Be Like Ella

We have all been there. The administrator is scheduled to come into our classroom for a walk-through or the formal observation. We have planned for every contingency, prepped the lesson, prepped the kids, anticipated every question and have rehearsed multiple answers to all of them, materials “are hung from the chimney with care.” We are READY!!!

Then Murphy’s Law strikes – anything that can possibly go wrong will. Or the correlary – things that work in theory never work in practice, things that work in practice never work during the game.

A trumpet has been part of my life since 4th grade, my undergrad diploma states that my major was music, education was my minor. Before becoming an administrator, I taught kids in the band and orchestra. Given a choice, will always listen to a live recording, (captured music) over a studio recording, (manufactured music.)

Live recordings capture the passion and enthusiasm of the moment. They are raw, unfiltered expressions of the musicians and the music. You can’t put make up over the blemishes, they are there for all to see.

A lot like our classrooms, on Observation Day.

In 1963, Ella Fitzgerald and the Paul Smith Quartet were in Berlin to record “Ella in Berlin.”

Like us, highly trained professionals. They had rehearsed and prepared for hours before taking the stage that night.

Then Ella forgot the words to Mack the Knife. And being a live recording, it is saved for posterity.

She couldn’t stop and start over. The audience was there and the quartet was playing. She had to improvise and come up with something.

Enjoy what she came up with…

Ella Fitzgerald – Mack the Knife

Did the critics pan her performance? Did the audience boo her off the stage? Did she feel like a failure after embarrassing herself in front of a packed house?

Quite the contrary! Because of that rendition of Mack the Knife, she won a Grammy for Best Female Performance on a Single and Best Female Performance on an Album. The recording is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

I try to share this with new teachers every year. Nothing ever goes as planned, and sometimes, our best moments happen when we rely on our instincts and training and improvise.

Let’s all work to Be Like Ella!

And so it goes…

2 thoughts on “Be Like Ella

  1. I love this recording! The track is absolutely amazing… Everything from Ella’s improvisation to the amazingly skilled musicians who are backing her up. I also love your blog post and the relevance it has to what happens in the classroom every single day. Thanks so much for sharing. Excellent work!


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