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Rhythm Band’s Blog

How You Can Help

Posted By Amanda Six On

We at Rhythm Band Instruments in Fort Worth, TX are saddened by the devastating flooding and affects of Hurricane Harvey on our families, friends, and neighbors. If you would like to help, please see below for ways you can give to those who have lost so much.


Monetary Donations:


The Red Cross said they depend on financial donations to help provide immediate relief. They have already set up a way to donate to victims with a simple text. Text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also visit or call 1- 800-RED CROSS. Americares

The United Way has also announced a way to text a donation: Text UWFLOOD to 41444 to donate to the United Way Flood Relief Fund or visit United Way of Houston

Donations to support The Salvation Army's Hurricane Harvey relief efforts can be made at or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY. 


SPCA of Texas is also accepting donations to help care for the hundreds of pets coming up from the affected areas. Visit to donate to the shelters. Or if you're in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you can sign up to be a foster family for the animals in need of a place until they can be reunited with their families. 


You can also visit Charity Navigator to find more approved charities for Hurricane Harvey. Please be cautious of scammers.


Thank you so much for any help you can give. Every little bit counts, and when added up can make a huge difference for those in need. #TexasCares #WeAllCanHelp #HurricaneRelief


3 Things Teachers Can Do in July/August

Posted By Analisa Byrd On

3 Things Teacher Can Do in July

I know what you’re saying: “Analisa, its only July, why are we thinking school?” Well, July goes by pretty quick and we are running out of summer to plan for next year. Here are 3 relatively quick and easy things you can do to help prepare for next year that won’t zap your entire summer break!

1. What Worked/What Didn’t

I like to take time during the summer and reflect on lessons that worked or didn’t work to see if I would like to use them again in the coming year. I am not a fan of reinventing the wheel and if I can reuse a lesson or two, this saves time and energy, which we all know teachers need! I make a list by grade level and concept and simply jot down which lessons worked and keep those and literally trash the ones that didn’t or re-work them to try again this coming year. Hopefully, you’ve reflected throughout the year on your lessons and this will just simply be a time to sort through and organize your thoughts.

2. Read a New Curriculum Guide/Book

I love attending workshops and playing for professional development, don’t misunderstand me, but I also like to grab a curriculum guide or a new book and read through it over the summer in addition to professional development. This is my time to dig in, reflect, and apply what I’m reading about to my classroom. This keeps me fresh on what is new in the profession and I can add some new tools to my toolbox. I’m a firm believer that a great teacher is an even better student and never stops learning!

3. Plan the First Three Weeks

Sure, you can plan for the entire year, but do you know your kindergartners yet? Do you know if Mrs. Sunshine’s class is going to be a ray of sunshine or a stormy cloud? Of course you don’t, so planning the entire year can lead to re-planning later. I’m not saying to not have a scope and sequence in place if your district doesn’t provide one, or to not have the national standards under your thumb, but fleshing out plans for the first three weeks of school is a great start.

A. The first week of school you spend teaching procedure. Plan lessons that will do a little bit of everything: movement, singing, instruments, games, etc., so you can use this time to either refresh your older students of how things run in your room and to teach your newbies how to be in your room. Of course, kindergarten is going to be an entirely different ballgame, so you need to plan accordingly for them, but plan to teach them everything! Literally, everything. Students thrive on structure and routine and you will thank yourself later for teaching every single procedure. I choose three weeks because the first week I spend surviving, I mean, teaching how to come into the room, general rules and procedures, safety drills, and how to line up, all done in a fun way, while making music.

B. The second week, we quickly review rules and procedures, then add something new, like instruments or a game, to learn or reinforce those procedures and rules.

C. By the third week, the expectation for my first through fifth graders is that they return to work and making music as if the summer never happened and we just keep on going. For kindergarten, we are still celebrating that we remembered our spots and when to raise our hand and the difference between a question and a story and are teaching procedures while learning about our different types of voices.

Beyond week three is such a mystery to try to plan during the summer. I plan the next three weeks usually during the second week of school and so on, throughout the year, once I get to know my kids, performance schedule, and the intricacies of each class. Not to stress anyone out, but it’s time to start thinking about the year ahead. In August, I’ll share my list of procedures and routines to help start the school year. Remember, if you ever have any questions or just want to talk about teaching, all you have to do is ask @!

A Music Teacher's Top 3 End of the Year Survival Tips

Posted By Analisa Byrd On

A Music Teacher’s Top 3 End of the Year Survival Tips


As the end of the year approaches, I know we are all going on “survival mode” while trying to wrap up concepts. I wanted to provide you with three things you can do to help your year-end smoothly and with little behavior disruptions.


Tip #1: Don’t Change Your Procedures


One approach I use is to not change any routines or procedures (as much as possible). I know that at the end of the year most schools begin to play more than any other time of the year. Children take field trips, there is field day, and water day, and bubble day and “keep the kids entertained and safe” day. This often interrupts the rotation schedule. When the children are with you, keep making music as much as you can. Emphasize routines like instrument rules, procedures, singing posture, expectations for games, lining up to leave to go back to class. Whatever you normally do, keep doing it. The less we change, the less the children change. When you relax routine and procedure, the children sense it and begin to unravel. Remember, the school year is ending, not their time as your music student. The children will be in your room next year and they need to understand that nothing is going to change.


Tip #2: Wait To Bring Down Your Décor


Another tip to help end the year smoothly is to keep your decorations up as long as possible. There is something about a beautifully set up room that entices children to focus and learn. When the decorations come down and the children see things being put away, they internalize that the school year is ending and that they can begin to undecorated their behavior. If you can leave your posters up and slowly put things away, I suggest you leave your decorations as the last thing to come down.


Tip #3: Give Them A Preview


The last approach I use is to try to focus on the next grade level. Give the children a taste of what next year will bring. Show the third graders a recorder and let them listen to recorder consorts and become excited about their new fourth grade instrument. Talk to Kindergarteners about playing the “big kid” instruments when you put them on the Orff instruments. Make the transition from exploration to performing the steady beat a rite of passage that “the older kids do”.


Extra Tip: This is not the time of year to bring out new games or new centers. Repetition is best so that the children can focus on both learning and behavior. Bring out their favorites that they have been begging to do again!


Remember, it is only the time in the school year coming to an end, not the end of the children’s time with you. Enforce rules, procedures, and consequences all the way until the last day of school so that the children learn that in this environment, in this space, these are their limitations. Children adapt to the environment and limitations placed upon them and our rooms are no different. Use the fact that we aren’t leaving their lives the following school year to your advantage and keep making music! I hope these tips have helped a little bit. As always, if you have any questions just ask Analisa @! Happy End of the Year!

Occupational Therapy: FUNctional Use of Boomwhackers!

Posted By Jorge Ochoa On

BWDGApril is Occupational Therapy Month! And Jorge Ochoa, OTR, has listed 11 FUNctional ways to use Boomwhackers in his sessions:


1) Social participation (sharing, taking turns, following rules/directions, group cohesion/teamwork) Pass a small ball or marble between kids using the tubes Each child plays a rhythm on their tube and then passes the tube to the next person when the leader says "switch".


2) Eye-hand coordination: Working on grasping and using both hands while holding the tubes.


3) Memory / attention / sequencing: play a rhythm / pattern and child plays rhythm / pattern back to you.


4) Body awareness / parts (proprioception): play against parts of the body with eyes opened and then closed (ankle, elbow, shoulders, hips, arms, knee).


5) Crossing mid-line: Tap opposite side of body with the tube. Or sit on floor, hold tube with the right hand and play on the ground on the left side (then switch hands).


6) Education: syllables, numbers, have child speak and play at the same time. "My-name-is-John."


7) Play / creative self-expression: Allow the child to play anything they wish to create.


8) Arm range of motion: play tube high above the head, low towards the ground, towards and away from the body.


9) Impulse Control: During group playing, leader verbally cues the group to "start" and "stop".


10) Self-confidence / self-esteem: Child gets to play a solo during group playing.


11) Leadership: When a child raises the tube, kids play. When tube goes down, kids stop playing or play softer.


References: American Occupational Therapy Association (2014).Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (3rd ed). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68 (Suppl 1), S1– S48 http://dx doi org/10 5014/ajot 2014 682006


Skill Builders Pediatric Occupational Therapy. (2002). Body awareness activities [PDF file]. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from

pBuzz: An Orff Teacher's Perspective, Part 4

Posted By Analisa Byrd On

Day 3


Exploration: I started today trying to see if I could remember how to consistently hit Do (F) in tune. I’m struggling a lot with intonation and wonder if this is me or something inherent in the PBuzz. I would need to ask a brass player to test this out. I’ve listened to videos online and don’t hear a ton of intonation problems with professional players, but I suffer with playing in tune and wonder if children will suffer with this as well. Today, I basically did lots of slurs from F to C and back and forth with a tuner to make sure I could hit F and C in tune. I will work on the notes in the middle in the future, but I wanted to get that interval solid because I think I’ll start there with the children.


Challenges: My lips don’t hurt today. I did take a one day break because I do play flute professionally and don’t want to hurt my embouchure too much. I absolutely think the PBuzz is a super cool idea in this phase of my journey. I find intonation a huge challenge and what to consider a “characteristic” sound. I challenge my students to sing with a pure, light, beautiful characteristic child singing voice, I challenge them to make a characteristic sound on recorder, and my concern here is what a “characteristic” PBuzz sound is? Does it sound like a trombone? Does it sound like a trumpet? Trombone? Or is it its own thing that I need to become accustomed to hearing? I want to make sure I am able to write for PBuzz in my orchestrations for my Orff group and for use in class. I also got my mouthpiece stuck… I don’t own a mouthpiece puller so if I wanted to switch out mouthpieces in the classroom I would be out of luck…


Celebrations: I can play When the Saints Go Marching In with decent intonation. I’ve discovered that if I use my ear and not the notations on the PBuzz I can find the pitch better. That’s good for this musician, worrisome as I prepare to teach children to play. If the markings aren’t useful to help children find the correct pitch (in tune) then I don’t know how I will be of help to them while they are performing. In other words, I may have to mark individual student’s PBuzzes where they play in tune and not leave it to chance.

PBuzz: An Orff Teacher's Perspective, Part 3

Posted By Analisa Byrd On

Day 2 of my PBuzz Adventure


Exploration: I started today trying to see if I could remember how to consistently hit Do (F) in tune. I think this flute player did ok, but I wonder if children will be as successful. I can match pitch and maintain the relative pitch of what an F sounds like so I think that helps because I can hear the note in my head before I produce the sound. I wonder if children will intuitively do this or if I’ll need to call attention to it. I continued to explore the different sounds the PBuzz could make and discovered I can hit slightly above the C, but not below the F, which makes me sad because I would like a full C scale.


Celebrations: I can play Hot Crossed Buns! And in tune, I might add! I keep mentioning intonation because I am honestly very worried that my students will not play in tune. On recorder, I finesse intonation while I teach. I don’t let them play with wrong air speed, recorder angle, and improper hand position, knowing that this will all lead to my 25 fifth graders all playing the high C on recorder in tune. On PBuzz I struggle with intonation and I know the children will too. This is concerning to me because if I want to add the PBuzz to an ensemble, I need it to play relatively in tune. I’m eager to hear what 20 4th and 5th graders sound like when trying to match pitch, not only to find Do (F) but to all play the same pitch.


