All posts by jackpelham

Orientation for Fall 2021 (Audio Recording)

We’ve canceled our orientation meeting for Sunday 12 September, and I’m publishing this audio message in its place. It’s just over 30 minutes, so it should save a lot of travel time for you. Please do listen to it before class starts on Monday, and your students should probably listen to it, too.

Please let me know if you have any trouble playing the audio. I’m not sure how well it’s going to work with a lot of people trying to listen over the same weekend.

Fall Orientation Audio–2021

We, Montana! Advanced Choral Groups to Sing Under the “Sing, Montana!” Banner

The first concert of our first choral group. December 2018. 7 of these singers are in the Freedom Choir picture below!

We, Montana! has grown a lot since we started with a simple homeschool chorus in the Fall of 2018–to the point where it gets a little complicated talking about everything that’s going on–and to the point that our website at wemontana.org is quite crowded! So we’re splitting off our two most advanced vocal ensembles, Freedom Choir and Women’s Chorus under the Sing, Montana! banner, and we’ve given them their own website at SingMontana.org.

Sing, Montana! also has its own YouTube page here. And we have a Facebook page here.

But we’re not going anywhere! We’ll still be rehearsing in the We, Montana! Great Room as follows:

  • Freedom Choir (mixed). Monday nights from 6:00pm to 8:30pm, starting September 13
  • Women’s Chorus. Every other Saturday or so, from 3-5pm, starting September 25
Freedom Choir’s most recent concert (17 May 2021)–including about 7 members who were in the original homeschool chorus pictured above!

In fact, we’re having an Open House for Freedom Choir so that we can meet some more good singers with which to build our ensemble from last semester’s 27 members to 50 (we hope!) by January 2022.

Would you please help us spread the word? You can read about the Open House events on our website here. And you can find the Facebook “Event” we started for this Open House here.

We’re building something really great here. Please consider sharing to as many as you can so that we can get off to a great start in our second season!

Fall 2021 Course Registration Is Open!

Registration for Fall 2021 is open, and we’re expecting our biggest enrollment yet! You can now register right away—and we are now taking online payment through PayPal. Courses are $60 per student per semester starting September 1, but if you pay now, it’s only $50. (You may pay by check on the first day of class at the $60 rate.)

Click here to see our list of course offerings.

Pre-Algebra: From Kid’s Stuff to the Good Stuff!

DESCRIPTION: A 2-semester course for middle-schoolers who have a good grasp on Arithmetic, and are preparing to move into Algebra.

Imagine a math class, taught by a young teacher who loves math, has a sense of humor, and who knows that the best answer to the question, “Why do we have to take Algebra I?” is not “So that you’ll be ready for Algebra II.” That’s what you’ll get in our new class, taught by James Pelham, 18 (assisted by Kay Pelham).

Not every society is great at everything, and the sad fact is that in our society, math is often taught by people who assume that kids will hate math, so they don’t try to present it as anything other than a drudgery that must simply be endured. But as it turns out, some grasp of math is not only necessary for math students in school, but for adults functioning in the real world. And most teachers understand that, of course–which is why math is a required subject.

What too few ever discover, however, is that math is a skill set and “mindware” that can help us to work some fascinating puzzles in this world, as well as to better understand how the world works in various ways. A good math education helps train the mind’s powers of analysis and problem-solving. When it’s taught well, math can be fun, fascinating, rewarding, and engaging—and it gives the well-rounded person an additional and useful perspective from which to better understand the world.

In Arithmetic, one learns how to count, add, subtract, multiply and divide. And in Algebra, one learns how to think about numbers and their uses in new ways. It’s not nearly as much about rote memorization as it is about understanding what all can be mathematically figured out based on the information we already have. In this course, James helps students to understand the basic strategies they will further develop in Algebra. So, we first make sure you have “the kid’s stuff” down, and we then help you start your journey into “the good stuff”!

Other Information

CODE OF CONDUCT
A Code of Conduct agreement is required for this course. This helps to ensure the positive environment in each class. This document is being updated and will be published this summer.

SCHEDULE
Tuesdays, 12:40 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The semester runs September 13, 2021 through December 6. (13 weeks)

TEXTBOOK
The textbook for this course will be announced by August 1. We are weighing various options, and would love to hear if our enrollees have any preferences. Please contact us here to let us know.

MATERIALS NEEDED
You’ll need the following:

  • notebook with paper
  • pencils
  • 1/4″ grid graph paper (one pack)
  • 12″ ruler
  • calculator with exponents and root functions (Phone apps are fine.)

CAPACITY
12 Maximum
5 Minimum

LOCATION
This course meets, as do all our courses, in the We, Montana! Great Room.

INSTRUCTOR
James Pelham, assisted by Kay Pelham

FEE
$100 for the full year. You may pay the whole $100 in advance, or $50 by September 1 and then $60 by the first day of class in January.

REGISTER FOR THIS COURSE HERE.

SKITS PERFORMANCE: May 6 & 7, 2021

At the We, Montana! Great Room. 5055 Jellison Road, Unit 7 C.

TICKETS ARE $7 IN ADVANCE OR $10 AT THE DOOR–AND SEATING IS LIMITED.
BUY YOUR TICKETS BELOW!

↓ ↓ ↓

We’ve been getting ready all semester, and now it’s almost show time! This semester’s final Skits performance is a witty joyride of a show, with something for everyone. Take a look at our program–which you can download (PDF) with a simple click just below!

Here are some fun shots from our shows over the last three years.

ADMISSION / SEATING
The Great Room seats 65 in general admission ($7 in advance, or $10 at the door), auditorium-styled seating (chairs and pews). Or you can reserve our exclusive booth for your party (of 1-4 people) for $50.

TARGET AUDIENCE
We think our family-friendly show is best suited for teens and adults, though kids as young as 6 or 7 would probably have a pretty good time!

SCHEDULE
We’re running the same show, two nights in a row. (Thursday, May 6, and Friday, May 7.) The house opens at 6:30 p.m., and the show’s at 7:00 p.m. It’ll be done by about 8:30.

PAYPAL
When you purchase your tickets through PayPal below, please know that you don’t have to have a PayPal account. You can use your debit or credit card as you would for any other online purchase.

