Concert! Time to Practice!

Hello community of fine folks. I hope you’re doing fine.  Have you had dinner? A hot bath or shower recently? How about a nice long walk in the fresh spring air? These are important because you and I, we need to stay healthy.  That’s right!  They are too many people out there who just don’t feel good and I don’t want to be one of them.  I can’t let you be one either because we have big concert to put on – I can’t do it without you.  So, in conclusion – eat a bowl bran flakes and skip the next piece of pie.  Give it to your cat or dog.

What am I talking about?  A concert. Yes!

This coming Thursday, May 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the SSIS auditorium grades 3 – 5 will belt out their hearts and more for you to enjoy. Will you enjoy it? I don’t know. But we’re going to try our best.

In preparation for trying our best students in grades 3 – 5 have the opportunity to get in one extra practice session this weekend on Saturday in the music room.  Each grade can come to work for 90 minutes of time starting with the third grade at 9:30 a.m. Fourth grade students will practice at 11:15 a.m. and then the fifth grade can come in to music at 1:00 p.m. until 2:30.  If you are in grades 3 – 5 and would like to come in please open the attached pdf file here: permissiontopractice fill it out and bring it back to Mr Thompson a.s.a.p.  I hope to see you this weekend.

I leave with a clip of the American rock band REM performing on Sesame Street.  Try to enjoy!


Recorders for “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye

Hello fifth grade. This post is to help you practice the recorder part for “Somebody That I Used to Know” for the upcoming concert. I will add audio and video files soon to this blog post.  Right now I am attaching a downloadable pdf file of the song to work on the notes with. The song has the note letters written in several places (but not the whole way through) as a reminder of what the notes are.  Get to practicing now you Year of the Monkeys! Somebody (with notes)

Here is a video to practice along with.  Please watch it and listen to the whole song at the beginning. Then practice the individual phrases one by one. Pause the video if you need to.  Cover the holes completely and blow softly. At the end is the xylophone part – try to play the recorder part while the xylophone accompanies.  Get to work! First 5 (10 maybe) kids who can play it get a smoothie.

Happy New Year!!!

I did such a fine job of taking the winter vacation seriously that I almost forgot about this blog. Yikes! I didn’t forget about you though and wherever I was at I was thinking about music and how we might experience it back at school. Welcome back.

I love a good first week back at school. It’s an opportunity to get reacquainted, to meet new students, and to dance! In grades 1-5 that’s exactly what we did all week long.

Here is a breakdown of the dances students learned:

1 – Heal Toe on the Line – a simple song with a circle mixing dance that gets a lot of laughs and smiles out of the students.

2. Sweets of May – I know it’s not the month of May yet but the boys in second grade can’t sit still that long. It’s a vigorous line dance in three sections that fits with an old English song.

3. Machetes – from Mexico. A three part circle dance to energetic Mariachi music. Sometimes I teach it to the kids as the “French Fry Dance”.

4. Lucky Seven – The fourth grade got the most difficult but rewarding dance of all. It is a mixer (meaning the partners change on each repetition of the dance) and requires a lot of attention to successfully execute the Grand Right and Left maneuver. Congratulations to Ms Sylvester’s class for being the first to get it done right.

5. Black Joke – a complicated double circle mixing dance that fifth grade students either love or hate (because they have to hold hands and listen to Mr Thompson make jokes about how they will love holding hands with one another in middle school).

Folk dancing is fun. It’s a great way to integrate physical education and music. Each dance is follows a repeating form of music and the moves of the dance change with the music. It’s physical exercise that sometimes gets the blood pumping and the sweat dripping.  Students – show your parents a dance. Parents – ask to dance with your kids!

I’m happy to be back at school. SSIS is a great place.

