PS 22 Chorus- "Don't Stop Believin'"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Research Reveals Value of Music Education

Here are a few factoids from music research that reveal the value of music education.

1.  The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania School District analyzed its 1997 dropout rate in terms of students' musical experience.  Students with no ensemble performance experience had a dropout rate of 7.4 percent.  Students with one to two years of ensemble experience had a dropout rate of 1 percent, and those with three or more years of performance experience had a dropout rate of 0.0 percent.
                                                            -Eleanor Chute, "Music and Art Lessons Do More Than Complement Three R's", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 13, 1998.

2.  One in three of today's school-aged children will hold an arts-related job at some time in his or her career.
                                                            -Education Commission on the States

3.  Music students out-perform non-music on achievement tests in reading and math.  Skills such as reading, anticipating, memory, listening, forecasting, recall, and concentration are developed in musical performance, and these skills are valuable to students in math, reading, and science.
                                                           -B. Friedman, "An Evaluation of the Achievement in Reading and Arithmetic of Pupils in Elementary School Instrumental Music Classes,"  Dissertation Abstracts International.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pence Program a Success

We had a fun time presenting our Christmas program on December 13th.  Held at the Fairfield High School Auditorium, it featured Pence's 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders in a musical entitled "It's Christmas, Carol!"  The plot centered around grumpy Carol, the head elf at the North Pole and her helper elves.  Through the interventions of the elves and the Ghosts of Holidays Past, Present and Future, Carol realized that she needn't be grumpy at the holidays.  The end result was a festive change of heart and an abundance of Yuletide cheer.  Here are some pictures from the performance.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pence 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Present "It's Christmas, Carol!"

We are well on the way to being ready for our Christmas program.  The students have been working hard on their lines and songs, and are excited about sharing them with their families.  A big thank you to those parents who are lending us costumes and/or props for the show.  However, we are still in need of the following:

Decorations for the stage, especially large toys like dolls, Jack-in-the-boxes, puzzles, and games in boxes                                                                                           
Toy hammers
Small blocks of wood
small paintbrushes and small jars of paint
Toy saws to pretend cut wood
Stovepipe hat like Abe Lincoln wore

Come and join us for the fun on Tuesday, December 13 at the high school auditorium at 7:00 pm!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Eleven in '11

Here are some pictures from the All-State Music Festival in Ames on November 17-19.  
Fairfield All-State Band and Choir 2011
Front row left to right - Forrest Miller, Matt Burnstedt, Haven Tichy, Mitch Goudy, Matt McCan
Back row - Mr. Edgeton, Mr. Reiter, Max Sloat, Shannon Cochran, Baylee Bowman, Lindsey Higgins, Kaylen Marlay,
Claudia Sloat, Mrs. Keller

Matt McCan, 3rd year trumpet

First year vocals left to right - Forrest Miller, Baylee Bowman, Claudia Sloat, Mitch Goudy, Kaylen Marlay

Bowman Quartet Left to right - Haven Tichy, Baylee Bowman, Matt Burnstedt, Claudia Sloat

Cochran Quartet Left to right - Forrest Miller, Lindsey Higgins, Shannon Cochran, Max Sloat

Shannon Cochran, 4 year Soprano with Mr. Reiter and Mrs. Keller

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Chocolate, It's Music - What's Not to Like?

Yes, it's time for Fairfield High School's annual "Chocolate Sunday", the fund raising event held each year for the FHS Fine Arts Department!  This is, in my opinion, the most fun event the fine arts department does all year.  It is scheduled for Sunday, December 4 in the the high school commons at 2:00 pm.  The FHS extra-curricular music ensembles will be performing, and the audience will get the chance to bid in a silent auction on themed gift baskets filled with goodies from area merchants.  Admission is $5.00 and it's all the chocolate you can eat!  So - what's not to like?  Join us for an afternoon of great music, chocolate and maybe the chance to do some  
holiday gift shopping.  Sunday, December 4 at 2:00.  See you there!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Can You Help?

The Pence 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders are busily preparing their lines and songs for the upcoming Christmas program on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 7:00 pm in the high school auditorium.  However, we are in need of some costumes and props for our show.  Following is a list of things needed.  If you have any of these items and would loan them to us, please email me at
You can also call me at Pence - 472-2957

                                        Here are the 2nd graders singing "It's Holiday Time!"