Tickets for Thursday, May 6th at 7:00 p.m.

USD



Tickets for Friday, May 7th at 7:00 p.m.

USD

Singing/Vocal Workshop

FIRST WORKSHOP–Saturday 10 April from 9-11a.m.
in the Great Room.
To register, see the obnoxious green box at the bottom.

I’d like to start a free occasional singing workshop for members of Homeschool Glee Club, Skits Workshop, and Freedom Choir. I don’t know how often it might meet, but it seems smart to start with one session, and then just go from there. Perhaps it turns into a once-a-month thing. Or eventually, maybe it gets enough participation that it runs weekly, and people just come when they can. I do, however, see some distinction to be made at some point, regarding what level a singer is starting at—as I would definitely approach a class of novice singers differently from one for those who’ve been singing for a while.

Anyway, we’ll figure that out. But the first session, I’d like to schedule for Saturday, 10 April 2021 from 9-11 a.m at the Great Room.

It’s a workshop, where everybody participates in various exercises, including that you’ll have to sing some song for the class so that I can coach you—and everybody else. For example, the hard line that you’re not able to sing smoothly, we may have the whole class try so that it’s a practical experience for everybody. Each singer may spend as much as 5 minutes up front. For some, this is a deal breaker, as they’d find this terrifying. The alternatives, however, seem to be these:

  1. Just don’t ever learn to sing well. Or,
  2. Pay $45 an hour for private voice lessons. Or,
  3. Gradually figure out on your own over the next few years what a good teacher could teach you over the next few weeks.

I’ve run such sessions before, and find that they’re very effective and successful for most students (not all, mind you, but most)—-but that the public in general will NOT sign up for such a class unless they already know a bunch of the others in the class. (Such as that they’re all members of the same church, wanting to improve their singing with a view toward being involved in the music ministry.) Well, that’s a bit more what this one’s about; it’s for people who are already in Glee Club or Freedom Choir (though you could bring other friends if you wanted)–so a lot of you know each other and are already singing together.

Yes, it’s scarier to be the one up front, but let me remind you of the third verse to my song, I’m Gonna Be All Right:

I hate to feel embarrassed;
I don’t like that ugly feeling;
But it’s gone in a minute
And I’m gonna be all right!

Interestingly, it’s that emotional aspect—the inner psychological battle—that seems to be the number one obstacle that most voice students face. If they can’t overcome it at least or private lessons with a vocal coach, there’s very little chance of them ever learning the skills. And besides that, how in the world are you going to perform for an audience when you can’t perform for a sympathetic coach or classmates?

And on that note, let me tell you what I’ve witnessed historically with this class. The first two sessions, everybody is scared to death. After that, lots of bonding happens as people share the nervous experience together, and by the end of a (10-week) semester, most are able to get up and sing in front of the class without the emotions ever being much of an issue. They might report feeling nervous–and have the jitters in the abdominal muscles—but they can get through it just fine, and are grateful that they decided to go through with it.

Now, to be perfectly clear, I’m not suggesting that we start a weekly class for 10 weeks, but just a “try it once and see” event.

We’ll work on things like these:

  • Breathing exercises.
  • Vowels
  • Breathing exercises.
  • How to sing big leaps, such as “A—mer-i-ca, A—mer-i-ca, God shed his grace….”
  • How to add more notes to the top of your range.
  • Breathing exercises.
  • How to have a consistent tone throughout your vocal range.
  • How to sing with a rich tone, as opposed to a whispery tone.
  • How to avoid muscle tension in the voice.
  • Ping/Snarl/Mask
  • Singing in different styles.
  • Breathing exercises.
  • Word painting
  • Word stress
  • Word Emphasis
  • Melodic line
  • Sing & See software—for analysis of pitch and resonance
  • Breathing exercises.
  • How to sing out loud.
  • And if there’s any time left, we’ll work on breathing.

I trust you perceive the pattern here. The breathing is so important that once I had (finally) grasped it with my own best teacher, I knew I could perform my repertoire well if only I could manage to breathe in performance as well as I had learned to do in her studio. So I said to her right before I went out for a mini-recital: “Well, let me go out here and breathe for these people!” And I did!

To register your interest in this, or any future session, join the Remind.com class (under We, Montana! Homeschool Group): @singingwor

And please be a pal and write me back a one-liner in the Remind thread that alerted you to come check out this page. And by the way, when you reply with emojis at Remind, I’ll never see them—but if you will use your words, then I get them every time. Thank you very much!

Homeschool Glee Club and Kids’ Choir Accepting New Members Mid-Semester

With COVID settling down somewhat, we’d like to take another stab at recruiting for the Homeschool Glee Club and for Kids’ Choir. We started the semester with fewer than 16 (which is our normal minimum enrollment) in each of these ensembles, but we’ve recently had a couple more join, and are interested in re-working the remainder of the semester to include other new members.

Ideally, we’d like to find another 7 or so, to bring us to a full 20 before our semester-ending concert on April 27th.

Tuition is $40 for the full semester, but given the late date, we’ll accept new students into this class for only $20.

Those already in these two ensembles, especially, are encouraged to invite their friends. Having said that, however, it’s an open enrollment period, and there’s no need to have an invitation to join us! And we hope that as COVID concerns are easing, we’ll get some quick takers. We’ll only leave this enrollment open for one week, so don’t delay!

Great Room Donation Needs for 2021

We’re in the fourth calendar year of our existence, and we still have a few items left to “finish” our Great Room space and equipment needs. It seemed useful to post a list here so that donors who are wanting to get involved can see how they can help. Just to put it in perspective, the list below totals at just over $10,500.

This is the model of (used) “mini-grand” digital piano we hope to acquire. It’s a Roland KR-977.

DIGITAL MINI-GRAND PIANO — $3,350
Our less-than-idea piano keyboard has died, leaving us in the lurch with an even-less-sufficient keyboard. What we really need is a digital mini-grand piano (since an acoustic piano couldn’t survive in the hot/cold cycle in our current space.) We could buy a new mini-grand for about $6,000 plus shipping, but there’s currently a very good used one for sale just four hours away for $3,200, plus about $150 gas money for the trip.

