Here is the Crescendo Music Education – Episode 31. This is the second part of my talk with Katherine Ruhle, you’ll hear her nuggets of fabulous and more about her accessible choral music. Please have a look at the work that she’s done. She’s a lovely, lovely person, enjoy part two.
About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript of episode 031 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.
Episode 31 “Read the Episode” Transcript
Okay, now we get to the part where you get to share your nuggets of fabulous for everybody. Like, I know, you work magic with large groups of children. Oh, I’m sure you work magic with small groups. But I tend to just see you with large groups.
So I’m just wondering if you’d like to pick a couple of those tips, tricks, strategies, resources, repertoire? Well, we already know your repertoire is excellent. So you don’t have to say that one. I’ll just give that nugget of fabulous. I’ll put the link in the show notes but is your website? I don’t know. It just pops up for me, kathruhle.com.
Katherine Ruhle’s Nuggets of Fabulous
Oh, and while we’re on that, I’ll give you the first nugget of fabulous to everyone listening, get onto that website, which I’ll put in the show notes. Actually, while we’re doing it. I’m gonna Google it here on the side while we do it, so that I can actually say that in case somebody doesn’t, oh, it is just the.com. Okay. And also, people need to know how to spell your surname. So it’s Katherine k a t h e r i n e r u h l e, that is r u h l e. So it’s katherineruhle.com. And the reason I want to stress that is if you get onto there, there are these freebies that are just gems now is The Prince one of your freebies.
It was one of the first ones I did with my little Sopraninos. So those of you who don’t know it, the state school where I teach where music is very valuable, very valuable. Sorry, it will it is but I meant valued, where music is valued. And we have five choirs Kath takes four of them and I take one, I do argue that the one I take is the most important. So that’s the grade one and two choir where I get very large numbers. And I’m hoping to motivate them to continue into Kath’s Junior choir, which is grade three and four. Then we have a senior choir year five and six.
And then for the first half of the year, we have a girls choir, which generally is only year six and seven because of the numbers. Then we have a Boys Choir, the wriggly ones we were talking about. They are grade five, oh actually they’re at the moment grade three to six because we just don’t get as many boys. We do have quite a few boys in the junior and senior choir, but we’re still certainly not 50/50.
So we’re trying to encourage more boys. At the moment, it’s grade three to six for the boys for the second half of the year. So I had this new little choir, the Sopraninos is our little grade one and two choir. At that stage. I think I had about 90 in that choir, and we did The Prince, which is a freebie of Kath’s website. The prince, the prince, he was … what?
… went riding by.
Anyway, I won’t embarrass myself by trying to sing anymore, but it was so fun and we just had a little boy on a hobby horse thing that I made that galloped around while we sang. And it’s just a great little piece Canonic, I think, it’s a Canon isn’t it?
Canon? Yeah, yeah. And can be done as a partner song as well.
It was it’s magic, and it’s free. So there we go, nuggets of fabulous. There is always free stuff on Kath’s website. So there you go. That’s the first nugget, get on to katherineruhle.com. And then I’ll hand over to Kath for the other nuggets.
I’ve been really fortunate that I was a piano accompanist for many years for choirs, and so I was able to watch a lot of different choral conductors over the years and get lots of wisdom and tips and tricks from them. I only did my early childhood education degree 10-12 years ago now and that was as I was accompanying choirs and starting out conducting choirs and it was a really good time to revisit education and every subject that we did in early childhood, whether it was Maths or English or the Arts or Science, every time we were encouraged to think creatively and to say, how are you using the different senses? How are you using different learning styles to engage the children in this subject, and a lot of people struggled with that, but I loved it.
That’s how my mind thinks, I’m really creative and that came from my Mum, because I saw her engage children in so many different ways growing up. So for me taking choirs that’s been really important to say, How am I engaging all the different styles of learning in this choir rehearsal. I’d seen so many other conductors where it was very much sit down, stand up, read the music, let’s go over, let’s go over. And that’s the choirs that I grew up in and I loved that.