Music for the Winter Vacation

I can’t think of anything more fun to do than sit back on the couch with a bánh mì or a fine bún thịt nướng and crank out some holiday tunes on my recorder.  Seriously, it’s right up there with skydiving and reciting a good poem by William Wordsworth. If you are in grades 3-5 and you don’t know what to do over the break then get out your recorder and start tooting!  Why wait for middle school and the birds and the bees?  Following are two songs that we have been practicing this week in class and that will get your blood pumping. They are nice for the holidays:

Jolly Old Saint Nicolas



and Silent Night


Here to help you is an interactive fingering chart. It is very easy to use.  You can also go to youtube for help on playing the songs with a simple search like “Silent Night – soprano recorder”.

It is important to understand that there are two different types of recorders being used in class by students.  Up until this point it hasn’t effected how students have learned the recorder but now it matters. First of all you must identify which kind of recorder you are using: Baroque/English (b/e) or German (g). There is usually a small letter near the thumb hole or near the bottom of the recorder to let you know which recorder you have. The school sells Baroque style recorders and they have a small ‘b’ printed on them.

The main difference is in how the ‘F’ note is played (fingered). Silent Night has both high and low ‘F’ notes. Be careful, the high notes can cause acute terror and anxiety when played out of tune. Don’t let it stop you – especially if your neighbors have a dog that barks all night long. However be kind to your parents who love you and support your budding musical talents. Know your recorder!

The other challenge is the low ‘c’ note which requires all holes to be covered completely and blown very softly. It is tricky and needs attention and practice. Don’t give up!

I sincerely love the sound of the recorder and it’s portability is hard to beat. It’s cheap, lightweight, small, and well-played can make wonderful music. Have fun and let me know how it goes!


Post Concert Wrap Up

Wow! We made it through our journey! There were a few rough waters along the way but the ship proved worthy and the sailing was excellent. The crew did their job admirably and very few jumped shipped.

The voyage included two large winter concerts given by all students in grades 1 – 5. On December 2 the grades 1 – 2 students sang their hearts out to friends and families during an afternoon concert and they were followed by the grade 3 – 5 students and the choir on the evening of December 4.  The songs largely derived from lessons in class on singing, instrument playing and various aspects of music making.

Here is the setlist from the grade 3 – 5 and choir concert that took place on Thursday, December 4:

  1. The Boatman3rd grade. Body percussion, hand percussion, and recorders.
  2. Who Has Seen the Wind?3rd grade. Recorders, xylophones, and handbells.
  3. John Kanaka 3rd grade. Singing in a round.
  4. Row, Row, Row Your Boat4th grade. Traditional children’s round sung in a minor key.
  5. The Derby Ram4th grade. Boomwhackers (plastic percussion tubes).
  6. Shenandoah4th grade. Featuring violin soloists.
  7. Blow Ye Winds5th grade. Two part harmonies (not in a round) with solo singing, drumming, and student guitar accompaniment.
  8. Jamboree5th grade. Two part harmonies (not in a round) with violins, flute, drumming, and student guitar accompaniment.
  9. I’s the B’y5th grade. Students danced.
  10. SenjuaChoir. South African round.
  11. TingalayoChoir. Two part harmonies.
  12. Silver Bells – All students in grades 3 – 5. Ukeleles, guitars, flute, violins, and a student pianist accompanied the song for the grand finale.

Thank you to all of the students, assistants, teachers, and families for your work to make these shows a success.

I will try to update the blog as soon as possible with more information about the 1st and 2nd grade concert. Check back soon and let me know what you think!

IMG_0144 IMG_0145IMG_0143IMG_0164IMG_0207IMG_0182IMG_0229IMG_0246IMG_0238IMG_0253IMG_0271IMG_0296IMG_0277IMG_0320

Concert Attire: What to wear on your upcoming voyage.

The grade 3, 4, 5 concert is on December 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium.  It is working out to be a fun-filled program of sea shanties and songs related to the sea. There will also be a few Christmas songs to ring in the holiday season.

Concert time always brings the inevitable, unanswerable question: What do we wear Mr. Thompson? I’d like to answer that right now and give you a few examples of both what to wear and what not to wear.

