#SOL14: Commencement


Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 


Verizon Foundation on 06.01.14 tweeted this link to the 25 Most Promising Graduation Speeches of the Year and I was immediately intrigued to think about “HOW” that rating would be determined.  After all, Commencement for me is all about the music.  It’s hard to imagine a graduation ceremony without Pomp and Circumstance played as the processional tune at graduation.  Majestic, inspiring, regal, stately!  That is my view as a “listener”!




Pomp and Circumstance totally sets the tone for graduation ceremonies.

What does a musician need to know?

He or she would need to understand the sound symbol relationships in musical notations including:  time signature, “allegro con molto fuoco”, “poco allargando”,  treble clef, bass clef, notes, sharps, rests, crescendos, codas, etc. Could you pick this music up and play it expertly right now?  If yes, how many years have you been playing the piano?  If no, what would you need to learn in order to play this piece?  What knowledge gaps do you have?  Would you need to begin at the beginning?  Or with a little refresher or review of some basic skills and a piano to practice on, could you play one of the lines reasonably accurately?  Do you REALLY know Italian or do you just know some of the musical phrases?  And then what about the intricacies involved when multiple instruments have their own parts in the band or orchestra?  How does it all come together at that graduation ceremony?

Listen to a bit of Pomp and Circumstance:  Pomp and Circumstance for graduation

Expecting a novice musician to play this score well is like expecting a novice reader to read and understand the nuances of the Preamble to the Constitution.  Instruction is needed.  Appropriateness of the text is also a consideration.  Background knowledge and motivation come into play.  Depending on the age and experiences, some scaffolding may be necessary.  And then deeper understanding to be able to compose or improvise something similar involves understanding the mathematics involved in scales in terms of  the progressions in scales and the relationships between the black and white ivory keys.  Many, many, many layers of knowledge similar to reading a text . . .

What other connections to life can you make?

I can appreciate the beauty of this music without being able to play it all personally myself.  But if my passion is reading and writing music and reading and writing words, will I have to somehow learn the notation system in order to put it altogether?  When and how will this happen?

How many different “reading systems” are there in my life?
How did I learn them all?

How many systems will the kindergarten students need to learn in their lifetimes?

9 responses

  1. Music, like reading, is an art and a science. We certainly do need to learn the systems, but it is what we do with that knowledge that brings it all together. It seems that purpose is critical to learning both.
    Clare and Tammy

    1. Clare and Tammy,
      And even more ~ what is our response to music? Don’t we want to create musicians – both the performers and the listeners/appreciators who “like it” and want/need it to be a part of their daily routine?

      Darn. . . more thinking! Purpose, . . .yes, so critical!

  2. Music is a mystery to me. I love it but never really learned to read it. Took piano so long ago and not for very long. I wasn’t very good. I am illiterate when it comes to music. I can hear it and maybe sing the lyrics, hum the tune and enjoy it;even be moved by it but create it, impossible. I have no intention of learning it either, why, it would be so hard. I wasn’t any good at it when I was young. It was work. What a brilliant connection to reading and writing. This will stay with me.

    1. Julieanne,
      I think you are musically inclined because I see and hear the music in your poetry. Poetry is another “system” that bridges understanding!

      Thanks so much for adding your thoughts!

  3. Everyone in my house can read and play music. Not me. It might as well be Greek. Love this idea of thinking of our reading systems, Fran.

    1. Tara,
      Systems thinking is a favorite for me despite the fact that it can make my head hurt. We have to have a “bigger” idea of life and then consider the art and science – in music as well as many academic areas as Clare and Tammy pointed out.

      We need to celebrate students that figure out many systems and rejoice in their strengths. Those strengths can also be used as stair steps in other areas if we stop and listen!

      Thanks for commenting, Tara!

  4. When I work with full teaching staffs, I always make the point that you illustrated so eloquently in your blog. There are many kinds of reading…music is one. Not only do readers need to know the dynamics associated with the text phrases, they must also “read” the music. As I see it, the musical notes on the staff are the text while the phrases indicating playing dynamics are somewhat akin to footnotes. In auto mechanics, not only does the mechanic depend on the manufacturer’s manual, but s/he must also be able to read the engine–its appearance and sounds. In geology, not only are the alphabetic texts important, but the scientist must be able to read the striations on the stones or across a cross-section of mass. Texts are not limited to the alphabet and reading is much more than decoding!

    1. Thanks, Dea, for building in even more connections and systems! I think this is the part of life that really speaks to the “relevance” of education.

      The “input of information” comes in a variety of formats across the many disciplines in education: sound in auto mechanics and physical activities; visual in words, symbols, and texts; or even numbers in mathematics, construction, and architecture. The actual reading in most cases seems to involve “understanding” multiple systems simultaneously!

      Thanks for adding to our conversation and our thinking!

      1. Now that summer has finally arrived, I hope to have more time for commenting on my favorite blogs. I also posted a link to your blog on my professional Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/partnerineducation

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