Reminder about our event this Saturday 9/16/17


Just like that, summer is over and September is here! And with that a new installment of Cali’s Monthly Musicing!

This month’s feature: Full-Time Faculty.
Check it out here:
We hope you enjoy! Feel free to discuss anything featured in the playlist down in the comments. And stay tuned for next month’s feature! 🙂
Happy Musicing!

Cali’s Monthly Musicing!

Welcome to the first installment of our new playlist series: Cali’s Monthly Musicing! This month features selections from our NAfME Chapter’s E-Board.
This link will take you to a YouTube Playlist listing all the picks:
We hope you enjoy! Feel free to discuss anything featured in the playlist down in the comments. And stay tuned for next month’s feature! 🙂
Happy Musicing!

Introduction of Cali’s Monthly Musicing!

Have you ever wondered what kind of music your professors listen to? 

Or what new artists your classmates have been uncovering? 

Remember that one song you’ve been looking to share with others?
Introducing Cali’s Monthly Musicing- a community playlist project designed to connect students, faculty, and musicians of the John J. Cali School (and beyond!) with our love of everything that is music!
Stay tuned for our first installment, featuring selection from our executive board! COMING SOON! Make sure to click the link to see more of a sneak peak!!

April Cali Column-“Everything I learned about hip-hop I learned from my students ” By Dr. Marissa Silverman

Everything I learned about hip-hop I learned from my students

Dr. Marissa Silverman

            Many times I am asked the important question, “What music should I teach future students?” But perhaps an equally important question is: “What musics will students teach me?”

Working at Long Island City High School (LICHS), in Queens, NY, with a classical music background, I was, quite sadly, under-equipped to teach multiple musics.  Sure, I could fake it, but doing so would do a disservice to the students I taught; it would also disrespect the music I hoped to explore. Why? Because musics are sites of relationships and engagements. And when we try to welcome others into those musical relationships and engagements, it’s important we, ourselves, have had authentic and meaningful experiences with those musics.

Imagine trying to introduce someone you don’t really know to another person. Sure, that person can be described by way of appearance, some obvious traits, and other characteristics. But, is this all there is to a person? Or, is there more? Of course there’s more. MUCH more! Same with all music. Just like I can better introduce one person to another if known personally, I need to know a music—from the inside out—if I want to help students form relationships and engagements with those worlds.

So, what do teachers do when, like myself at LICHS, we aren’t ready to authentically welcome our students into multiple musical worlds? One possibility is we flip the classroom so students become the experts in the room.

A good rule to live by is: Ask for help when you need it; sometimes, you’ll be lucky enough to get it. So, very humbly and honestly, I approached my LICHS students about my lack of knowledge when it came to all things related to rap and hip-hop. I said to them, “You know, I wish I knew more about rap and hip-hop. But I don’t. You think you can help me?” After asking, and at first, the students didn’t believe I honestly wanted them to teach me. But, I did! They knew something I didn’t. Why not go to them as the experts in the room? When they realized I was sincere, they began to teach. And I—and other students in the room who were, like me, under-equipped in all things rap and hip-hop—learned.

Indeed, many of them talked about rappers and hip-hop artists at lunch, in the hallways, in the stairwells, and outside the school. They emulated their favorite rappers by re-creating performances; they studied the ways rappers created their verse; they appreciated the way hip-hop artists sampled material from other musical genres; they “borrowed” their favorite beats and remixed them in creative ways. In other words, they analyzed, systematized, categorized, and re-energized rap and hip-hop in the same sorts of ways I would the music I love. So, yes, they were the specialists in the room when it came to such music and they had so much to give.

One of the most powerful things a teacher can do is seek out help from students. Doing so shows students a few things. First, it shows students that they are equipped in areas that their music teacher is not. Second, it shows students that their music teacher trusts them enough to be vulnerable; that teachers are people, too, who do not have all the answers all the time. Third, it shows students that things that matter to them matter to their music teacher because teacher-student relationships are relationships. And relationships, by their very nature, need to express and receive understanding and care. Imagine having a parent or friend who never wants to talk about or understand something that matters to you. What would that do to the relationship?

Like relationships between parents and children, the student-teacher relationship maintains differentiated power roles. That’s a natural consequence of this kind of relationship. But, flipping the classroom shifts the power. Students become the experts in the room, both by way of peer teaching—because not everyone in the classroom knows and values the same things—and also by teaching the teacher something of value.

So what am I now able to do, all thanks to my students? I can have informed conversations about differences between, say, Jay-Z and Kanye West; I can appreciate Eminem and—in the privacy of my own home or car—rap along-side him if I so chose; I can write my own verse and, at least in my own head, I can rap; I can hear how sampling in hip-hop can make or break a track; I can feel the profundity of a bass line in ways I couldn’t before; and I have my favorites, too—for reasons too numerous to mention here—such as A Tribe Called Quest, N*E*R*D, and Missy Elliott. I also can appreciate a way of being that I couldn’t before, a particular way of being that attempts to de-chain social, political, economic, and psychological constraints. Does this mean I find myself comfortable with all rap and hip-hop? No, that would be silly. Just like I’m not comfortable with some misogynistic operas, or overly affected art song, or virtuosic concerti that are devoid of content aside from champagne-like affect, I have my bones to pick with lots of rap and hip-hop. However, the point is now I can come at those issues with thoughtfulness, intelligence, and truthfulness, all thanks to my students.