Challenges: Ouch, my lips hurt and are slightly chapped, but I think that is to be expected. I equate it to the callous formation period you go through when playing ukulele or guitar or any stringed instrument for the first time. I still cannot play in tune much of the time. I have to play with a tuner by my side to make sure that I am playing the correct pitch and playing it in tune. Now this may be user error, but it may also be an innate issue with how to hold the PBuzz. To play in tune, I’m holding it at a 90-degree angle, but to see the slide I have to tilt the PBuzz down, thus causing terrible flatness. I’m making a taller shape in my mouth to combat that, but I don’t know how much I want to go in to all that with children. Just another thing to consider when I begin teaching PBuzz.


I'm excited to see what happens next on my pBuzz adventure!



PBuzz: An Orff Teacher's Perspective, Part 2

Posted By Analisa Byrd On

Day 1 of my PBuzz Adventure


Exploration: I took the PBuzz and began to explore the different sounds it can make. I believe that exploration is incredibly important when learning a new instrument, especially if you have prior knowledge. I am a brass genius, okay, I took one semester of French Horn in college, but you get where I’m going here. I know the basics of buzzing on a mouthpiece and creating a sound on a brass instrument. I believe if you took brass methods in college you have enough knowledge to learn to play the PBuzz and eventually teach it.


Celebrations: I would like to celebrate that in my first thirty-minute practice session I did not throw the PBuzz across the room and give up on it entirely. I worked with a tuner and a piano to work on matching pitch. I truly need to figure out what I’m doing to match pitch to be able to put that into words to teach to a child, who may not yet know the basics of matching pitch on a brass instrument. If you’re a brass player, you’ve got a huge advantage here. We can go head to head in a recorder duet later (I’m a flute principal) and I’m sure you’ll understand how I feel at this moment with the PBuzz. At the end of day one, I can find an F (Do) consistently. Bonus points for this flute player.


Challenges: My PBuzz is lazy apparently and does not want to smoothly move as I move the slide as there is a bit of a hitch coming from F to move the slide upward. I don’t know what that is about but I will investigate further. Two, my lips hurt. This will be something I believe the children will say and as I say with recorder or any other new instrument, it takes time to develop the proper mechanics to be successful and a little pain means a lot of gain later. I can’t play much past thirty minutes with a few minutes of rest between trials. I imagine the children will feel the same way. On recorder, there isn’t the painful lip factor, but there is the lightheaded feeling some of them get and I’m going to say that’s the same for our purposes here. The roadblocks are similar. PBuzz will take a lot more getting used to, in my opinion. Maybe a brass player would have a different perspective?


All in all, an interesting first day of experiencing the PBuzz!

PBuzz: An Orff Teacher's Perspective, Part 1

Posted By Analisa Byrd On

I love the idea of having a gate-way instrument to the brass family. To clarify I am not an Orff purist and believe in making and teaching music in a variety of ways. I love the Orff process and stick to that as much as possible in my classroom teaching, but I understand that changing things up a bit is also great for the children.


I know many of you will shy away from teaching this instrument because you see its plastic body and colorful slide and assume that it is too much like a “toy”. Well, children learn best through play and exploration and we give babies toys to learn valuable fine motor skills. Once you get over the colors and the child-like nature of the instrument’s design you can see it for what it can be; a way to get kids pumped up about being a brass player. The PBuzz is most like a low brass instruments with a high brass mouthpiece. The body is labeled exactly where to place your hands and I think that’s wonderful, I sometimes wish the recorder was labeled that way too. It has three methods of teaching pitch recognition and that is with absolute pitch names, by the number or by color (ChromaNotes® color). In my classroom, I will use absolute pitch names because I plan on using the PBuzz with upper elementary students and we begin note recognition in late third grade. The colors are the same colors as the Boomwhackers, Music Magnetix and ChromaNotes® resonator bells so if you’ve got some children on each of these instruments you could color code your music and the children could become independently learners very quickly. Let’s talk briefly about the numbers on the PBuzz. Some brass players have mentioned that the numbers do not directly align with trombone slide positions. For example, on trombone second position is a G# but on PBuzz, #2 is a G. You should remember that elementary aged children do not know this and when they move to middle school it will be a very easy change. Again, it’s like recorder transferring to woodwind instruments and not all woodwind instruments having the same fingerings and the whole concert pitch nightmare. It is just a gateway to brass, not a brass instrument per se.


In the effort to try new things and be adventurous, I have decided to try the PBuzz in my performing ensemble, Resonance. I want to see how the top musicians of my school embrace this instrument so that I can perfect my pedagogy before trying it in the general classroom. I want to make it our goals to play together, in tune, and make a characteristic PBuzz sound. I must be open to the instrument not sounding like another brass instrument because it is not a trombone, trumpet, or French horn, it’s a PBuzz. It will in effect have the plastic tubing sound. I can’t shy away from that or keep that from stopping me from letting kids make music on something so neat.


I’ve decided that I can’t very well teach the children an instrument I don’t have some basic mastery on so I will take you along for the journey on how I will become a PBuzz master. Now, I’m a flute principal, recorder master, singer, and can strum a little ukulele if so inspired, but I am NOT a brass player. Not even close, so this should be interesting! Stay tuned for my PBuzz adventures!


 This year I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 NafME Conference in Grapevine, Tx. I absolutely loved meeting and brainstorming with teachers! I attended a variety of sessions that opened my mind and really got me thinking about how I can amp up my program. I believe that you shouldn’t jump into new things right after a conference. You should plan, think, plan, think, and plan again before you try anything in your classroom. Using children as guinea pigs is a waste of their time and yours. Every time they enter your room, you should be prepared and have a plan. Don’t misunderstand me, I am flexible and make tons of mistakes and learn from my children every single day, and have to revamp my original plan and sometimes teach reactively rather than proactively. With that being said, here are a few things I’m interested in incorporating in to my classroom as a result of attending the 2016 NafME conference.



Centers are a huge topic amongst music educators. Should we or shouldn’t we? There are some music teachers that feel that centers separate them from their students, are hard to make, and hard to assess. Well, I would disagree. I was inspired by two sessions at NafME (Centers in Music Class, YES! By Dawn Sloan and Music Education through a Montessori Lens: Rethinking Music Centers by Sarah Burns) to include centers in my music room. I’m hoping to incorporate more hands on activities in Kindergarten/1st Grade by having the students compose using number of sounds and resonator bells. My inspiration for this activity came from seeing NoteKnacks used in Kristin Pugliese’s session (Teaching Your Classroom Teachers How To Do STEM to STEAM) and when Ms. Burns referenced Montessori bells in her session. Students will compose using the Note Knack tiles (NK1) to create the number of sounds they want. Since Kinder does not know rhythmic syllables yet, NoteKnacks is a wonderful tool to get them thinking about the link between number of sounds and rhythmic syllables. After they have determined their rhythmic composition, then the children will transfer the rhythm to the Chroma- Notes™ Resonator Bells set up in pentatonic (CN2125).  I would choose to do this for a variety of reasons, but the main one being that I don’t want them to confuse the color of the rhythm syllables with the color of the resonator bells. For now, I will keep melody independent from rhythm. The idea is to get them associating number of sounds within a time signature. NoteKnacks are brilliant for this because of their self-correcting frames (think Scrabble tile holders long enough for 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4 meter).

Note Knacks Notation Manipulatives     






Another center idea for the older students would be to have the children use Music Magnetix Assessment Kit (#RFA) and a tablet (iPad or Android). For example, the children would be asked to build recorder fingerings used in a song. In this example the children would build B, A and G. The children would then open any camera/recording app and record themselves playing the 3 notes in the song. You could simplify this lesson and the children place a name card by their answer and snap a picture. You could extend this lesson and have the children record the entire song, wherever you are in your lesson cycle.


Music Magnetix Recorder Fingering Assessment 







pBuzz - The Easy and Fun Way To Make Music


I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to the creators of the PBuzz during the conference. These gentlemen inspired me to think outside the box. My ideas for the use of the PBuzz in my classroom will be in another blog, but I am going to focus on the PBuzz as an instrument here. I deeply enjoy the idea of an instrument that can be the gateway to brass instruments. Like the recorder, the PBuzz is elemental in its tone production, but does get the children buzzing, which the recorder does not do. The PBuzz simulates brass instruments like the recorder simulates woodwind instruments, in that it has qualities of its descendants such as the mouthpiece and bell. The great thing about the PBuzz is that it is tempered in a way that the children cannot overblow and hit random partials like the many adult brass players did that tried the PBuzz during the conference. Can you hit partials, yes! Is it easy, no. Perfect for children to stay in the range of the fifth (F, G, A, Bb, B and C) the PBuzz is designed to play. The PBuzz has each pitch color coded to the Chroma-Notes™ colors so you can use your Boomwhacker® music, or any other color coded music you may have already to introduce the PBuzz into your classroom. There are no instructions or curriculum that come with the instrument, but there are many videos online to supplement the use of the instrument and the videos even show children to learn how to play the PBuzz. I fell in love with this simple, yet effective, instrument and have great plans to use this instrument in my classroom. Stay tuned!


Have a question about the conference or this blog? Just ask. Have any questions about general music classroom pedagogy or classroom management, just ask! Email me @ I look forward to hearing from you! 


STEM to STEAM Part 3: Making It All Connect

Posted By Kristen M. Pugliese On


STEM to STEAM Part 3: Making It All Connect!



rhythm_clock-compIn our final installment of the STEM to STEAM series, I wanted to highlight the connections between disciplines, although, in an education world where math is from ~ let’s say 9-10 and language arts is from 10-11 etc…,is it really worth the trouble and is it even possible? (I do think that schools will be changing schedules and teaching models to create a more project based learning environment, but that is for another post…)


The geniuses in our world are always those that see connections where others don’t. In his article “How Geniuses Think”, Michael Michalko talks about how geniuses are not determined by one’s IQ, rather the way they look at the world around them and what they do with that information. As one would expect, it is in making relationships and connections where there seems only chaos or no connection at all. Click HERE to read the full article ~ It really is worth the read!!


This brings me to STEAM ~ Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics. How do the Arts, and more specifically music, fall into this? How can music help students connect to the other subjects and how can those other subjects connect students to music?


Joseph Vincelli, a saxophonist composer outside of Dallas came up with a way to connect it all with a very cool tool! It is called the Rhythm Clock. (photos above) Click HERE for more info! It is a teaching tool that makes you think! (…and of course I am so excited about the use of Note Knacks colors!!) and see the whole picture!! This tool shows:

  • Degrees
  • Fractions
  • Notation (both notes and rests)
  • Percentages
  • Clock positions
  • North, South, East, West


On the back, it goes on to show these relationships in chart form:

  • Shape
  • Quantity
  • Piece name
  • Color
  • Fraction
  • Note symbol
  • Rest
  • Degrees
  • Percent
  • Decimal
  • Money


I know that many teachers have used some of these ideas to teach notation and here it is all spelled out in a simple to use manipulative! I am too excited about it!!


It comes with a DVD that shows how to create rhythms on the clock where 12 is the starting point and one moves in a clockwise direction to read the rhythm. It allows one to see rhythm in another way and is especially helpful for all of you that use pie charts to teach rhythm…. J


You can use it in your classroom and do your own thing with it, or better yet, utilize last week’s lesson “How To Get Them On Board” and encourage classroom teachers to use it in their rooms, as they see fit. Again, they are in no way obligated to teach rhythm. The benefit will be that kids will see Note Knack colors and make the connection.


