Getting Rhythm

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PDF video transcript: Getting Rhythm

Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), Juneau, AK

Lorrie Heagy, program director

The spirit of El Sistema-inspired work is not limited to teaching groups that perform; El Sistema principles can also be infused into teaching in the general music classroom.

Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) provides the entire diverse population of students at Glacier Valley Elementary School with rich musical experiences. In this video, Lorrie Heagy draws on a variety of pedagogical strategies to teach third graders — who have just begun to play recorder — about rhythm and notation. To engage everyone, including struggling learners, she uses five key elements that she tries to incorporate into every lesson: movement, emotion, relevance, novelty, and pattern or familiarity.

Her story about the rhythm family includes all of those, and makes abstract musical symbols concrete and easy to remember. The class then applies what they learn by working as an ensemble on a group composition for recorder, using cups of different sizes to represent different note values, and Post-its of different colors to represent different pitches.


  • Ensemble music-making is at the heart of all learning — both musical and social.
  • Programs both serve and respond to the needs of a community, as well as build on the assets of a community.


  • Engaging students through movement, emotion, relevance, novelty, and pattern or familiarity.
  • Using story to make abstract symbols concrete and easy to remember
  • Beginning to compose in a group, using cups to represent notes with different values, and colored Post-its to represent different pitches
  • Motivating students using levels of mastery


The musical activities in this unit address the following Anchor Standards of the National Core Arts Standards:


  • Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work
  • Organize and develop artistic ideas and work


  • Perceive and analyze artistic work


  • Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art
  • Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding