Masks – Masks and Music Education

| September 16, 2012 | 11 Comments

Music Education and Masks

What a wonderful combination, especially when it is involving music education. Of course I would say that because I am a educator of music in the elementary schools.

In other posts I have mentioned different job types. Creating and making masks was not really a job I was hired to do. I did it because I wanted masks that would last in my classroom. Masks that could be washed and used for a good many years.

In my second year of teaching I found a delightful song, “Animal Crackers in my Soup.” I did not realize it was a song Shirley Temple had sung in one of her movies until I began to teach it to the little students of mine. Several children said their parents had these old movies in which the song was sung. I was impressed that the old movies I used to enjoy are still around today.

Any way, the book I found the song in, suggested using paper masks to help depict the different phrases of the musical melody. When we refer to different phrases in one piece we elude to the term: Form. Music has many forms, i.e.: A  A  B  A or A B A B A etc. The letter A represents one phrase and the letter B represents a different sounding phrase. There can be many different phrases in a piece of music hence, using more letters.

“Animal Crackers” has this form:  A B A B C D A B.  The book suggested different animal faces for the phrases, A=monkey, B=rabbit, C=lion, and D=tiger. Paper masks were suggested, so that is what I made. Those masks did not last long.

Shirley Temple

Cover of Shirley Temple

What to do?

Masks – good masks – for my music education class.

Searching in stores only led me to poly form and plastic masks. That was not going to work for me.

At a music work shop one weekend a presenter had bear masks made out of felt. A light bulb went off.  That is what I wanted to do. I created the masks from felt.

An on-line search led me to the understanding that at one time there was a business that sold felt masks, but they were no longer in service.

The animal felt masks were a hit. I had attached elastic across the back for the students to be able to wear them. When they were singing the masks were slipped to the top of their heads. The masks worked real well in the class room, so I incorporated masks for the skit: “The Little Red Hen” the kindergartners performed in the spring time.

At another music work shop I shared the masks I had created and made. One of my friends suggested I put the masks on sticks for the students to hold in front of their face. That protects the masks from getting head lice, or facial body fluid. What a great idea. I was hoping I could sell my creations, but no one seemed too interested.

One summer I took my masks to Las Vegas, Nevada. I participated in an Orff Workshop there. The presenter was very impressed and I gave her a mask for every animal I had. She was incorporating some of her lessons to other music educators using the masks, hoping to help me sell what I was making. No one seemed interested then either. I was not real disappointed because when school is in session I really do not have a lot of time to sell masks. They require an hour of time per masks and nobody really wanted to pay for the time.

Two years ago we had a music convention in Spokane, Washington and our Orff chapter helped make the items for the “Boutique”. The Boutique is where a couple of chapters make items that can be used in the class room. These items are sold and the money is used for the convention and what money is left is divided among the chapters who supplied the items. Everyone wanted me to make the animal masks. I sewed 150 masks over the summer. With in the first day of the convention every mask sold. They were sold for $6.00 a piece. People raved about them. I even had a school  district in Nebraska make an order for $1,000.00 worth of masks. That took me the whole other summer.

The experience taught me that it is very time consuming and not very profitable. It was flattering that everyone loved my creations though.

Next level – Masks and the Theatre.

Music Theatre of Idaho performs 6 to 7 musicals every year. I am a flute/piccolo player and have volunteered to play in their live orchestra on numerous occasions. It’s fun to play in their group and the music is fun as well. I have always enjoyed musicals. Last year they performed, “Children of Eden”. The musical featured the Garden of Eden in the first act, with many animals being created and the second act featured Noah and the Arc. They wanted animals masks. I mentioned what I had been working on and there was an interest there. With the help of the director I made the masks larger and more showy for the stage presentation. The Theatre supplied hooded sweat shirts and attached the masks with felt to the hoods. The children who wore the sweat shirts pulled the hood over their heads with the mask on it. They turned out very well.

Since then I have not sewed masks. I do have a storage of felt waiting to be used. One of these days I will make an abundance and display them in different schools. They would be well used in libraries, kindergarten classrooms, pre-schools, and day cares. I just have a hard time focusing all of my efforts in that area knowing that my time is not well paid for. It is a fun past time though.

Masks and Music Education.

My students love them. We use them in songs, plays and creating different rhythm patterns. They take turns with the different animals and enjoy dancing with them as well.  It is fun watching them create and have fun with simple props such as





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