First of all the shirt: Students will choose a solid white, solid red, or solid green shirt to wear.  It can be a T-shirt, a polo, or a button up shirt. Short and long sleeves are both acceptable. What is NOT acceptable is printed material, advertising, and photographs, etc. on the shirt.

We will have a dress rehearsal on December 3 to see how the students appear and then I will *make a decision.

Here are several examples of what a GOOD, acceptable shirt might look like:

white good3 (589x800) white good2 (650x800) white good (427x640) red good (650x800) red good2 (640x640) green good (300x300) green good2 (304x360)

I hope that that is easy enough to understand and find in Ho Chi Minh City over the next two weeks.

Here are some examples of what NOT to wear:

134866_A.jpg white bad (800x723) green bad2 (441x437) green bad (800x417) red bad2 (800x800) red really bad (463x800)


And now for the pants/skirt. The pants/skirts/shorts are easy.  Dark blue or black. It’s that simple. School shorts/skirts are fine.

All students will get a headscarf/bandanna to wear on their head to complete the outfit for our boat crew.

* (asterisk). Above I wrote that I would have to “make a decision”. The decision is this: If students are not able to get shirts without advertising then we will have to wear the school polo shirt or school choir shirt for the concert.  It is important that the clothes students wear for the concert be in agreement.

Got it? Questions? Ask me – I’m listening!

And now a song.


Concerts!!!! Songs!!!! Enviromentalism!!!!

Concerts are coming soon.  On December 2 at 2:00 p.m. the 1st and 2nd grade classes will give a performance of songs from class and songs for the holiday season.

Then on the evening of December 4 at 6:30 p.m. the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students will take you on a musical voyage across the ocean, through the first semester.

This blog post is to help students be ready for that journey.

First of all is a short video I found on youtube that demonstrates the fingerings for Good King Wenceslas on the recorder:

Here are the notes and words for “Good King Wenceslas”:Good King Wenceslas-1

I am also providing the notes and lyrics for several more songs which students will perform.

“The Boatman” is a singing and recorder song for the 3rd grade with only three notes: B, A, and G.


“Silver Bells” is a Christmas song that can be strummed on the guitar and ukulele. The chords are above the notes.  Students interested in playing the flute or violin should visit Mr Thompson (that’s me) directly for the score.


“Who Has Seen the Wind?” is a song based on an old poem by Christina Rossetti and the 3rd grade will play it on recorder and xylophones.  The American teacher and composer Carol King set it to music.

Who has seen the wind-1

“Jamboree” and “Blow Ye Winds” are two old sea shanties that the 5th grade will sing. Guitar chords are written above the lyrics for “Blow Ye Winds”.

Jamboree-1Blow Ye Winds - Chords-1


The next few songs are just lyrics. They are pdf links – simply click on the song to pull up the words:

Derby Ram I’s the B’y John Kanaka Shenandoah

All of the above music is for grades 3-5. The choir has already received their music in a packet sent home several weeks ago and grades 1-2 will be getting the songs sent home soon.

I’d like to tell you a bit about my thoughts on taking caring of the earth and not wasting the natural resources of this planet that so graciously supports our lives. Digital technology, like a blog, has the potential to greatly reduce wasteful printing practices. For it to be successful you have to log into it and try. Being the elementary music teacher I work with almost 300 students. To print out copies of all of these songs (and more) for all of these children to be used for one event seems irresponsible to me and I don’t take it lightly. I want to the earth to be in good shape for my child and all future generations. When I hear the eslr “Respect for All” I understand it as going beyond our selves and extending to our environment. I don’t know if that’s what the school founders were thinking or not but that’s what I’m teaching.

Please use paper wisely. If we don’t stand up for the earth and teach the right thing to our children and peers the earth might get sick of us.

Boo! They’re BAACKKKKKK!!!!


“Hallo Mozart.”

“Ja, hallo Beethoven. Wie geht’s Ihnen?”

