The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

A Cappella

Fourth graders have an amazingly wide variety of interests. This is one of the reasons that I absolutely love teaching this grade level. Not only are they interested in just about everything in the world (as am I), they are willing to share these interests with anyone and everyone at any given moment!

About a month ago or so, some of the fourth grade girls in the two classes started sharing songs that they had written and/or learned with me and the other fourth grade teacher. They usually did this during recess, breaking out into song without much warning. My fourth grade partner, being the wonderfully intuitive person that she is, started finding YouTube videos of a cappella groups and sharing them with her class. She mentioned this to me, and then we both mentioned it to our music teacher.

That was all it took to get the ball rolling on another fantastic arts infusion project. The University of Illinois has a number of award-winning a cappella groups. The music teacher reached out to them and asked if they would be willing to do a performance for our fourth graders. One of the groups said they could do so, but they asked for payment that was quite simply outside our school’s budget. Another group, though, offered to do so at a discounted price. Then we learned about a grant opportunity through an arts-in-the-schools benefactor from New York. An application was made and she agreed to fund the visit!

Over the past two weeks, the fourth graders have been learning about a cappella music during our arts infusion time. They have also been preparing for this visit, thinking about questions they could ask the performers and how a cappella would differ from the music they hear on the radio or other places.

The University of Illinois Rip Chords, an all-female a cappella group, came this afternoon and performed for all of the intermediate grades. The first piece they did was our school’s theme song for the year: Brave by Sara Bareilles.

After singing a variety of other songs, including You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall & Oates and Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder, the Rip Chords took questions from the students. I was so happy that the fourth graders’ questions were meaningful and relevant to the type of music they were listening to! After several questions, the Rip Chords closed with a signature number, their cover of Yesterday by The Beatles.

It was a great way to end the day! A huge thank you to our music teacher, to our benefactor from New York, and our fourth grade students who shared their interests and got us all thinking about this unique musical style!

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