Costumes we need:
pretend mouse ears
stovepipe hat like Abe Lincoln wore
pretend bunny ears
curly red "Annie" wig
elf ears, possibly attached to elf hat for 8 elves
curly-toed elf shoes, several pair
old sheets with holes cut in them for eyes

Decorations for the stage:
big candy canes, possibly made from wood or cardboard
rag dolls
 Artificial Christmas trees with decorations and stand
Giant clock made from cardboard, with movable cardboard hands
Any other large Christmas decorations that would dress up the stage

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fairfield High School Gets 11 Into All-State Choir and Band!

FHS had one of its most successful years ever at the All-State Music Auditions held at Fairfield on Saturday, October 22nd.  Ten vocalists and one instrumentalist made the final cut into the All-State Choir and Band, which ties the all-time school record set in 2006.  Vocalists include Senior Shannon Cochran - 4th year All-State Soprano, Senior Max Sloat - 3rd year All-State Bass, Senior Haven Tichy - 2nd year All-State Bass, Senior Lindsey Higgins - 2nd year All-State Alto, Senior Matt Burnstedt - 2nd year All-State Tenor, Senior Kaylen Marlay - 1st year All-State alto, Junior Forrest Miller - 1st year All-State tenor, Junior Mitch Goudy - 1st year All-State tenor, Sophomore Claudia Sloat - 1st year All-State alto, and Sophomore Baylee Bowman - 1st year All-State soprano. Senior Matt McCan was the trumpet player selected for the All-State Band.  He is a 3rd year All-State Band member.

The selectivity of these ensembles is evidenced by the fact that approximately 12-15% of the students who audition are selected.  Fairfield can also be proud that they had the 3rd highest number of students selected in the southeast district, behind only Iowa City West and Iowa City City High.  Instrumental coaches are Jim Edgeton and Aaron Adam.  Vocal coaches are Connie Keller and Zach Reiter.

The All-Staters will be rehearsing at Iowa State University November 17-19, with the concert scheduled for Saturday night, November 19 in Hilton Coliseum.  The event is under the auspices of the Iowa High School Music Association, in conjunction with the Iowa Music Educators Association.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Christmas musical rehearsal

Yes, even though it's early November, rehearsals are well under way for the 2-4 Pence Christmas program.  It is entitled "It's Christmas, Carol!" and is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13 at 7:00 pm in the Fairfield High School Auditorium.  Pictured is a group of 3rd graders working on one of the songs for the program.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

SE Conference Vocal Festival video

Here is a video and audio clip of the Conference Vocal Festival on October 25th.  Approximately 360 vocalists and orchestra members gathered in the FHS gym to rehearse and perform the music of Mozart.  Each school also performed one song.  Following is a video of Fairfield's choir singing Moses Hogan's "Every Time I Feel the Spirit".

Here is an audio clip of the Festival Mass Choir singing Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Southeast Conference Vocal Festival - Come One, Come All

The FHS 10-12 Combined Choirs have been hard at work on music for the Conference Vocal Festival, which is coming up on Tuesday, October 25 in the high school gym.  It will be a night of Mozart's music, complete with an orchestral accompaniment.  Schools participating are Ottumwa, Mt. Pleasant, Ft. Madison, Keokuk, Washington and Fairfield.  Orchestra members are mainly drawn from the Southeast Iowa Symphony, or the Ottumwa Symphony.  The mass choir will be working throughout the day with a renowned guest conductor, followed by a 7:00 pm concert in the gym.  Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students.  Each school will also be performing one song individually.  It promises to be a night of great music, so make plans now to attend!
Pictured are some of the FHS students in the combined choir working on their individual song for the concert.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Do We Really Need the Arts?

In this day of school budget cuts, this question sometimes arises - if not spoken aloud, then spoken silently in our collective consciences.  I found this quote the other day while looking at an excellent music education website.  I think it answers this question well, so I would like to offer it here, along with acknowledgement of its author.

Do We Really Need the Arts?

“To create, one must first imagine;  to imagine, one must first learn to see, to listen, to feel, to perceive.  Music and the arts are the cornerstone of education in the broadest sense.  They open our eyes and ears, develop and transform us personally, bond us emotionally with others, and offer a universal bridge of understanding in a troubled world.  John F. Kennedy said it best:  “The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation, is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose…and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.”  In this spirit, we present the best in music education for all ages, along with complementary art, dance, creative dramatics, and movement resources, to help restore the arts to the center, where they belong.”

