Discovering Donizetti

I’m not exactly sure when this blog went from posts about teaching to posts about opera. My only defense is that this is where I am right now and where my learning is taking place. I guess I have a second defense in that I might be teaching music classes next year, but more about that in a future post.

While searching for a new opera to listen to for the month of February, I came across the composer, Gaetano Donizetti. For me, this would be the first time listening to one of his operas. Donizetti was quite a prolific composer in this genre. He composed between 60 and 70 operas depending on which source you use for research (Coburn, n.d.). He is seen as a transitional figure in the development of opera between Rossini and Verdi (Hussey, 2019).

The opera I chose to listen to was L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) and is one of his comic operas. Hussey (2019) describes the comic operas of Donizetti as having a “sparkling wit and gaiety”. I think this is a fitting description for L’elisir d’amore.

I feel like this would be a great opera for someone just beginning to listen to this genre. It is only two acts and is fairly short. The whole opera is a little more than an hour long. Each scene is not very long and there is plenty of variety between solo arias, mixed voices, and a chorus. I think these various vocal combinations made this a very approachable and enjoyable opera. There are also quite a few websites where you can find various recordings of selected arias, a synopsis of each act and scene, as well as, translations of the Italian libretto.

On the topic of arias, there are two found in this opera that are quite beautiful and have recordings done by some of the great tenors and sopranos. “Una furtiva lacrima” is in Act 2 and has been recorded by tenors such as Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, and Placido Domingo. “Prendi, prendi, per mi sei libero” is the other aria and is also in the second act. Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas, and Hilda Guden have all done recordings of this aria.

If you’re looking to get started with an introduction to opera, I think L’elisir d’amore is where you want to begin. It will take about an hour of your time and it provides you with a rather light-hearted story and two beautiful arias to add to your listening experience. If your curious about this genre, give this opera by Donizetti a listen. Enjoy!

References

Coburn, S. (n.d.). Gaetano Donizetti: Biography & History. Retrieved from https://www.allmusic.com/artist/gaetano-donizetti-mn0000089579/biography

Hussey, D. (2019, April 4). Gaetano Donizetti. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Gaetano-Donizetti

A Year of Opera

Looking back on my 2019 New Year’s Resolution.

I did a post on December 30th, 2018 about how I planned on expanding my musical horizons to include opera. This was my New Year’s resolution for 2019. It’s been a year and I wanted to do a follow-up post on how I stuck to my resolution and what I learned.

Here is the list of operas I listened to by month.

  • January 2019 – La Boheme – Giacomo Puccini
  • February 2019 – Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
  • March 2019 – Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • April 2019 – Aida – Giuseppe Verdi
  • May 2019 – The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • June 2019 – Acis and Galatea – George Frideric Handel
  • July 2019 – Bluebeard’s Castle – Bela Bartok
  • August 2019 – Orlando Paladino – Franz Joseph Haydn
  • September 2019 – The Bartered Bride – Bedřich Smetana
  • October 2019 – Orfeo ed Euridice – Christoph Willibald Gluck
  • November 2019 – Dido and Aeneas – Henry Purcell and Herodiade – Jules Massenet
  • December 2019 – Wozzeck – Alban Berg

In my post from last year, I mentioned how I wanted to do a resolution for the New Year that was adding something to my life instead of trying to give something up or take something away. This 2019 resolution was probably the best and most enjoyable resolution I have ever done.

Opera has now become part of my regular listening routine. I know I have barely scratched the surface of this genre. I could probably spend a year just listening to Verdi’s operas, and I plan on listening to more since I only got to one in 2019. I never attended a performance in 2019, so this is also something that is still on my to do list for the new year.

Highlights

Looking over the list posted above, there are two main highlights that stand out for me. The first is discovering the works of Massenet. This is a composer that I had heard of occasionally, but was really unfamiliar with any of his works. I was surprised at what a prolific composer he was in the genre of opera. He composed more than thirty operas in his lifetime. The second highlight for me was with the operas by Bartok and Berg. The language (Bartok) and lack of tonality (Berg) were the main challenges with these two operas. Thankfully, the linear notes provided the essential history, story, and translations that made this two operas very approachable and enjoyable.

What’s Next?

Spending a year listening to opera has also piqued my interest in a variety of other vocal genres. My plan for 2020 is exploring some of these genres such as requiems, masses, motets, oratorios and lieder by composers like Schubert and Schumann. I haven’t given much thought to my 2020 resolution, but continuing to explore a variety of vocal music will do for now.

