Denver Public School pInstrument Case Study
Dorothy Pino, Denver public schools
Dorothy has been a teacher for 7 years. Having taught in a high school previously, she recently started teaching at Maxwell Elementary School, a K5 school with 560 pupils whom she sees around 5 times a month each.
- The reaction to the instruments was really positive
- Music literacy was a priority which required some self-created lesson plans
- Engaging students with music in a non-traditional way was really successful
pBuzz, pBone and pTrumpet instruments are in use at Maxwell Elementary. Dorothy uses the pBuzzes and pBones every day with 4th and 5th graders, and straightaway taught them to sanitise the mouthpieces after each use. The biggest challenge these students faced initially was to pay attention to instruction rather than blow at random – but they have all been able to produce sounds.
Dorothy has had a lot of fun teaching her students how to engage with instruments in a way they hadn’t before. She thinks that the students have enjoyed playing the instruments, as they mostly sang before. They have been able to see and experience a whole other side of music.
Teaching methods and resources
Dorothy created her own lesson plans and took inspiration from the Hot Jams for Recorder book, from which she arranged parts for multiple instruments so the kids would have music to read, including help with fingering and slide positions. Dorothy would like to be able to use more backing tracks as part of her lessons also.
There is a big emphasis on standards in the Denver schools district so a priority for Dorothy as a teacher is being able to equip her kids with music literacy. At the start of the year, the students are asked which their top three instruments to be able to play by the end of year are – with the aim of getting them to play an octave on each instrument.
This can be a challenge, but it serves as good encouragement for the students to work hard to get up to standard before they can move on to something else.
Successes and challenges
When first presented with the pBuzzes, the students said, “Woah, that’s so cool – we get to play that? I’ve never seen anything like that before.” The parents, too, were excited to see their kids play something unusual and that was different to the recorder also.
Fellow teachers also reacted positively to having the instruments in school, and were really supportive. On the internal ‘shoutout’ wall, teachers would comment on the difference they began to notice in students coming from music class.
In the music classes Dorothy taught during the day, she focused on allowing the kids to experience as wide a variety as possible. The after school programme was centred more around aiming to get the students up to standard on one instrument.
One obstacle faced initially was that some students didn’t get the hang of putting the lock in place on the pBone – learning how to put the instruments together and line the parts up took several attempts!
The advantages of pInstruments
When it comes to the advantages of the pBone, pTrumpet and pBuzz, Dorothy found that the drop safety element was really useful to have as a teacher from a class management perspective, but that the parents and kids mostly appreciated having a lighter instrument to transport. This feature also helps posture from the beginning as the instruments aren’t as heavy as some brass instruments – for example, French horn.
Dorothy felt that an education-specific newsletter would be helpful, in order to highlight new curriculum and ask for submissions from teachers and players.
Her advice would also be that pBuzz is great if you’re considering a starting point in brass. It’s easy for students to learn to produce a sound, and it’s okay not to teach band instruments in traditional concert Bb to start with. Understanding that it’s all right to teach in a slightly different order to enable students to play with other instruments and allowing them to experience music in a different way – and not be caught up in traditional approaches – can be really beneficial.