Join the ATP Team in October. We will be presenting and exhibiting.
A special thank you goes out to Rhonda Dallas of the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council (PGAHC) for inviting me and Around the Piano to this awesome teacher’s institute at the beautiful Bowie University Campus. I am inspired and excited to share ideas about how Around the Piano/Character Building songs and lessons can be seamlessly integrated into any curriculum. Getting our students and team members comfortable singing, thinking, talking, and writing while developing their own personal codes of character and improving climate is an attainable goal that’s worth reaching.
ABOUT AROUND THE PIANO
Around the Piano is a resource for teachers and team leaders that uses music as a catalyst to get young people talking, writing, singing and creating about character. The workbook includes an original collection of short, easy to learn songs along with demonstration audio, lesson plans and ideas.
During my years of teaching Middle School Choir in Spokane, Washington, I found that my students loved coming down around the piano and singing easy versions of songs like, “Glory, Glory” and “This Little Light of Mine.” They sang with full voices and without the usual shyness that was the norm for many of them, especially the boys. When we were around the piano, there was the feeling of singing around the campfire or in the living room during the holidays. Students sang with ease and confidence. I started letting them take turns with solos and duets and small group singing. This became one of our favorite things. We added percussion, movement, harmonies, and improvisations. Eventually though, we grew tired of singing the same few songs over and over again, and I was inspired to write my own “Around the Piano” songs.
In my classroom, the space around the piano became a safer place to sing out and to make mistakes, a place where only encouraging comments were allowed. “Around the Piano” became a cue to be more friendly and more brave. With ATP, the piano is not the important thing. Songs can be accompanied by any instrument or sung a ‘Capella. Your “around the piano” space might be a corner in the back of the room or a circle on the floor. It can even be as simple as a decreased formality and an expectation of welcoming behavior and acceptance.
I used these songs in my classroom to help establish a healthier climate and give students a foundation in concepts of good character which they could build on into adulthood. Themes of good character are embedded in the “Around the Piano” songs.
The ten songs and lessons in this volume were written specifically to appeal to older students. They are less sing-songy than what I might write for elementary students. However, they are not at all hard to learn and can be easily modified to fit your group. I have used ATP successfully with elementary, middle school, high school, and adult participants. I have used ATP in and outside of the music classroom. One of my favorite experiences was using ATP with several 8th grade English classes in Mead, Washington.
The ATP lessons help teachers and team leaders use the songs as discussion starters that lead students into story telling and writing lyrics. When students share and sing each other’s lyrics, some very powerful insights and interpersonal connections are made. Increased empathy and improved climate are the main outcomes, but the benefits of group singing, discussion and lyric writing can be observed over multiple curriculums.
I hope you will spend some time on this website, and feel free to contact our team with your questions, and comments. Please consider organizing an AROUND THE PIANO training for your staff, school or district.
In the meantime, sing your heart out, and someone will hear you!
Frankie Valinda Ghee
These awesome young people came and listened to me sing for a while. They were super kind. They agreed to sing a song for me and then asked if they could sing with me, so I taught them “What I Ask of Myself” right there on the spot. What a nice surprise!
Around the Piano is a resource for teachers and team leaders. It’s about gathering a group of young people into an inviting space to sing and create while exploring and developing their own beliefs and goals about good character. There is something about singing with a group that puts us in a team spirited mind set. When we are creating sound together, we share a powerful personal connection. If we add to that connect the deliberate language of integrity and character, we are taking advantage of the perfect setting.
Gathering your group together to talk and write about character is amazing, but singing the results of that creation is huge, and the songs, once learned, owned and sung repeatedly will not be easily forgotten.
Consider hosting an ATP workshop/training for your school or district!
Sing your heart out this Summer, and someone will hear you!
Around the Piano is a resource for teachers and team leaders that uses music to get young people singing, talking and writing about Character
The Around the Piano team is presenting at the #Character2017 Forum in D.C. this October. Hope you can join us! Our topic is “Using Music as a Catalyst to Help Students Create a Personal Code of Character”Learn more & register: http://bit.ly/2o10sOI
Around the Piano/Character Building Songs for Teens and Preteens
What I Ask of Myself-Be loving. Share your talents. Be “worth it.”
Travelin’ Song-Stand up for what you believe in. Be a good friend.
I’m Gonna Use Music-Don’t give up. Use music to help you through.
Dreams- Picture a world without war. Share your dreams.
What’s Your Name?-Know what to look for in a friend.
Good Friends-You can choose not to hate.
When I Am the Best That I Am. Be trustworthy. Respect others. Be a citizen of the planet.
I Wish That I Could Fly-You are not alone in your dreaming.
I’m Right Here- You are not alone. Be a good friend.
Too Much Information Blues-It’s okay to have problems. Talking about them can help.
Around the Piano is about gathering a group of young people into a safe space to sing and create while exploring and developing their own beliefs and goals about good character. There is something about singing with a a group that puts us in a team spirited mind set. When we are creating sound together, we are sharing a personal connection that is very powerful. If we add to that connect the deliberate language of integrity and character, we are taking advantage of the perfect setting.
Gathering your group together to talk and write about character is amazing, but singing the results of that creation is huge, and the songs, once learned, modified and sung repeatedly will not be easily forgotten.
The start of a new year or new semester creates a perfect opportunity to begin explicitly teaching students to develop a personal code of character. Your post-holiday gift can be intentionally creating a haven for self-expression, creativity and empathy in your school.
AROUND THE PIANO/CHARACTER BUILDING SONGS is a resource you can use to get students talking, writing and singing about what it means to “be a good person” or “do the right thing.” These original songs and lessons will help you get the second half of the school year moving in the right direction.
Be explicit. Let your students know that you’re using songs to talk about character because music is so very powerful. Let them know that you’re taking the time to do it because you care about them and you know your group will be better if you get to know each other and feel safe in this space.
1. Bring your group together around the real or imaginary piano in your classroom. Spend time teaching an ATP song that you feel comfortable with (because you can sing it through like you own it, and the lyrics suite the message you want to share with your group today).
2. Have everyone sit down, preferrably still around the piano, but wherever works. Start the conversation (example)Let’s talk about Winter Break. Did you notice anyone doing something surprisingly kind? Surprisingly brave? Surprisingly honest? What happened? Why do you think it happened that way? What do you think/hope you would do in a similar situation. Share a true story of your own.
3. Ask your students to write or draw a short description of their personal experience and what they learned from it or how they felt.
4. Sing the song again as a reminder of where you started.
5. Help your students write new lyrics for the song using ideas from your discussion.
6. As a group, and with great care and respect, sing all of the lyrics your students are willing to share. Have fun with it. Try not to make it a test or something that can end in failure. Celebrate every effort equally.
7. Play with the song. Encourage your class to create harmonies. Add rhythm , or instruments or movement all the while singing positive messages over and over again. Eventually something will stick.😀
*Depending on your group, you might do this in small segments over the course of the semester or make AROUND THE PIANO a regular part of your weekly routine. Take the steps in the order that fits your classroom and your style. Remember, you’re doing good work because you’re teaching music and listening to your students. You can’t lose.
Consider hosting an AROUND THE PIANO workshop for staff in your district. We would love to work with you!
SING YOUR HEART OUT, AND SOMEONE WILL HEAR YOU!