La Boheme – January 23, 2020

As an addendum to this earlier post, I wanted to include my attendance at the opera, La Boheme. This was the first opera I listened to back in January of 2019 and coincidentally was the first one I have attended since I started this resolution.

When I first listened to this opera, it was through a streaming service and I did not have the libretto or the translation. I researched the story online and was only familiar with two of the arias in this work – Che gelida manina and Mimì’s Sì, mi chiamano Mimì. I enjoyed listening to the opera this way, but a live performance brought such a greater appreciation of this work. Having the running translations above the stage gave me a much better understanding of the characters ad the story. The props, the costumes and the scenery also added to the story. It was a wonderful evening and I hope to make this more of a routine in the future.

2020 Opera Listening List

  • January 2020 – La Boheme (Live Performance) – Puccini
  • February 2020
    • L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) – Donizetti
    • La Vida Breve – Manuel de Falla

Three Questions

What if? Why not? Could it be? sang the glowing, wondering heart of Leo Matienne” (DiCamillo, 2009).

I realize it is July and there is still another month before required teacher workdays start. However, I just finished reading The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo and the character of Leo Matienne got me thinking about teaching and planning for the upcoming school year.

I’ve always been a fan of DiCamillo’s books and did several of them as class read alouds or novel studies when I was in the classroom. I had never read this book, but my daughter just finished it and told me how great it was. I thought I would read it before we returned it to the library.

As I expected, it was another wonderful story by DiCamillo. The character of Leo Matienne makes his first appearance in chapter three and this is where these three questions are first introduced. He is described in this chapter as someone who has “the soul of a poet, and because of this, he liked very much to consider questions that had no answers” (2009). This questioning nature of Leo Matienne makes him a very important character as the story unfolds.

I still have a position as a technology facilitator, but this year I will also be teaching a technology course (a very broad topic, I know). While I am doing my best to relax as much as possible this summer, I am still thinking of the upcoming school year and what I want to do with this class.

After reading this story and the role of Leo Matienne, I could not stop thinking about his three questions. Like Mr. Matienne, I feel like I have a lot of questions to consider that do not have answers. I think these three questions – What if? Why not? Could it be? – will work as a guide not only for the start of school, but throughout the upcoming school year.

After all, Why not?

References

DiCamillo, K. (2009). The Magician’s Elephant. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

My Summer Reading Plans

I meant to get this blog out closer to the beginning of the month when summer break started. However, being that it is summer break, I got slightly distracted with just relaxing and catching up on some Netflix binging.

I have been doing some reading since the break began and have come across some books that I have found particularly interesting. Some I have read and others I am still in the process.

Measuring Instructional Results or Got a Match?

by Rober F. Mager

I know this is a job-related book, but I feel I have to do some professional reading over the summer. I heard about Mr. Mager this spring while taking an instructional design course for license certification. He has quite a few books out and I really didn’t know where to start. I chose this one because it focuses on instructional objectives and knowing whether or not these objectives have been mastered by learners.

Along with my responsibilities as a technology facilitator, I will also be teaching a broad-ranging technology course throughout the year on various topics like coding, web design, e Portfolios, and digital citizenship. These are new topics for me and they do not really have a strict set of standards to follow as some of the other cores subjects, like math or language arts. One thing I found particularly important in this book is the establishment of definitions and distinctions in the second chapter. There are several words discussed here, but I thought the explanation of norm-referenced and criterion-referenced evaluations was very helpful. The example of “The Coffee Pot Caper” in this chapter makes it very easy to see the difference between these two terms.

Practical SQLA Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling With Data

by Anthony DeBarros

This book is one I am still in the process of reading. It is a book that you read and work on examples in each chapter to learn SQL. Working with data and learning SQL has become a recent interest of mine. I have been studying SQL on some online sites, and have also been searching for a good book to use as a reference. After going through two other books that didn’t work for me, I came across this in the library. I like the layout and explanations for each of the lessons. There are files for each example, so you can copy and paste the data for a table, instead of typing it out yourself. This gives you more time to learn the important aspects of SQL. This will take me some time to finish. I am only on the third chapter and often go back to previous material or spend time elaborating with a current lesson. If you are interested in learning how to work with data using SQL, I strongly recommend this book.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

by Daniel H. Pink

I have seen several posts about Mr. Pink’s books on social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook. I was actually looking for his book Drive at the public library, but there was quite a long wait for it and this book was available there on the shelf. I’m sure Drive is as good as all the reviews say it is, and I’m sure it is worth the wait, but I am really glad this book was available.

