources by P. Conrad on November 8, 2009

The first is a 27-page .pdf file of another colorful and beautifully-designed DOE document that teachers and administrators and others can use to reflect on the practice of teaching and learning music in their schools (click the picture to download it). This link is to the Music Reflection Tool for elementary schools, but there are equivalents for upper grades as well.

It’s organized into four areas:

  1. Organizational Practice: School Environment: including the school’s physical resources/space, staff/instructional time, teacher support, arts data use
  2. Instructional Practice: curriculum, teaching and learning
  3. Student Outcomes: student engagement, demonstrated arts skills, knowledge and understanding
  4. Arts & Cultural Service Providers: school’s use of in-school residencies, exhibitions and performances

The Music Reflection Tool is made available for your download and perusal from the Office of Arts & Special Projects webpages, where you can also download the Blueprint for Teaching & Learning in Music, and learn about upcoming professional development events.

Also available at the O.A.S.P. site is a similar document, Viewing, Assessing, and Supporting Effective Arts Instruction that provides checklists and rubrics of what arts instruction should look like (click the picture to download it as a .pdf file).

It includes four pages specifically on music instruction, noting the kinds of things that should be evident to anyone looking at the lesson plan, or observing the students or the teacher. Each page states in bold type that “throughout the study of a piece of music, connections to all five strands of the Blueprint should be made, thus informing students’ understanding and performance of the repertoire.”

Purchasing for Schools

Posted in Purchasing for Schools by P. Conrad on November 8, 2009

Public schools and principals have widely-varying budgets and priorities for spending on arts education. Children’s own voices, hands, and feet are the primary materials in early childhood music. If the school has no space devoted to music learning, it may not make sense to purchase a fleet of keyboards or a full collection of Orff instruments.

But if space and funds are available from year to year, each teacher needs to make choices between spending on a permanent collection of band or percussion instruments, or on concert tickets or visiting artists, or on instruments that the children can take home to learn on, such as soprano recorders.


FAMIS is the online purchasing system used by NYC Department of Education staff to purchase goods and services for their schools. It replaces an older, more awkward system called Fastrack and like Fastrack, it was designed mainly to provide streamlining and greater accountability. Choices are somewhat limited, and sometimes thefamis prices are actually higher than what you would pay for the same product from a mail-order supply catalog, or on a web-site.

The FAMIS system is not for teachers’ out-of-pocket spending, or for using Teachers Choice funds. However, FAMIS is useful when the school is the purchaser: a teacher can shop in the “E-Catalog” and then provide his or her supervisor with a list of FAMIS item numbers and quantities. The ordering is then done electronically.

Since FAMIS is designed for on-line purchasing, the web-site or “portal” is accessed by a user-ID and a password. Teachers (who will not be approving purchases or actually placing orders) can request access for Inquiry Only, which lets you research items and prices without actually completing a purchase order. To do so, fill out and submit a request for a FAMIS User-ID, signed by your supervisor.

You can also do limited searches in the FAMIS E-Catalog by clicking the icon on the left and then simply entering your Board of Education e-mail address (no User-ID or password).


At first, the E-Catalog is a little tricky to navigate. The best way to use it is if you already know what you need. Armed with a product description or brand name, a user can search among the several commodity categories: Textbooks, Computer Software, AudioVisual Media, or General Supplies.

Users can search through the items in the commodity by selecting among the options in a “dropdown” list that includes:

  • Item number
  • Description
  • Vendor number
  • Vendor name
  • ISBN number (for books)
  • Vendor Catalog number
  • Manufacturer Name
  • Manufacturer’s item number
  • Brand / Model,
  • Contract number.

After choosing one these descriptors, you type in the specification, and click on the Search button. For some examples see the post about “Finding Things on FAMIS.”


The DOE Office of Purchasing webpage hosts a well-made training module for first time FAMIS users.

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Resources for School Leaders

Posted in NYC DOE Resources by P. Conrad on April 18, 2009

Principals and school leaders approach arts education from a wide variety of backgrounds and understandings. Some may have actual professional or amateur experience as musicians, painters, or dancers. They may take an active role in shaping and supervising arts learning in their classrooms, or they may prefer to leave it in the hands of their staff.

In elementary schools, generally speaking, the visual arts are taught by a full-time staff, while music, dance and drama may be taught either by in-school staff or else through a series of visits by a “teaching artist,” who comes through a contracted vendor or partner organization. Decisions about scheduling of classes, purchase of materials, field trips to concert halls, or in-school performances by visiting artists are all made by the school leader.

schoolleadersmanualimageAs part of its effort to support arts education in New York City public schools — including music — the Department of Education recently put together a set of resources to educate school leaders about what kinds of arts education should be happening in their schools.  The Arts Tool Kit for School Leaders includes a several components that can be downloaded from the OASP site, and examined. While these resources are not specifically intended for teachers, they provide a lot of valuable information that can help teachers advocate effectively for the arts within their school communities.

The main documents included are copies of each of the Arts Blueprints and their various accompanying wall-charts.

The Learning Walk-Through for the Arts describes what a supervisor should look for as they evaluate the facilities and activities in place for arts learning at a particular site. For music, this might include the kinds of space available for lessons or activities, as well as equipment, instruments, etc.

The Arts Education Manual for School Leaders is the administrators’ complement to the arts Blueprints. It describes all the programs and resources in place to support effective arts instruction.

Finally, the kit includes DVD of a short film called “Quality Arts Education in New York City” that’s meant to assist school leaders in implementing and enriching arts programs in their schools. You can watch it on YouTube.

The ArtsCount Guide for Principals (not included) summarizes the various accountability measures included in the ArtsCount program. Included are the various categories of expenditures for the arts: arts staff, partnerships, professional performances, field trips, transportation, professional development, equipment and/or repairs, per-session activities, and supplies.

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Citywide Music Teachers Professional Development

Posted in Prof. Development by P. Conrad on October 7, 2007

The first city-wide music professional development workshop for 2007-2008 was Election Day, November 6. A follow-up event is set for Tuesday, January 29, 2008.
The Election Day event day began with a performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” by the Orchestra of St. Luke in its entirety. This piece provided “working repertoire” for the day’s activities: used as a point of entry to the work begun in last year in Blueprint workshops. The Vivaldi piece was the focus for participants in clarifying and deepening their understanding of how repertoire, regardless of its source, can be used to achieve Blueprint-based instructional goals for students at all levels.

Following the performance, teachers and a designated DOE facilitator met with members of the OSL in smaller “break-out” sessions. Each group discussed and identified the salient musical, interpretive, and historical aspects of the Vivaldi piece. Each participant receive a complimentary Dover Press score of the complete work. Finally, paired colleagues and small groups worked to create a written “Wraparound” (curriculum guide) with embedded assessments, based upon “Le Quattro Stagione.”

Principals will need to purchase the workshop on your behalf as a FAMIS item, so it’s important to discuss the date and your plans, in advance of the registration deadline. For the Election Day event, principals had to make their FAMIS purchase no later than Friday October 26.

Registration is completed by going on-line to http://www.zoomerang.com/recipient/survey-intro.zgi?p=WEB226U744UTCW
Contact the Office of Arts and Special Education for more information about the January 29, 2008 date.
E-Mail: artsandspecialprojects@schools.nyc.gov
Website: http://schools.nyc.gov/offices/teachlearn/arts/index2.html
Phone: 212-374-0300