Highlights from the 2015 OAKE Conference

Two weeks ago, I had the honor of chairing the 2015 OAKE conference in Minneapolis, MN. It was a whirlwind of meetings, sessions, and events...but it was so wonderful to see the two years of committee work come to fruition! I didn't get to attend as many sessions as I usually do at a conference (as I was running around making sure everyone had what they needed) but I did get to sit down and enjoy a few sessions. Here are a few highlights and lessons learned from the conference:

  • From Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, I was reminded that conducting and outstanding pedagogy can transform a choir's sound. Fernando presented the mini-conference with a demo choir of participants, in which he worked one-on-one with eight conductors. Although I only saw snippets of the mini-conference, as I had an OAKE board meeting at the same time, I was once again amazed by his ability to not only constructively work one-on-one with conductors--gently helping them to improve their conducting and thus, the choir's sound--but his own musicianship and conducting. I walked into the mini-conference again at the very end of the mini-conference, as Fernando conducted the demo choir, and was amazed by how much he had transformed their sound in 3 hours! (As an aside, Fernando teaches with the American Boy choir, and will be featured in the film "Boy Choir" with Dustin Hoffman! See the trailer below!)

  • From Sue Leithold-Bowcock, I was reminded of discussing a song's context with students so the song has more meaning to them. As she had students sing several songs in her demo session, she had them discuss the culture and context of each, and I could tell she was intentional with the details she'd give them to make each song more meaningful!
  • From Joan Litman, I was reminded to show my students videos of students from another culture singing, not only to help them learn a song better, but to help foster multicultural awareness and acceptance. I also was reminded to slow down. As she passed out rhythm sticks, she took her time, and wisely quipped something like, "Could I be passing these out faster? Sure. But we sometimes need to slow down." Aren't we always worried about passing out rhythm sticks or anything else as quickly as possible, since we don't have much time with our students? YES! But what a wonderful point she made...if we are constantly in a rush as a society then our children will not learn to slow down and enjoy life. 
  • From my dear friend Nyssa Brown, I was reminded to take the new NCCAS standards one step at a time. She did her entire session from the Netherlands--through Google Chat--and I was so excited that the technology piece was smooth AND to see her smiling face! She gently reassured the attendees that although the standards don't look exactly as we'd like them to, we can improve our own teaching and our students' learning by using resources provided with the standards and looking at our lessons through a different lens. You can read her wonderful blog here.
  • From Lennie Davis, I learned a few new tricks on GarageBand and MadPad. Both apps I have worked with extensively, but not surprisingly, he showed some great (new to me!) strategies for working with both apps and bridging the gap between the Kodaly-inspired classroom and using iPads to create.
  • From Donna Gallo, I learned how to have students "cover" a song on iPads to help connect the music they listen to at home with the music they sing at school. I have had lots of enlightening conversations with Donna about using pop music in the Kodaly-inspired classroom--something I balked at the first few times I heard about it. (Christopher Roberts wrote a wonderful blog post about using pop music here.) Through these conversations with Donna, as well as through her session, I've come to realize that if we never make the connection between their music from home and the music from school, many of them will never make the connection on their own. I have already began the process using Katy Perry's "Roar" with my fifth graders and so far, they love it! (And admittedly, so do I!)
  • From Karen Howard, I was reminded of how awesome it is to sit down and make music! Her session about Ghanian drumming was inspiring and so musically rewarding!
  • From my own panel about Student Learning Objectives (SLOs), I learned that while different states have different takes on how to implement SLOs, the goal is the same: to improve student learning. Although it seems like an overwhelming task to track all of the data, it has improved my teaching and my own students' learning.
  • And from my committee and from people at the conference, I was reminded of how amazing my friends are, how they are willing to step up to the plate to do whatever needs to be done, and how hard work, collaboration, and teamwork can help foster a very rewarding event!
What were your highlights from the conference? Feel free to comment below!

1 comment

  1. It was a fabulous conference, Aileen! Congrats to you and your committee for a job well done! I had the opportunity to sing in the demo choir for Fernando Malvar-Ruiz's mini-conference and it was definitely one of my highlights from the conference to watch him work with the conductors and to literally feel how one's conducting gesture and presence makes a difference to the sound a choral ensemble produces.



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