Week of 5/11

Jr. High: I’m noticing that many more students have been doing the assigned work. I definitely appreciate it – let’s keep it up! 🙂

For this week’s assignment, I’d like you to listen to these 5 different pieces of music. Even though the styles are all very different, the one thing they all have in common is that they’re made with just the piano.






Once you’ve decided which piece you like the best, I’d like you to write about a half a page on why you picked the piece you picked. What about the music appealed to you? Pretend like you’re describing the music to someone who hasn’t heard it before. Use vivid adjectives (yes, please use a thesaurus if you’d like!) when you discuss the music. What does it remind you of? Is it Peaceful? Jarring? Complex and busy? Sorrowful? Energetic? Does it start quiet and then get loud? Does it stay at the same volume dynamic throughout the piece? Unlike most things in life, music can sometimes be very hard to define in. That’s what can make this assignment a bit of a challenge, but the more descriptive you are, the better! Please send it to my email when finished, and if you have any questions about the assignment, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Mr. Mroz

Week of 5/4!

Jr. high students: I’d like to remind you that every music assignment after spring break is being graded as complete or incomplete. Now that “assignments” (see grading guidelines several posts below) are worth 100 percent of your grade (I can’t grade you on behavior, for example, when you’re not in class), I do expect evidence of a completed assignment. This can be a video, a photo, or writing a paragraph of your experience of doing it – emailed to me. So please, if you haven’t attempted any of the assignments yet, please get those in. Obviously, if you’re not currently taking music, none of this applies to you.

Jr. high (younger grades may attempt this too, if they’d like): Computers do a lot of smart things these days — we know they can easily calculate huge numbers, recognize pictures of faces, and they can even sometimes understand your voice commands, but can they make music? Can a computer make music that’s just as good as human-made music? Do you think you would be able to tell the difference? Making music is a creative act, but what does it mean to be creative? In this next activity, I’d like you to think about all of these important questions.

Please go to this website and begin by listening to all of the different musical styles listed – just click on the different boxes like “classical” and “country” and press the arrow to listen.

Next, I’d like you to give the computer program some rules so that it can make up some original music. Go down to “instrumentation” and choose your own “instruments” and the “roles” you’d like each instrument to play in the song.

“Lead” means that that instrument will be out in front; “chords” as you know, means that that instrument will be playing more than one note at a time; and “bass” means that that instrument will be making the lower, deeper sounds. “Percussion” is how you want the beat or rhythm to sound. Next, choose a “musical scale”. We know from music class that a scale is just a family of notes that sound good together – you already know about major and minor scales, but there are tons of different scales from around the world. Experiment a bit and see what you like to hear. Also, how fast or slow do you want the song to be (tempo), and how long do you want it to last (duration)?

Once you’ve given the program all of these different rules, it’ll create a brand new piece of music for you. Then ask yourself, “if it’s a brand new piece of music, did the computer just do something creative?” I’d like to hear your thoughts.

When you’re done, press the “download” button and send the file as an attachment to my email. Please send 2 or 3 songs, and tell me which one is your favorite.

Have fun!

Mr. Mroz

Week of 4/19!

If you haven’t yet done one of the assignments assigned to your grade level, I would encourage you to engage in one of those, first. If you’re all caught up, though, please try the following activities:

PreK-2nd: Please try making different musical pitches by drawing your finger around the top of a glass (crystal usually works best), like this! The tone that is produced by this simple act is incredible!

3rd-8th: Please fill three glasses with water of different volumes. How do you know how much to fill each glass? This online instrument tuner will tell you (make sure the microphone is on). The more water in the glass, the higher the pitch. The glass that will eventually be on your left, should be tuned to “C”; so fill the glass a little, hold it up to the microphone and see what the pitch is (play gently with a fork or spoon) – if it’s saying “D,” for instance, you know you’ve fill it too much. The middle glass should be tuned to “D”, and the glass on your right should be tuned “E”. After your glasses are tuned to the right pitches (C D E from left to right), you’re all set to play the simple tune “Three Blind Mice.” C, D, E – C, D, E – CCCC, DDDD, C, D, E.

If you found this task extremely easy, get creative! Look up the notes to some familiar melodies, and fill your glasses to the correct pitches. You may need more than three, though. And, if you’re feeling super adventurous, you might try learning to play your desired tunes using the finger-method I showed in the video above for the PreK-2nd graders. It’s one thing to produce a single pitch in this way; it’s another thing entirely to be able to produce all the pitches while switch glasses according to the rhythm of a song.

Lastly, if you’re feeling cooped-up inside and really want to do something hands-on, you might want to head on out to the garage and make your own instrument, from scratch, like some of the ones featured here.

Don’t hesitate to email me all of your creations!

Seeing Sound Take Shape!

The following phenomena may seem magical to you (it seemed magical to those who first discovered it), but it’s really nothing more than visual patterns of vibrations! It’s called cymatics, and science can easily explain how it works.

Here’s what you could do if you had all the hi-tech equipment.

Here’s a device you can create at home, to try it out yourself. Remember, music is simply made of vibrating air, so it’s not surprising that you can create these patterns by singing, too!