But I thought this can be done differently. And so for me, it’s really important, as I’m teaching songs especially, to say, How can I do this in different ways? So we do a lot of listening, closing our eyes and listening to the music being played, saying What are you feeling? How are you connecting with the music? Can you paint a picture in the air as you’re singing, talk to the people around you? What did you hear? What do you think this song could be about? Why do you think the composer has written it like this, trying to get the students to think for themselves rather than just be told, this is why we’re singing this, or this is what this piece is about. I do a lot of movement in my rehearsals.
And once again, I think that’s how I best connect with music. And I learn so I’m sure that there’s others who do that as well. You know, I’ve used parachutes before. So I’ve written a song called underneath the sea, which is about the puffer fish and making this sandcastle. So use a parachute to feel the waves and we lift it up and down. And we circle around.
These are things that music teachers often use in their classrooms, scarves and parachutes, but they don’t come into the choir rehearsal. And I just find that being able to engage students in different ways with different resources, they learn it quickly, they engage with it, it wakes them up, it makes them think differently, but they want to come back because it’s fun. And yeah, so that’s what I’m always thinking about how can I do things differently I love it, that’s certainly, yeah, you’re right. I think a lot of class teachers, classroom teachers do that.
But then once they switch into choral conductor mode, it’s okay. Let’s do a bit of note bashing and bit of can you hold your part? And that’s, we do, I think, sometimes lose that same edge of creativity and engagement. Oh yeah, and what I’ve seen I haven’t done much music teaching, I’ve done some supply. But I’ve watched a lot of, especially Kodály music teachers in action, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. And the children are so engaged, and they don’t realise how much they are learning through all the games and the activities. Yes.
And yeah, I guess my challenge is, how do we bring that into the choral rehearsal?
Mmm, well you do that well, you’ve got great warm-up ideas, too. I love the way your warm-ups are related to the piece. You know, you spend a lot of time crafting your rehearsals, which again is a little bit of a problem when you’re the class teacher doing 1000 things, and you’ve got choir on top of that. I always felt guilty and I feel guilty every morning, I go down to the Sopraninos because I’m thinking, well I’ve certainly not spent much time getting this rehearsal ready, because there’s just so many other things pressing on your time.
And I know that I’m certainly not Robinson Crusoe there with other music teachers will hear me and go, Yes, I wish I had more time to put into the choir rehearsals. But you can see that when I watch you work, it’s the lessons are crafted, you know, you’ve got some ‘harmony’ in your warm-ups.
I’m very fortunate that that is what I can focus on. And over the years, I’ve spent lots of time really thinking about my rehearsals and not so much now because it’s become more second nature. But my favourite time of the year is when we’re starting new repertoire. And that’s when I put a lot of time and effort in going how am I going to introduce this piece so that the children connect with it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a sad piece or a slow melodical beautiful piece that I’m doing with the boys or a really fast, energetic piece.
My challenge is to introduce this song so that every child connects with it, whether they think they like beautiful music or not. And so yeah, I feel very privileged to be paid to be able to spend the time to think about how to run these rehearsals. But I know the beauty of going along to workshops, and you’ve run many of these where you have conductor’s come along and give all their tips and tricks and their warm ups. And I know, that really gives teachers a lot of resources to go back and put into practice straightaway. They don’t then have to spend hours thinking about what they’re going to do, because they’re instantly given all these beautiful new things.
And I think that’s an important thing. Even if you don’t have the time on a weekly basis, if you can go to one or two workshops a year, and be inspired again, they’re wonderful, because in reality, you don’t have time as music teachers to do all your job as it is, let alone spend hours on choir prep.
Yes, but that’s a very good tip just going to a couple of PD with great people. It just helps a lot, doesn’t it? So is there any other nuggets before we move on?
There’s so many wonderful Australian composers. And look, I think, feel free to put it on the website when you put this out. Because I’m sure if I start naming them, I will leave some off. And that’s where we’re fortunate once again, to have many composers who work with some of the young children, some great music for the little kids as well as teenagers and young adults.