COMPUTERS, NEW OR USED –$?
We could make good use of up to three PC computers, running Windows 2010 or later. We need one for lighting controls, one for audio/video, and one for livestreaming on social media. We had personally used a donated machine, and now we have to bring in our own machines everytime we come—but as we get more sophisticated, our own machines aren’t enough anymore. We don’t need fancy ones, so most any computer (that’s running well) will do. Chances are very good, then, that donated used machines would suit us very well.

SEMINAR TABLES (NINE) — $220
We’ve just received a generous donation for $500, and plan to put it toward the purchase of nine seminar tables (8′ x 18″) so that we can begin to offer paid seminars in the Great Room. The total cost of the nine tables we need, plus shipping, is $720. So that leaves us only $220 shy!

RADIANT TUBE HEATER — $1,500 – $2,000
The Great Room is a converted warehouse space, with a natural-gas box heater that hangs from the ceiling. It makes so much noise when it’s on that it wrecks the acoustics in the room, and ruins not only our concerts, but even regular class meetings and rehearsals. We’ve done so much to improve the acoustics already that the heater is now the primary target in going to the next level. After studying the issue for some time, we’re convinced that a radiant tube heater is the best solution, and we estimate the cost of having a new one installed to be at $1,500–$2,000.

CONSTRUCTING AN ELEVATED LIGHTING/SOUND CONTROL BOOTH — $2,000 – $2,500
We’ve been working toward moving all the controls for our lighting and sound equipment to the back of the hall, and currently have a temporary table set up on the floor level. But the goal all along has been to build an elevated deck, eight feet up, to house all the equipment, to give the technical crew an unobstructed view, and to maximize the floor space below to increase audience space. Our plans call for an 8’x12′ deck, 8′ up, with a ladder-style access. It would also have some enclosed storage space below for our new seminar tables and for excess classroom chairs. The remainder of the underside would house our existing restaurant booth. We estimated this project in Spring of 2020 for about $1,800, but with lumber prices up, we expect it to run somewhere between $2,000 and $2,500. We’d do the labor ourselves—unless somebody wants to donate that, too!

PAINTING — $200 – $500
We’ve done a LOT of painting, but we still have a little more left. We still have half the ceiling to paint flat black. And we’re going to change the West wall from green to blue, and the North wall from green to red. Further, we want to strip the earlier painting attempt from the concrete floor and try again, starting with acid etching and an industrial grade epoxy coating. We’re prepared to supply the labor, but would be happy to have someone else supply that, too!

MACKIE 16-CHANNEL SOUND MIXING BOARD — $500
For our new control booth, we need a new sound mixer and amp. (See just below for the amp.) The mixer has the features we need and is a cost-effective industry standard. Mackie Mixer.

1000-WATT POWER AMP — $140
We’re currently using an 8-channel powered mixer, which we’d like to move to the stage to power monitor speakers there. And this means we’ll need a new (or used) power amp up in the new sound booth. There are lots of suitable amps out there. Here’s an example that would suit us just fine. Rockvale Amp.

FURTHER STAGE ADDITIONS — $500
We’ve just completed some big improvements to our stage, and we need to bring it to completion by adding one more 16″-tall trapezoidal section (4′ x 12′) to the front/center. This will make it possible to do the piano recitals we’re so excited about, and it will further facilitate both our Skits and Choral programs. Further, we need to build two small portable steps for entering the stage from the front side, as well as three 96″x 18″ x 8″ box risers to sit atop our existing stage for back-row choir elevations. Depending on the cost of lumber this could all be done for under $500, we estimate.

ADDITIONAL DMX STAGE LIGHTING INSTRUMENTS — $360
We’re currently using a mixture of 16 digital (LED) DMX-controlled stage lights and 10 standard LED floodlight bulbs (in clamp lamps). We’d like to complete our capabilities by replacing the floodlights with another 16 DMX instruments. They sell in 4-packs for just under $90 per pack.

FOLLOW SPOTLIGHT — $500
While there are limitless specialty lighting devices we could use here and there, one standard device we don’t have is a follow spot, such as is used to track a performer moving across the stage. The one we want has multiple colors and is DMX compatible, so that it will work with the rest of our professional lighting system.





In Search of Student Interns to Learn and Operate Sound and Lighting Equipment

As our program gets more and more sophisticated, we find ourselves in need of capable students to run our lighting and sound equipment. We’re offering a few FREE internships in hope of meeting this need. We’d like to have as many as four interns who could be trained by Jack and James Pelham during actual rehearsal times earlier in the day, and then to be available to run lights and sound during our Skits Workshop later in the afternoon, as well as at special events.

TRAINING TIMES

Ideally, we’d like two interns each for training during these rehearsal times:

Continue reading In Search of Student Interns to Learn and Operate Sound and Lighting Equipment

We, Montana! Christmas Gathering & Singalong

It’s been a crazy year, so we’re going to end it on a high note! Come join us for some good, old-fashioned Christmas fun!

When: Monday December 14 at 7:00 p.m.

What: An in-person party with live entertainment that’s live-streamed on Facebook.

Why:

  • Tree decorating
  • Refeshments (You being ’em!)
  • Singalong with the Last-Minute Christmas Choir (Join below!)
  • Debut performance of the Sing, Montana! Freedom Choir
  • Live skits
  • Peace, love, harmony, and fellowship
Continue reading We, Montana! Christmas Gathering & Singalong

Coming Soon: Homeschool Glee Club!

NOW POLLING FOR INTEREST!

Our first chorus (2018/2019 school year) was for ages 9 and up,
including parents–and was quite like our new Glee Club will be.

It’s been a crazy COVID year, but as soon as things calm down enough that sufficient numbers are ready to enroll, we’ll be starting a new choral ensemble, the Homeschool Glee Club! It’ll be much like our original chorus in the 2018/2019 school year. Here are the quick details:

Continue reading Coming Soon: Homeschool Glee Club!