However, if you want to take it a step further, you can make a game out if it! In true STEAM fashion, you can have the students create a 4/4 rhythm using a code, with the back of the Rhythm Clock as its key. A student can choose to write it all in degrees ~ 180 + 90 + 45 + 45 = half note, quarter, eighth, eighth, OR all in percentages ~ 50% + 25% + 12.5% + 12.5% (same rhythm) etc.. or one could mix it up ~ 180 + 25% + 0.125 + 1/8th. (again, same rhythm). Kids could make them as long or short as they want and then switch with their neighbors to work them out! The kids will have a blast trying to trick their friends, while making connections between disciplines! 

How to Adapt Recorder for Children with Special Needs

Posted By Analisa Byrd On

Recorder is a valuable tool for teaching music literacy and often the first wind instrument that most children encounter. As teachers, we want all children to have this experience, however due to certain limitations this is not something that all children can do with ease. With some careful thinking and planning, we can bring the opportunity to touch, hold, and experience playing the recorder to all children, then adapt our course of instruction to ensure their future success.


The national standards state, “Children will perform expressively, with appropriate interpretation and technical accuracy” but it does not state how or with what instrument. Often teachers worry that they are not meeting the objectives if they omit an instrument like the recorder. Classrooms all over the nation do not have the same instrumentation but are able to meet the National Standards in their own way. For this reason, the standards are very non-specific on how you are to achieve the objectives.


I still want my students to experience recorder, what can I do? There are several options out there for you:

Adaptive Recorder:

Aulos Soprano Recorder (Adapted model) Aulos Soprano Recorder comes in an adaptable version for students who have finger disabilities. You can assemble the recorder or cover holes to meet the needs of student and then glue the pieces in place. This is a wonderful option for students to feel included in their class and making music on recorder. Some draw backs to the recorder are intonation concerns if it is not assembled correctly and the pieces could come apart if the glue stops holding. I have not used one of these recorders in my classroom, so truthfully I’m not certain how well it holds up to the test of time and use. I can only imagine that it works well in theory and could be an option for students who have finger disabilities.



Adapting the Recorder Yourself:

There are some ingenious people out there who have adapted an existing recorder by closing off the bottom row of holes or covering certain holes with tape. One gentleman even created entire devices for the recorders in his class, see his video here . You know your student’s needs best and can get pretty creative with altering the recorder to meet their needs.


Adapting the Classroom and Instruction:

Music Magnetix Recorder Fingering SetMusic Magnetix Notes SetI chose to adapt the classroom and my instruction for the students. I use a variety of different instruments during recorder instruction so students never feel that they have been isolated or are different. I just know that this is going to be something that this particular class will need and I build it in from the start. For example, I teach the recorder fingerings and note names to everyone using visual like the Magnetix Recorder Fingering Set and the Magnetix Notes Set. The Magnetix are trimmed in Boomwhacker colors so that later I can incorporate the music literacy aspect of recorder playing using Boomwhackers and the notes on the staff.

This is an example of music I would present to my students. The B’s are pink, A’s purple, and G’s green to correspond with the Boomwhacker brand of instruments.                                                                                                           



 I would divide the class and have some students on Boomwhackers and some students on recorder and then switch always ChromaNotes 8 note deskbellsleaving my special needs student on Boomwhackers. By this point in their education students are aware of their own needs and know that recorder is not something they can be the most successful on so they happily play Boomwhacker without there even being a discussion.  Another option is to use the ChromaNotes  8 Tone desk bells for the student who needs it and to have the rest of the class play recorder. This has worked very well in my class and the student on bells loves to play them!

Recorder is a valuable tool in the classroom. You can teach a variety of concepts using the recorder, however you do not have to have all your students all on recorder at the same time. Once the children are established recorder players, you want to use the recorder as another tool in your toolbox. I hope this helps you come up with some ways to include all children in your recorder class. If you have any questions, just ask!



Analisa Byrd


Brad's Beat October

Posted By Brad Bonner On


Brad’s Beat October 2016

This past month, I had the opportunity to attend the Experience Conference held at Walt Disney World’s Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. There were over one thousand participants at this year’s conference.  I visited exhibits, attended workshops, networked with colleagues, and enjoyed motivating concerts. The technological tools that are available to modern church musicians are as diverse and exciting as the programs that were represented at the convention. The focus of the Experience Conference meetings was to encourage and educate church music directors and worship leaders. As I participated, I was reminded of the power that music has to influence our outlook on the world around us. The bottom line for most conference participants was finding ways to effectively and affectively present the “Good News”  to their congregations.

Our goals as music educators in the secular world are very similar to the goals of the Experience Conference attendees. We want to harness the tremendous power that music offers to influBell Playingence and encourage our students’ appreciation of the gift of life that we share together. Often in my public teaching career,  I have witnessed the power of music instruction to encourage the cognitive focus of my students.  For twenty-five years, I taught a university class for general classroom teachers that offered  strategies for using music as a tool to help students focus attention on content in their curriculums. Music can be effectively used in the background as a device to influence emotional connection. (Think of the powerful effect music has on consumers when they are viewing a movie.)  Choosing appropriate music to play in the background while reading a story to a class can have a similar effect on students.  Common melodies can be attached to concepts to help students learn basic knowledge.  (Attaching the melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to the letters of the alphabet is an example.)  There are many melodies familiar to young students where conceptual text could be developed and attached.  Another powerful way to use music in the classroom is to choose from the thousands of specifically composed songs that have been written to teach content.  (Most child-focused programing is driven by music specifically composed to teach conceptually.)  Finally, the world is full of music from multiple cultures that help introduce students to different backgrounds and thought processes. This type of music experience helps move music instruction across many curriculums

Most of us intuitively understand the motivation and encouragement music offers the consumer.  As we analyze the power of music to influence our mood and decision-making, we come to understand that it is generated by the effective coPachelbel Score Excerptmbination of both cognitive and affective processes of the intellect.  When we make decisions, we are often influenced by affective factors in our thinking.  We may  cognitively know that a green pick-up truck that is base-priced at $1,000.00 below the price of a bright red sports model would serve our purposes well. However, when the affective emotion that some have for the color red combines with a superior sound system, buyers might be encouraged to spend more.  There are thousands of examples of people making good and sometimes ill-advised decisions based on affective considerations.

As we teach our students, we have a responsibility to help them understand the impact the affective power of music can have on their decision-making process.  As teachers, it is very important for us to use the affective power of music instruction to encourage the cognitive process oIMG_1469f learning.  It has been my observation over the years that teachers involved in general music  programs are very aware of the potential influence their programs have on a wide spectrum of other educational programs.  Often we are not well-versed in sharing our influence with our fellow staff members and administrators.   The next time you teach a lesson that impacts students outside the world of music, be sure to share the intent and success of your work with your fellow colleagues.  Music is an intrinsically worthwhile study, but we should be sure educators outside our discipline are aware of the partnership we share with the overall curriculum goals of our individual schools.  Music education is of core importance to learning systems. Take the time to “toot your horn” in more than just the concert venue as the first term of teaching unfolds.

That's "Brad's Beat" for October,  2016.   Don't hesitate to call on us at RBI for your classroom needs as you start this new teaching year. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!

BRADLEYC hnds hipsDry Brush 4 L. BONNER, M.ED.,
RBI logo
Elementary Music Specialist,
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Brad's Beat September

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Brad’s Beat September 2016

IMG_4631Why do I teach music to children?  This is a question those who read this blog likely have to answer for themselves from time to time.  As September comes into view, we have accomplished a long list of tasks that are not directly connected to sharing the gift of music with our students.  Before the first lesson is planned, we probably have been required to make compromises in our schedules to accommodate the many needs of  school-wide programs. Each of us answers to school and county-based administrators who are responsible for ensuring that we meet the new year guidelines passed down by our local school districts. There are the state-wide teaching standards that must be reviewed and addressed in each lesson prepared and presented.  We have a responsibility to advocate for the many ways our subject impacts the educational development of our students. Besides our teaching responsibilities, there are bus, lunchroom, car pick-up, and assorted miscellaneous duties that will be assigned to us.  We are responsible for setting up our classrooms, repairing our instruments, and scheduling rehearsals before and after the regular school day.  Parents must be contacted, and approved chaperones must be scheduled for upcoming performances involving large groups of students. The list of responsibilities can seem to be endless!

If our assigned tasks overwhelm us, they can become a negative stress factorget-attachment.aspxin our professional lives.  I have spoken with dozens of dedicated musicians who have given up the classroom, because they can't deal with the extraneous details that are part of the typical teaching career.  This brings us back to the original question: Why do we teach music to children?  Of course, there is not a standard answer to this question.

When I become overwhelmed with the stress of my tasks and frustration builds, I try to recall what initially drew me into the career of music education.  Of course, being a male, there was the original power that playing my guitar and performing in a “rock” band had in attracting the attention of the local female population.  Once I had settled down with my lovely wife,  I noticed a number of other reasons that made sharing music the primary focus of my life.

Brd GuitarAs I introduce myself to my students, I always share the profound influence music has in my daily living.  When I ask students to describe how music impacts their lives, I have heard thousands of impassioned responses during my career.  Generally, these responses include specific styles of music that help the listener become more involved in the activities of his or her life.  Up-beat music for completing physical tasks, quiet background music to encourage concentration, sound-tracks to enhance digital entertainment, and music in houses of worship that aides in praise, reflection, and meditation always top the lists of how music influences daily living.  The responses of my students to the role of music in their lives has been almost universally positive.  The one place where negative reflections appear deals with specific styles of music that do not seem appropriate to the individual listener.  Even these negative responses soften as we listen to, interact with, and analyze music of all styles in our classes.  As we help our students become critical listeners, we reinforce a common stress reliever in our teaching experience, realizing the power of music to communicate in our society.

Another great stress reliever for me is witnessing the results  the study of music  has on my students.  Music Education makes a powerful difference in the way students relate to the world of learning.  Most music lessons follow a classic form of learning as  diagramed by Bloom’s taxonomy.  Typically, general classroom lessons in the elementary years develop the knowledge, application, and comprehension areas of critical thinking.  Music lessons IMG_1564often delve deeper by encouraging analyzation, synthesis, evaluation, and creative responses to the material being studied.  This higher critical level of exploration prepares students for making independent and informed decisions as they navigate their grade level curriculums. It certainly is a stress reliever to witness the positive influence our instruction offers to our students!

IMG_4607Beyond the cognitive learning experience, the exploration of music offers a deeply affective element to education!  When a class reacts emotionally to the music we teach, we experience a joy that is often missing in typical learning environments.  To have the privilege of offering heartfelt experiences to our students is a definite stress reliever!  Music teachers make a difference in the quality of living our students experience.  A music performance can be life-changing for an individual student.  Years after exciting presentations, former students have come to me and asked if I remember specific performances.  These students have identified a meaningful relationship between performing music and the quality of their existence.  The study of music encourages  a passion for learning that can be applied across an elementary school curriculum.

