Jedi Music

A Resource for the Beginning Elementary Music Teacher


Mystery Singers: How the Legend Began

One of the best ideas I ever came up with was the "Mystery Singer". In my building, Mystery Singers are a great way to promote our music program, and they enthusiastically perform for the school each Friday morning.

Once upon a time, almost five years ago, our principal was spending long hours digging in the earth around our school. No, foul play is not a part of this mystery story, he was searching for a long-overdue-to-be-exhumed time capsule, which was buried in the spring of 1986.  The expiration on this capsule was 20 years, and it was late fall of 2006 before our principal finally unearthed it.  I missed the big day, along with the assembly that followed because I was on maternity leave with my second child.  Among other treasures of the 80s was an original school song, composed by a previous music teacher.  On my first day back to school after my maternity leave, the copy of the song landed on my desk, along with a request to "do something with it."

Hmmm. OK, then.  What to do? I didn't want to take a lot of class time to teach the song, because I wanted there to be a purpose for learning the song.  But, it didn't seem like a good song for a performance either...Then I started thinking about a first grade teacher I knew who had parents be "Mystery Readers" and surprise their children by coming to the class to read a book. Could "Mystery Reader" become "Mystery Singer"???

Mystery Singers version 1.0 started out with adult volunteers, and boy, was it DIFFICULT to convince adults to sing the school song as a solo on the morning announcements for the school to hear! My volunteers who started the Mystery Singers were our security guard, physical education teacher, one third grade teacher, one fifth grade teacher,  one reading specialist, one brave parent volunteer, and myself.  Although each singer was met with great excitement and anticipation by the students, I only averaged one Mystery Singer per month back then!  As we limped our way to the end of the year, I knew that I needed to modify the Mystery Singer concept if it was going to continue. Every other staff member made it painfully clear to me that they had NO INTENTIONS, not now or ever, of singing for the school on the morning announcements.

Enter Mystery Singer version 2.0...when it started getting really good! At the beginning of the next school year, I began asking student volunteers to be Mystery Singers. Well, live and learn, I was suddenly SWAMPED with volunteers! Once-a-month Singers became a thing of the past, I then began making Mystery Singers a weekly event.  I started introducing new singers each and every Friday morning, and their identities are not revealed until Monday morning when our secretary reveals them on the morning announcements.  If the students want to, they give me a clue to their identity that I print and post on the music room bulletin board for the week preceding their performance.

Each new school year begins with the sixth grade volunteers who have not been Mystery Singers yet.  Usually, it takes until January/February to work through all of these students, each of them getting a chance week by week.  Next, I begin on my fifth grade volunteers, and I have plenty of those to last until the last day of school in June! Any students who do not get a chance as a fifth grader know that I'll be giving them their chance when they return the following year in the sixth grade.

There are so many benefits (some have been unexpected!) to the Mystery Singer program:
  • Promotes school spirit and unity
  • Revived an old tradition, and introduced a new one
  • Students teach each other the school song in oral tradition, week by week, year by year
  • Involves everyone...about half of my volunteers do not choose to sing in our school chorus, but they don't mind being a Mystery Singer!
  • Well over half of the volunteers are BOYS! Very surprising!
  • Gives an unique opportunity for singing in front of a group, without seeing the fifth and sixth grade students like singing into the microphone alone in a room where they don't have to face the audience!
I recognize each Mystery Singer with an award displayed in the music room until they graduate from our school; then they receive their award at our Sixth Grade Banquet.  For some of my students, this may be the only award they receive beyond the "Completion of Studies", which helps them feel more recognized and also promotes our music program.

Today's Clue: Can you guess the singer's identity?


  1. Wow! That is a really great idea. I like how everyone is involved and music is seen as an integral part of the school spirit. Very nice!

  2. Thanks, Teresa! It really has been fun for everyone..and I'm hoping to expand Mystery Singers in my new school assignment this year. I'll soon be posting on the progress of "version 3.0"!

    I think that the current TV culture of America's Got Talent, American Idol, and the X-factor are also inspiring more students to try out their singing voices.

  3. I truly do not see the value of this.

  4. Anonymous: Maybe I didn't explain this clearly, sorry...but the excitement this generates for the whole school while they look forward to hearing the Mystery Singer each Friday is really special. Besides the benefits that I listed, it really stretches the students' comfort zone and actively involves more students (often ones who are not active in our performance groups) in music.

  5. I'm a fifth grader and I really wish they had this at my school!