Learn Now Music, Inc.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Return on investment

Cost per use was discussed a couple posts back, now return on investment…what are all of these statistical, mathy terms doing in a music blog? A lot, is the short answer!

Musicians of all sort and manner, professional and amateur alike, are not only performing countless analyses of time and space, dissecting information on the page and turning it into algorithms of sound. They are not just vibrating columns of air at finely tuned intervals to create soundscapes so amazing that listening can bring audiences to tears. They are getting something out of it, too!

Now, normally, return on investment (ROI) is a very simple term that means what you sell a product for minus its cost and then divide by that cost, which gives a percentage return. It’s a simple way of analyzing how good a deal is – how much profit was made on a transaction.

Since most people do not make their living as musicians, a simple monetary ROI is going to look, at first blush, rather paltry (I paid how much for music lessons for my kid!? And what do I have to show for it?!).

But if we get a little creative with our terminology here (and really, who in statistics and finance doesn’t), then it’s pretty easy to see what a great deal learning and playing an instrument (and, gasp! taking music lessons!) really is.

We know that learning an instrument, and being part of a musical group (choir, band, orchestra, what have you), do great things for our brains.

Music helps us think critically, notice and analyze the little details.

Music also helps us think creatively and quickly – you can’t stop and fix something in the middle of a performance!

Music helps us see how our little part fits into the larger part...and isn’t that the whole point? Not just of music, but of everything – of life in general?

So, if we expand our idea of return on investment to be not simply monetary, but humanistic, then it becomes abundantly clear that the return on musical involvement is incredible. And of course, the greater the investment, the greater the return!

Get started on your investment today! The Music Momma

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

2014-15 School Year

2014-15 School Year

Well, the school year is now upon us. We’ve got new teachers. New students. New schedules, new classes and schools and routes and activities and, and, and.

The beginning of the school year is equal parts exciting and stressful. We’re trying to figure everything out, get everywhere on time, make sure everyone is happy and healthy and not too anxious or frustrated or worried or, or, or.

In the midst of all the hoopla, among the ands and the ors, it can help to take that proverbial step back, and regard what we are actually doing (and why).

Why do we have new teachers? So we can have a new perspective on what we need to learn next.

Why new students? So we can help them learn!

Why new classes? So we can learn more.

Why new activities? So we can learn more in other ways!

As with so much in life, if we can put our world into perspective, then we can understand and gracefully work through the issues we have no fondness for. We can also more deeply appreciate the great parts of our new schedule – the new route to school that passes by the really cool old building with fantastic architecture; our new teacher’s interesting plan for the class officers; the tortilla pizza dinner that’s not only delicious, but can be prepared in under five minutes!

Here’s to all the big things and all the little things that will make a great, exciting, wonderful (and hopefully only slightly stressful) new school year!

Let's have a Musical Year! The Music Momma

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cost per use

A friend of mine was looking online at accessories one day – handbags, I believe. She wasn’t looking at anything ultra designer fancy – just a standard department store selection. Her husband saw the average prices, and couldn’t keep from commenting on how expensive that $200 handbag seemed.

My friend started off by pointing out that not only did the handbag represent a cost for raw materials, labor, shipping and storage, but it was a purchase that would last for many months, if not years, of use. What if the bag was used five days a week for a year? The cost per use would then be very low. What if it was used for only two or three days a week, but for a number of years? The cost becomes even lower, and therefore an even better deal.

For a handbag, this is all well and good. How would the cost for a musical instrument stack up to something like that oh-so-necessary handbag?

Now, there are certainly very good, affordable student instruments that every beginning musician should start with (and that many professionals perform with). But, just to make a point, let’s look at another friend’s purchase – a professional level instrument. As professional model instruments go, it was relatively inexpensive at $7000. But $7000 is certainly a lot of money. How does the cost per use, and cost per day, stack up against something as common as a handbag?

Well, my friend’s estimated use out of the instrument to date is somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 hours. That puts the cost per hour use at under $.50, and the cost per day at about $1.25 per day. The news gets even better when we know that instruments can last a really long time - Stradivarius violins, for instance, are still in use hundreds of years after their creation!

So, the instrument cost per use is great, and the cost per day is, likewise, very good. Like the handbag, we should see musical instruments as part of our daily lives. Unlike that handbag, though, having (and using, of course) our instruments makes us more analytical, creative, empathetic people. Oh, and it makes us happier, too!

Get started on your musical journey today! The Music Momma

Friday, July 11, 2014

Noticing the music around you

I can’t remember who said it, but someone was making the argument that it’s virtually impossible to go a whole day without hearing music. In our modern lives, this seems essentially true. Between the commute, television, any retail store, maybe some loud neighbors, music is everywhere. Most of the time, we tune it out – it’s just ambient white noise.

It can be an exercise to tune back in, though – what do you hear at the gym? What’s playing in the produce section when you’re picking out strawberries for your fruit salad? How about the dreaded elevator and its oft-maligned, watered-down instrumental versions of our once-favorite pop songs?

This week I’ve heard ‘Pump up the Jam’, ‘What’s love got to do with it’, ‘Love me tender’, and the themes from 2 or 3 video games (not heard while playing those video games), just to name a few. And that’s music that I have happened upon, not the selections I have actively sought.

So, what music has found you this week?

A song you are sick and tired of hearing?

Anything you really, truly loved? (a couple years ago, I heard the Cardigan’s Love Me when out with a friend, and we simultaneously admitted what a guilty pleasure song it was for us)

Was there anything you didn’t recognize, or would want to hear again?

There is always great music out there for us to discover, if we listen in the right places!

Get started making your own music today! Have a musical day! The Music Momma

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Right Kind of Criticism is a Good Thing!