When we play our instruments, sing our songs, and dance to the music of our lives, we express honest thanksgiving.  Is there a better way to relieve stressIMG_4622 than being thankful?  As elementary music teachers, we are given the opportunity to share the affective emotion of joy with all of our students, helping to make the world  a safer and happier place in which to live!

When I finish reviewing the many reasons I teach music, I am able to combat the overwhelming stress factors of my job and jump back into the fray with enthusiasm, at least until the next variation of  "Why do I teach music to children?" crops up in my thinking.

The next time you find yourself working for a paycheck or wishing each day was Friday, start preparing a list that reflects all of the reasons you became a music teacher.  Chances are there are enough positives in what you do to overcome the negatives that are attacking your thinking.

That's "Brad's Beat" for September,  2016.   Don't hesitate to call on us at RBI for your classroom needs as you start this new teaching year. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!

BRADLEYC hnds hipsDry Brush 4 L. BONNER, M.ED.,
RBI logo
Elementary Music Specialist,
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Brad's Beat August!

Posted By Brad Bonner On



My fellow music teachers, have you been attacked yet by that creeping anxiousness that Previewseems to sprout up at the beginning of August?  I can vividly remember the many doubts and questions that would come to my mind as I contemplated the letter of invitation to join the school staff for pre-planning each year.  Was I prepared to set up my equipment, organize the materials for a new year, get over staff complications from the last year, and offer positive input on duties and scheduling?  Of course, the list goes on and on!  Then there was also the minor detail that in one week's time,  I would be presenting seven or eight fifty-minute lessons to children ages 4 - 12 each day.  Though I am no longer employed by the public school system, I can still get anxious just remembering all of the elements that went into starting a new school year!

Having great lessons to share with my students was one of the best ways I had to combat anxiousness as the new year began.  I suppose most veteran teachers have a supply of proven "getting back to business" lessons from which to draw.  Rather than use a large number of words this month, I have decided to publish an effective "back to school" lesson in Brad's Beat as an offering for you and your students.  All of us appreciate a friendly invitation to belong.  "Ev'rybody's Welcome" presents a multicultural invitation to join in the fun of making music while playing instruments.  I used this folk song for many years before publishing the version included in this month's blog.  The video lesson demonstrates some of my earliest successful attempts to use animation as a motivator  for learning to sing and play.  Though the focus group of this lesson was second and third grade children, my fourth and fifth grade students would often ask to play and perform the song.  We used this arrangement several times for our "back to school" PTO programs.

I invite you to download the video lesson provided below and use this motivating song with yourbb207students as you start your new year. A useful technique when using animations is to pause, rewind, and rehearse each section before moving on to the next.  Perfect for Primaries (BB207) offers eight similar support lessons for K bb208- 3.  For Intermediate players, I suggestInstant Intermediates (BB208), eight classroom lessons for singing and playing instruments for 3rd - 5th grade students.


    "Ev'rybody's Welcome" from PERFECT FOR PRIMARIES (BB207)


If you would like to use the performance track for "Everybody's Welcome" use the link below to download the audio file in mp3 format.

The following link will download a pdf of the score for vocals and instruments.

That's "Brad's Beat" for August,  2016. Remember to clear those anxious thoughts by preparing great lessons! Don't hesitate to call on us at RBI for your classroom needs as you start this new teaching year. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!

BRADLEYC hnds hipsDry Brush 4 L. BONNER, M.ED.,
RBI logo
Elementary Music Specialist,
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Brad's Beat July

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Saying "Goodbye" is difficult for most of us.  During the past few weeks, I have been forced to say goodbye to someScreen Shot 2016-06-27 at 10.24.19 AM of the things I have taken for granted.  On Friday, June 10, Christina Grimme was murdered after a concert at an Orlando performance venue where I have viewed performances.  Although I had not been following Christina's career, I had a gut-wrenching feeling when I learned about her death, and I mentally scratched the venue of her performance off of the list of places where I will attend future concerts.  Just over one week later, a night club in Orlando became the location for the worst mass murder incident in the history of the United States.  (Wait, Orlando, Florida?)  Yes, the city I often visit for work and leisure now holds a dreaded record for the most prolific murder scene in our nation. As a result of these and many similar events, I am forced to recalculate my assumptions of safety when visiting Orlando.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 10.27.43 AMI am aware of the need this world has to stand strong in the face of terrorism.  I know the residents of Orlando, San Bernadino, Boston, New York, and all of the cities of our nation that have been attacked by hatred are doing their best to unite and go about their business with courage and conviction. But even as we resolve to do our best in these situations, we have been forced to say goodbye to the comfortable feelings of personal safety which were once the expected norms in our communities.

One could argue that personal safety is always relative.  In some places in our world today, a trip to buy bread for your children is a life threatening event.  My uncle was shot to death by a gang who robbed his pet store, and my daughter was mugged at gunpoint in broad daylight in an Orlando parking lot.  Stating the obvious is not going to remove the danger faced by millions of people around the world today.  Surely we must consider the places we go and try to be aware of our surroundings when out in the world, but is there anything we can do personally to counter the trends of violence and hatred that surround us?

A verse I learned when studying the Bible comes to mind.   As Paul is writing to the church in Philippi, he exhorts this group, even when exposed to anxious situations, to consider "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think of these things." (Philippians 4:8)  These words certainly cannot contradict terrible events that have come to pass, but they might alter events in the future if enough of us put into practice the search for the "good and noble" of this world.

Music teachers are in a position to point students to the "good" things of life that surround us.  "Good" is secular as well as religious.  Many of the songs and activities that we share with our students celebrate good things in our world.  By presenting what is "good", we help to build a community that can bond in common positive values.  As you share the joy of making music with your students, keep in your mind that the evil forced upon us by the few might be contained to some extent by a knowledge of "good" that you share.  When "truth, nobility, honesty, purity, love, excellence, and things that are worthy of praise" are in the mind,  perhaps we can say "Goodbye" to some of the evil that threatens this world.

That's "Brad's Beat" for July,  2016.  I hope you have a great 4th of July!  It would be appropriate to break out the Boomwhackers and make a "good" big noise as you celebrate with younger students!  If you have any needs for instruments or support materials, don't hesitate to call on us at RBI. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!

BRADLEYC hnds hipsDry Brush 4 L. BONNER, M.ED.,
RBI logo
Elementary Music Specialist,
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Brad's Beat June

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Brad’s Beat June 2016

Disconnect: verb [ with obj. ] break the connection of or between: • take (an electrical device) out of action by detaching it from a power supply.• interrupt or terminate by breaking the connection.


Yesterday, I returned to reality after spending ten days virtually disconnected from the devices that I have come to depend on for communication with my family, friends, and business partners. To share with others the sights, sounds, and aromas of our trip to Utah, Arizona, and Nevada required an old fashioned device called the postcard.  Colette diligently bought and posted dozens of notes to our children and our grandchildren as we made our way from one amazing vista to another.  Written words and pictures are effective ways to share our wonder at the world around us.

When Colette and I travel, we often take "foot pictures."  By shooting a vista with our feet in Feet 1the foreground, we are able to demonstrate to the world that we shared this experience together.   We have a wide selection of these "foot" photos through which to browse, enjoying sweet memories of our travels together.  Alas, most travelers today seem to have found that the "selfie stick" accomplishes a similar effect, allowing faces rather than feet to be displayed in the frame.  For some reason, we have decided to keep using the "foot picture" as our selfie of choice. Perhaps this is because we have read many reports of "selfie shooters" who have been injured or killed by not paying attention to their surroundings.  Believe me, you want to watch where you are going when the drop off at your feet is over a mile deep!

Hiking along the National Park trails of the Southwest, we often encountered fellow travelers who would offer to take a picture of the two of us together.  Those "together" pictures are useful as anchor shots for the videos and slideshows that I produce to document our adventures.

North Rim

The disconnection we encountered during our recent trip was in many ways a good experience.  Being exposed to life without the internet helped us to reflect on things that are most important to us and to reconnect more completely to the world when our inevitable return to reality occurred. To be honest, it seems that being connected was near the top of the things we missed while we traveled.

Playing my guitar while sitting on the porch of a cabin we rented near Zion National Park, I found my fingers covering scale patterns and chordal combinations inspired by the Zion Mt. Lodge May 18experiences of our travels.   I enjoy finger picking melodies over unusual harmonizations, and the breathtaking vistas of our vacation encouraged my improvisations.  I fully expect to be using some of these travel- inspired scales and chords in my upcoming compositions.

I hope that you will be able to take some time to travel and disconnect from your normal living patterns during the summer months!  It is easy to get caught up in the rut of the daily routine and miss opportunities to grow and fulfill our potential as musicians and human beings.  Your students will benefit from your experiences as you look at life from different perspectives.  As you peer over the edge of a mountain or look out on a vast ocean, you will be gathering insight into what motivates men and women to create great music and art.  Perhaps you will be inspired to write a symphony or to call a loved one and express your thanksgiving at being given the opportunity to experience the gift of life.  By all means, allow some time to disconnect from your normal routine and to breathe in the inspirational oxygen that fills us all with hope for living.

That's "Brad's Beat" for June,  2016.  As you prepare for your summer activities, don't hesitate to call on RBI for support.  We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!

BRADLEYC hnds hipsDry Brush 4 L. BONNER, M.ED.,
RBI logo
Elementary Music Specialist,
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Brad's Beat April

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Brad’s Beat April 2016

IMG_7469The old saying,"March comes in like a lion", seemed to prove true this month.  Heavy rains, snow, hail, and overall blustery conditions have dominated the landscape all over our nation during the past few weeks.  It would be very much appreciated if March would  "go out like a lamb" as the saying goes.  I hope you have been warm and safe within the walls of your communities and have found success in your teaching strategies.

In this month's edition of Brad's Beat,  I will be sharing with you my process for introducing eight note handbells to beginning ringers of all ages.

I first started using the colorful RB108 bell sets as a harmonic teaching tool in my primary classes, introducing I, IV, and V7 chords.RB108 Set  The bell sets offered a visual and auditory tool for concept development.  While using the RB108 sets, I was able to assemble large groups of players into chord groups and teach them to successfully perform chordal accompaniments by shaking their assigned bells at the appropriate time.  I began to experiment with ways to encourage ringers to play their parts and found that a combination of visual cues with teacher prompting worked best in my situation.

Bell Playing 2During a student performance at a retirement center, I found that the adults in the audience were fascinated by the bells and wanted a chance to ring along.  As I developed activities to include beginning adult players, I found that they often responded positively when melodies were the focal point of the bell experience.  My older elementary players also seemed more interested in playing melodies than the harmonic accompaniments I had been using with my younger students.  During this period, I focused my arranging on melody and variation parts that could be played by groups with varied levels of music experience.  I published nine collections of bell arrangements with Sweet Pipes Inc. between 2000-2008 that utilized the melody variation style.  Three of the most popular titles from the Sweet Pipes Series are "Hymns for Eight Note Handbells" (SP2373), "Christmas Bells" (SP2388), and "Primary Bells" (SP2395).  You can check these and my other bell publication titles out on page 22 of our current Rhythm Band Instruments' catalog.