Before being taught by my students, I learned about rap and hip-hop in books and, yes, I listened to some, all the while not really “getting it.” But, when I experienced rap and hip-hop through the eyes of my students—through empathy—I felt its values and importance. And when they taught me how to think and “be like” a rapper and hip-hop artist, I could learn through this music in ways that pure academic treatments of it couldn’t compare.

What students value outside school should be valued inside school. Within reason, of course. This doesn’t necessarily mean a music teacher should spend each and every day exploring rap and hip-hop in the classroom. Nor should she teach solely R&B, or the soundtrack to Frozen, or whatever students value outside of school. Of course not. The point is that we need to help all students find themselves through multiple musics, in as meaningful a way as possible. If and when we aren’t ready to do so, perhaps our students are ready. Why not give them the space to teach?

And, so, I continue to learn through rap and hip-hop from students, both past and present (named, here, with permission). Here’s two examples. Enjoy!

Will Ebbels has taught me more than I could have hoped for! He suggested I comb through The Rap Yearbook by Shea Serrano. Little by little, I have been making my way through this book as a listener. It’s been an amazing ride. He also shared with me the styles of numerous rappers and hip-hop artists, including Anderson .Paak:

Click HERE!

Jessica Finkelstein also introduced me to artists too many to name here. And I am the better for it. Thanks to her, I can feel through Chance the Rapper, as well as Jessica’s latest recommendation, Noname

Click HERE!

Do you have any professors you would like to hear from? Send us an email and let us know!

January Cali Column -“When Students Want To Learn” by Dr. Lisa DeLorenzo

When Students Want To Learn 

Dr. Lisa DeLorenzo

 This is an abbreviated chapter from my book, Sketches in Democracy: Notes from an Urban Classroom, published 2012.

What do urban students really want from school?  Despite what the public may have us believe, urban students do want to learn.  Look past the slumped figure, arms crossed at the chest, hood pulled down the forehead, “go ahead, just-try-to-teach-me face” and see instead, an active, creative mind.  Peel through the layers of defensiveness and studied boredom to find a cache of curiosity and wonderment.  There is something that makes every teen tick, something that gives way to profound interest, and something that generates excitement about learning.

At the urban school where I taught, that magic bullet came in the form of an electronic keyboard.  Just after the holiday break, fifteen music keyboards were delivered to the school, thanks to the generosity of our partnering university. A new calendar year had unfolded bringing with it opportunities to start over again.  The keyboards couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Students were fresh and alive from a long week’s break and nothing spells excitement like the chance to explore an instrument.  Not just any instrument, but one that teens associated with popular music on the radio and music videos.

Journal Entry (January 8):  Today was our first day with the keyboards.  When each student put on his/her pair of earphones the excitement was palpable. Although the room was silent except for the tapping of keys, the students were completely absorbed in their “play” (The task:  Find out what this instrument can do).  It was impressive. Shakura was dancing in her seat to a demo tape with a huge smile across her face.  Marissa kept yelling, “Guys, listen to this,” (with her earphones on she had no idea about the volume of her voice).

Of course some of the students immediately found “porno” sounds or at least that is what they imagined them to be.  The “DJ” button was another major hit and many of the students spent their time playing rap-like percussion music.  Their delight in the different sound effects was infectious and I found myself running from station to station, laughing out loud at their discoveries.


The smallest successes, like figuring out “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or discovering a new sound effect on the keyboard, created a sense of exhilaration that was simply contagious.   After the initial class, we began to create sound paintings through various colors and sound effects programmed into the computer.  Eventually students wanted to read music.  They wanted to play the music they loved such as the theme song from the movie, Titanic.   One student was particularly drawn to the music, Für Elise (Beethoven), and began to slowly and deliberately to figure out the melody by ear.  When others heard the music, they were enchanted.

From a democratic standpoint, preparing students to think intelligently and independently within a social context contributes to meaningful decisions that affect our society.  If we agree that these are the kinds of citizens that forward the common good, then schooling must teach both for content and for the dispositions that drive stewardship.

The “need to know” is an impulse that emanates from the student. The artist teacher taps into that initial impulse and flies with it.  Teachers begin to uncover latent curiosity by asking questions that provoke critical thinking and posing problems that do not always have clear solutions.  The more students become engaged in learning, the greater their tolerance for complex problem solving.  Along with this comes an increase in persistence, tenacity, and confidence in one’s ability to work through difficult problems.

We have to believe that great possibilities exist in each student.  Without such conviction, teachers continue to follow their familiar mechanized routines in planning and teaching the lesson.  Teachers who delight in their content and novel ways of engaging students, however, not only inspire reticent students but also keep that spark glowing.  It is this inner glow that reminds teachers why they went into teaching in the first place.