We often see criticism as a negative act or response, and oftentimes, unfortunately, that is the case. Analyzing and commenting on someone’s performance, regardless of subject, is an endeavor best approached with care.

Constructive criticism is a term used to describe criticism that should aid in solving problems, and this is a good start. Constructive criticism is generally interpreted as a work-based, rather than personality/individual-based criticism. In other words, constructive criticism focuses on what someone does, not who they are.

The field of constructive criticism tries to get at a very important idea: timing and delivery are just as important as content. And the only way to get a true sense of the best timing and delivery as the ‘criticizer’ is to understand at a very deep level the individual needing the criticism. How will that person react to a more direct comment? How will they react to a softer touch? What is a good time to bring up which subjects? How can this information be presented as a stepping stone to a goal, rather than what might be interpreted as an absolute definition of that person?

We have all said things that hurt someone else’s feelings. Sometimes, we don’t even know that we have done this until it’s too late, and a degree of damage has already been done.

Constructive criticism isn’t just about the big, important, well-defined ‘talks’. The everyday little stuff counts, too. Whether we are parents, teachers, role models, or passersby on the street, we could all do with a little less out-and-out criticism, and a little more of the constructive variety!

Get started on your musical journey today! The Music Momma

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Teacher/Student Relationship

I remember a student (very talented) who told me she wasn’t sure if she wanted to perform in front of people. She had the opportunity to do so, and was very uncertain about committing.

Now, there can be a lot of reasons that a student might prefer not to perform. Some have legitimate fears of being in front of people, or might just prefer to keep their musical experience purely experimental and personal.

This student had not been with me long, but in the few months I had spent with her, my impression was that she was a driven, motivated, extroverted girl. I was aware, however, that her previous music lessons were somewhat traumatic (I’m not exaggerating), and that the relationship she had with her previous teacher was rather damaging.

So, I started asking questions. I never make any judgments one way or the other when it comes to performing or public shows – the choice that the student makes is the one that I support. I do, however, like to make sure that the student is making the choice for the right reasons, and that they understand those reasons.

Are you uncomfortable in front of people?

No, she said.

Are you worried about what the audience might think?

Not really, unless I might make a mistake, she said slowly.

How would they know? I asked.

Well, they might not, but you might yell at me, she told me.

Aha. The fear of performing had nothing to do with the audience, or being uncomfortable on stage. It didn’t really even have anything to do with her making a mistake. She was afraid of what I might say or do because of a potential mistake.

Have I ever yelled at you? I asked, knowingly perfectly well this fear had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with her previous music lesson experiences.

No, but you might if I made a mistake in a performance, she said matter-of-factly.

Do you know why I’ve never yelled at you? I asked.

No, she said.

Because this is music we’re talking about. When you come in for your lesson, you’re taking everything you’ve practiced and learned in the past week, and you’re sharing that with me. And I consider that a very special thing. When you go and perform in front of an audience, you’re doing the same thing. If you get up there, and you share your music with the audience the best you can, then you’ve done it - you’ve accomplished your goal. And it doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, as long as you’re trying – you’ve succeeded. And I would never yell at you for that.

What if I fell, or forgot all my notes and had to start over?

What if you did? I responded with a smile.

What if – she started.

I won’t ever yell at you, for anything, I said. If you were mean or lazy or didn’t try, then we would have a discussion about it, certainly. And even if you do an amazing job and your very best, we’ll talk about how you can be even better next time. But there isn’t a scenario under the sun that would make me yell at you.

Never?

Never.

Okay, then I’ll do it, she said.

And that’s all it took – she just needed assurances from her teacher.

Educators hold an incredible amount of influence over their students, and we must be incredibly careful to always use that influence in positive, constructive ways. These experiences stay with a student forever, and that is something that we have to remember forever, too.

Start a new relationship today! The Music Momma

Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer Learning Loss

It has been unquestionably documented that those lazy summer months result in an unfortunate effect known as Summer Learning Loss. The name is fairly self-explanatory: Every summer, our students lose some of the knowledge they gained over the previous school year. This happens in mathematics and reading for all students, though evidence suggests reading losses are greater for students who come from lower income homes.

Summer is a great time to relax, recharge, prepare for the coming year (mentally and emotionally), and to just enjoy being a kid. That there is a tradeoff to what is often no more than three months of extended playtime is not surprising.

What if there was an incredibly simple way to keep our students’ brains active and engaged during the long videogames-and-summersports months? The answer should come as little surprise - it’s music! Let’s think about this discussion in terms of math/reading and analytical/emotional aspects.

The magic lies in how much interdisciplinary and cross-functionality music requires of our brains:

There are countless symbols to interpret (that sure sounds like reading), not to mention the fact that there are almost always written instructions on the page that have a very direct impact on the performance of the music.

All musical symbols are placed in very specific spatial relations to each other, and often invoke mathematical concepts. There are time signatures and beats and subdivisions (think fractions and counting), which may require anything from simple addition to analyzing subdivisions of subdivisions (how long do we play 5 notes that are supposed to take the time that 4 notes usually do? What if we then have to play 3 of those notes as a triplet over 2 of the 5??).

To our analytical/emotional brains, we can look at an entire piece of music, and ALL of the symbols combine to create one cohesive work. These need to be analyzed and performed together at precisely the right time, in precisely the right way. And yet, this needs to be done in such a way that the student not only feels the music personally, but works to convey those emotions - through the performance - to the audience.

This analysis does not even touch on the mental-to-physical connections and coordination required to perform an instrument at its fullest potential!

Music has a wealth of material to mull over - more than enough to occupy our students’ brains for a lifetime. There is no reason why we couldn’t use music to help alleviate a little Summer Learning Loss, too!

Set up your Summer Music Lessons Today! The Music Momma