In late 2008, I was asked by an activities director who worked with dementia clients to create RB107smsome activities that would help her residents interact with music using eight note bell sets.  My bell set of choice during this period was the RB107 eight note combination set. The RB107 sets have a spring-driven tapping mechanism on top of the bell handle that allows the bells to be rung either by tapping or swinging.   Both older and younger players are often more successful in performing complex rhythmic parts when tapping rather than swinging the bells. During this time,  I published "Bells Alive-Volume 1" (BB220).  This animated teaching tool was sequentially created to encourage concept development during bell ringing experiences.   I had observed that my elementary players learned at an accelerated rate when experiencing instruction using animated material, and I reasoned that adults would respond similarly.  My first adult presentation was to a group  in the Boston area.  Seeing the spark of remembrance in the eyes of elder players as they interacted with  familiar melodies added joy to the moment.  We did not always play the exact notes at the prescribed times,  but we sang and played with enthusiasm, relishing in the community-building power of music performance.

BB220 Bells ! front coverThe activities in "Bells Alive Volume 1" include a scale song with a familiar melodic pattern, a chord playing experience using the Beethoven "Ode to Joy" melody, a descant with tempo increases to accompany "Bell Chops" (a variation of the "Chop Sticks" melody), and a melody-descant combination performed to Pachelbel's Canon.  Each activity can be mastered by a beginning player with no previous music experience.  I created "Bells Alive Volume 2" and "Bells Alive Christmas" to round out this beginning players' series.  The Bells Alive series is presented as a "pre-reading" set of arrangements.  There is no prerequisite music experience required to interact successfully with the activities presented on the DVD which is formatted to be projected from standard DVD players or viewed by a computer-based media player.  Ringers receive visual cues for playing their notes by color and staff location. Rhythms to be played are presented aurally. Bells appear visually in sync with audio accompaniments, encouraging players to respond by ringing at the appropriate time.  Professional music teachers can use the animations to develop concept mastery in their classrooms. Group leaders with limited music backgrounds can confidently lead bell players  by utilizing the complete playing instruction provided with each arrangement.

BB221 Bells 2 front cover




BB222 Bells 3 Christmas front cover









A very brief video review for the "Bells Alive" series is presented below.

When players have mastered the arrangements presented in the BELLS ALIVE series, they are ready to move on to the notation driven animations found in "Favorite Tunes for Eight Note Handbells" (BB227) and "Faithful Tunes for Eight Note Handbells" (BB229).  I will demonstrate the higher level notation concepts explored in these two titles in next month's "Brad's Beat".

That's "Brad's Beat" for April,  2016.  I do hope you develop a slight case of spring fever this month.  Take a few minutes to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you!  Don't hesitate to call on RBI for support as you continue your important efforts teaching music to the children of our nation. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!

RBI logoBradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.footerlogo8

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments

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Brad's Beat March

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Brad’s Beat March 2016

It was my privilege to work with the RBI team at TMEA 2016 in February.  As I set up my section of the Rhythm Band Instruments booth space, I spent some time recollecting about the more than thirty year history that unites our two companies.  In 1983, Rhythm Band Instruments placed my newly developed "Beat Bag" Series in their music education catalog.  As Rhythm Band Instruments and BLB Studios worked together during our first decade, my primary responsibility was to create support materials that would help music educators and interested group leaders utilize the instruments purchased from our catalog with their students.  I was often called on by RBI to present workshops, both at conventions and for music teacher inservice meetings, around the country.  This relationship continued until 2009 when I retired from the classroom and joined the RBI staff as their Elementary Music Specialist.

BLB & RBI working together since 1983          (BLB support materials displayed at the Texas Music Educators Conference 2016.)

I have had the honor to represent Rhythm Band Instruments in many of the states that make up our nation. A passion for sharing the uplifting power of music with their students is a common thread of attendees wherever I present!  It is passion that encourages our students to move beyond the basics of learning into the educationally coveted higher critical thinking skills of evaluation and creativity. This attitude of passion that is found in many music classes is supported by both the instructor and the content of the music under study.  It is no wonder that students who participate in both group and individual music instruction often demonstrate the highest aptitudes for learning in all of their studies.  What a joy it is to know that the work we do as music educators is fundamental in encouraging our students to succeed in their educational pursuits.

Since 2009, my passion in music education has been the development of animated music instruction programs.  I began animating successfully with my students in 2000 when I moved to a school that focused on using technology in instruction.  My first animations helped students to learn how to play the soprano recorder.  As I manipulated these animations directly from a computer keyboard, I began to track a noticeable improvement in concept mastery with my beginning players.  I also noted the difficulty of student- teacher interaction during these early lessons as I was tied to the computer, physically directing the animated instruction.  By 2005, I had developed a crude system of animation that required less physical input from the instructor.  Finally in 2010, I developed a totally independent delivery system for my recorder animations.  By combining the power of eight different software programs, I was able to create digital movies of my animations that did not require an instructor's manual operation.

GETTING STARTED WITH SOPRANO RECORDER and MOVING ON WITH SOPRANO RECORDER were among the first of my digital animated publications in 2010.Path Finder

These two animated programs offer a sequential presentation of my most effective general classroom lessons for the soprano recorder.  My usual practice was to introduce  GETTING STARTED (BB216) in the first term of the school year with my fourth grade classes.  After mastering the B, A, and G notes, the included theory studies, and the complete song repertoire presented by the animated lessons, my young players would then be expected to recognize and perform these notes on their recorders when encountered in the literature we studied during the rest of the year.  In a similar fashion, the lessons of MOVING ON would be introduced and utilized throughout the fifth grade year of study.  Armed with the Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 11.04.27 AMsix notes studied in the series and a full understanding of the function of music notation as clarified by the animated presentations, my students were ready to interpret most melodies we encountered in our studies.

With the advent of less expensive professional quality recorders such as the Aulos 903E (available for less than $5.00 from the RBI catalog),  students today can perform high quality concerts by playing the repertoire from the BLB animated recorder series and utilizing the included CD performance tracks as accompaniments.   The links below present the scope and sequence of the GETTING STARTED and MOVING ON lessons. I believe you will find that your students will be motivated to learn and perform with competence and enthusiasm as they interact with this visual, aural, and kinesthetic material.




That's Brad's Beat for March,  2016.  Next month, I will review the Bell series animations from Rhythm Band Instruments. Don't hesitate to call on RBI for support as you continue your important efforts teaching music to the children of our nation. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!


Recorder A vs Recorder B

Posted By Analisa Byrd On

Recorder A or recorder B?


What’s the difference between recorder A and recorder B? This question was posed to me at Texas Music Educator Association by a music educator. She seemed very interested in the difference between recorders and I wanted very much for her to learn and know why one recorder was different than another. So I began to give her a well thought out answer. I began talking about intonation, which is the primary concern for most teachers when choosing a recorder. I was planning on moving on to talk about cost, but then I was hit by the second half of her question. With her hand held up to stop my flow of rhetoric regarding recorder she said words that cut me to the core, “I mean, aren’t they all just toys?” I paused, thought about where I was and began to formulate an answer. I smiled and told her that recorders were learning tools and although were brightly colored at times and used in the elementary classroom, should be considered musical instruments and I politely thanked her for stopping by and went on to talk to other music educators.

I’m sure part of her question was on the minds of several music educators as they looked around for the best recorder for their classrooms. What is the difference between recorder A and recorder B? Although basic in their design, recorders have vastly different qualities making the price point vary. I’ve seen teachers torn between musicality and “fun” colors. Let’s put color aside and talk fundamental design. Recorders for classroom use should be in tune with themselves and with other recorders. To determine this, ask your local dealer for a sample recorder and play on it. If you are not a proficient recorder player, ask someone who is. Play the entire range of the recorder checking its intonation. In addition to intonation, check the timbre of the recorder. Some recorders are very bright sounding and are difficult to get a characteristic sound. The more mellow and warm the tone, the better. Next, check the placement of the holes. Some recorders have the finger holes placed slightly further apart than others. You know your classroom best and will know which recorder will be best for your students.

Now you know what to look for and are overwhelmed by the options out there! I used to have my students play on colored recorders. Then my knowledge of recorder grew and I realized very quickly that color is not always the best route. However, if you want your children to have a fun musical experience and your budget is low, then a colored recorder can be the way to go. You can find most colored recorders for as little as two to three dollars. At the risk of it being too “toy-like” the Canto CR101 comes is a variety of colors allowing for teachers to use a color coding system across grade levels or even within a grade level to distinguish classes. For example, Mrs. Smith’s 4th grade class could be yellow and Mrs. Jones’ 4th grade class could be blue. The Canto CR101 has been redesigned and has a nice recorder tone and plays relatively in tune for a single piece recorder. Unfortunately, if your players are struggling with pitch, these can be very difficult to tune, as you cannot adjust their intonation at the neck.

The recorder I recommend is the Aulos 903- E. For its cost at under five dollars you are getting a wonderful recorder.  It has a beautiful warm tone and is very easy to manipulate in all the registers. It is in tune with itself and blends well with other recorders of the same brand. My students play on the Aulos 903-E with great success. They do not struggle to obtain a good tone on the low E or low D.  The high notes on this recorder are gorgeous. This recorder also works well to sing along with and play Orff instrument accompaniments.

If you want the professional design of the 903-E but the fun of the color recorders you can always add colorful washi tape to the neck to distinguish classrooms or grade levels. If you store them in their bags, you could allow the children to decorate their bags. Another fun option is to store the recorders in fun colored socks!

If you have any questions about recorder from what to buy or how to teach it, please feel free to contact me. I’ll be happy to help!

Analisa Byrd


Rhythm Band Headed to TMEA

Posted By Trina Martin On

RBI guy is headed to San Antonio for TMEA 2016!

Are you?  Come join the fun at our TMEA Booth #1237 and in the CC Hemisphere Ballroom 2

Lots of new product demos, innovative teaching ideas and, of course, special show pricing!!

Lots of fun activities scheduled for Texas teachers:

  • Connect through drums and pitched percussion with Mary Knysh and Kristin Pugliese's rhythm and notation session.... "Engage, Create and Compose" on Thursday at 1.
  • Test drive the new Aulos 903 recorder.... all the quality of Aulos at a student price!
  • Watch the demonstration of the fully digital and interactive timeline banner of Western Composers
  • Create a composition with Note Knacks Play bells and Boomwhackers with Brad Bonner Find amazing deals in our overstock section
  • Learn how to integrate the new music TEKS, use twitter and online assessments with Patrick Lollis
  • Engage in creative ideas for helping classroom teachers integrate music with Kristin Pugliese
  • Enjoy amazing show specials on all of the demonstration products in the ballroom at our Saturday "Packing Party"



Brad's Beat February!

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Brad's Beat February 2016


The first month of 2016 is now in the rearview mirror.  It has been a very eventful month for RBI.  We have traveled the world in teams meeting with teachers and music industry professionals.  Reports coming back from FMEA, NAMM, and other important music conferences evidence a thriving interest in encouraging both music consumption  and music education among teaching professionals, music retailers, instrument manufacturers, and the general public.  The music industry has become very active in the support of music education as demonstrated by the special emphasis they placed on the inclusion of music teachers in their 2016 NAMM conference.  It is exciting to see and be a part of the positive momentum of the powerful force of music in our daily living!

In this digital age, students encounter music using both their visual and auditory senses.  In many cases, music is viewed on streaming sites such as Youtube where the visual component of a performance is the primary draw to the music content.   In this month's blog, I will focus on RBI's digital Boomwhacker support series, a sequential standards-based program of instruction, which includes 75 animated lessons for players from Pre-School through High School.

