Teaching with Quaver: Brass Instruments

by Abby @ Quaver on January 24, 2012

in In the Quaver Classroom!

At Quaver HQ, we just love teachers who take the resources we’ve created and truly run with them – building on their expertise as an educator and really inspiring their students!

Cindy with Quaver and Steve Gilreath in Houston!

Texas teacher Cindy Austin does just that with her elementary general music classes!

Today Cindy shares how she uses Quaver in her classroom, specifically in teaching her students about the Brass Instrument family!

Take it away, Cindy!


After teaching music for more than 20 years, I’ve had the nagging fear that I might eventually turn into that teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoon. You can hear it, can’t you?

 “Wanh, wanh, wanh,wuh-wahn, wahn.”

But that won’t happen now.

My passion for teaching music was reignited last year at the Texas Music Educator’s Association Convention where I discovered real excitement and authenticity in the resources from Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music.

Soon enough, my students discovered it too! Now, I tell everyone I know that Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music totally changed how I teach music.

I’ve always loved to teach but Quaver provided a new, radically different springboard to discovery! I can now fully engage my students and capture their attention in ways I always wanted to but never quite had the time or energy to pull off.  I let Quaver be the zany music teacher I always dreamed of being with bits of dough and pipes and spaghetti all over him rather than me! If you haven’t seen these episodes, you’ll understand more once you do.


With Quaver in the mix, here’s my new recipe for musical engagement when teaching The Brass Family!

Lesson Objective:

(insert your district or NAfME standards here)

  1. Brass family instruments – Trumpet, Trombone, French Horn and Tuba, their timbres and attributes.
  2. Playing/experiencing/listening to/analyzing/evaluating and describing music and performance / understanding historical, social, cultural relations to music and life.

Introductory Activity

I have a Tuba sitting upside down, smack dab in the middle of the room! Everybody bustles in while I play a track of brass music and students take their seats in anticipation. Check YouTube for music you might like – but one of my favorites is the Canadian Brass: “Flight of the Tuba Bee!”

I show kids my trombone mouth piece and just blow through it as if I’m playing a great song as the music finishes – quite dramatic! Then I get all my kids to make a circle fist and blow, too – but we notice, no real sound, to which I make a big “raspberry” then smile – put the mouthpiece to my lips and blow again, encouraging everybody to make a motorboat sound (without tongue) into their “hand mouthpiece.” I play a rhythm, they echo. I tighten my embouchure and get them to try and imitate. I repeat several times until we are dizzy and laughing.

Then I reach into the tuba case and pull out 3 other mouth piecestrumpet, French horn and tuba, setting them on the floor in front of the tuba – anticipations builds again.

Quaver Episode

A definite audible roar begins as I turn out the lights and turn on the DVD player; the Quaver theme song launches to great applause! We watch the Quaver episode together – I sit and watch with my kids and interact some, too.

I love watching over and over, finding new elements each time or laughing at the jokes that only the teachers will totally get. They are there! Someday, I may truly be able to decipher all of Graham’s British euphemisms!

The end of the video is always a mixture of laughter and sadness that it’s finished. I ask kids if they can tell me what instruments those mouthpieces might belong to. I get out the other 3 instruments, still in cases and let students guess.

Then I do a quick demo of each instrument. Now believe me, I am NO brass player, but honestly my kids don’t care! Seeing the real thing is totally cool, hands down. Many days, with antibacterial wipes and spray in hand, I actually let kids try to make sounds as well!

I ask kids to tell me one, amazing NEW thing they didn’t know before they watched the video. I truly love some of their answers – “I didn’t know Quaver’s mustache was higher on the right!” I let them vote on their favorite instrument with applause as I hold my hand over the instrument one at a time and declare a class brass winner.

By now, their teacher is standing outside waiting while the kids groan that the class is over, but I promise – more brass next week . . .

More fun with Brass:

  • I cue up the Brass Quintet section again, from the video, and have kids listen with their eyes closed. I see if they can raise their hand every time they heard the high trumpet melody.
  • We’ll head to QuaverMusic.com, go the Classical Music Hall venue and listen to the great brass section in “Symphony Fantastic” by Berlioz. Perhaps we’ll take turns conducting like Quaver had us do on our Quaver Tempo Day.
  • 4th-5th grade students will be reminded of the brass bugle charge, “Degüello” as they listen to the music Santa Anna’s men unleashed that fateful day the Alamo was attacked.
  • 2nd-3rd graders will be wowed by a beatbox sousaphone selection from YouTube as they compare it to the sound of a tuba.
  • My younger students will enjoy listening to tracks on QuaverMusic.com and matching the instrument pictures to the sound squares in the Interactive Whiteboard Activities in our Brass Family Online Quaver Classroom.
  • Plus, I’ll be sure to use the Quaver Quiz as a wrap up or review!

Perhaps I’ll even sneak in one of my all time favorites – “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and I will soon be overwhelmed by kid-hugs as students exit the music room, still buzzing from the genuine love of music that we all shared again.

Thanks for sharing Cindy! Keep up the great work!



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