Thursday, September 20, 2018

New fall, new beginnings!

Welcome back to school, everyone!

Fall 2018 is shaping up to be full of musical adventures.
It all started with the piano tuner announcing that our 40 year old piano was cracked right along the tuning pins. Of course that meant it was headed out.

We are joined by Carlos Siguenza, a Cornell student teacher. Carlos grew up in Minnesota, plays lacrosse, and sings tenor. He will be with us until October.

Drum unit starts our year out.  We are getting pretty good at all the parts of ensemble 1. This year we're concentrating on the small auxiliary sounds to add to the lovely tubanos.

Drum Club hit the road right away and we meet Mondays and Thursdays.  On September 30th at 3:30 we will perform at the corner of 4th Ave and 3rd St SW. We are 30 strong.

So how are things? The best news we could get on the piano was Dr. Batenhorst's simple response of, "You can't teach without an instrument!". He checked things out, and HS director Thad Wilkins and I were sent shopping.
For such emergencies as that, our school uses PPEL funds. PPEL is a fund that uses some of the property taxes for maintenance and replacement needs.  A portion is for planned projects. The piano was on the list, but probably 2 years away. The crack opening across the pins moved the piano to 'Emergency'.  Another portion of PPEL is set aside for emergencies- like the water main break at the middle school last year, and the piano this year.

It's a beautiful Yamaha P60 studio piano built for heavy school use. We're good for another 40 years.

Mr. S. has been working with the classes, and the students are loving the study they do with him. When he is done here, at Washington Elementary, Carlos will move on to the M.S. to finish the rest of his work toward K-12 music certification.

Stay tuned for caroling plans for Magical Night- It's early this year!
Chorus Club sign up begins in December and rehearsals start in January.
Classroom Show and Shares will start up in February.  And certainly you are welcome to drop in any time. But be prepared to sing, move, and create with us!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Magical Night Caroling is Back!

Last year our drum club took center stage at Magical Night.  Now it's the Carolers' turn!

Magical Night Caroling

Any student and family are welcome to join in singing Christmas carols at the art display in the First Street community building.  We will sing song classics and will ask you to sing along on the repeat!

We hope to start at 5:30 or as soon after the lighting ceremony for the building.  We will be gathered on the bleachers.  It can get quite warm while performing so it is helpful if you could hold your child’s coat while he/she sings.

Details: November 30th
First Street Community Building    
Old Gym / Art Display
5:30 - 5:45 PM

Mount Vernon Fine Arts Association will provide hot cocoa.  We greatly appreciate any donations too.  It is through the MVFAA and your donations we have been able to purchase our keyboards, drums, and Orff instruments!

Mrs. Keast

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Our three older grades start their class with a round.  We've had "One Bottle of Pop", "Halloween is in the Air", "Ghost of John" and "Old Abram Brown" in the various grades.  Some are as old as our hills, and some are newly written.  Rounds (canons) are great for warming up the voice, setting the mind in "music mode" and getting classes to think collectively.

After all, making music is, and should be, about community.  Great concerts have started up in the MS and HS this month. Even if your children are younger, visit a concert and show them the possibilities! While community theater has kept me away this week, I have seen some fantastic clips on Facebook that tells me these concerts are rockin' the auditorium.

Ask your second, third or fourth grader to share their favorite canon with you!

Friday, September 8, 2017

September, September, and blue is the sky!

Welcome back to another year of music making at Washington Elementary.

My title comes from a lovely poem in groups of three beats that we use in Kindergarten. The poem continues with, "The leaves turn bright colors, and soon they will fly!".  We will be focusing on crunchy sounds in our percussion collection.

Drum club starts Monday, September 11th!  If you didn't see the notice, check back in Mrs. Arnold's electronic newsletter, or in your 3rd and 4th grader's book bag. We'll have 5 quick rehearsals and then present at the Mount Vernon Fine Arts Association (MVFAA) Porchfest.

October 1st, the neighborhood of Third Street South and 4th Ave. SW will host a variety of music and children's games on the beautiful porches. Porchfest!
Drum club will be at the Willem's home at 3:00.
This is a rain or shine event.


And finally, I love this town. There is always plenty to do.  Remember the Art Festival on the main drag, September 16th.  And see the announcement from Eastern Iowa Brass Band below!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Be Grateful

As we enter the last couple says of classes before Thanksgiving break, this song resonates with me from our 3rd and 4th grades.