We, Montana! to Change Directions for Fall 2020: Suspends Classes; Starts Podcast

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 situation has created lots of upheaval in the educational world, and even at this late date, many parents are still uncertain as to how they will proceed for Fall 2020.  Consequently, our We, Montana! enrollments for Fall are down such that moving forward with our classes is simply impractical.  As a result, our Board has decided to suspend all course offerings for now while looking hopefully ahead to January or September 2021 to recommence, provided the situation is better.  We regret this disappointing situation on behalf of all the people it affects, but we’re determined to make lemonade from the lemons that COVID-19 has handed us.  Since we can’t fill up our classes with students, we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity to rework our strategic plan so that we can build another area of our intended outreach ahead of schedule, while hopefully raising enough financial support in the interim to keep the rent paid on our dedicated classroom space (the Great Room) .

Continue reading We, Montana! to Change Directions for Fall 2020: Suspends Classes; Starts Podcast

MOVING AHEAD FOR FALL 2020!

WE’RE MOVING AHEAD WITH IN-PERSON CLASSES AND A REDUCED FEE STRUCTURE

We, Montana! understands that it’s hard to know how to proceed in these crazy times, so as part of our mission to facilitate homeschooling in the Billings area, we’re implementing a new pricing policy for Fall 2020, and we’re moving forward with in-person classes for those who are interested in getting out during COVID-19.

Continue reading MOVING AHEAD FOR FALL 2020!

To All Parents: Assembling Parent Testimonials

As you may know, we’ve been making a big push this summer to spread the word about We, Montana!  And thanks to the help of several of our older students, we’ve put together some great videos to help spread the word.  Meanwhile, however, I think there’s a real need to get some parent testimonials out there, too.  I’m thinking about putting together a video slideshow of written parent testimonials, and also about posting the same copy on a simple page on our website. 

Continue reading To All Parents: Assembling Parent Testimonials

Website Updated for Fall 2020!

Our Skits Workshop Summer Day Camp included a little painting time!

We’ve been very busy getting ready for the Fall, and there are many new things going on. I’ll start posting registration announcements all over social media today—and we sure could use your help to spread the word.

These are difficult times, to be sure, but we have high hopes that we can keep things going at the Great Room.  With all this in mind, then, a successful Summer recruiting push is crucial!

Meanwhile, here are some brief bullet points about what’s new this year:

Continue reading Website Updated for Fall 2020!

Beginning Band Discontinued; Recorder Band to Commence?

We are sad to announce that we’ll no longer be offering Beginning Band for the time being. This post will explain why, and will suggest an alternative.

It’s no secret that we’ve had concerns about our beginning band program for some time now. The issue is that on a one-per-week class schedule, it takes too long to complete a thorough beginning band program. This causes two particular problems:

  1. Too few students reach mastery of the various skills in a timely manner—such that it’s hard to feel like they’re “getting anywhere”.
  2. We only have so much time available on the schedule, so if a Beginning Band class takes longer than a year to complete, this means that we can’t bring in a fresh crew of students every year.

As We, Montana! continues to evolve, we recognize that it might be possible at some point in the future to have a two-day band program. (And that would be at least three times better than a two-day program.) You may have noticed that even for Fall 2020, we are now breaking over into Tuesday mornings with two new courses being offered then. But for band, we’d need to get into a position where the classes were at least two days apart, if not three. (For example: Monday/Wednesday or Monday/Thursday.) Obviously, fewer families would likely be interested in a two-day schedule, as it is more demanding schedule-wise, but if we’re ever going to offer band again, we want to “do it right”. And when the standard school band program out there runs five days a week, two days looks a lot better than one day–and three days looks even better! So obviously, we’re not quite ready for that.

RECORDER BAND
We have a reasonable alternative in mind, and have just this morning begun to float the idea of starting a Recorder Band on Monday mornings. And this may “kill two birds with one stone”. Since the recorder is much easier to learn than most other instruments, a once-a-week course would be much more effective in one academic year than would Beginning Band. Further, since everyone would be playing the same instrument (the recorder), much less class time would be spent singling out individual sections during rehearsal.

The “other bird” a Recorder Band would address is the need for all our chorus members to learn to read music. We simply don’t have the time in chorus to learn it, but it’s really not all that hard to do, and Recorder Band would be a great setting for doing that. And when a chorus all know how to read music, their rehearsals are much more efficient, because they’re no longer teaching notes in rehearsal.

Another benefit is that where Beginning Band starts at 10 years old, Recorder Band starts at 9. So, we’re excited to have more offerings for those younger students. And just as Beginning Band was open to parents who want to dust off their old horns, or to start fresh, Recorder Band will be open to parents as well.

It remains to be seen how well-received the Recorder Band will be, but we hope it proves to be very popular, because it is certainly needed. Some students have some piano lessons under their belts, which means they’ve been learning to read music. And while piano lessons are a fantastic pursuit, learning to read music for singing is less demanding still. So we hope that the Recorder Band will be a crowded class.

What if you already play recorder and want to join? Well, it’s up to you whether you’d be bored with it or whether you could be patient as we start from the beginning. It’s a two-semester class, so it lasts a full academic year. And by that time, we’ll have some students with a solid grasp of the recorder, and some others who have become more virtuosic with it. So don’t be surprised if recorder solos start popping up in some of our choral pieces–or even if we put together an occasional multi-part recorder ensemble to play a piece now and then in a Christmas concert, for example.

If you’re interested in Recorder Band, please do let me know ASAP as I’m right in the middle of wrangling the Fall schedule into shape.

And before I close this post, let me say again how regrettable it is that we couldn’t move forward with band. It was great fun, and it’s a shame to shut it down.

Great Room Meeting. 26 April

Here’s an audio recording of today’s meeting about the future of the Great Room classes. You’ll have to sign up for a free account at buzzsprout to hear it. Sorry about that, but the file is too large to host at our website or on Facebook.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1044103/episodes/3518002

Important Meeting: Sunday 4/26 at 3:00

In these difficult social/political/economic times, the future of the Great Room is in doubt. I’m calling a meeting, therefore, for all parents and students who would like to discuss what it will take to move forward. If there is a way to keep going, it’ll likely be figured out on Sunday, so if you’d like to be involved, please find a way to attend. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of playing wait-and-see through the summer, so now is the time to be proactive.

The meeting is at 3:00 p.m. in the Great Room, this coming Sunday, April 26.