“Ja, ja, ja, I’m doing fine Mozart, but I have to tell you that I’m getting sick of all of these publicity photo shoots. I’m like, gosh, you think they don’t know who Beethoven is already. And look at the lighting!?!? Who takes a photo like that?”

“I know how you feel Beethoven. I’ll tell them to fix it.  Herr photographer, bitte, fixen the lights. We are here for like ten minutes today and you still don’t get a good picture.”

“Ok, ok.” Says the photographer, “I’ll change it up a bit.”


“Das ist the same photo!” Beethoven shouts at poor Mr. Thompson.

“Be patient and I will get you that special fruit that everyone loves here when we are done. Only five more minutes boys.”

“5 Minuten? I don’t know if I will make it. There is music that I must compose! No more photos after today until my tenth symphony is finished!”

“I’m changing the background now Beethoven.”


“Psss. Mozart, Ich habe eine Idee. Let’s swap piano benches and see if he notices.”

“Hee, hee, hee. Zis is brilliant! You are a genius Ludwig! People usually think that I’m the silly one, but YOU are clever!”

“Ja, ja, danke mein freund.”


“Alright boys, you’re almost done, I think I got the lights just right on this one, you both look fabulous in blue.  But, you know what… something doesn’t seem right… I can’t tell what it is. Hmm… I think maybe we all need a break. Anyway Halloween is around the corner and it’s time to decorate.”

“Ahh, yes, Halloween. What exactly is Halloween?”

“Halloween is a time when children put on a fun costume and scary stories are told. Traditionally children would walk around at night and ‘Trick or Treat’ for candy, but now that we are aware of the deleterious effects of excessive amounts of sugar on the liver and heart, and the rising numbers of type-2 diabetes, even in children, parents usually allow their children to celebrate with slices of raw, organic tofu. It’s quite an improvement actually. Hey, I bet you two know some scary music that you could share with our readers. You go first Mozart.”

“Why thank you, Mr. Thompson. Great minds think alike. My first choice is Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens.”

“Ja, das ist gut, das ist gut. Mozart. It has a nice dancing quality to it but it is scary too! I would like to share something with you a bit more moody and dark. It is the 8th string quartet by Dmitri Shostakovich. It was composed after World War II and it has a heavy, somber character that reflects the sadness and uncertainty of that period. It is quite beautiful actually. Please listen to the whole thing.”

“Woah, Beethoven that is heavy. The second movement is scary!!! The third movement is bouncy and almost like the Saint-Saens piece. I think Shostakovich described the rhythmic cadence in the fourth movement as getting a knock on the door in the middle of the night. Amazing music indeed. But I think we need something a little bit lighter to end up with so I’m going to choose the last piece today and then we can go try the wonderful fruit of Vietnam. This is ‘The Monster Mash’, enjoy.”

“Mr. Thompson, that was horrible, you call that music!??!??! Are you trying to scare us or make us sick? Can we just try that fruit already?”

“I guess you can’t please everyone. Sure guys, close your eyes, open your noses because here it comes. Trick or treat!”


Post vacation updates and reminders…

Greetings amigos and amigotas! Welcome back from the October holiday. I hope that you had an enjoyable week away from it all and are now rested and ready to work.

  1. Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 need to bring their recorders to school for music starting now. The third grade has a good foundation and it’s time for the older kids to dust off the flutes and get piping.
  2. It’s international week -practice the song “Together We Can Change the World” – I posted the lyrics and a link to the youtube video in the last blog post.
  3. Choir is getting active. They will sing for the Monday Morning Vibes in the SSIS Plaza this coming Monday, October 27. If you are in the choir it’s time to learn the songs. If you are a parent of a choir member please assist your singer(s) in learning the songs. They received a packet of words today. I will post some of them soon.
  4. Choir shirts are here. Take care of them and keep them clean.

There is always more that I can share with you about music in school but you will soon see it happening in ever increasing ways over the next two months. Keep your ears open. Or just stop by the music room for a taste of what happens whenever you are at SSIS.