The primary goal of Companion Music Enterprises is to publish music that will highly motivate the elementary instrumental music student, offering some new and fresh tunes. The published music, composed and arranged by Ken Dahlin is put together in a collection called The Companion Music Folder. Thus this folder becomes a "companion" to the elementary instrumental music program, giving the teacher supplemental music to use in addition to the pedagogy of using a lesson book. Some of the music relates to the elementary students activities and studies. Many of the selections present both an easy part to play as well as a challenging part, all on the same music page.
Music for All
The music in the Companion Music Folder includes selections for both strings and band as well as some combined numbers for all students beginning and advanced. These selections engage the beginning students as well as challenge the advanced students. Recently more band arrangements have been added as in my retirement I am still working with a home school band program.
Some would argue the use of recorded backgrounds. If a child is raised in a family that speaks proper English, that child will grow up and will speak proper English. The reason is obvious - we learn by listening. Jazz musicians always advocate listening to good jazz in order to emulate good jazz. As an elementary teacher, I urged all the students to purchase the CD accompaniments to the lesson books - what a difference between those that used the CDs and those that didn't. Beginning clarinet players will struggle, without realizing it, to match proper pitch. This means that almost immediately the weak, flabby clarinet embouchures will begin to strengthen. Ultimately we want students to become independent musicians, but let's face it, many are totally new to world of music.
The use of the mp3 backgrounds is very similar to using a metronome. Very few elementary students would own a metronome or would even consider using one. As students practice with the mp3 accompaniments, they learn to keep a steady tempo. To help with the learning, several of the faster songs are presented at varying tempos from slower to faster.
For some of the simpler arrangements, the melody line on the mp3 backgrounds can be softened or eliminated by using the balance control on the stereo. The melody line is on the right channel so by emphasizing the left channel the melody is line is softened. Conversely, by emphasizing the right channel the melody becomes more dominant. For some tunes a harmony part or obligato is on the left channel.
Songs with Words
As an instrumental music teacher, I have always felt that singing is a very important part of the instrumental lesson. It has been said that if you play your instrument like an extension of your singing voice you will become a better musician. Thus, if students can sing a song and then think the song while playing it, they will play it better! For this reason, I have enjoyed writing words to several of these compositions. Also, by having the non-instrumental students sing with the band at assemblies, they become more connected to the band and will be more likely to join in the future!
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