                                                                        -Mary Ann Stewart

Monday, October 3, 2011

Best Friends

Mrs. Sobaski's class recently began learning a song called "Best Friends."  This led us to a discussion about what it means to have friends.  The students enjoyed singing the song because it was funny and it had lots of rhyming words in it.  For example, "If I were a kangaroo, I could be your pouch.  If I were a little scratch, I could be your ouch!"  Here you can see the class singing the song for the first time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pence's Christmas Program

Second, Third and Fourth Graders at Pence are in the very beginning stages of working on our Christmas program.  We will be doing a short musical entitled "It's Christmas, Carol!"  Few traditions are as widely enjoyed as Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol."  With that in mind, "It's Christmas, Carol!" is a modern adaptation of that famous story.  Ebeneezer Scrooge is replaced by a very grumpy head elf at the North Pole named Carol.  The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future are here as well, as are lots of elves and other surprises.  All will be revealed as we learn how Carol has a festive change of heart and an abundance of Yuletide cheer.  The program is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13 at 7:00 pm in the high school auditorium.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We are learning about rhythms

Here is Mr. Strickler's 4th grade class in music.  One of the skills we are improving on is how to count rhythms.  One of the ways we do this is by playing a game called Rhythm Bingo, which is what this class is preparing to do.  In it, the teacher starts by clapping and counting out loud one of the rhythms on the student's card.  The class then echoes the teacher's pattern by clapping and counting, then finds and marks it on their card.  When a student gets a Bingo, they get to clap and count the rhythms in their bingo, then receive a prize.  The 4th grade will be able to track their progress with a pre-test, a mid-year test, and a post-test given at the end of the school year.  That way, they can be on their way to being rhythm experts!

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 And the Power of Music

9/11 And the Power of Music
The large amount of media coverage of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy got me thinking lately about the different ways we grieve, both individually and as a nation.  Certainly the media has used startling photographic images, some of them being well-known to us by now.  But a closer look (and listen) reveals another means, just as powerful, if not more, than these photos and videos.  Have you ever noticed that much of the images and videos we watch on TV are accompanied by music?  Music has a power that I’m not sure many people realize.  This fact was brought home more clearly to me by the article in the September 11 Des Moines Register titled “Beyond Words:  The Soundtrack of 9/11.”  In it, writer Michael Morain recounts the many ways Americans have chosen to remember this date.  Mr. Morain tells about a concert given at the Twin Towers site by opera star Renee Fleming a few weeks after the attacks.  Ms. Fleming said it was the most difficult concert she had ever sung, being unable to look into the faces of the victims’ families.  Morain said even though the words of Fleming’s “Amazing Grace” washed over the audience, it was the familiar tune that really hit home.  This is when we sometimes realize that words can only do so much.  We became buried beneath an avalanche of 9/11 words – in books, articles and media coverage.  Morain theorizes that that is why so many concerts have been scheduled during this time.  Music has a way to touch us and even heal us in a way that words alone cannot.  In more rare cases, even the absence of music adds to an experience. One of the reasons Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” is so eerie is because there is no music in it whatsoever. Classical music is written off as being only enjoyable by a certain niche of people. However, when one considers the film and advertising industries, classical music is quite pervasive in American culture.
“One of the really wonderful things about music is that it allows individuals and groups of people to go to places that are beyond what words can make possible,” said Jesse Rosen, president of the League of American Orchestras.  Orchestras are not engaged in asking questions like “what does this mean for America?”  “How do we keep this from ever happening again?”  Its listeners bring their own experiences to the concert and take from it whatever they will.  In this way, concerts become a very individualized listening experience.    Parts of the aforementioned Renee Fleming  concert were made into a documentary titled “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero”.  At the end of the film, two people are shown holding hands as they jump from one of the towers on that fateful day.  As they fall, the documentary plays strains of Schubert’s String Quartet under the narrator’s voice. This moment, as with many other events, are made more poignant and eternal with the addition of music.
Previews of “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero” are available on YouTube. The documentary, produced by Helen Whitney, can be purchased through

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Southeast Conference Vocal Festival

Mozart, circa 1780
October 25th is the day when several hundred high school choir students from the conference descend on Fairfield High School for the annual Conference Vocal Festival.  The students will have been practicing the music for this concert since the beginning of the school year.  Featured will be the music of Mozart, specifically his "Sparrow" Mass and his motet "Ave Verum Corpus."  Six schools will be present:  Fairfield, Mt. Pleasant, Washington, Ft. Madison, Keokuk and Ottumwa.  The students will rehearse all day with a guest conductor, followed by the 7:00 pm concert in the FHS gym.  Another unique feature of this event is that the mass choir will be performing their Mozart pieces with an orchestra, and special soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists.  Each school will also be performing a song individually.  This may be one of the only times many of these high schoolers get to perform with an orchestra, which makes it fairly special.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Welcome back, everyone!

