My Personal Code
by Teresa Jennings
The beginning of this song leads us to believe that it will be a gentle ballad. One soloist shares his philosophy with the audience to the strains of a delicate piano accompaniment. Just as he's coming to the conclusion of his statement, the entire piece changes abruptly (with a large crescendo) and becomes a rock tune with a driving pulse.
We deliberately chose an older boy (Reid Morgan on our recording) for our solo at the beginning. We think that the message of this song is particularly helpful to young men who are struggling with choices at this time in their lives. Perhaps hearing a fellow male sing these words will inspire. Of course, the message is equally valuable to all young people, regardless of gender.
On the recording, you will hear our usual superb rhythm section and winds, including the incredible alto sax solo work as performed by Jim Farrelly. The style of the song is easy to get into and should make learning it fairly accessible for most students.
The second vocal part, which enters at the D.S., is optional, though we feel it adds a lot to the piece. If you are uncomfortable dividing your entire group, perhaps you could select a few individual singers to represent the countermelody. Older girls are strong candidates for this type of thing, in our experience.
The claps, which are indicated on the music, are also optional. But they fall readily into place, so your students will probably enjoy adding them. Again, you can have a smaller group of performers doing this, if you prefer.
While the beginning piano part is certainly playable, the rest of the tune (once it turns to rock) would be best performed either using our recording, or with your own live rock band. Drums, guitar, bass, and piano are minimum requirements. An alto sax to play the solos would be a wonderful addition, if you can swing it. Multiple guitars would also work well, especially if you don't use any other winds to thicken the textures. If you do use other winds, you can write lines for them based on the piano score, which is a reduced instrumental score for the most part.
You could also add some non-pitched percussion to your performance whether you use the recording or your own live group. Cowbell is a natural. Quarter note hits on the beat would do nicely. Tambourine doing a sixteenth note pattern during the chorus would also work well. Consider what other percussion you have and build it in as you can.
If you like the idea of the visible rock band, but your players lack the skill or maturity, why not let them play along with the recording? It will give them a sense of security and reinforcement as they play. Or, you could just have a pretend band mimic the actions of a rock group along with the recording. Also an effective tactic. (By the way, using this rock band - real or otherwise - for the entirety of this musical revue isn't a bad idea. It adds an element of continuity to the visual, as well as adding to your setting and production ambience. All of the tunes in the revue use a rock rhythm section, so it wouldn't be a stretch. Besides, your players would enjoy it a lot, we suspect. Think about it.)
The real meat of this song is in the lyrics. In fact, it's so powerful, we suggest you find a way to make sure your audience understands them, too. (Just because they are grown-ups doesn't mean they couldn't use a little reinforcement themselves.) You could print the words in your program. You could have "cue cards" displayed by designated students so that the audience could not only read the words, but eventually sing along. Or you could project the lyrics up onto a screen or white backdrop on the wall. Add a "bouncing ball" or other icon to follow along as well.
In this case, bringing character across the curriculum is easy, thanks to the magic of music. As your regular classroom teachers study this emphasis, be sure they have this tool at their disposal. Encourage them to discuss the lyrics and their meanings. If each student could recognize his own power to design his own personal code, that would be a major step in his positive character development. And that is, after all, what all of this is about. Since schools have been asked to help with this topic in such a proactive way, be sure that your school takes advantage of the resources you, the music teacher, can bring to the table. (Another phenomenal testimonial to the power of music is in your hands!)
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.