Educator: Robert Yaple, band director and general music teacher
School: Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts (Chicago, IL)
Program: St. Louis Ocarina Pilot Program
Robert Yaple, band director and music teacher at Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts in Chicago, was one of our invaluable partnering educators throughout our pilot stages. Mr. Yaple is a prolific and established musician in his own right and has just completed his first year integrating ocarinas into the fourth grade curriculum at AACA.
“As a clarinet player, I was curious about the instrument. My intrigue into the world of ocarina was reflected by my students, and together we had a journey full of growth and musical exploration,” says Yaple.
After years of teaching recorder, Yaple was looking for a fresh way to make instrumental music accessible for beginners. “The recorder sometimes gets a bad reputation from students, parents and teachers alike,” states Yaple, “Starting with ocarina feels like starting with a blank slate. There is less bias from the start.”
Yaple tested the ocarina method with his fourth grade students, hoping to build transferrable skills that would build towards playing future band instruments. Yaple had two separate sections of fourth graders with 26 students in each class. Each class met with Yaple two times per week.
Using lesson plans provided by STL Ocarina, along with his own curriculum, Yaple seamlessly integrated ocarinas into the fourth grade music curriculum. “Pedagogically speaking, all of the same folk melodies and rhythm exercises that I use for teaching recorder and xylophone still apply to ocarina. Being a C instrument, I was easily able to incorporate ocarinas into an Orff-Schuwerk xylophone piece, with students taking turns playing mallet percussion and ocarina.”
Yaple says his students loved learning a new instrument and took on ocarina with 100% effort. ”The ocarina is an inexpensive instrument that provides learning opportunities for young musicians. Even more than the recorder, the size, shape, and durability of the ocarina is perfectly suited for classroom use. Many students and parents found the timbre of the ocarina to be less abrasive than that of the recorder, which can be an important factor for students still developing mastery of covering tone holes correctly. The ocarina also has the advantage of being less common in school music programs and my students found this to be alluring.”
Yaple plans to continue the ocarina program at AACA stating that the opportunity has led to a meaningful musical experience for everyone involved.