I have sent out a notice about this post through the Remind app. Please do let me know in advance if you plan to come.

Thanks!

Jack

Homework for Etiquette Class. 17 March

I have an excellent film in mind for the Etiquette Class—for those whose parents approve of them watching it. The film is The Freedom Writers (imdb.com), starring Hillary Swank. Kay and I found the film to be quite “clean”, considering the subject matter. But we realize that each family will want to make that judgment call themselves. (Here’s a complete review of the film’s material.)

Why? The film deals with basic human respect and the sorts of fears and biases that often get in the way of that respect. It details the experiences of rival factions in a high-divided inner-city school, and how one teacher is able to unify her classes by getting them to focus on what they have in common, as well as to get them to focus on the bigger picture of world events. She tells them of “the biggest gang ever” (The Nazis) and the Holocaust, showing them that their own experiences are nothing new in the world. And she gets them writing about their experiences, such that kids who were afraid to share anything in the beginning, became quite willing to share their thoughts by the end. She’s able to get them to overcoming the de-humanizing habits of factional thinking, such that they become good friends with one another.

This has some obvious connections to the whole subject of etiquette, as it is primarily an exercise of respect for others. So here’s the homework assignment for those who will approve of their students watching this particular film:

I’d like to see a short essay of the student’s response to the film—what he or she thinks and feels about the story and the experiences of the students in the story. How long does it have to be? Long enough to get the job done.

Due on 1 April. Essays can be submitted to me via Facebook Messenger (as an attachment), or via email at jackpelham@wemontana.org.

Parents–you know your kids best, so if you’d rather that your students not see this film, please just send me a line to let me know that I should not expect to see an essay from them.

The Freedom Writers is currently playing on Netflix. It’s also available free on Amazon Prime at present.

Homework for Public Speaking Workshop. 17 March

I had been hoping that we could watch My Fair Lady together as a class, but that seems highly unlikely anytime in the near future. Given the situation, therefore, I’d like to suggest that each student watch the film at home and write a summary of what Eliza Doolittle learns about how to improve her speech.

Unfortunately, a brief search for the film at Netflix and Amazon Prime yielded no results, but I did not search any other streaming services. I did find, however, that the DVD can be bought from Amazon for $6.79. I hate asking anybody to spend money in this chaotic time, but it’s not much, and it may be less than the gas money you’d spend coming to and from class. So please participate if you can. Meanwhile, I’ll be watching it to refresh my memory in preparation for reading the summaries that are submitted, and we’ll discuss the summaries in class whenever we meet next. It’s a long film (170 minutes), so you’d better get plenty of popcorn.

The goal of the assignment is to get students thinking about the various reforms that Eliza makes in the movie, as well as about the effect her speech has on others, both before and after her transformation. I hope everyone can participate, and I’d like to suggest a due date of April 1. (Summaries can be sent to me as attachments through Facebook messenger, or to my email at jackpelham@wemontana.org.)

How long should the summaries be? They should be as long as it takes to cover what details Eliza has to deal with to improve her speech. I’d also like to see a paragraph or two on the student’s thoughts about the overall transformation Eliza makes.

Rehearsal Aids for Where Is Love?

This is the first arrangement that our new Women’s Chorus will be learning. The part tracks are below, and since this song has lots of long/sustained notes, the piano sound isn’t always the best for rehearsal tracks. So I’ve provided two versions below; try both, and use your favorite one the most. The first set has all the parts played by piano, while the second set uses mixed choral voices.

Using Piano Sounds

All three parts (SSA)
Soprano 1
Soprano 2
Alto

Using Choral Sounds

All three parts (SSA)
Soprano 1
Soprano 2
Alto

Tag-Singing Party! (with Hotdogs)

For those members of our Community Chorus who are enjoying the Barbershop Tags we’ve been playing with—here’s a party just for you! We’re going to have a fun meal together, and then spend a couple of hours singing just for fun.

TAG-SINGING PARTY

Friday, 13 March, 2020
6:00 Great Room opens
6:30 Dinner is served
7:00 The singing begins

We’ll provide the hot dogs–and we’ll buy the healthiest buns and wieners we can find! We’ll also provide bottled water.

YOU bring chips, or a side dish, or a dessert, and whatever you’d like to drink. ALSO, we need condiments, so here’s a list of what we need, and as people tell me (privately) that they’ve got things covered, I’ll remove them from the list:

1. Ketchup. (Or perhaps, Catsup, provided it’s fancy enough.)
2. Mustard.
3. Relish.
4. Chili. (As a topping)
(Everything else—chips and side dishes and such, we’ll just leave to pot luck.)

Q&A

May I invite friends and family to come sing with us?
Yes. If you’re pretty sure that they can sing in tune well, that would be super-cool! (Otherwise, it all gets rather messy and it’s not as fun! So it’s your call whether to bring them or not.)

When will it be over?
About 9:00, or whenever we get too tired of singing. Or whenever we get tired of talking after—or of playing Foosball.

Do I need to RSVP?
Yes! I need to know how many are coming so that I can have enough hotdogs and water on hand. Please contact me here to let me know as soon as you can.

How will the singing go that night?
Well, we’ll sing mostly as a big group (however many that is), but if some want to try some tags in quartets, we’ll take the time to do that, too.

Will we need sheet music?
No, I’ll provide what you need—some in print, and perhaps we’ll learn a couple by rote.

What if we would like to look at some sheet music in advance so we could practice our parts at home before we get there?
Then I’d say you’re one of the coolest people in the world! Let me know you’re that cool, and I’ll see about getting you something to practice.

Will there be door prizes?
Funny you should ask! Yes, there will be a drawing from among those who seem to have the most Barbershop Harmony enthusiasm (as assessed by Mr. Pelham). The winner gets a brand new pitch pipe!

Do you need to borrow my gas grill for this event?
Yes! Thanks for asking! Please contact me and we’ll work it out!

What if I don’t have any questions? Does this mean I’m not a cool person after all?
Wait, ask me that question again, but slowly. Then ask yourself whether you really don’t have any questions.

