In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I have a few things I would like to mention for which I am eternally thankful: the playroom in my childhood home which afforded me privacy to enter my own little dreamworld, my phonograph, my album of Hans Christian Anderson stories told by Danny Kaye, artists like Danny Kaye who have the ability to bring those stories to life, and parents who had the means, the wisdom and the foresight to provide all of these for me. I would sit for hours in my playroom listening to many different albums which contained both music and stories. One of my favorites was “Tubby the Tuba” which is a perfect companion to last week’s post about the integration of reading skills and the arts.
In looking at the Common Core literature standards for Grade 2, I came across this standard: Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue. This is exactly what Danny Kaye does as he tells the story of an orchestra of which Tubby the Tuba is a part. Through this story students have an exceptional model of speaking in different voices indicative of individual characters but they can also learn many things about music.
One aspect of music this story makes accessible is the sound of various instruments. As Danny Kaye narrates the story changing his voice for the different instrument characters, a musician plays a short phrase on the actual instrument to demonstrate the sound of the instrument. Because it is simply part of the story, it does not sound instructive even though it is! Instruments that are singled out and named are the violin, piccolo, flute, trumpet, trombone, xylophone, cello, oboe and bassoon. Different sections are also referred to and given a chance to shine: strings, woodwinds and brass.
At two different points in the story a specific tune is passed around the orchestra played by various instruments. This is a wonderful way to introduce themes in music and how the same melody can sound different simply by the timbre of the different instruments. At another point, the violins are annoyed with Tubby. At first they “snap” at him and then they “quiver” with indignation. Then the whole orchestra erupts in “laughter”. The trombone sticks out his tongue and the listener gets to hear how a trombone slides and then the trumpets “snicker.” It’s a wonderful introduction to how different moods and effects can be created by various instruments.
Dejected and saddened that he didn’t get to play the melody, Tubby goes to the river alone where he meets a bullfrog who sings a tune that he encourages Tubby to try and bring back to his orchestra. When Tubby plays the tune for the orchestra the different instruments all want to try playing the tune. Of course Tubby is thrilled that he had a melody he could play to share with his orchestra and ends the story a very happy tuba.
Tubby the Tuba is a wonderful story about acceptance and belonging. It shows how individual differences are part of what makes a group great when those individuals use their gifts to work together. For just 99 cents on iTunes, your class can listen to this classic story as told by Danny Kaye and hear a great example of the power of changing ones voice to reflect different characters as the students utilize the power of the imagination to “see” the story unfold in their minds. In addition to all that, this story is a wonderful introduction to recognizing the sounds of various instruments, hearing how different the same melody can sound depending on the instrument playing the tune, and how instruments can produce different moods or sounds effects depending on how they are played. Ah, the beautiful sound of arts integration! For what are you thankful?
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.