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Kaitlyn Laprise

Observation Report 1: Craig Cummings-Aural Skills 2
Dr. Cummings began his class with a recording of a Brahms symphony
playing as students were entering the room. He had listed his plan for the day on
the board which he drew their attention to by telling them there would be no
individual graded singing that day so that they wouldnt have to worry. They then
began a ten-minute dictation quiz where students had four playings to notate a 12note pitch pattern and five playings to notate the rhythm of a five measure melody
in compound meter. Both of these examples were played at the piano. Before each
example, Dr. Cummings prepared the students for their listening. For the pitch
pattern, he asked them to consider the two possible keys based on the key
signature and played the first note for them; for the rhythm example, he asked
them to visualize the various 6/8 patterns that they had been practicing in class.
This is evidence that Dr. Cummings teaches rhythmic understanding in terms of
pattern recognition like we learned about in our reading. For both parts of the quiz,
Dr. Cummings gave slightly more time between each playing to give students more
time to work.
For the next part of class, which he called the meat of the lesson, Dr.
Cummings used two different techniques to introduce tenor clef based on their
previous knowledge of alto clef. First, he drew two staves on the boardone in alto
and one in tenor clefthat were both missing the line for middle C and asked
students to identify pitches while visualizing the clef as a grand staff. He told them
he likes this technique because it makes it easier to visualize the register each pitch
is in rather than just the note names themselves. Then, he used a tenor clef

practice page from their supplement book which used the various octaves of C and
G as anchors and organized the other notes of the staff around those pitches as
neighbor tones to help develop their reading skills. They read the note names for
these examples as a class while standing. Both of these methods introduced new
material based on information that was already familiar, and he discussed his
reasoning for choosing both of these methods with the class. They then did a fiveminute dictation in tenor clef where he reminded them that they are using the same
skills of remembering and understanding as they do with all dictations. He told them
that once they have done those two steps, they can write it in any clef they are
asked to. He worked systematically through this dictation with them, thereby
reminding them how he expects them to think about dictations when they are
working alone. First, he asked them to not write anything down while he played the
melody once through. Next, he chunked the melody for them by playing the notes
in groups that made up relatively standard tonal pitch patterns. They sung the
melody back to him on la and he identified the one note they were uncertain
about. During the next playing, when they were asked to think about solfege
syllables, he was careful to draw their attention to that difficult note. During their
final playing, he stopped at anchor points in the melody and asked them to identify
the syllable for the note he was playing. Finally, the students sang the full melody
together on solfege using a do-based minor system. They then began to write the
melody down and, about half-way through their work, he asked them to sing it one
more time to keep their memory accurate. Lastly, he wrote pieces of the melody on
the board with errors he anticipated that they might have made and asked them to
identify the mistakes in his writing. This approach to dictation broke the exercise

down into small, manageable steps to help students be more successful while also
giving them tools to use in future dictations.
After passing out a sheet describing what they should prepare for their
upcoming hearing, he gave the class five minutes to sign up for hearing times, and
then they discussed what they should expect on that day. For the last ten minutes of
class, Dr. Cummings introduced anacrusic rhythms, saying that since they have had
a lot of experience performing this type of rhythm, their biggest difficulty will likely
be with conducting exercises that begin with an anacrusis. They tried a few
examples in their Rhythm and Pitch book and discussed how they would start each
of the exercises. He gave them a minute to work in pairs conducting each other to
try to figure out the best way to start each example. This insistence on conducting
reinforces the belief from our reading that rhythm and pulse need to be physically
felt. As a class, they whispered the first beats in the measure to reinforce pulse and
tempo and then spoke and conducted the necessary beats to start each example on
takadimi syllables. He also selected two different studentseach asked to choose a
new tempoto start the class by counting a full measure before they all began their
conducting. At this point, he asked the students to close their eyes and listen while
he spoke the same rhythm twicefirst with the inflection implied by the anacrusis
and second with no inflectionand then asked the students which sounded more
anacrusic. This emphasized the need for the students to not only perform examples
correctly, but also with appropriate musical intent and style as Karpinski
encourages. The last three minutes of class involved an activity where Dr.
Cummings played familiar tunes that begin with an anacrusis and the students
needed to quickly figure out the time signature and how to notate the anacrusis for
each song. This exercise was simplified by making all of the songs in treble clef and

in the same key signature so that they could focus more on the rhythmic concepts
for each example. For the last of these songs, the Star Spangled Banner, Dr.
Cummings prepared the students by saying that there was a chromatic pitch in the
melody before he played it. After playing it twice, he asked them leading questions
to help them figure out what pitch and solfege syllable was correct for that note,
and then told them that they would be starting to explore chromatic pitches like
that one in March.
The most interesting thing I found in observing this lesson was Dr. Cummings
approach to dictations. The idea to completely isolate rhythmic and melodic
dictation so that the students initially develop those skills separately makes logical,
pedagogical sense based on the idea presented by Rogers in our reading of building
on simple concepts to gradually achieve more complexity. His scaffolding of steps
for taking dictations was also based on this same pedagogical idea. Based on what I
saw in this lesson, Dr. Cummings seems to believe strongly in careful, strategic
planning that builds concepts from simple to complex to give students reliable tools
to help them be more successful and confident in performing and taking dictations.
The organization, quick pacing, pedagogically informed instruction, and positive
environment of his classroom kept students constantly engaged in their learning
while making them feel comfortable performing tasks like taking dictations that are
often very stressful for students.