Collaboration Projects

Written by Amy Fatek

Throughout our blog we have presented many exciting ways in which teachers can validate and show statistically that music makes a difference in the learning process and lives of students.  Through assessment we can provide concrete statistical evidence of this.  I believe that through cross-curricular applications and collaboration, we can bring to life for the parents, students, and the outside community, the special connection that music can bring to life for our students.  I will provide some ideas that I have used; collaborations with the general music teacher, interdisciplinary studies with the art department, research in connections to other core subjects, and performance opportunities for regular education classroom teachers.

One of the ways I have advocated for my program is through collaboration with general music.  One example was, when I was teaching high school band and kindergarten at the same time.  My kindergarten students were using the book, “The Jazz Fly” written by, Mathew Gollub.  This book describes the instruments of the jazz band and how they sound together and individually.  The kindergarten students love talking about bugs and loved the music that they heard.  I decided to use my high school jazz band as “the bugs” and have them bring the story to life on stage.  I asked my high school jazz band to be the actors and to create a set that would reflect the artistic design of the book.  The pages of the book were projected on the wall so that students could “read along”.  I was the narrator and the high school students brought the characters of the book to life. They played a nice arrangement of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” where they would present the melody in the swing style.  The concert would end with the audience joining the jazz band in the swing style where they would sing the simple tune as the jazz band’s rhythm section continued the swing beat and the other instrumentalists sang along.  Student from all over the district came across town for this very special event.  We discussed how they should conduct themselves when attending a performance and students got dressed up for school that day.  They loved learning about concert edicat, bugs, the musical instruments, and using a tune they already knew to learn about the style of jazz.

This year I have plans to do a collaborative concert with the art teacher at my school.  I have chosen music the paints a musical picture for the audience.  This kind of tine poem can be seen in “The Curse of Tutankhamen” written by, Michael Story and in “The Great Locomotive Chase” written by Robert W. Smith.  These two pieces are the two that I will use to be the vehicles of the artists creativity.  The collaborative process will begin with research both by the band students and art students.  We will study music and history from Egypt and about King Tut.  Students from the other class will do research and read the forward the composer provides about the story being told with the locomotive chase piece.  After the art students have gained the background insight they will begin to create their reflections and start to brainstorm ideas for creating a piece of artwork to reflect the music.  Students in the band will begin to rehearse and bring to life the “tone poem”.  The art students will come to the band class and sketch and reflect during our rehearsals.  I will also make a CD so they can have the music playing when they are in their classroom working.  The project will culminate with a “gallery opening” at the concert where students will invite the community and parents to view their work.  Students will be there to show and discuss their creations.  Then the Band will perform their concert.  This concert is a showcase of a cross-curricular collaboration and students connection to history and their artistic talents.

In the future I would like to work with the history teacher to create a plan where we can be discussing the music of the time periods studied throughout the year in the regular education history classes.  I think music history is such an important element in students study.  By creating a Music History portion of the curriculum, students will be able to create connections between the people of the past and be able to see into the future and how tomorrow’s music might reflect a new generation.  When students can understand people who came before them they will better understand them selves.  Students might wish to create a project were they talk about the historically significant fact and then explain why the music of this time period was written the way it was.  This could be an exhibit used in the lobby of the school to showcase students and teacher’s ability to think across the curriculum.

These are just a few of my ideas about collaboration with teachers and students from around the school system.  The more connections that students can make the more real and relevant music seems.  Through cross-curricular applications and collaboration, we can bring to life for the parents, students, and the outside community, the special connection that music can bring to life for our students.   What other ideas have you used to make music come alive for your students?

Here are a few web sites that may provide more ideas on this topic:

Connect To The Technology Infused Music Classroom


Cross Curricular Thematic Instruction”, Article Written by MaryEllen Vogt


MENC: Tips for a Successful Collaboration


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie K.
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 01:06:27

    Collaboration with other teachers and cross-curricular applications are great ways to validate music in the eyes of parents, students, and other community members. By finding ways to integrate core subject material into our music classes, we give music a voice. When we are willing to collaborate with other core subject teachers, we show we care about our students and their entire education. I love the way Amy used the book, “They Jazz Fly,” to make music, specifically jazz music, more real in the lives of her students. I think it is so cool that she helped her high school jazz band bring the story to life! She made learning fun, and I am sure it is an experience that her students will never forget. She combined new information with knowledge they already had.

    Like Amy, I have started collaborating my band concerts with the art teacher at my school. I love it, and I think the students love it, too. Two years ago, I began doing a “themed” concert for our last band concert of the year. To give it a little something special, I asked the art teacher if she would mind doing some props and decorations or if she would have her students do some. I was pleasantly surprised when she eagerly agreed. That year, we did a “bug” theme. She had her older art students help paint large cardboard cut-outs of bugs that could be propped up around the band chairs and my band podium. She had her younger art students paint smaller bugs on paper that we hung on the wall around the gym. Last year, we did a “car” theme. It was a big hit. It made the concert feel more like a production. My band students took more ownership for their learning and were more motivated to do better and try harder. I believe it strengthened the fine arts program at our school and promoted both of our programs. In addition, we received a lot of positive feedback from parents and members of the community. I have also started looking for ways to include material and information from other subject areas to my band concerts like Amy did with her two pieces. I think it is awesome that she found ways to link her band pieces to art and history. It makes for a better school environment when teachers choose to work together. And, it enhances the education we provide our students. I believe that music can be a great connection to learning in any subject area, and I agree with Amy that connections make music more real and relevant to our students.


  2. Patti Bjornson
    Dec 04, 2011 @ 03:13:22

    These are outstanding examples of colloboration. The meaningful learning that is taking place by young and older students is obvious and inspiring! Equally as valuable is the impact and outreach to the community. You have challenged me to take my cross-curricular teaching to my performances that I present each year.

    Thank you,


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