Saturday, February 3, 2018

Let's Play and Sing some SOL'S!!

School Songs by Brent Holl and Phyllis Gaskins
School Songs BookCD available too!
About five years ago, my good friend and Galax dulcimer player, Phyllis Gaskins ask me to help her
record some songs she had written for her second graders. I happily complied and recorded this remarkable set of children's songs about learning objectives in elementary school.

Phyllis was an elementary classroom teacher, now retired. Her love of music and singing meant that her class sessions were always filled with music and learning. Alas, at a beginning of the year faculty meeting, she and the rest of the staff were handed learning objectives for the entire year.  Phyllis described it as "no frills learning." This was her response.
So, being feisty, I set up an appointment with the principal. I had a plan.
Principal: You cannot justify singing in the classroom because the children have music once a week with a “trained” music teacher. 
Me: What?!?! Why???
Principal: You have to follow the curricula. The objectives for reading, math, social studies, and science are to be the focus of every lesson. 
Me: Ok. What if I find or create songs that teach those objectives? Can we sing more often?
Principal: Let me see what you can develop. 
I created a document with all of the core objectives labeled and numbered. I searched for songs to teach these, and when I could not find one, I wrote one. Each month I gave the principal an update on my progress and invited him into the classroom to observe the lesson. Mission accomplished. My song writing journey began.
And just like that School Songs was born. This brand new release is all about songs for Social Studies, Science and Reading in the elementary classroom. The songbook contains full scores for every song on the CD. Some of the songs have lead sheets with guitar or ukulele chords and some are full scores for including parts for Orff instruments and/or home made marimbas.

Teach geography with Trip to Egypt or Fly to China. Energize your social studies lessons with In the Good Old USA and The Three Resources. Study condensation, precipitation, and water vapor by singing The Water Cycle!

The songs on the CD (available separately) are performed and recorded by Brent Holl, folk singer and former teacher as well. He uses acoustic guitar, melodica, all manner of special percussion instruments, and a home made marimba. Teachers who have marimbas or Orff instruments in their classrooms will be able to re-create the Orff arrangements written in this book with their students. All of these arrangements are playable on guitar, keyboard or ukulele! Have a listen, courtesy of CD Baby!  Find out more at

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