This is another book that I am still reading. However, the first few chapters I have read are very interesting. The studies he mentions that show research on how our minds and our decisions can change throughout the day is fascinating. The idea of when to make a decision is something that never really occurred to me before reading this book. The author also includes a Time-Hackers Handbook at the end of each chapter that is “a collection of tools, exercises, and tips to help put insights into action” (Pink, 2018).

The Language of the GameHow to Understand Soccer

by Laurent Dubois

Growing up, I was never much of a soccer fan. To be honest, it wasn’t until well into my adulthood that I became interested in the game. My first memory of watching a game with any interest goes back to the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the final match between the United States and China. I can remember being glued to the TV as both sides took penalty shots to break a scoreless draw and determine the winner. As exciting as this was, the interest never really held until 14 years later when I saw the men’s German national team play the Kazakh national team in Astana, Kazakhstan. This was the same German team that would go on to win the World Cup in Brazil a year later. Now I was hooked.

I apologize for the digression above, but I feel it is important in order to explain why this book is so special to me. I actually came across this book last year and read it because the men’s World Cup was taking place at the time in Russia. I decided to read it again this year in honor of the women’s World Cup taking place in France. I feel like I’ve arrived very late to the game of soccer and have a lot of catching up to do. This book is an excellent resource for providing a history of the game, its rules, and its players. I love the layout of the chapters based on the positions in the game – goalkeeper, defender, midfielder. The author even includes the manager, referee and the fan as chapters, too.

Since this is my second time around reading this book, I am doing it a little differently. The author mentions a lot of games and players in each chapter, so I decided to read with a computer or phone nearby with access to Youtube. When a particular game or player is mentioned, I am able to search for a video and see it for myself, as well as, read Mr. Dubois’s description. I would not recommend doing this if it is your first read. I suggest just reading it in the book and not interrupting the flow of the story/chapter.

I hope this post provided you with some reading material if you are still searching for something to read in the coming weeks. I hope you are able to find some time this summer to read, relax, and spend time with family and friends.

References

Pink, D. H. (2018). When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing. Canongate.

My First Ignite Presentation

I did my first Ignite presentation earlier this month. It was a great experience and a classic example of volunteering for something without really knowing all the details. This was not my first time presenting at a school-based session, but the structure of an Ignite was something entirely new to me.

Ignite Requirements

When doing an Ignite, you have 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. This makes for a quick 5 minute presentation. This also means that slides cannot be too wordy, and usually contain more images than words. The images are usually a variety of pictures, gifs, or memes. The explanation of the topic and the slides comes more from the speaker than the text. For me, this meant more rehearsal than usual in order to get a feel for what 15 seconds per slide feels like, and how much can be said for each slide.

Ignite Challenges

The biggest challenge I had with this type of presentation was staying on topic for each slide and not changing what I wanted to say each time I rehearsed. This link is an article by Laura Foley and gives 6 steps for creating an Ignite. If this is your first time doing this, it is well worth taking the time to read. Be sure to pay particular attention steps 1 and 2. Writing an outline and a script is essential. I wasted a lot of time trying to jump right into making the presentation only to go back and do the first two steps.

The other challenge I had was that I felt limited with how much I could write on each slide and what media I could use. Even though this was not my first time presenting, I feel like it never gets easier. I always feel nervous getting up in front of people, especially when there are colleagues in the audience with much more experience than me. With other presentations, I’ve been able to add sound or video clips, and also use fancy transitions so I am not constantly talking. With an Ignite, however, the text and images need a quick, concise explanation from the presenter. There is no time to ramble and get sidetracked. This is where preparation and rehearsal plays an important role.

Preparation and Presentation

As I was working on this presentation, I was reminded of the saying, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” I felt this was really the case here. The outline and script took me the most time, but when they were done the rest moved very smoothly. Designing the slides was probably the easiest for me and took the least amount of time. I used Google Slides and wrote the script for each slide in the speaker notes section. I went through the presentation a couple of times without the 15 second limit just to practice what I would say. After this, I published the link to the slides and set the transition time for 15 seconds. I then began practicing the presentation from start to finish. The topic I was speaking about was a project I was working on since January, so it was very familiar to me. I had written some paper notes out to guide me and keep me on topic, but after a couple times through the presentation, I no longer needed them.

There were five presenters doing an Ignite and I was third on the list. Listening to the first two was very nerve-racking, but when it was my turn it felt like the fastest 5 minutes of my life. It was over before I knew it and I was surprised at how smoothly it went. All the practice and preparation was well worth it.

How I felt after the presentation.

