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.

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.

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

Youtube’s Free Audio Files

Since moving into the position of technology facilitator, I have been making more use of my school Youtube account. I find myself making more videos now to help train staff and students on a variety of apps or software that is used in the classroom and school. I have also returned to school for certification and now have assignments that require me to make videos.

When I first discovered this about a month ago, it was one of those moments where I thought, ‘”Why has it taken me so long to discover this and why does it surprise me that this is available?” What prompted me to write this post is that when I started mentioning these files to others at my school, they didn’t know they existed either. The best thing about these files is that they are royalty free.

To access these files you will need to go to your profile section in the top right and click on Creator Studio.

Once in the Creator studio, scroll down to Create and select Audio Library.

As you can see in the image below, there are music and sound effect tabs for you to select. Below that you can see how you can select what type of music or sound effects you are looking for based on a variety of categories (Genre, Mood, Instrument, etc.).

One way I have used this is with PowerPoint presentations. I am still trying to work on using these files with Google Slides. It is not that hard of a process, but with a busy schedule I have just found it easier to insert and audio file into PowerPoint. I also might save that topic for a future post. After showing these files to some students at my school, they also found it to be a nice addition to their presentations.

Enjoy!

2019 – The Year of Opera

It’s December 30th and the new year is almost here. I thought I would make my December post about a resolution I would like to make for 2019. Last year, I decided to make a resolution that was more about adding something to my life, instead of trying to take something away or give something up. I wanted to do the same thing this year.

I did a post back in January of 2018 about how I wanted to start learning Welsh. While there were moments throughout the year where I struggled to squeeze in a few lessons during the week, I am still studying with Duolingo at least 3 -4 times a week. I can’t say that I am really fluent, but I have learned a few words and phrases, as well as, expanded my knowledge of Welsh history and culture.

Since the start of the winter break more than a week ago, I found myself searching opera on my Freegal app. I was amazed at how many famous works are available. I began listening to La Boheme, Tosca, Madame Butterfly – to name a few. I didn’t force myself to listen from Act 1 all the way to the end, but instead I just scrolled through the opera listening for a minute or two to see if the song appealed to me. Some did and some didn’t. I even came across one recording titled – 100 Essential Opera Arias, Songs, and Overtures. This is one I have been listening to quite a bit and getting some of the greatest hits of opera. It is also increasing my interest in listening to the entire opera instead of just one or two arias.

This evening I decided to make listening to opera and learning more about it my resolution for 2019. I am going to try and listen to an opera a month for the entire year. I might even look into getting tickets for an Opera Carolina performance. 

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

List of Completed Operas by Month

  • January 2019 – La Boheme – Puccini
  • February 2019 – Madame Butterfly – Puccini
  • March 2019 – Don Giovanni – Mozart
  • April 2019 – Aida – Verdi
  • May 2019 – The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart
  • June 2019 – Acis and Galatea – Handel
  • July 2019 – Bluebeard’s Castle – Bartok
  • August 2019 – Orlando Paladino – Haydn
  • September 2019 – The Bartered Bride – Smetana
  • October 2019 – Orfeo ed Euridice – Gluck
  • November 2019 – Dido and Aeneas – Purcell and Herodiade – Massenet
  • December 2019 – Wozzeck – Berg

Making the Calendar

Calendar Image

I am really trying to stick to writing a post a month and have been struggling for the past week with a topic. The idea finally occurred to me after staring at it every day since May 1st.

The image above is from a calendar we have at home on the refrigerator. One of my daughter’s chores is to change the dates at the start of each month. She makes note of any important dates we need to remember throughout the month – family birthdays, doctors appointments, or school functions. However, when I got home from school on May 1st and saw the updated calendar, I was surprised at something my daughter thought important enough to go on the calendar.

I covered the name to respect their privacy, but you can see that on May 2nd a birthday is marked. This is my daughter’s teacher, and along with making her an elaborately decorated pop up card, she also added her birthday to our refrigerator calendar.

After helping my daughter get her things ready for school the next day and make sure the card was packed safely in her book bag, I decided to take a picture of the calendar and email it to her teacher. I figured she would appreciate knowing that one of her students placed her on the family calendar. She quickly responded with, “Oh my gosh! I feel so important! Thank you :)”.

For the past week,  I’ve been thinking about the positive impact we can have on students. An impact strong enough that they not only remember our birthday, but think it important enough to put it on a family calendar.  For me, school and birthday never go together because mine is August 11.  I do not expect any of my former, or future students, to think of this during the final days of their summer break. I have been wondering, though, about other ways they might remember me and how I might have an impact on them.

I don’t mean to sound like I am looking for acknowledgement from my students or parents. I think the only reason I emailed a picture of it was because I am a teacher and I know how much a little gesture like that from a student can mean. The image above and this blog is more about having a reminder of the importance we might have on our students and never know about it. And the importance of passing something like this on to a teacher, especially when it is Teacher Appreciation Week. To get an email like this can do wonders to inspire a teacher, or give them the motivation to get through a rough day, week, etc. I also have this image printed out on my desk now to remind me that maybe I am on someone’s calendar. Maybe I made an impact on a student like this. It’s enough to change my mood and get me back into a more positive frame of mind. Making the calendar – a small, but very significant achievement.