Pressing the Reset Button on Classroom Climate for 2019 #SingYourHeartOut Someone will hear you!

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!






































AROUND THE PIANO looks like…






Around the Piano at Camp Journey

Around the Piano/Character Building Songs for Teens and Preteens is an engaging resource that promotes social, emotional and character development while improving climate through singing, lyric writing and discussion.

progressive day 2 2018 3

What brings you joy?


Thank you Camp Journey!  Thank you Kools!

I had a blast with the campers and team leaders at Camp Journey at Ross Point in Post Falls, Idaho this week.   I  met with a small group of younger campers and loved their willingness to share about favorite songs, sing, dance,  experiment with percussion instruments, play with plastic cups, and cheer for everyone.   Remember 1,2,3,4,5,6,7…..?

I am super impressed with how kind and open everyone was with each other and with me.

If you want to know more about Camp Journey, visit

It’s an amazing program!

p.s.  You can call me “Treble”

progressive day 2 2018 1

Camp Journey at sunset

This is where we live

Tea Cup and Treble

Tea Cup and Treble Music Program


Out the door

Heading to Post Falls for my last session

Talent night


Cheering for each other

Woo hoos




Artist in Residence with Prince George’s County Arts and Humanities Council






Around the Piano is a resource for teachers and team leaders that uses music to get young people talking, writing, singing and creating about character.


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

Tutorial: Getting Started with AROUND THE PIANO”What’s Your Name?

Schools, Organizations, Families, and Staffs benefit from singing together! Consider hosting an ATP Character/Team building event this year😎

AROUND THE PIANO: a Character Education resource for your school system

Around the Piano/Character Building Songs for Teens and Preteens is an engaging resource for teachers and team leaders that promotes social, emotional and character development while improving climate through singing, lyric writing and discussion.
By intentionally integrating Music with Character Education in a way that naturally lends itself to integration with other curriculums, ATP can serve to restore music as a regular part of the day for every person in a school community.

We, at AROUND THE PIANO, are excited to work with your district, school, organizations, and families. We will tailor our events to meet your specific needs and budget. 

The team from AROUND THE PIANO is happy to work with you in scheduling:

In our sessions we spend time together:

We look forward to meeting you!



Benefit Concert #LiveMusic #poetry #fiction #FaceBook 7pm-7:30ish tonight 11/21/17

See you soon!


#SPS CAREER DAY-Sing your heart out, and someone will hear you! #Hope #Music


I’m so glad that THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE!!

Today was the Spokane Schools Career Fair at the Convention Center.  I was delghted to see so many 5th graders who wanted to talk Music.  My microphones, keyboard and small percussion items were passed to some future Middle Schoolers who couldn’t wait to share there talents and some who needed just the tiniest bit of encouragement to wow the crowded room.  I was impressed by the kindness and friendship I saw, and I was once again witness to the power of music to bring people together.  The adults in the room clearly wanted to be there, and the kids were having a blast.   Thank you for an excellent Tuesday Spokane.

Ratios, Percentages, Probabilities and Fairness: Integrating MUSIC and CHARACTER EDUCATION Into MATH-Blog by Frankie Ghee 11/1/17

atp pic 2

Sheet Music included. All original songs

Around the Piano/Character Building Songs for Teens and Preteens is an engaging resource for teachers and team leaders that promotes social, emotional and character development while improving climate through singing, lyric writing and discussion.
By intentionally integrating Music with Character Education in a way that naturally lends itself to integration with other curriculums, ATP can serve to restore music as a regular part of the day for every person in a school community.

After speaking during the 2017 conference on Character Education last month, I was asked to share how Math teachers might productively use the ATP resources. The easy, intuitive answer is that adding group singing and a sense of community to any “academic” classroom can relieve stress and help students learn better. As a full time classroom teacher, and later as a substitute teacher, I have seen over and over again how students are more willing to take risks in their learning when they are supported by a teacher they relate to and other students they think of as friends who will help them when they’re “not getting it.” Group singing has an “icebreaker effect,” and can be used therapeutically to decrease anxiety. I believe that the positive physical and psychological responses to group singing can help any teacher improve classroom climate.

Another easy, intuitive answer is that the language of Music is full of Math. Music can be improvisatory, and is always somewhat subjective, but there is precision there as well. There is math in the organizing and the tempo of the beats. There are ratios between the duration of different types of notes and rests as well as the relative highness and lowness of pitches. There is math in the relative volumes of different dynamic markings and in the construction of the many different types of scales and chords. If you’re teaching Music, you are teaching Math.

All that being said, I realized that the question I was being asked wasn’t exactly the question I was answering. I’m not a Math teacher, so I consulted one. The teacher I reached out to told me that she and her students are just about ready to dive into the topic of RATIOS and PROBABILITY, so I am going to share some ideas about how one could integrate AROUND THE PIANO into Math lessons on Ratios, Percentages, and Probability.

Disclaimer: My target audience here is teachers, especially math teachers, so I am approaching my lesson plans from a very broad perspective. I do not include the Math content (definitions, equations, etc,) nor am I including specific assessments for this lesson. If you need help finding the common core standards that work best for the lesson you plan to teach, I have included a link to common core standards for Math, and common core standards for Music. I have also included a link to some research about the benefits of group singing.

Assumptions: For our purposes here, I am assuming you have either attended one of our workshops or worked one on one with a member of our team about how to implement AROUND THE PIANO. Before you proceed with this type of lesson, it’s very important that you have established your space and talked with your students about the differences between your “Around the Piano” space and the rest of their classroom and school landscape. Please contact our team for a workshop in your area

The following two part lesson can be used as a review to deepen the understanding of concepts previously taught, as a unit opener and to activate prior knowledge.  You can teach the two parts in any order over the course of days or weeks.

Students will be able to use percentages and ratios to describe groups of singers
Students will be able to express results of classroom surveys as ratios and percentages
Students will be able to explain probability using real world examples
Students will be able to site personal examples of majorities and minorities

Students will explore and discuss the concept of “balance in a musical ensemble”
Students will perform a simple melody as a round
Students will create and revise song lyrics following the set format of a song
Students will discuss the impact of music on a culture and list positive impacts of singing

Students will build empathy for classmates who often feel” left out”
Students will develop a personal definition of “fairness”
Students will feel an increased confidence in their uniqueness
Students will identify classmates with whom they share things “in common”

AROUND THE PIANO workbook or supplement workbooks
Document camera and projector (if not available you’ll need copies of the songs for students)
Writing materials for students-paper and pencils (notebooks are great)
Optional-any melodic and/or percussion instruments available

1. Teach one of the Around the Piano Songs that can be easily sung in a round. Make sure the group is comfortable with the song as a unison piece. The song you choose will effect the discussions you have. The beauty of ATP is that any song can be used for any discussion. You can change the words or shift the interpretation to fit your current needs. If you need help with this, please reach out to us at ATP we will gladly help you.
Song Suggestions:
• I’m Gonna Use Music-Music has many benefits and can help us celebrate, lift us up when we are down, help us reset, express what’s in our hearts
• I Wish That I Could Fly-I am willing to help you if you need it, and I will welcome your help if I need it
• Eye of the Seeker (this is one of the ATP supplements sold separately)-If you look for beauty, you will find it everywhere. Spend most of your focus on positives.
2. Discuss the meaning of the song you just taught them. Ask them if they know other songs with similar meanings. Ask them if they have evidence that the song they just sang is “true”. It is important to let everyone who wants to share time to do so.
3. Sing the song again at different dynamic levels (loud, soft, and medium). Discuss how some students’ voices are naturally louder or softer than others. Be careful not to add judgement to this.
4. Explain or have a student explain the concept of singing a song in a round (like Row, Row, Row Your Boat). Now that you are pretty comfortable with singing the song in “unison” try singing it as a round. Ask students what might go wrong.
5. Ask your students for definitions of balance or “balanced” and how that might relate to music. If we want to do a 2 part round, how many people on each part? What is the ratio of those starting to those who come in later? What if we do a 3 part or 4 part round? Talk about how some people’s voices will carry more than others. If we have all of the louder voices in one group we won’t have “balance” so we need to change our ratio. BEAUTY IN ART IS NOT ALWAYS PERFECTLY MATHEMATICAL!
6. Practice singing the ATP song with different ratios of singers, play with different types of groups. Ask students to calculate what percentage of the group is in each section and then to determine the ratio of singers in each group. For probability (you can use age, colors being warn). Example: what is the probability of picking someone in group 1 who is wearing blue jeans? Be careful not to set up an “us versus them” feel.
 If one group is much louder, you can achieve balance by 1. Having the singers in the loud group sing more quietly 2. Having he singers in the soft group sing louder 3. Moving singers to different groups. Be careful not to judge voices as good or bad.
7. Lead a discussion on how it felt to sing in a round-Did you feel like your voice mattered more in the round than when everyone was singing together? What happens if most of the people in one group choose not to sing? If everyone is free to sing or not sing, is it fair to drop out? Again, try to let the students wrestle with the concept of fairness in the setting of the song. Relate this concept of fairness in a group to other situations, like voting, or littering or group projects.
8. Review the concept of balance as it relates to percentages and ratios.
9. Have students work together to write working definition of “Fairness.”