Special Public Speaking Movie

Parents and students of the Public Speaking Workshop—

I previously posted on Facebook about scheduling a special movie night for the Public Speaking Workshop students, but I got zero responses. So I’m trying again and will post this announcement on the website, and on Facebook, and will sent out a notice of it on Remind. Please respond ASAP as it is not a very effective strategy simply to schedule a date and then hope people show up. If possible, I’d like to get the ENTIRE class assembled at once to see this movie outside of class hours (along with whatever number of other people—including parents—comes to watch).

So once again, I’m going to suggest a date and I want you to please respond ASAP as to whether you can attend.

TENTATIVE DATE: Friday, February 28
TIME: 6:30 p.m. sharp!
MOVIE: My Fair Lady
DESCRIPTION: The film is the story of a famous speech professor who takes on giving speech lessons to a British commoner as a bet. He eventually gains respect for her as she masters the lessons. The film is about 3 hours long, so we should be done about 9:30.

Please RSVP here—whether you can come or not.

Friday Night Painting Party!

This Friday, 21 February
4:00 until 9:00 p.m. or until it’s done, whichever comes first.

I’m having a painting party Friday afternoon/evening. Here’s what that looks like. It looks like me painting, along with whatever other qualified help shows up. Meanwhile, whatever OTHER people show up are having fun playing games and eating whatever snacks they brought! (I’ll supply popcorn and water bottles.)

I could use as many as 4 or 5 OK painters. We’re painting the interior of the bay door green. We’re also painting mortar lines on the brown closet walls. These are almost certainly not tasks for folks under 12 years old—and maybe not every 12-year-old is up to this, either—but probably a lot would be at that age.

So please do let me know if you can come, just so I’ll know what to expect. It’ll go a LOT faster if I have help. And even if I don’t have lots of help, it’ll be a lot more fun to paint during a party than all by myself in the Great Room!

New Communications App Now in Use!

Parents, to increase our efficiency and effectiveness in communication, we’ve just set up ten new “classes” in the “Remind” app. We need all parents with smart phones to go get the app and to register for those classes that pertain to them and/or their students. You’ll find our school listed under “We, Montana!”. You can download the app here.

For most new posts we make here, we’ll send out the appropriate notifications on the Remind app so that you’ll be informed immediately of things that pertain to you. So please go take a few minutes to look through the ten “class” options there—one of which is for “Weather Closures”, by the way.

Movie Night: THE MUPPET MOVIE

*THE* HANDS-DOWN BEST VALENTINE’S DAY MOVIE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY!

Movie & Games Night
This Friday, February 14th!
7:00 p.m.

Yes, that’s Valentine’s Day.  I know this movie night is really exciting, but if you have a big date planned already, don’t forget about it and come to this movie and games night instead.  That would be bad, and we accept no responsibility for you standing up your date—although it IS The Muppet Movie, and there IS Foosball (and other games), and there will be snacks.  And yes, there is a romantic thread throughout this movie.

SPECIAL OFFER TO PARENTS OF CURRENTLY-ENROLLED STUDENTS.
You’re totally welcome to join us for the movie, but if you want to drop off your We-Montana-registered students for our movie/game night and go have a quiet dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’d be happy to keep them occupied while you’re gone. (Just be back no later than 10:00 p.m.)
Sorry, this offer doesn’t apply to anyone who is not already enrolled in our classes.

Film starts at 7:00 p.m. sharp!  House opens at 6:30.

We’ll supply (microwave) popcorn and bottled water. 
You bring some snacks.
(“You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself!”  Who knows what I’m talking about?)
You can also sit in any comfortable chair you bring, because we’re cool like that!

Here’s the “Event” on Facebook. It would be really swell if you were to mark yourself as “Going”—if indeed you intend to come. Thanks!

Kids’ Chorus to Start in Fall 2020?

Interested? Let us know!

We’re looking hard at finding a way to start an auditioned kids’ chorus for Fall 2020. The idea as it stands right now is to create a new performance group (as opposed to a music class), made up of kids from 7 to 10 years old. We’d be singing mostly 1- and 2- part songs, and probably collaborating with the We, Montana! Community Chorus on some of their concerts. (The upcoming May 17 concert, in which our General Music Class will be singing 3 numbers will serve as a bit of a prototype for this.)

Continue reading Kids’ Chorus to Start in Fall 2020?

Beginning Band Parents Meeting

Parents,
I just posted the following on the Facebook group for Beginning Band—and I think that most of you are in that group. If you are, would you please join the discussion there? And if you’re not, would you please message me through this website’s contact page to let me know when you can meet? Here’s the Facebook discussion.

Thanks!
————————————————

Parents– I’d like to have a brief meeting sometime soon for parents of those in Beginning Band. It seems that the group is plateau-ing somewhat, and I think it would be good to get together to discuss it. (Since we’re trying to do in one day what public schools do in a 5-day program, we’re going to have to work a little smarter and harder, it seems, if we want to get similar results.) So could we please have a discussion below about when we could get together for such a meeting? Let me kick it off this way–with a proposed date for starters—and if that doesn’t work out, we’ll figure it out from there. How about from 9-10 a.m. on this coming Saturday morning, February 15th?

General Music Class to Sing in Chorus Concert!

Parents,
I’d like the General Music class to sing three numbers in the chorus concert on May 17th, so I wanted to start communicating about that. It will be a very special concert at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in Billings. We’ll need to figure out what they should wear—which can be a challenge! So I’d like to have some conversations about that. And I’d like you to please confirm ASAP whether your kids are available for that concert.

I think that most everyone in this group is on Facebook, so I’ve started a new “group” there where we can have easy discussion. Here’s the Facebook Group Page.

Meanwhile, here’s the Facebook “Event” posting for the concert.

Please join the new Facebook group right away so that we can better communicate about the class and the concert.

Thanks!

Jack

Chorus Concert Scheduled for May 17

We’ve scheduled our semester-ending chorus concert at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in Billings. We had a fantastic rehearsal there last week to try it out, and the church has enthusiastically responded to our request to have our show there. We’ll announce more as the date approaches. Further, we’ll be heavily marketing this event to try to fill the hall—and particularly to fill it with those who may be interested in joining our chorus for Fall 2020.

A huge thanks to Bethany Elkin for spearheading the exploration and booking for this event!