"Ev’ry experience in our lives teaches us somehow. 
Wisdom will come to us day by day if we just allow.
Be grateful, grateful. Appreciate. 
Be sure to notice that life is great." 

Classes in 3rd and 4th grade have really taken on drumming and are doing great!  We're headed into waltz and 6/8 land with Christmas carols arriving soon.

Younger grades are beginning to improve with playing together the drums and that is where we should be working!  We've also been digging into Peter and the Wolf; learning the story, instrument characters, acting out parts and singing to the music

Fourth grade needs to bring back any recorders they have at home, labeled with their name.  Mrs. Thede's room has almost all returned and ready to go after Thanksgiving.

Events:  Drum club parent night
              Monday, November 28, 7:00 p.m.
               First Street Community Building Auditorium

               Magical Night Drum Club
               Thursday, December 1, 5:30 pm
                First Street Community Building Gym

               Chorus Club Begins in January!
                Mondays after school
                 Watch for the registration form soon

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

As the Calendar Turns....

With my title I may have just shown my age. I never watched soap operas unless it was a snow day.
So "As the World Turns" was one of those time fillers for a 12 year-old.

It is November already! The calendar has turned another page and first semester is racing to the end. Here are some things to keep you updated in the music room:
  • Keyboards have moved over to the middle school and the drums are here! 22 beautiful drums that your donations to MV Fine Arts Association and school Foundation helped us get.  Oh and some wonderful parents who donated to a Donor's Choose project!
  • Classes are moving into studying the tone color of the orchestra.  3rd and 4th will work to name the instruments by sound. Younger grades start with names by picture.
  • Expect to hear about Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals, or Pictures at an Exhibition in conjunction with the tone color study.
  • Please return recorders, with student name labels, back to school for 4th grade.  We start them again after Thanksgiving.

AND-  Drum roll please-  Drum Club is now meeting every Monday after school! We had quite a few missing on Halloween so we hope that doesn't happen again.

Following are pictures from our Bach concert last Friday with Dr. Hakken. 3rd and 4th attended, 2nd grade had 2 classrooms that also took the offer!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Note From Miss Bergman, student teacher

Hello all Washington Elementary friends and family!

My name is Katharine Bergman, or Miss Bergman as the students will say, and I have had the extreme joy of student teaching with Mrs.Keast for the past seven weeks. This week will be my last week and then I will move on to work with the middle and high school choirs at Regina in Iowa City. I also need to put a shameless plug in for a show. I will be directing a musical production of Miracle on 34th Street at Starlighters II Community Theatre in Anamosa which runs December 2nd through 11th. My reason for mentioning this is I hope to see some familiar faces there as Mount Vernon is just a short drive! (Okay, shameless plug over.)

As I am sitting here writing this, it’s very hard to believe that next week I won’t see all of the students smiling and eager faces. It’s so crazy how just two months ago I didn’t know a single person and now it will be hard to leave everyone. I have even carved out time in our daily schedule this week to say goodbye. It has truly been a pleasure getting to know them, while also watching them grow as musicians. One of my very favorite moments, and there have been many, was last Friday. In Kindergarten and 1st grade we have been working on a song from Ghana called Kye Kye Kule (pronounced che-che koolay). This song involves movement but also gives confidence for singing as it is an echo song. I challenged one class to see if they could be the leaders and I would echo, completely thinking this would never work and I would have to help them out. However, much to my surprise every single student made it through the entire peace and I got to sit back and enjoy. It has been the little moments like that which have been the most memorable and also given me a laugh or two.

I am truly thankful for the support I have received during my time in Mount Vernon. Coming from a much bigger school system in Cedar Rapids, I didn’t at first understand smaller towns, but I can truly say from my experience I couldn’t have asked for a better one. From the moment I walked in my first day I was immediately greeted, welcomed and made to feel at home. The students have been so wonderful to work with and get to know and I look forward to hearing great things from them, (I even think that there may be a future music teacher or two in this bunch). Thank you to the staff and faculty for being so welcoming and also helping me along the way. I especially want to thank Mrs. Keast for opening up her classroom as well as all the conversations and advice. She is an example of truly wonderful and dedicated music educator and I couldn’t feel more grateful for this experience.