Other Resources

Along with the article link above, this Ignite link has a great collection of Ignites from all over the world and on a variety of topics. It also has links to help you find an Ignite near you or Google Form link to start an Ignite in your city.

Note about the images

All of the images above were done through a Google search with the image settings on “Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification”. Why the Rocky images? I traveled with my family up to New Jersey and Philadelphia for spring break. One of our stops along the way was the art museum and the Rocky statue. I grew up there, so it was not new to me, but I guess it has made me a little nostalgic.

Three of My Favorite Things

Over the past two months I have come across some new sites and apps that I have a grown to love and use more and more.

Kubbu

Kubbu can be used as both a game site and an assessment tool. At first, the homepage looked a little plain and uninviting. However, once I started to create some activities you I quickly began to appreciate what could be done with this site. 

There are 5 types of activities you can create and examples of all of them can be found in the links below. There are a variety of options for each activity. I was unable to show all of these with just one link for each activity. For example, you can make the activities have a time limit, reveal the correct answers at the end, or randomize the order of the questions. I tried to include various options in each of the links in order to show these features. Games can be created for individual students are groups, and data can also be gathered and analyzed if it is used as an assessment. You also have the option to upload pictures, sounds, and other files and include these in certain activities. For an example of this, check out the Composer – Activity/Quiz link.

The links below are examples of the type of activities and assessments you can make with Kubbu. You will need Adobe Flash to view the links.

Science Review – Divide Activity

Crossword Puzzle

Match Game

Composer – Activity/Quiz

Cloud Quiz – Slides

WorkFlowy

This is a great app if you need to store how-to information that you don’t use on a daily basis and it is easy to forget. I also use it to trouble shoot tech problems that staff have regarding their accounts, desktops, or laptops. I get questions like this every so often and because I don’t do these procedures on a daily basis I don’t have them memorized. I find this app much more convenient that searching through my Shared folder on Google Drive. After four years, my Google Drive is just a digital version of an unorganized file cabinet.

It is also great for documents with a lot of information that you need to refer to frequently but are too hard to remember.  I started using it last week with our inventory audit for Chromebooks and classroom technology. I was able to quickly find room numbers and Chromebook cart numbers for the auditors just by checking by phone and clicking to the specific teacher. 

VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a presentation tool that allows you to create slide presentations using a variety of media and provide commentary. You can post a variety of comments ranging from text, audio, video, and even comments from a telephone call. It is impressive and easy to use on a basic level, but I’m sure the more time I spend with it I will discover a lot more features. The tutorials are fairly short and very helpful. It also has a training section with free workshops, certification, and a library of VoiceThreads from other users.There is also a browse feature on your home page that allows you to search other VoiceThreads on a variety of topics. The media that you add can be pulled from your computer, other media sources (Kahn Academy, Google Drive, Flickr, and even other Voice Threads), audio recordings, webcam pics and videos, and URLs.

You can sign up for free with the usual information of first and last name, email, and a password. You click Create and start adding media to your slide presentation. When you are done, you can start playing through the presentation and adding audio or video commentary, or written comments throughout the presentation. You can also annotate on slides, if needed. There is a fade option on the annotation, so it won’t stay on the slide permanently but you can disable this feature. When you are done, you can share the presentation with others and they can leave comments, as well. Along the lines of sharing, you can also create a contact list and sort people in your contacts into groups.

One way I hope to use this at my school is for our School Leadership Team meetings. We have these meetings every third Tuesday of the month and the parent turnout is very low. I would like to create a slide presentation of what we will be discussing that evening and create a video comment for each slide. We could then share the presentation and invite parents to comments as they watch. There is a comment moderation feature, so we could chose to leave comments out if they were off-topic or not appropriate for the discussion. I think this is a viable option for reaching more parents at the school and including them in the discussion of important topics like bullying and harassment and grading and homework policies.

What is a PLN?

The last two weeks have been very busy, so I have not really had much time to get to a blog post for March. However, I did spend these two weeks getting to work with Adobe Spark for a presentation I did on defining, creating, and reflecting on a professional learning network, or PLN. The embedded presentation below will take you to the Adobe Spark I created on this topic. I hope you enjoy it and please leave comments if you feel I left something out, or you have some advice of your own to give.

I would like to add a quick note on Adobe Spark, too. If you have never used this tool for presentation, I would recommend giving it a try. I wanted to try something new and this was a nice change of pace from Slides and Powerpoint. As with most of these tools, there is enough on the free account to create a nice presentation. If you are looking for more features to add to your work, then you will need to consider an upgrade for a price.

https://spark.adobe.com/page-embed.jsPLN Presentation and Reflection