FYI, here’s a link to the “Event” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/638345856966709/

Homeschool Chorus Changes Name!

The We, Montana! Homeschool Chorus is now the We, Montana! Community Chorus. We are now in our fourth semester, and sound better than ever. So good, in fact, that I think we’ll be able to go recruit the help we need to fill out our full choral sound. We’re so thankful to the handful of parent members who have joined us, and we’re looking to recruit a few more adults from the community—in addition to the continual recruitment of new and qualified student members.

We’ll be keeping the ratio of new, non-homeschool adults fairly low, mind you, because we don’t want to change the “feel” of the current group dynamic from what it is. So we’ll be looking to add maybe two new non-homeschool folks into each section. And I suspect that our upcoming semester-end concert will help a lot with recruiting them—as well as with continuing to build the number of homeschool student members we have.

Weather Closure Notifications in Process

Parents and Students,

I’m in the middle of implementing a new messaging technology through Remind.com. I hear that the service is really good, but having just entered in names and phone numbers for all who signed up to be on the text message list for weather closures, I see that the invitation message (over which I have no control?) is rather poor. It reads:

Hi ______, this is J. Pelham. I’m using Remind to send important updates…..

Most of you have probably already received a text message like this. Please respond to it. It’s legitimate.
Also, there were a handful of students signed up as well, and I’ll be entering those numbers into the system in the next few minutes. So they should be receiving similar messages shortly.

Thanks!

Jack

Skits Lite Night: Monday, February 17th

I’m excited to announce that our Skits Workshop cast & crew need a guinea pig audience—-and you’re it! We’re working toward a semester-ending big show, but we need some time in front of a live audience to get some experience with that’s like. So we’re putting on a sampler show, showing three of our skits early as a preview of our final show. In return, you provide normal audience-like behaviors, so we get to learn how to pause for laughter when it happens, how to keep going when expected laughter doesn’t happen, and so forth.

Continue reading Skits Lite Night: Monday, February 17th

Chorus Field Trip! Class Schedule Slightly Altered for February 3rd

I’ve been talking for months about how nice it would be to have better acoustics in the Great Room. Well, now we’re going to go on a field trip so you all can see for yourselves what I’m talking about!

On Monday, 3 February, the chorus will have its rehearsal not in the Great Room, but at St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral in downtown Billings. Please read the following details very carefully:

SPECIAL REHEARSAL DATE / LOCATION
Monday, February 3
12:10 p.m. to 1:30
LOCATION: St. Patrick’s Co-Cathedral (See Directions)

IMPACT ON OTHER CLASSES (Only the two classes listed below are impacted. General Music, Beginning Band, and Skits Workshop will meet as usual.

Public Speaking Workshop. This course normally meets from 10:25 to 11:40. For this special day, it will end 10 minutes early, at 11:30.

Etiquette Class. This class usually meets from 1:50 to 2:45. For this special day only, Etiquette will start 10 minutes late (2:00) and will end at the regular time of 2:45.

GREAT ROOM CLOSING FOR THE FIELD TRIP
For this, the Great Room will close promptly at 11:35 (right after Public Speaking). It will open again at 1:50 (ten minutes before the delayed start of Etiquette at 2:00.

NEED A RIDE?
We realize that some of the students who spend a lot of the day at the Great Room may need a ride to St. Patrick’s and back again. Whether they’re in chorus or not, we’ll be happy to try to find rides for them to go with us both ways. I’ll start a discussion about this on the Facebook page for the chorus. (See it here.)

THANKS!
Thank you, Bethany Elkin for arranging this with St. Patrick’s! I would not have gotten to it this early if left to my own devices. You’re such a champ for getting this done!

Parents’ Meeting Tomorrow!

This is a reminder about the mandatory parents’ meeting tomorrow night:

Parents’ Meeting
7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Great Room
5055 Jellison Road

In a perfect world, we could get EVERYBODY here at once—both parents, along with the older students. But if only one parent can come, we completely understand. Also, some of your students are of the age where they either are or should be starting to “take ownership” in their own schooling, as well as in our classes/programs here. So we encourage them to come, too. What’s the right age for that? Well, we’ll leave that to your judgment. Meanwhile, if there’s a way to leave most of the more-restless younger ones at home, that would be great—but we fully expect that at least of few will need to bring them, and that’s just fine!

We will begin and end promptly, so we really hope everyone will get here a few minutes early. And then you can stay afterward as late as you like for further discussion.

Parents’ Meeting Postponed/Rescheduled

I apologize for the inconvenience, but a scheduling problem with work forces me to postpone the parents’ meeting that was scheduled for this Saturday morning, 11 January, from 9:00 to 10:30. My client in Havre scheduled more work than I could get done without delaying my return to Billings, and it’s just not practical to delay the work. The meeting will be postponed, then, to the following date and time:

Monday Night
20 January
7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

As a reminder, this crucial meeting will be aimed largely at improving communication with parents and at informing everyone of the particulars of the upcoming semester and of our progress toward incorporating and achieving federal tax-exempt status. In a perfect world, all parents could attend, but we’re hoping that at least the primary educator parent can attend. Further, we’d be glad to have particularly our older students in attendance. More and more of them are “taking ownership” in what we’re doing, and that’s exactly the mindset that we want to encourage.

This meeting pertains to all six courses on our current schedule. Please do RSVP via our Contact Page as soon as you can so that we know that word is getting out.

Mandatory Parents Orientation: Saturday, 11 January

As we continue to “sharpen the saw”, we’re adding for this Spring semester a mandatory parents’ orientation session on Saturday morning, 11 January, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Great Room.

This is for the parents of all enrolled students, across all our course offerings (or any thinking about enrolling). The goal is to explain briefly what each course is about, how it’s going, and what would make it better. We also want to iron out the communications/email process once and for all, as communication was spotty last Fall. Further, we want to be sure that parents have a good idea where We, Montana! is headed and how we plan to get there.

So please plan to attend this very important session. If both parents can come, that’s great. If only one can come, we really hope it’s the primary home educator. Your students are free to come with—and especially the older ones, as many of them are “taking ownership” more and more in what goes on here!