In 2016, Rhythm Band Instruments and BLB Studios have partnered together to create new packaging for the support materials we offer in our catalog.


Animated Boomwhackers Volume 1 (BB223) has an activity range of Pre K - 2nd grade.  In these lessons, children from four to six years old will be invited to perform mostly "call and response" actions with any of the eight Boomwhackers found in the BWDG basic set.  For a brief animated review of  Volume 1 activities, visit the Youtube link below.



Animated Boomwhackers Volume 2 (BB224) was created for late 1st through early 4th grade players.  The focus in this volume turns from "call and response" to specific rhythmic and melodic patterns.  Students learn to layer ostinato patterns, play block chords, and experience the function of form while singing and moving to motivating, age-appropriate accompaniments.  Click the Youtube link below for a brief animated review of the material found in Volume 2.



In Animated Boomwhackers Volume 3 (BB226), students from late 3rd grade through middle school perform full-fledged arrangements, reading their parts from animated scores where playing assignments appear "in sync" with action-packed accompaniments.  Teachers and students respond enthusiastically to movement and playing assignments that explore the rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic range of the Boomwhackers.  Click the Youtube link below for a brief review of the material included in the 22 activities on this series of animations.


BB228 BW-PerformersPack-V1-Final-HIGHRES

Once students have mastered the playing skills presented in Volumes 1 - 3 of the Boomwhacker series, they are ready to join together in performing ensembles to present more challenging arrangements.  While writing The Performers' Pack (BB228),  I challenged myself to prepare arrangements that could combine players of varied playing abilities.  Each of the arrangements offers basic beginners through seasoned players an opportunity to perform together.  Part One, the basic part in each accompaniment, plays through the entire arrangement.  As the other parts are added, the complexity of the Boomwhacker parts builds from moderate to challenging.  It is important to note that any part, basic to advanced, can be performed while using the animated scores and accompaniments.  The Youtube link below offers a brief review of the animated lessons presented in  The Performers' Pack.

The BLB animations help beginning musicians experience the fundamental elements of music (melody, rhythm, harmony, form, dynamics, timbre, and style) while performing in ensembles.  The interactive experience created while performing music tasks presented in visual and audio formats helps students quickly grasp the concepts being presented while keeping their focus on the exact point of instruction.  This type of learning focus cannot be duplicated when using standard sheet music notation.

That's Brad's Beat for February 2016.  Next month, I will review the Bell series animations from Rhythm Band Instruments. Don't hesitate to call on RBI for support as you continue your important efforts teaching music to the children of our nation. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!


Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments  352-408-1489

Brad's Beat January!

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Brad’s Beat January 2016


Motivation: the dictionary defines it with the words, "the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way."  As I review the generous years of my life, I find that my motivation has been fairly steady throughout the joys and challenges with which I have been presented.

My first seventeen years were dedicated to the discoveries of pleasure and pain that most humans encounter.  By five, I knew that I was not the only person who mattered in the world.  At thirteen, I discovered that love was not always a two-way street, and just because Sharon is willing to kiss you on Tuesday doesn't mean she will go steady with you on Wednesday.  My teenage years were filled with the typical doubting and wondering if there was a reason for breathing, and if I had anything to contribute to the world around me.

When I was sixteen, a friend left a guitar at my house.  After learning to play the chords to "Louie, Louie",  I knew that my calling in life was to be a rockstar.  

 Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 1.16.15 PM

At seventeen, my garage band, "The Lite Brigade", signed a contract to cut our first 45 RPM  which went on to sell almost 100 copies!  Not deterred, I played my guitar at coffee houses and the bass in a long series of hopeful rock bands.  One day in May of 1969,  just as I was graduating from high school, a fellow rocker invited me to join his youth group at church, and I charged head on into a new world of music and faith that would be the focal point of  the motivation for the rest of my life.

My newfound interest in church music required a formal education in music.  I attended the University of South Florida for my undergraduate training where I met the beautiful Colette.  From our marriage came three important motivators, Joshua, Jessica, and Jamie.


My church music career took a thirty-four year detour when I accepted a job teaching elementary school music in 1973.  During my teaching years, I lead choirs and handbell groups in the churches we attended, earned a Masters Degree from the University of Central Florida, started my publishing company BLB Studios, and began a life-long relationship with Rhythm Band Instruments of Fort Worth, Texas.

My motivation for each new day continues to be driven by making and sharing the gift of music with the students, friends, and professional colleagues with whom I share relationships.  The message of hope and faith that motivates all of my actions is a natural extension of the music I perform and create.

I suspect that your motivation for living and working can be tied to the experiences you have with music.  What other art form can physically express the metaphysical meaning of living in such personal and profound ways?  As music teachers, we have the great honor and responsibility of opening a world of heartfelt expression to our students. IMG_4728

When performing or listening to music, students learn to express the deep inner feelings that we share as human beings in sometimes challenging and often uplifting ways.  "We Shall Overcome", "All You Need is Love", "Adagio for Strings", "Hallelujah", and "Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer" each were conceived from real life experiences.  Performers and audiences alike participate concretely in the abstract world of emotion when exposed to the harmonic bravado and melodic fancies of composers from all periods of history.

Yes, it is January, and you are faced with the daunting responsibilities of a new year.  BLOG PICT

Go forth, my friends, with hope and joy.  You bring the world of music to your students, and perhaps through the experiences you share together, the world will become a better and more stable place.  That hope should bring motivation to us all!

That's Brad's Beat for January 2016. "Rats", just when I get used to writing 2015, it is time to learn a new date!  The swift passage of hours, days, weeks, months, and years is a natural motivator for me to dig in and appreciate this gift of life that we all share.  As you seek your motivation and share the gift of music with your students, don't hesitate to call on us at Rhythm Band Instruments for support. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!

RBI logo

Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments  352-408-1489





Brad's Beat December!

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Brad’s Beat December 2015


Rhythm Band Instruments enjoyed an event-filled weekend in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in early November.  One highlight of this whirlwind event for me was having the chance to share a meal with some of the teachers and leaders of NCMEA.


Presenting sessions and spending long hours in the convention hall helps one to deeply appreciate the relaxing fellowship of colleagues at an informal meal! NCMEA’s theme this year was finding the place where we belong.   As I caught up with the lives and challenges of my dinner companions, I was once again reminded of the  powerful bond musicians share.  Meeting together with those of similar circumstance brings a sense of belonging and encourages each of us to reflect on the accomplishments of our work.  I have often found new resolve and discovered possible solutions to issues in my work when participating in conversation with dedicated professionals.  Thank you, NCMEA and Rhythm Band Instruments, for allowing me the opportunity to belong and to share in the process of music education with so many who are passionate about this cause!

Upon returning home from NCMEA, I turned my attention to the list of important tasks that needed to be completed during the upcoming holiday season.  Each year, I arrange a classical guitar suite to perform on Christmas Eve at our church’s midnight communion service.  I enjoy creating new modulations and developing non-traditional harmonizations to well-loved melodies, bringing fresh perspectives to the beloved traditions we share.


My work as an arranger, however, often plays second fiddle to my responsibilities of preparing our home for the eagerly anticipated arrival of family and friends who will be visiting during the holidays.

Bryson and purple

This Thanksgiving was especially exciting for us as we were privileged to have a visit from family members who live out of state.Regina and Orange

 We delighted in our youngest grandchildren as they shared impromptu accompaniments on their Boomwhackers.

 My oldest granddaughter proudly helped create her first apple pie which was enjoyed at our Thanksgiving feast this year.Mixing it up 

For those of us fortunate enough to have families that can get together during the holidays, the memories of these events become priceless treasures.  Food and music are two natural ingredients that are found in all of our family gatherings.

As you push back from your Thanksgiving table and begin to refocus on the challenges that your December programs present, take a moment to reflect on the powerful “belonging” experiences that have drawn you into the field of music.  This month, you will be responsible for creating life-long memories for your students.


 As they work together to prepare and present their holiday programs, children will be forming relationships and experiencing the joys and challenges of working together for a common goal.  These “snapshots” of life will be recalled in the years to come and will be remembered fondly by the audiences that come into contact with the fruit of your efforts.  Last week, I was greeted in a restaurant by a young woman with a cheerful smile.  She called me by name and went into great detail about her fond memories as a student in my music class and as a performer in our school Orff ensemble.  I had not seen this student for over a decade, but I was immediately drawn into happy conversation as we recalled Mercie’s experiences and the many friends she made that she still has contact with today.  Truly, we learn much about belonging as we participate in the music programs of our schools.  I am sure you could share moving accounts of the powerful “belonging” moments that participation in music has created from your experiences.  The gift of music is near the top of my list when I give thanks!

That’s Brad’s Beat for December. May your experiences this month be filled with the powerful touch of belonging as you share the gift of music with your community.  Please contact us at RBI if we can be of service to you!


Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments  352-408-1489



Handout for the “Road to Belonging” workshop is below.


(The handout is very large and will take some time to download.)


Roadmap to Belonging


Posted below is a video invitation to this “hands-on” workshop.



If you would like to share one of these sessions with your fellow  teachers, be sure to contact me about the possibility of a half or whole day in-service for your group. (My contact information is listed below or you may call Trina Martin at Rhythm Band Instruments  at 800-424-4724 for information about the dozens of workshops that RBI makes available for  teacher in-service meetings.)


That’s Brad’s Beat for November. As always, it is our privilege at Rhythm Band Instruments to serve your program needs with exciting instruments and motivating support materials.  Please contact us if we can be of service to you!



Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.


President, BLB Studios


Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments  352-408-1489





Brad's Beat November!

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Brad’s Beat November 2015


Happy November to each of you! I’m busy gathering together all of the materials that will be needed for my presentations at November’s NCMEA Convention in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Session One will be “Reading Music: Notation in the Elementary Grades” on Saturday morning, November 7th at 11:00 AM in the Gaines Ballroom.Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.28.13 AM


Handout for the “Reading Music: Notation in the Elementary Grades” workshop is below.


(The handout is very large and will take some time to download.)


Reading Music: Notation in the Elementary Grades


Most states have developed benchmark standards for elementary  music programs that include components on experiencing and manipulating music notation.  My students always enjoyed digging deeper into the form and function of music notation.  When I began animating music notation for their lessons, they made great strides towards reaching the music reading standards of the state of Florida.  Below is a video invitation to my North Carolina workshop.



The NCMEA theme at this year’s convention is “Where You Belong.”  My second workshop, “Road to Belonging”, will be presented on Saturday afternoon, November 7th  at 1:00 PM in the Gaines Ballroom.  This session will highlight the innate properties of music exploration that create an atmosphere of belonging in the elementary music classroom.  Following Edward Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, we will discover our roadmap to belonging from knowledge to creativity.


A Intro to Belonging still shot


Handout for the “Road to Belonging” workshop is below.


(The handout is very large and will take some time to download.)


Roadmap to Belonging


Posted below is a video invitation to this “hands-on” workshop.



If you would like to share one of these sessions with your fellow  teachers, be sure to contact me about the possibility of a half or whole day in-service for your group. (My contact information is listed below or you may call Trina Martin at Rhythm Band Instruments  at 800-424-4724 for information about the dozens of workshops that RBI makes available for  teacher in-service meetings.)


