A very special thanks to Tim Wiegand for contributing this article.
We all know the benefits of using the soprano recorder as a tool for young students to learn to read music proficiently. We also all know what a group of eight year olds sound like when they first blow into the instrument! Teaching recorder to beginners is certainly a labor of love, but the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is absolutely worth it. After a few weeks of practice and training our students begin to read simple melodies, recognize notes on the treble staff, and they begin to combine reading rhythm and melody for the first time. While they are limited in their range, they are still performing a very complex task, reading music!
I remember my own experience learning the recorder for the first time. As a percussionist, I had very limited skills. I took my Orff levels over 13 years ago; Sue Mueller was my recorder teacher. She asked us to describe our recorder ability by choosing a category. Humming Birds (Advanced), Road Runners (Moderates), and Coyote (Beginners). I fell into the Coyote category. I remember how joyful it was to improve my skills and partake in Sue’s wonderful lessons. I was blown away by how practical this instrument was. Students could surely pick it up quickly and I was eager to begin teaching recorder at my own school.
About two years ago I realized that my recorder unit was becoming a bit dry and it was time to seek out some new strategies and materials. We were doing way too much sitting and playing and not enough singing, dancing, and creating. So I began to compose some modern accompaniment music that kids could relate to, with big drums, heavy rock guitar, synthesizers, lush orchestral strings, and even some techno beats. I wrote some rap lyrics that taught my recorder rules, and created some high energy dances. After the students got a taste of my new activities, they wanted more and I wanted to provide them with more! Singing, Orff instruments, creative movement, vocabulary, literacy, computer visuals, and partner games were all to follow. I realized that I had a new curriculum on my hands. Maybe even the start of a Recorder Revolution in my music room!