Yes, well, I do have a part written blog post with Australian, you know all focused on Australian composers. So I must get to that. But, but like you when I do a little bit of work on it, I think oh but what if I forget? Because I know lots of people I’m very lucky, you know? Well, that’s the advantage of being really old. And really active in my networks. I know lots of amazing people. But I would be very scared that I would forget someone amazing. So I will keep working on that. We might even just put a temporary list in the show notes for this one. I might add that, I’ll add a list of composers in the show notes.
And then I might even just run that past you, Kath and you can go Oh, you forgot? Yeah, I guess. But it is worth doing. And what I’ve liked the little bits and pieces I’ve had dealings with of American music educators, and I was lucky enough to do a session where I presented some Australian pieces.
And they were really well accepted because I do believe they’re slightly, I just think we have a certain flavour here. I don’t know whether it’s fair to say a quirkiness? I’ve been told that about my music. It’s it’s quirky, it’s different.
But I also think we’re storytellers, we love a good yarn. And I think a lot of our composers are great at doing that. And not just through the words, but bringing the accompaniment behind it to tell the story as well. I don’t think you hear it in music from other countries as much?
Yes, I think so. And it does match with my own concept of what Australians are, we are storytellers. We’re yarners. And, yeah, I like that. Yes.
All right, we are going to get to something that you know is close to my heart, I spend quite a bit of time, I have quite a bit of my spare time working on advocacy activities, because at this time, we really are fighting for music education, we’re fighting for recognition of the importance of what we do. In some cases, we are even fighting for the existence of our programs.
As I’m quick to point out, not in my school, I’m very fortunate there. But generally, there’s a lot going on that goes against current research and current facts about the power of music education for our children. Not not to create professional musicians, though, but that’s okay, that might happen. That’s cool. But it’s for everyone to just make a well rounded human being, you know.
So, at this time, is there any advice that you could give to us around advocacy for music education?
Music Education Advocacy
I think what you’ve been doing and leading has been amazing, and I know so many people are joining with you in that, which is fabulous. I guess my own story is of how important music has been to me, and how as a shy child, that gave me confidence to be the person I am today. And I didn’t know that I’d become a musician. But for me as a child, that was my place of security, that was my place of joy.
And without music, I don’t know, where I would have fitted in to this society. I think to be able to share stories about how much music has impacted people. Often we hear stories from musicians that how important music was, but do we have stories of people where music has made a difference in general, in their childhood?
I’d love to hear more of those stories. You know, when I hurt my knee, music was there for me, it was powerful. And once again, that pulled me out of a really dark time. I see, as I talked about the children in my boys choir, and I know some of them don’t necessarily feel like they fit in school. They fit in choir, there’s a place there for them, and they feel loved.
They, yeah, they talk because they’re happy. And,they move because they can and because they want to be moving, to be able to hear those stories of how music has made a difference, it’s continuing to make a difference, especially when there’s so many mental health issues and difficulty, music has such an important part to play. At the moment, I do a lot of work with early childhood.
That’s where I feel that I can be an advocate, that I can be talking to the parents that come along and saying, This is so important, and I’m trying very hard to just have a fun class, but also give little words of wisdom throughout it to say, how lovely is it to stop and to listen to this piece, to feel close to your child to be able to take time to breathe, and to be still in the craziness of life. And that’s what music can do. And so I think for all of us thinking, Where can we be advocates? Where can we be sharing about the importance of music?
Some of you are great at researching. That’s not me. Some of you are great at standing up in front of lots of people and going, This is important. That’s not me, but it’s each of us have has a role to play in whichever situation we’re in. Yes, great advice. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could capture some of those stories, like you said, from people that aren’t necessarily musicians, but such a great opportunity that you have, having the parents in the classes? That’s Yes. So reaching the parents is something very important. So thanks.
And I know that you would love to write emails every week to your parents talking about the importance and parents are overloaded these days. So there’s reasons why we can’t do that. But yeah, I have got an opportunity that I can share that.