Please try to make this simple device in the YouTube video above (a stretched balloon works great for the top portion), and if you’re so inclined, email me a photo/video with you trying it out!

Have an awesome week, everyone!

-Mr. Mroz


PK-2nd: Please put on instrumental music of a certain emotional quality (you can type into YouTube: “exciting instrumental music,” or “funny instrumental music,” and have students either draw pictures that correspond to that music (“what do you imagine when you hear this music?”) or write a story that corresponds to the music. This is something we’ve focused on a lot in class this year, and it helps students better associate certain types of music with certain emotional content.

3rd-5th: I’ve been doing the following activity in class for many years, with fairly young students, and it always surprises me how much better their answers get, as we practice. (This is what we were working on prior to recent events).

Please have students listen to the some of the examples on this list, and simultaneously have them view this map of the world. After a few minutes, of listening and looking, have them tell you what country they think the music is from. Please remind them that they shouldn’t focus on geographically larger countries, just because they’re easier to see – have them really try to look at the ENTIRE map. When you think the answer may be too difficult you can narrow their search down to a particular region.

If the above musical examples turn out to be too hard, you can also feel free to use YouTube, as well. For example, just type in “Traditional Japanese Music” or Traditional Mexican Music” – and usually, the first or second result is the most fitting.

It is totally okay if they get the answer wrong – more often than not, they will (this activity is even difficult for most adults, mind you). The overall goal is to build cultural and musical appreciation, while getting an early familiarity with the geography of the world – the differences between countries, continents, cities, etc. Enjoy!

6th-8th: Before taking a break from classes, we were focusing on Medieval music or music of the middle ages, and we talked about the fact that during that time, music notation (sheet music) was invented by an Italian monk. Please read a bit more on how this guy’s invention helped change music, forever. It’s not important that you know all the technical information like exactly what the various symbols mean, but more so, have a general understanding about how music notation evolved/changed through time. This may appear on a quiz, when/if we return to regular class.


Hello students and parents of students. I hope you’re all doing well, despite this drastic moment of adjustment. So much of music class is social and interpersonal, which will make distance learning difficult. Nevertheless, there are a whole bunch of activities students ought to engage in this week, at home!

PK-2nd: Please take a look at Chrome Music Lab. There, you’ll find lots of different musical games and activities that students are already familiar with. Similarly, this site, and this site, are great, too. I recommend headphones with these. 🙂

3rd-5th: Please visit Theta Music Trainer. This is one of the very best sites for music theory and ear training that I know of, for both kids and adults. You’ll have tons of fun playing games like Paddles Tones and Vocal Steps (requires a microphone) as a family.

6th-8th: Please watch The Music Instinct. This is a documentary that talks about music from both a biological and cultural perspective, the creation of music in our ancient past, how babies perceive music, the use of music therapy for certain medical conditions, and many other fascinating topics. We’ve watched only small sections of this in class, never the entire video.

Info for Parents of 6th, 7th, and 8th Graders

Hello Parents!

I just wanted to take a quick moment to reach out and let you know how grading works in music class (if you were not already aware).

There are 4 categories by which I grade each student, and this is on a weekly basis: Preparedness, Effort, Behavior, and Assignments. Each students receives a “1,” “2,” or a “3.” for each category. These translate to “+” (excellent), “S” (satisfactory), or “-” (needs improvement).

A little breakdown of what each category means:

Preparedness: Does the student show up to class with something to write with (they can take notes however they please: Chromebook, notebook, loose-leaf paper in a folder; and a pen or pencil). If they bring these items on a weekly basis, it’s an easy way to receive a “3” for every class.

Effort: Does the student raise their hand with questions? Are they simply copying notes from the board word for word, or are they showing that they are at least trying to understand what they’re writing down? Students who ask questions in an attempt to clarify or summarize information will have to write less, because they will be able to paraphrase the main idea with a few words (this is emphasized repeatedly in class). Does the student go the extra mile to maybe even help spark a class discussion?

Behavior: Does the student make it difficult for others in the class to learn? Do they make inappropriate remarks? Do they loudly discuss irrelevant topics with their neighbor in the middle of class?

Assignments: A vast majority of the time, students will not receive homework. However, we do take significant notes in class. After certain units are completed, students are given OPEN-NOTE quizzes. Most of the time, these quizzes simply ask the student to find an answer which ought to be clearly written in their notes (students are told ahead of time what they MUST write down). Other times (less frequently), they’re asked to synthesize what it is they’ve learned, by explaining it in their own words.

If you have any questions about class in general, or your child’s grade; please don’t hesitate to reach out. Thanks so much!

Mr. Mroz

Taking the Long View of Music History

Many middle school music history units tend to begin the musical timeline around 1600 in Europe, as if music magically sprung from human consciousness around this time and place.

This has always seemed curious to me, since music is incredibly old, and I think that understanding this fact is invaluable to students’ overall understanding of music as one of the most important parts of human culture. How old is music, exactly? The first known instrument, a bone flute, dates to 43,000 years old, but many experts believe that music might be even older than that. Some believe it even predates language, itself.

What purposes did music serve early humans? Why has every society throughout history had music? Students discuss these questions and others as we begin our Big History of Music unit.

First known musical instrument.