Welcome back to school, everyone!  I am Mrs. Keller, and I teach K-4 elementary music at Pence, and I am also the Fairfield High School assistant vocal director.  I am a graduate of Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, where I received my Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Arts degrees.  In addition to teaching K-4 music at Pence, I also direct the high school Concert Choir.  Co-curricular choirs under my direction are the Raw Notes Jazz Choir, the women's ensemble, the Freshmen ensemble, and I teach high school voice lessons.  This is one of the places people can visit for information concerning any activities for these groups.

Here's hoping your school year is off to a great start!

Musically yours,
Mrs. Keller

Friday, August 26, 2011

Music Advocacy 101

Why is Music Important to the Young Mind?

Music participation provides a unique opportunity for literacy preparation. Whether the children are singing, playing, or listening, teachers direct them to listen and hear in new ways which exercises their aural discrimination. Playing instruments and adding movement to the lessons teaches children about sequential learning which is essential in reading comprehension.

Plato once said that music “is a more potent instrument than any other for education”. You will find many teachers of young children who would agree with him. Recent research has found that music uses both sides of the brain, a fact that makes it valuable in all areas of development. Music affects the growth of a child’s brain academically, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Music is academic. For some people, this is the primary reason for providing music lessons to their children. A recent study from the University of California found that music trains the brain for higher forms of thinking. Second graders who were given music lessons scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than children who received no special instruction. Research indicates that musical training permanently wires a young mind for enhanced performance.
Music is physical. Music can be described as a sport. Learning to sing and keep rhythm develops coordination. The air and wind power necessary to blow a flute, trumpet or saxophone promotes a healthy body.
Music is emotional. Music is an art form. We are emotional beings and every child requires an artistic outlet. Music may be your child’s vehicle of expression.
Music is for life. Most people can’t play soccer, or football at 70 or 80 years of age but they can sing. And they can play piano or some other instrument. Music is a gift you can give your child that will last their entire lives.
-from Children's Music Workshop, an Emmy award-winning music company

Our first music class!

Here is Mrs. Ryan's Kindergarten class at Pence.  They are in the music room ready to learn about all the exciting things they will be doing in music this year.  Yea for music, and yea for Pence!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pence Students Shine in Spring Concert May 24th

The Pence 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders certainly did "shine" as they presented their spring concert entitled "Children of the World" on May 24th in the high school auditorium.  Under the glare of the hot stage lights, students sang folk songs and read fun facts about the countries of Italy, Mexico, South Africa, Wales, Israel, Japan, Germany, Canada and the United States.  Also included in the concert was a power point presentation of iconic pictures of each country.  Each class also made a poster of fun facts and pictures about their country, which was on display in the lobby of the auditorium.   I would like to thank the following for helping make the concert a success:  Nathan Wear
                  Zach Reiter - Lights and Sound
                  Power Point & Curtain - Rachel Keller
                  Videographer - John Grunwald
                  Classroom teachers - Mrs. Shea, Mrs. Bowman, Mrs. Sobaski, Ms. Crall, Mrs. Lewis,
                  Mrs. Hutchings, Mr. Boatright, Mr. Strickler and Mrs. Buckley
                  FHS Choirs - Platform risers

Congratulations, students!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We're All Children of the World!

Tonight is the night! Open the curtain and raise the lights! Pence Elementary's second, third, and fourth graders put on a delightful show of diversity and unity in song in the Fairfield High School auditorium in just a few short minutes! So brave the heat, humidity, and weather and join us for a night of music in "We're All Children of the World", directed by Mrs. Connie Keller.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

We Survived the FHS Auditorium!

What a nice audience we had at the FHS Spring Concert on Tuesday night!  The audience bravely battled through the heat and humidity with their programs waving as they listened to an astonishing array of musical talent from our students.  The concert was slightly long, especially considering the heat, but the great performances were not to be missed.  I hope the audience left the concert feeling uplifted by the inspiring music of the students.  And I hope the students felt proud and uplifted by their music.  

I think Charles Kingsley, English author and poet, said it best:  "There is something very wonderful in music.   Words are wonderful enough;  but music is even more wonderful...Music soothes us, stirs us up;  it puts noble feelings in us;  it melts us to tears, we know not how:  it is a language by itself, just as perfect, in its way, as speech, as words;  just as divine, just as blessed..."