Yes, I love that. And now to bring this lovely chat to a close, you get a chance to get on your soapbox, and to tell the world anything that you would like to tell it. So are you ready to get on your soapbox, you can say anything, music related is cool. But you know, it actually doesn’t have to be if there’s a message you want to get out there, you can go for it right now.
I am so much not a soapbox person. That’s not at all who I am. I am someone who works behind the scenes. I work in my little corner and I dream and I vision and I do things and I hope that I can impact and make a difference in my little corner and that that then inspires other people. A bit like we were saying with the advocacy is finding what your thing is, each of us can make a difference. And most of us are making a difference in this world, and especially in the area of music.
But don’t be afraid to share that, you know, I wrote these compositions, and I was never going to share it with other people because it was something for me. And it was because of people like you that said you’ve got to share this. It’s been wonderful to share that plus all these free resources and different things because this is what I love doing and it’s just who I am. And it’s very natural for me to write pieces. So it’s great to be able to inspire and help others in that area. But we’ve all got those things.
And I love on Facebook Debbie, how you often have questions of the week, or people can feel free to ask questions. It will often be the same people who respond and then there’ll be different topics where brand new people get involved and share their nuggets of wisdom and share what they’re passionate about. And we need to hear from everyone.
Yep. So be proud of the area that you’re working in and make a difference, whether it’s a small group of children, whether it’s a school community, whether you get to organise massed choir events, whatever it is, be proud of that. But also, don’t be scared to share it, and to share the successes share of the things that don’t go right, because we learn from that as wel,l and continue to be a community who supports each other to celebrate the wins, and the amazing things that other composers, conductors, educators are doing. Because we all need to be involved, to continue what we all know is so important for our young people and as adults.
Yeah, for so someone who’s not someone who likes to soapbox that’s it. I love I love, though, that just so suits the Kath Ruhle that I know is that when I say get on your soapbox, you go, I’m not a soapbox, person. And in so many ways, you’re not, I know what you mean. But you’re saying support, you’re saying share.
I can tell you that you, although you have the feeling that you’re in your corner, just doing your little bit, the impact that you are having on the entire world, you know, the ripples of kindness and musicality that you are sending out to the world, those ripples are massive, and they’re supporting and sharing, that supporting and sharing of others is getting out there.
And the impact you’re having is massive. We are very, very appreciative of your work. And you’ve got to keep writing, you got to make time, but but you can’t take time off taking my choirs though.
That’s right. And thank you for those words. For me, as so many of us, I’m doing what I love, and if it can support and help others then that’s wonderful. And that brings me so much joy, to be to be a composer, you have to have time to be, yeah, to dedicate to it. It’s so hard in this world when things are so busy to take the time. And wouldn’t it be nice for all of us to have that time to focus in on the things that we’re naturally good at and can improve and then add value to others.
Thank you, Debbie. It’s been lovely to chat with you as always, and what a joy to be able to share music with so many. That would be nice. However, it would it would be quite sad if you had only that time because you wouldn’t be informed by all the other wonderful things you do. So it’s just that finding that balance, isn’t it? But I for one am very, very glad that you are in my circle of amazing people Kath and I’m hoping that after hearing this, the people that don’t know, Katherine Ruhle now feel they know you a little bit. They’ll all hop on your website and start singing your fabulous music. Bye Kath.
Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don’t forget that you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au/podcast31. Also, you can find the transcripts there. So you’ve got all of the detail that you need.
If you found this podcast useful, I’d really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember all I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. We’ll meet again, I hope we will. Bye.
This podcast is brought to you by Crescendo Music Education, connecting, supporting, and inspiring music educators. You’ll find links to Crescendo’s social media platforms in the show notes. Please connect with me and be part of the Crescendo community. You might consider becoming a Crescendo member. You can access hundreds of files, worksheets, printables workbooks, repeat workshops, and webinars for a low annual fee and receive great discounts on events. So come and connect with me, Debbie O’Shea. See you in the socials.
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