An Upstanding Citizen

by Teresa Jennings/arr. Paul Jennings

This upbeat swing tune has several things going for it - it's a partner song, it has a great big band accompaniment on the Performance/Accompaniment CD, it's incredibly fun to sing, and it has a positive message about character. Wow! That's why we decided to make this our issue opener. It's infectiously catchy and we think your kids will dig it (and so will you).

First, let's talk about the partner song aspect. As with most partner songs, there are two distinct melodies. They are introduced one at a time during the first two times at measure 13. The third time at the same point, the two melodies are combined for a neat harmonic joy ride. And because the song just seems to need to keep going even after the melodies are combined, it does! It goes into a drum solo which leads to a big shout chorus, and ends up with a wailin' big finish. Everyone in our recording session - from rhythm to winds to singers - really enjoyed this song!

Then, of course, there's that big band accompaniment. Usually by the fourth issue of the year, we're in the mood to put together a couple of juicy big band charts for you. Typically crafted as a team effort between Teresa and Paul, these tunes are some of our most popular - not just for teachers and students, but for us, too! As you can hear, Paul is a world-class big band jazz arranger. And yes, we've mentioned this many times before, in case you were wondering. (Hey, we're allowed. We have greatness in our midst and we know it!) In the case of "An Upstanding Citizen," the big band stays out of the way of the singers while their respective parts are being introduced, then combined. But during the intro and shout, the band really gets to shine! The tracks are driving, and should inspire your singers to "bring it on home!"

The fact that this song also has a valuable message for students is a big plus. The lyrics of the song are powerfully reinforcing for issues of character. We music educators know that music has the power to teach and reach young people unlike almost anything else in education. Here is another example of that very point. If you have a school that focuses on character, be sure to let your regular classroom teachers know what a great tool you have at their disposal. Bring it across the curriculum and you will be a hero! (Well, maybe for a little while anyway. As an aside, be sure to read our article about music advocacy in Quodlibet on page 63.)

Musically, the tune really moves along at a good clip. It's in cut-time, which doesn't feel too fast, but the quarter note is about 208 beats per minute! Part 1 is probably a little easier at first than the second part, though a couple of times singing along with the CD, and we feel certain your singers will catch on to both parts. Usually, our vocal part 2 lines are optional in our music. Not so in this song. Both parts are critical for it to work. If you want to use younger singers, consider supplementing them with a few older singers, just for support and foundational help. Maybe even a teacher or two can step in to join the fun! Whatever you do, make sure you stress the fact that the tune swings. That is, the eighth notes are triplet based. This is indicated at the top of the music and can definitely be heard on the CD.

Someone told us this song sounded like something a vocal group from the 1940s might have sung. So there's another idea! Select some older singers and make it a showcase for them. Throw in some period outfits and a few classic group movements, and you've got a spotlight moment for any performance.

By the way, our singers' favorite moment in the song was the very last word: Momma! Be sure to let your students bring it out a little, maybe punctuating it by a pose that they freeze on.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.