1. Discuss the value of opinion surveys. Why are they popular? Who uses them? Are there any problems with them?
2. Have students write 2 questions for an impromptu classroom survey (remind them that all questions should be school appropriate). These questions can be about anything the students care about, but try to keep it light at this point if you will be sharing publicly. If possible, have students respond anonymously to the survey questions using small pieces of paper or a computer program that does surveys. This is where you review or teach the concept of percentages, ratios, and probabilities. What is the probability that you will call the name of someone who likes chocolate, or jazz, or has parents who are divorced etc. Allow the students to guess what the classroom results for some of the survey questions will be. Were there any misconceptions? Did anyone lie? Is lying on an anonymous survey fair?
3. Introduce or review the concept of Majority vs. Minority as it relates to ratios, probability and percent. Have students write or draw a situation in which they were in the minority. What was everyone else doing? Is the Majority always right? Should the majority always “rule”? Is that fair?
4. Teach any ATP song:
• Travelin’ Song-doing the right thing because it’s who you are
• What’s Your Name-what do I want from my friends? Tell me about yourself
• Good Friends- we can stand alone or we can be good friends
5. Discuss the song and the meaning as it relates to ratios and percentages-what is the ratio of people in the school who think you are awesome? How many people must “like you” for you to look forward to being in a class? If you get 5 compliments and 1 insult, are you doing pretty good, or do you feel the insult more? If we have three things in common is that enough, does it matter that I like a tv show that you dislike? Is it okay to vote when not everyone in the group is present? Is it ever better to be in the minority? How about being exceptional, unique?
6. Have students write new lyrics to the song. (if you need help teaching about song lyrics, connect with us at AROUND THE PIANO) Encourage students to use math language in their lyrics, talk about fairness, or what it feels like to be in the minority or majority. See some example lyrics for Travelin’ Song at the end (these are just for the teacher to get the idea).  Help students revise lyrics to better fit the melody of song.
7. Give everyone the opportunity to teach their lyrics and have them sung by the group. This may take a while, so you may have to come back to this step. Try not to leave anyone out. Let students share the stories that led to the lyrics.
More conversation starters/survey questions
• Give examples of when only a few people felt the way you do.
• Discuss families. How many boys to girls. Over or under a certain age.
• What groups do you belong to?
• Qualities in friends what is something you look for? Estimate how many people at your school. Ratio of bullies to victims to adults.
• How many places do you feel safe?. Let’s improve the ratio of people with whom you feel comfortable.

Side note: Once the ATP space has been created it can be revisited regularly over the course of the school year to keep the good vibrations happening. One of my personal goals is to bring group singing back into the mainstream without taking anything away from the Music classroom for those who specialize. Just as some of us go from Health and Fitness classes (aimed at general health and well-being) on to become professional athletes, singing should be encouraged in everyone, every day.  Those who take on music as a profession will benefit from more savvy and appreciative audiences.



Almost all my friends have cars nicer than mine
Almost all my friends have cars nicer than mine
My friends’ have cars that are nicer than mine
But only 20 percent make it to school on time

Almost all my friends have cars nicer than mine


The boys in my family outnumber me 3 to one
The boys in my family outnumber me 3 to one
The boys outnumber me 3 to one
Cyndi Lauper says “girls just want to have fun”
The boy’s in my family outnumber me 3 to one