We, Montana! Classes to Remain Mondays-Only For Now

We had previously floated the idea of initiating some Tuesday courses in the Spring 2020 Semester. We have since decided, all things considered, not to pursue that expansion at this time, but to focus our attention more on the growth of the fledgling nonprofit corporation and the development of other projects that aren’t directly related to our Great Room classes.

We do hope to expand to a 2-day schedule sometime in the future, but it won’t be this Spring.

Meanwhile, Monday classes resume on 13 January.

New Public Speaking Workshop for Spring 2020

We’re making a shift in our Monday course slots for the Spring 2020 semester. Our Intermediate Band class has dropped below the attendance threshold, so we’re replacing it with a Public Speaking Workshop, which course was a big success when we ran it a year ago.

This course is capped at 12 students, with a minimum of 8. It’s for ages 12 to 18 years old. (Sorry, parents, but only kids are allowed in this one.)

Mondays from 10:25 to 11:40 a.m.
January 13 through April 27.

This is not a debate class. Nor does it involve speech writing. Rather, this course, is simply about learning to effectively use the voice and body to speak excellently-written material. It’s largely about getting enough public speaking experience to feel confident, and especially about some of the most basic of fundamentals, such as learning to speak loudly enough to be easily heard.

Students will learn a series of excerpts from famous works, and will work toward a semester-end recital. There’s a Code of Conduct so that everybody knows what sort of behaviors are expected of everyone. And even though we run a “tight ship” in this class, there’s a lot of humor! It’s one of the funnest classes you’ll ever take. And it’s also a really good starting point for those who might like to audition for the Skits Workshop next Fall.

There’s no audition for this course, but I do ask that we talk it through before signing anybody up. Believe it or not, we’ve had students sign up for classes of this sort, and then refuse to do anything in front of the workshop on day one. So entry into this class is only with teacher approval after a good talk with the parent and/or student.

To start the discussion about enrollment, please contact Jack Pelham here.

Road Report: 9 December 2019

All classes are a “go” for today, but judge for yourselves whether or not to travel.


See the latest road report.

I drove from Laurel to the Great Room at 5:30am today and here’s what I found:

  • Laurel to Zoo Drive: Lots of black ice. 45 mph proved to be a safe travel speed.
  • Zoo Drive to South Billings Boulevard was much clearer. 55 mph was safe.
  • South Billings Boulevard / Blue Creek was in surprisingly good shape all the way to Jellison.

I’m looking forward to seeing whoever makes it out today!

Jack

Adjusted Schedule for Monday Classes

Thank you all for the outpouring of prayers and sympathy on the occasion of my father’s death. I found out Sunday evening and promptly canceled Monday classes, expecting that we’d be flying immediately to Florida. But as it turns out, they decided to postpone the funeral until next Monday, December 1st, on account of this being a holiday week. So naturally, classes will be canceled for the 1st also.

These things happen, of course, and obviously, this makes quite a wreck of our semester-end events. So here’s plan going forward. If you’re all willing, on Monday, December 9, all classes will meet for a last class session for the semester. Then we’ll move the special events (bands, chorus, general music, and skits) into late January or early February—which will give us a chance to make up for lost rehearsals at the beginning of the next semester.

I want to begin the January semester on Monday the 13th. So I’ll figure out some exact dates and times in the next day or two and will post those.

Please let me know via email if your students can make it to class on December 9. (There may have been some confusion for each class regarding which Monday was supposed to be the last day of the semester.)

CLASS-SPECIFIC NOTES

Chorus. If you will please keep practicing at least a little through the end of the year, we should be in pretty good shape to pick it back up again on January 13 and to prepare for a concert in 3 or 4 more rehearsals. That, on top of a good rehearsal on December 9 will put us in good shape.

Skits. If you will keep working on memorization of your lines, and can come to class on 9 December, we’ll plan a for-family performance for February—AND a second performance of the same show, where we charge admission. It’ll be an experiment for us to see if we can figure out how to earn our own keep a little bit. I’d like to sell 100 seats at $5 each.

Beginning Band. If most of you can come to class on December 9, we’ll start learning the Mo’ Better Blues and have a legit concert in late January or early February.

Intermediate Band. We’ll learn Mo’ Better Blues, too, and will play along with the Beginning Band in the concert mentioned above. You can also do your solos then, and we’ll perform Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (and perhaps one of hte others) for the concert.

General Music. If you can come to class on the 9th, we’ll have lots of fun, and we’ll sing a couple of Christmas songs—and we’ll practice the Montana State Song so that you can sing it in the early-Spring concert along with the big chorus!

Parents. We still have a large number of parents (over 20) who are not getting our email notifications of new articles that are published (like this one). This presents a considerable difficulty for us, as it’s hard to figure out who is not getting notified. Would you please go be sure you’re signed up to get the notifications, and that they’re actually WORKING? And if you think they’re not working, we really need you to check your spam/junk filter to see if they’re in there. If we can’t communicate with you reliably, it makes it very difficult to navigate the semester—and especially the concert season.
To be super-clear, we don’t just need for YOU to be satisfied that you’re getting our messages; we need you to tell US you are. And if you forget to do it, then we think you’re not, so we have to look for a way to contact you separately to find out. So please take a few minutes to let us know your status.
You can sign up for notifications (the first time) here. And you can edit your preferences here.
Oh, and please be sure you’re signed up for notifications for EVERY class your kids are taking—as well as for the Weather Closure category, and things like Movie Night and Talent Show (if you want those). The more we can be sure that everybody gets the posts they need, the easier life is for us all!

Homeschool Talent Show and Christmas Party. It’s still on for Monday, December 16! It’s not too late to sign up an act. Just contact me!

Movie Night. Movie Night is still on for Friday, December 20! We’re showing White Christmas. If you don’t already have plans for that night, please come join us and have some Christmas fun.

Classes Canceled for Monday 25 November

As many of you know, my Dad has been hanging on for many months now. I just got word, however, that he has finally breathed his last. So Kay and James and I will be heading to Florida for a few days, starting tomorrow, if possible. This means all our classes for tomorrow will be canceled.

It probably also has implications for our upcoming concerts, but I’ll wait a little bit before making those decisions, and will get back to you shortly about all that.

Jack