That’s Brad’s Beat for November. As always, it is our privilege at Rhythm Band Instruments to serve your program needs with exciting instruments and motivating support materials.  Please contact us if we can be of service to you!


IMG_3577Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.


President, BLB Studios


Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments  352-408-1489





Mary Knysh in Dallas!

Posted By Trina Martin On

Mary Knysh held an engaging professional development session for music teachers at Lone Star Percussion in Dallas in September. Teachers drove from as far away as Tyler and Houston to experience this great day of exploring music improvisation, rhythmic activities and movement.

This clinic was sponsored by Rhythmband Instruments, Remo Inc and Lone Star Percussion and featured 21st Century Learning strategies with a brain based approach.  It was a great day with lots of inspired teachers at the end!
Research speaks to the importance of movement in brain based learning and these Boom whacker activities support simple movement with BW chord changes and improvisation.  

Patrick Lollis featured in Southwest Musician!

Posted By Trina Martin On

Check out our Education team member in the October issue of Southwest Musician! read here

For more information about his featured product visit their product pages on

TEK Planner

Western Composer's Timeline Banner

Word Wall

Symbol Wall

Brad's Beat October!

Posted By Brad Bonner On

Brad’s Beat October 2015

I have several special dates set up with my grandchildren to visit pumpkin patches during the next couple of weeks.  IMG_2697

That’s Liam on the right, tasting the fruits of his first ever pumpkin hunt.  This year, Liam entered preschool and is enjoying his foray into the world of group instruction.  I must admit, I was a proud grandpa when Liam shared that he was chosen to be line leader at school last week!




One of my favorite early childhood songs for October is “Calabaza.”  My students always enjoy learning the Spanish text of this song created by Lucille Wood.   Descriptive phrases such as “Dos Ojos Brilliantes”, “Una Na Ricita”, and “Una Boca Grande” can be analyzed and defined with the help of Spanish speaking students in our classrooms.  Two favorite phrases of this song for my students are “Muy chistosa” (“Very funny”) and “No le tendo meado!” (“I am not afraid of you!”)  Although society debates the place of Halloween in a school curriculum, our students are clearly excited about dressing up, pretending to be special characters, and, of course, gathering large bags full of treats!

 spanish text








 Early in my career, I taught “Calabaza” as a traditional singing lesson.

The score is presented below.


song with english text






When a computer became available in my classroom, I began experimenting with adding the images we were singing about as we learned the song.  As the class sang along, I would open or close visuals on the screen, playing the computer instead of a piano or guitar to accompany the song.  My students were mesmerized by the simple animation and made requests to sing the song multiple times.  This experience early in the 21st century sent me on a quest to find efficient ways to utilize animation in many of my lessons; I was hooked on the process!  At first, I manipulated the animations by pressing command keys on my computer, turning visuals on and off as the text was presented.  By 2008, I had purchased a computer with enough power to allow the transfer of my animation ideas into movie files.


“Calabaza” is one of the first lessons I transferred from computer-triggered manipulation into an automated movie file.  By turning my animations into movies, I was able to present them in a universal format that any teacher could access. All of my writing since 2009 has been published in an animated format.  The power of animation to focus attention on instruction is demonstrated by the enthusiastic response and concept retention of the students who participate in this style of lesson.


If you have the opportunity, try presenting “Calabaza” as a traditional singing lesson to one group and as an animated lesson to another.  I believe you will find the students who take part in the animated lesson will demonstrate a higher level of enthusiasm for the material and retain the presented information more efficiently than the students participating in the traditional lesson group.  Although the “Calabaza” video that is shown below is not a published lesson, you have my permission to download the video onto your computer.







That’s Brad’s Beat for October, 2015.  I am busy preparing presentations for the upcoming NCMEA Conference in Winston-Salem in early November.  Many of the RBI staff will be attending the Orff Convention in San Diego during that same time frame.  Please make it a point to drop by the RBI Booth and say hello if you are attending either of these fantastic conventions!  We do appreciate you and all of the hard work you do to bring music into the lives of our nation’s children.



Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments


Inspiring Saturday with Mary Knysh

Posted By Trina Martin On

Inspirational professional development session with Mary Knysh held for Texas teachers in September.

Teachers from around the state of Texas joined Mary Knysh in  " A Joyful Synthesis of Rhythm, Melody, Harmony and World Music!"   During this engaging six hour professional development session, inspiring creations were made using drums, orff instruments, bells, Boomwhackers and voices. Everyone left with a renewed joy of making and teaching music and additional research regarding brain development and the need for more music in every classroom.  Click here to see the notes from this session.  Thanks to Lone Star Percussion for hosting the event and Remo drums for joining us in sponsoring.  We look forward to bringing more of these professional development sessions to communities across the nation in the future.  Look for her sessions at AOSA in November and TMEA in February!



Mary E. Knysh, founder of Rhythmic Connections, an innovative company advancing education, health, and creative development through drum circles and music improvisation.  She’s a workshop facilitator and trainer; creativity, leadership and communications consultant and coach; professional musician; recording artist and author. In addition to AOSA and TMEA, you will find her presenting at conferences throughout the United States, Central Europe, Australia and Asia. An international teacher/trainer with the Music for People organization, she’s also an Orff Schulwerk clinician and teaching artist for the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, Young Audiences of NJ, and New York BOCES. 

Brad's Beat September!

Posted By Trina Martin On

Brad’s Beat September 2015

We left our home on August 9, 2015, at 4:00 AM and headed for the Orlando International Airport.  We flew into Denver and after a two hour layover, we caught a connecting flight to Jackson Hole, jenny 4  

Based on the topography of our location, it seemed as if we had landed in a whole new world.  In fact according to the research I had completed before our trip, the Grand Teton Range is one of the youngest geological occurrences in North America, arriving a mere two million years ago when the earth decided it was tired of being flat and under water in this part of Wyoming.  Needless to say, it was difficult for us to keep our eyes on any other geographic feature as we passed along the forty-mile mountain range from the airport to our hotel!

teton sunset 9

During the next ten days, we traveled through Yellowstone, the plains of Wyoming, and the Black Hills of North Dakota.  What bearing, you might ask, could the Bonner vacation possibly have on the Bells, Bars, Boomwhackers, Recorders, rhythm instruments, and anecdotes of elementary music teaching experiences that are the usual topics of this blog?  Actually, the trip revealed an insight into my life’s work with which I think many elementary music teachers can relate.


Because we were traveling with a tour,  it was necessary to limit the luggage and personal items we carried.  For my wife, that meant traveling without her knitting and craft supplies.  I was forced to leave my guitar behind.  Those of you who have developed a personal relationship with your guitar know how difficult it is to deal with a prolonged separation from the instrument! The picture to the left shows me trying out a beautiful hand-crafted Marc Beneteau guitar that I added to my collection several years ago. Most days,  I spend an hour or more practicing, often writing arrangements for the instrument.  By the time we rolled into a working ranch in Wyoming about half way through our trip,  I was really missing my guitar.

Part of the visit to the ranch was sharing a noontime meal with the owners and some of the ranch hands.  Walking through the sitting room that was connected to the dinning area, my eyes were drawn to an open guitar case laying on a table.  We ate lunch, then my wife and I took a horseback tour of the ranch.  Upon returning to the front porch, I asked if  I might borrow the guitar I had seen earlier.

at ta ranch brd guitar 2

  After playing a few tunes, the ranch chef who had a beautiful guitar built by a local luthier  joined me.  Version 2

During the next hour or so, the chef and I exchanged “licks”, sharing  some of the music that had been a part of our playing experiences.  The chef turned out to be interested in heavy metal and folk music…quite a combination.  I laid down some progressions and he very skillfully riffed lightning fast scales as accompaniments. Later as we explored folk tunes,  improvisations were freely flowing from both of our experiences.  We began to share music that we had been attracted to during the early years of our playing, and it was during this part of our jam session that I was reminded of the huge impact the music we teach our students will have on their lives.  I began playing songs that had not been a part of my repertoire for decades.  How did I produce those notes and words?  Obviously, each of these songs had impacted my life in profound ways.  The chord forms, melodies, and lyrics had patiently waited to be released on this ranch porch in Wyoming.

at ta ranch brd guitar 4

The music we teach our elementary students may very well impact their lives for decades to come.  I often have the opportunity to share music with aging residents in assisted living facilities, and many of these adults respond enthusiastically to tunes they learned as children.  As you face the challenges of beginning a new teaching year,  be encouraged that the work you perform will have an impact on the students you teach!

That’s “Brad’s Beat” for September, 2015.   The RBI team sends our best wishes to you for a successful start to a new teaching year! Don’t hesitate to call (800) 424-4724 or visit us on the web at  if we can be of assistance to you in your program.  Keep the beat.


Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments



RBI Visits DC

Posted By Trina Martin On

In May of 2015, Trina Martin, Rhythm Band Instruments' Director of Education, joined 76 fellow NAMM members, National Association of Music Merchants, from around the country for the 2015 NAMM Music Education Advocacy Fly-in. This 3 day event culminated with personal congressional meetings on the hill to support the passage of the senate version of the ESEA Reauthorization Bill, which includes "Music" and "Art" as defined core subjects. On July 16th, the US Senate passed this version and the bill currently sits in conference between the two houses.


Along with discussions regarding the importance of supporting music education, the delegates presented a new NAMM Foundation-funded, nationwide study, " Striking a Chord: The Public’s Hopes and Beliefs for K-12 Music Education in the United States 2015". Through interviews with over 1,000 teachers and 800 parents, the study finds strong support for music education at all grade levels. The vast majority of parents and teachers say music education is “very” or “extremely” important and should continue to be funded, even at the expense of other programs and classes.


 Visit  to download a copy of the study and track the ESEA bill.



Brad's Beat August!

Posted By Trina Martin On

Brad’s Beat August 2015

Based on my calendar,  there can be no doubt that the “Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” are about to draw to an end for those of us who spend our lives sharing the joy of music with children.  Who am I kidding?  Most of us were well into planning our Holiday programs for 2015 before the fireworks of July 4th erupted.  In my teaching career, the end of July always brought on some anxious feelings


I wondered if I had the patience, courtesy, fortitude, creativity, stamina, hope, faith, love, peace, and joy that would be required to meet the challenges of Pre-Planning!!!  I also questioned my ability to shepherd over 1000 students through their introduction and beginning experiences with the wonderful world of music.  Except for my first year of teaching where I didn’t know any better, the anxiousness of the new teaching year could only be quelled by a serious review of my teaching plans and the materials I would be using to guide my students study.

As I started my teaching career, my plans focussed on tried and true experiences using singing, moving, and the playing of non-pitched percussion instruments.  As the years passed and my program grew, I found my students responding with excitement and renewed interest when I added Boomwhackers, Orff instruments, soprano recorders, and color-coded handbells to my instrument arsenal.  The soprano recorder was an especially helpful tool when introducing my students to the form and function of music notation.

Like many elementary music teachers, I experimented with various manufacturers’ brands of the soprano recorder as I tried to find a useful instrument that played in tune at an affordable price.  The Aulos A103N became my instrument of choice in the late 1980s.  Although the 103N was substantially more expensive than the bargain brands, I loved its intonation and the one-piece construction really saved me the headache of  constantly reminding  my beginning players not to take apart and re-assemble their instruments.  When the price point for the 103N inflated beyond my purchasing power,  I moved to a workhorse instrument, the entry level Canto CR101.

 Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 11.02.38 AM 

The construction of the CR101 is less rugged than the Aulos, but the price point for the instrument makes it very accessible for classroom music programs.  I found the Canto CR101 to have good intonation, and, with proper care, it held up well in my general music program.  During the last ten years of my teaching career, I offered my students the opportunity to purchase a recorder for use in our general classroom lessons.  The CR101 was purchased by over 90% of my general classroom students, and because of the affordable price point, I was able to acquire funding to equip students unable to purchase their own instruments.   Assigning red recorders to Third graders, green recorders to Fourth graders, and blue recorders to Fifth graders made it possible to visually identify the grade assignment of the individual players during PTO programs and assemblies.

Beginning in 2000 I compiled my most successful general classroom recorder lessons into a series and created “Getting Started with Soprano Recorder” for first time players and “Moving on with Soprano Recorder” for advancing beginners as a sequential introduction to the instrument.  My interest in and development of animated lessons to teach notation and recorder techniques resulted in a higher level of student  proficiency  on their instruments in a shorter time frame than when I used traditional call and response teaching methods.  After retiring from the classroom in 2009 I concentrated on producing my syncing techniques in a format that would be accessible to teachers and was able to publish the first ever animated instruction for the soprano recorder.  Path FinderIn this series the combination of music notes visually syncing to motivating accompaniment tracks creates an interaction between the students, the animation, and their recorders.  As the lessons progress students are guided to focus on the exact point of instruction developing an understanding of the form and function of music notation.

As a learning incentive,  I offered the three-piece  Aulos 303A recorder (funded by our PTO) to my classroom students who were able to perform all of the melodies studied in our recorder unit.

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Most of the students who mastered the fifteen melodies presented in the “Getting Started” and “Moving On” series repertoire went on to become members of our performing ensemble, proud to present their playing skills on instruments they earned by their personal investment in learning!  If I were teaching in the classroom today, I would recommend using the new Aulos 903-E soprano recorder (pictured on the right) as the incentive recorder.  This instrument presents a clear tone with great intonation. (Because it is a three piece unit, there is a built-in potential to tune the instrument in any playing situation.)  Besides the evident Aulos quality of construction, the low price point of this instrument makes it an obvious choice for elementary programs.

You are invited to check out all of the useful Rhythm Band Instruments being offered for your program at the newly developed website.  If you click on the BLB Studios link while visiting the site, you will find video demonstrations of our large portfolio of animated support lessons.  I invite you to take a demo tour to discover the powerful tools animation offers to your curriculum.

That’s “Brad’s Beat” for August, 2015.   The RBI team sends our best wishes to you for a successful start to a new teaching year! Don’t hesitate to call (800) 424-4724 or visit us on the web at  if we can be of assistance to you in your program.  Keep the beat.


Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments


Brad's Beat July!

Posted By Trina Martin On

Brad’s Beat July


Greetings and best wishes for a celebratory Fourth of July!  One can only wonder how the days pass so quickly, and we find ourselves returning again and again to important milestones in our lives.  Many of us will gather with friends, family, and perhaps neighbors on the Fourth.  Some of my favorite memories stem from gatherings on the porch of my home as good food, music, and reminisces of years gone by are shared while the sky illuminates with fireworks.

While serving as our first President of the United States, George Washington advocated the importance of universal education with this statement: "The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation every other means, in my opinion, must fail."  Making music and improvising melodies and harmonies helps to create an atmosphere of camaraderie and shared experience that is unique among  the fine arts. Whether one strums, sings, plays the spoons, dances a jig, or just taps a toe, that participation functions to combine the contribution of individuals to form a whole unit of performance.  This is one of the major reasons music education is so important in the elementary school.  Students come to us from very diverse backgrounds, and they need to learn how to function as positive contributors in the social groups they form.  While singing, moving, and playing instruments, students develop social skills that will serve them and the communities they form in positive ways.

With these thoughts in mind and moving back to the subject of the Fourth of July, I have decided to share an arrangement I created of the Spiritual, "Freedom Song."  My students always performed this song with enthusiasm, bonding together to present its upbeat message.           I published "Freedom Song" in 2005 as one of the eight arrangements scored in INSTANT INTERMEDIATES (BB208).  The arrangement, displayed below, offers three basic parts to accompany the melody and is suitable for beginning players.  When preparing "Freedom Song" in    a general classroom setting, I suggest using the practice track or playing a guitar or piano to set the tempo while the students learn to play the scored metal, wood, and bass parts that accompany the singers.

Freedom Song pg 1Freedom Song pg 2Freedom Song pg 3

Posted below is an excerpt of third,  fourth, and fifth graders performing "Freedom Song."

This arrangement of "Freedom Song" was very popular with my students, and we often performed it at our PTA programs. If you would like a digital copy of the audio accompaniment that I created for this arrangement,  contact me at,  and I will email you the audio files for the practice and performance tracks.

That's “Brad's Beat” for July, 2015.   Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!  Don't hesitate to call (800) 424-4724 or visit us on the web at  if we can be of assistance to you in your program.  Keep the beat.


Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments




Welcome to the NEW Rhythm!

Posted By Trina Martin On

We are so thrilled to finally show you all the work we have been doing here at Rhythm Band Instruments for the last year. In addition to this new website, there have been internal changes to help us focus on listening to the needs of music educators and advocacy groups around the world. Some of those changes include: creating a Director of Education position, adding new teachers to our education team, finding and developing new innovative products, having a former elementary music teacher in our call center to help assist you in any way and updating some of our images and descriptions to help you gain all the information you need without needing to pick up a phone.

We still have a long way to go but are committed to ensuring that finding and purchasing the tools you need to reap the benefits of making music is an easy and fun experience. We welcome any feedback and look forward to building a long relationship with each and every one of you!

Trina Martin

Director of Education
Rhythm Band Instruments

Brad's Beat June!

Posted By Trina Martin On

Reading music notation is an integral component of State and National learning standards. When do you begin a focus on music notation with your elementary-aged students?  During the past few weeks, I have been preparing a presentation for music educators on the topic of reading music notation in the elementary gPachelbel Score Excerptrades.  As I have canvased music educators,  I have found a common resistance to investing large amounts of time into teaching the mechanics of notation in grades   K - 5.  As I review my own experiences in the classroom, I remember in most cases using the time-tested call and response method for teaching singing and instrumental parts during my early teaching years.  We have such a limited amount of time with our students that it is difficult to allow large blocks of that time to be utilized for teaching the nuts and bolts of notation.

Even when we present portions of a score for our students to reference, the complexity of reading music notation has the potential to overshadow the main conceptual goal of learning to sing or play a part.  Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 11.54.40 AMStudents can be confused by the symbols and function of music notation, but, at the same time, they are eager to decode this language of music expression that is available to skilled readers.  The modern music classroom has access to teaching tools that help young musicians decode and use the symbols of music notation while learning to sing or play a part.

During the last decade of my teaching career, I began creating music lessons in animated form.  My students responded enthusiastically to the use of projected music notation in our curriculum.   When the notes were projected and later animated on the screen, my young singers and players were all concentrating on the exact point of instruction.  The positive results of these animated lessons were evident in the progress my students demonstrated while learning and mastering their instruction.

By the year 2000, I was regularly using notation in all grade level lessons when introducing new Excerpt This Old Man (Still)parts for my students to play or sing.  My attempts to visually animate the notation helped my students to intellectually grasp the form and function of notation without using large blocks of lesson time to teach the mechanics of reading music.  My first attempts at notation animation required "real time" input at a computer keyboard, similar to playing the piano to accompany a rehearsal.  As computers became more powerful,  I was able to record the desired animation and have it automatically projected for my players.  The excerpt from "Boom - A - Tunes" below demonstrates how notation animation can help students quickly grasp the function of notation and use this information to learn to play a part.

(Excerpt One: Listen to the melody and view the notation.)

As the excerpt demonstrates, elementary students can quickly grasp the function of music notation when it is presented in animated form.  After reviewing the notation using the previous excerpt, the players are now ready to sing the pitches, then play the notated music on an instrument.  In Excerpt Two located below, my early second grade students would attempt to play the melody as a class using Boomwhackers.

(Excerpt Two:  Attempt to play the notation using Boomwhackers for performance.)

I created this lesson in the 1990's and animated it for the first time in the early 2000's.   As we learned to sing and play the parts, the animated notation was a natural part of the lesson, helping the students to master their assignments.  In later lessons when the melodies learned in "Boom-A-Tunes" were presented in traditional static scores, the singers and players were not confused by the notation symbols and were ready to read their parts.  The current realization of "Boom-A-Tunes" is presented in Animated Boomwhackers Volume 2 (BB224),  published in 2012.

I have created hundreds of animated scores for playing Bells, Bars, Boomwhackers, non-pitched percussion, and Soprano Recorders for all age levels since retiring from the classroom in 2009.


As I have the opportunity to teach and present these lessons in schools and workshop sessions,  I have been thrilled with the responses of teachers and students to the material.  I am convinced that as we move into the upcoming decades of the 21st Century, animated notation will become the new standard for the introduction of music reading in elementary settings.  We have the equipment available in most music rooms today to project this motivating and efficient teaching technique.  Students who learn about reading music using animated scores are able to efficiently translate (synthesize) their understanding to traditional scores and embrace the use of notation as they learn to sing and play their parts.

That's “Brad's Beat” for May, and June 2015.  We at Rhythm Band Instruments are wishing you the best for a relaxing and rewarding summer break!  Don't hesitate to call (800) 424-4724 or visit us on the web at  if we can be of assistance to you in your program.  Keep the beat.

IMG_2272Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments




What’s The Point? A look at music in our society.

Posted By Kristin Pugliese On

When educators think about a well balanced language arts program, writing is always included. Why don’t we think about this in the music classroom? Are we so intimidated by the greats? There is evidence to suggest this. (I wonder what Bach and Mozart would think about teaching composition to all, even if students did not show themselves to be musical geniuses.) I hear from workshop facilitators all the time how participants are reluctant to improvise on various instruments. These are music teacher participants we are speaking about!! How can we encourage our students to take risks if we cannot ourselves? I do not, however, blame them. I get it!!!

Music in our society has been elevated to an elite art. All are encouraged to enjoy it, but only the “talented” should be encouraged to create it. This limiting fundamental belief needs to be obliterated before we can move forward on bringing quality music instruction into every school in the US and beyond. After all, how can we justify it, if we ourselves believe that one needs “talent” to proceed? This change in perception MUST start with us. We MUST believe that music making is for everyone, not just the elite few.

Let’s define music making. Simply put, it means to make music. Period. This in no way implies that everyone must teach it or perform it, rather everyone should feel the freedom to sing or play or compose regardless of their perceived level. It is a form of expression that can be shared by one or many in various settings.

Isn’t this the point? Isn’t this why we do what we do? I would imagine that very few, if any, became music educators to only teach the “Mozarts and Beethovens” of the group. If that were the case, we would have left years ago. From speaking to thousands of music educators across the country, I know that most of us got into this field because we want to share our love of music with others. So share. Believe in what we do. Music is meant to be created by all. By destroying our own limiting beliefs about the kind of music we make, we will be able to make a greater difference in the world around us!

- Kristin

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