Bravo, students!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chamber Singers of Southeast Iowa

Well, it has been a lot of work, and the time is approaching for the Chamber Singers of Southeast Iowa Spring Concert.  While rehearsing with this group has been more time consuming than I imagined, hopefully the rewards of performing well will compensate for that.  Above you can read about all the details of the concert - time, place, date and tickets.  I hope you'll come to the beautiful Sondheim Theatre in Fairfield on May 28 for an evening of enjoyable music!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Large Group Music Contest Update

We Came, We Saw, We Conquered!!

Congratulations to the Fairfield High School music students for their awesome musical performances last Friday night, May 6.  Fairfield had its most successful Large Group Music Contest experience ever last Friday when we sent almost 220 students to Fort Madison High School to perform.  Fairfield Concert Band, Men's Choir, Women's Choir and Chamber Choir all came home with Division I Superior ratings.  All three judges in each category gave straight I's to these groups.  Some of the comments on the written judges' ballots were:

"Wonderful sound ladies"
"Emotional involvement was wonderful"
"Excellent work, excellent literature"
"A very well-disciplined group"
"Lots of great singing going on"

Directors for the ensembles are:  Freshman Band - Mr. Adam, Concert Band - Mr. Edgeton, Men's Choir and Chamber Choir - Mr. Reiter, Women's Choir - Mrs. Keller.  The contest is under the auspices of the Iowa High School Music Association.

Thank you to the students for their time and commitment to excellence!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

High School Music Recognition Night - Date has been moved

UPDATE             UPDATE              UPDATE             UPDATE               UPDATE
Parents, friends and relatives of Fairfield High School music students - 
It's time to recognize the achievements of your high school musician.  Come and join us on Thursday, May 12 at 7:00 pm in the HS Commons as we award and recognize the commitment of time and hard work of these special musicians.  Choir and Band letters will be awarded, as well as the special band and choir awards for outstanding senior musician.  We hope to see you there to show your support of FHS' outstanding music department.

Fairfield High School Spring Concert

     The FHS 9-12 spring concert will be Tuesday, May 10 at 7:30 pm in the high school auditorium.  Instrumental ensembles featured on the concert will be the Freshman Band, the Jazz Band, the 10-12 Concert Band and the drum line.  Vocal ensembles performing will be the 9-12 Men's Choir, the 9-12 Women's Choir, the Freshman Ensemble, and the Chamber Choir.  Most of the groups will be performing pieces they performed at the State Large Group Contest on May 6.  Accompanists for the choirs are Connie Keller and Michael Gookin, with Rachel Schwarz as a vocal soloist in the Women's Choir, and Shannon Cochran as a Chamber Choir soloist.
Instrumental directors are Jim Edgeton and Aaron Adam, with the choirs under the direction of Zach Reiter and Connie Keller.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Fairfield High School to compete in State Large Group Music Contest

The State Large Group Music Contest will be held Friday, May 6 at Ft. Madison High School.  Under the auspices of the Iowa High School Music Association, the contest is held at several performance centers around the state on May 6 and May 7.  Choirs and bands will be performing two to three pieces of music for a panel of three judges who will assign each group a rating of I (Superior), II (Excellent), or III (Good).  Adjudicators will be giving written and audio criticism along with the final rating, which is designed as feedback for groups on ways they can improve their performances.  Fairfield High School will be sending approximately 220 students in five different groups to compete: 9-12 Women's Choir, 9-12 Men's Choir, Chamber Choir, Freshman Band and 10-12 Concert Band.  The event is open to the public, and a small admission fee will be charged.
Here are the performance times for Fairfield's groups:
      Freshman Band - 4:50 pm
     10-12 Band - 6:25 pm
      Men's Choir - 7:00 pm
      Women's Choir - 7:35 pm
      Chamber Choir - 8:10 pm

Pence Spring Program

Spring has sprung!  It's time for flowers, birds and singing!  The Pence second, third and fourth graders have been hard at work on their spring program entitled "Children of the World".  This will be held Tuesday, May 24th at 7:00 pm at the Fairfield High School Auditorium.   Each grade level will be singing folk songs from various countries around the world.  Some of the featured countries are Wales, Italy, Mexico, Japan and the USA.  Interspersed with the folk songs will be "fun facts" about that country read by the students.  Come and join us for an evening with an international flavor.  To quote the title song - "We're all children of the world, and we carry the future with us!"