Indiana Students Find Common Ground for World's Largest Concert DVD

The 2009 World’s Largest Concert®  (WLC®)  sing-along event, a highlight of Music In Our Schools Month®, is March 12 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Visit here for more information on the WLC, which offers music educators an opportunity each March to advocate for their music programs.

Bloomfield students walk to the farm on a crisp fall day.

Jan Rittenhouse is the choral director at Jay County High School in Portland, Indiana, as well as two elementary schools in Bloomsfield, Indiana. When she sent home permission slips for her students to perform in the official DVD,  she got a pleasant surprise.  Rittenhouse discusses her school’s participation in filming their WLC segments:

Could you tell me a little bit about your concept for the songs you recorded? 

When I first thought about trying to be a part of the WLC DVD I realized that it would be hard to choose which songs to apply for. I had never applied before, but my students really wanted to try to be a part of the video this year. After looking at each one, I decided upon the three songs that I thought would fit my students the best. “J’entends Le Moulin (I Hear the Windmill)” seemed very appropriate because we have a large Amish community around here, and they have windmills, something our students see on a daily basis. They aren’t the big windmills like one might find in the Netherlands, but they are working windmills all the same.

The other song we did was “It’s Our World.” Every day, the students at Bloomfield recycle. It is a part of their lives. I envisioned the students being surrounded by all the recycling and singing the song. We have every type of recycling materials one might imagine. I also realized that would be one song we could film inside if the weather turned too cold.

Choral director Jan Rittenhouse conducts her students in the appropriate “J’entends Le Moulin (I Hear the Windmill).”

I love the photo of the children at the barn. How did you work to include the Amish children in your presentation? 

Our school has a large number of Amish as students. There were a few obstacles, as far as my idea for the video, which we would have to overcome if “J’entends Le Moulin” was chosen. One, the children would have to sing in French (I thought that would be a good challenge); two, I had to get permission from one of the surrounding Amish farms to film at their location; three, I had to arrange to get all 110+ students to that location; and more. Everything fell in to place! I was so excited that we got permission to film at an absolutely beautiful Amish farm that was easily within walking distance from the school (our school is in the middle of nowhere).

I sent the permission slips home with the students along with a letter explaining exactly what we were going to do. I was surprised when a number of our Amish children were given permission to participate. Those that could were so excited about it, as were all the other students. The Amish students who were not allowed to be in the video were given permission to walk to the farm with us and sing off to the side where they couldn’t be seen. All the Amish students participated in some way.

The Amish family that owned the farm said that as long as we did not videotape the house or any of their family members, they would be happy to let us use the barn and windmill. I never actually got to meet the family as our principal helped me make the connections. Some of my Amish students said they knew the family and/or were related.  While the farm was typical of an Amish farm, it was in a beautiful setting. I, and many of the teachers and parents who helped, decided we wanted to live there! When I first looked for possible locations I drove past this farm and saw the large windmill and the barn both sat on a hill. This I thought made an ideal way to place the students…built-in risers! Not having actually set foot upon the property, I wasn’t sure about actual placement, but when I got there early that morning I couldn’t believe how perfect it was for the taping. As I said above, everything fell in to place. The taping went on without any major problems.

Dressed in their blue Bloomfield shirts, students sing their way onto the World’s Largest Concert DVD.

Tell me about your teaching career and your involvement with the WLC in the past. 

I have been teaching music for many years. I started off teaching privately at my home during my early years of marriage and children. I then went back to school to finish my teaching degree and got a teaching job before I graduated.

I taught at Edon Northwest Local Schools for two years before my husband was transferred to our current location. Fortunately I found a position here immediately and I love it. I teach at two elementary schools every morning: Mondays at one school I teach K-2, and the rest of the week at Bloomfield where I teach K-5. I teach at the high school [every afternoon], where I have 3 choirs.

It was when I was at Edon that I learned about the WLC. I thought it would be a great experience for our elementary students so I arranged with my principal to do it and that year we watched the video on PBS and sang right along. Since then I’ve tried to get kids involved in some way every year. We plan to continue being a part of the WLC every year. Thank you to MENC!

 — Roz Fehr, March 12, 2009. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education