Learn Now Music, Inc.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions

What grand, finicky things are New Year’s Resolutions! We love to make them, because they give us something to strive for, something to achieve, and some way to make ourselves better. And yet, they are notoriously difficult to keep.

What makes a good NYR, and how might that apply to our musical selves?

Generally, a good NYR is one that is not too easy to accomplish, nor should it be too difficult. With the first, there’s no incentive to complete it, and with the second, any incentive to finish is overshadowed by the time or resources commitment it would take to do so. Finding that ‘baby bear’ sweet spot of ‘challenging but doable’ is essential in creating a standout NYR.

Next, a NYR should be fun. It should be a journey worth taking. Cleaning the garage or offering to feed the neighbor’s iguana when they head out of town are probably not the best NYRs. They should be things we’re looking forward to doing, not just having done.

NYRs should also make a qualitative difference in lifestyle. They should improve us, make us better.

How can we incorporate music into a NYR? The good news is that there are a lot of options to fit a wide variety of skills, experiences, and time commitments. An experienced musician or professional might make it their goal to learn an extremely difficult piece of music (which could easily take the better part of a year). An amateur or student musician could make the same kind of goal, but would probably do well to remember that the goal should be attainable, and fun.

Yet we shouldn’t stop here. What about non-musicians? Can they have musical NYRs? Of course! How about picking up an instrument from childhood, or even learning a new instrument altogether? How about choosing a composer, finding a biography and reading it while listening to a soundtrack of their most famous compositions? Or going to see an opera (despite the oft-lingering childhood ideas about operas being stuffy and silly, they are usually not only beautiful and interesting, but also funny and engaging)? How about musical theatre? I suggested to a cook in an Italian restaurant that he go see Sweeney Todd, the Stephen Sondheim musical. He looked at me suspiciously, and said he wasn’t into that whole ‘Sound of Music scene’. I told him he needed to go, and he would be pleasantly surprised. Boy, was he ever.

The great thing about music is that there are so many ways to engage, from three minutes a day (one Beatles song a day for a year?) to as many hours a day as you’d like (learning to play the piano? Accordion? Harp?), that there is virtually no excuse for not making 2014 the year of the Musical New Year’s Resolution!

Want help attaining your musical NYR? Check out these helpful musical educators!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Education Profession

I remember well my first year of college. As a music major, I was part of a fairly small group of students – while the education department at a university is usually rather large, the music department can number no more than three or four hundred to the university’s fifteen thousand.

One of the advantages of this system is that it’s not uncommon for freshman to intermingle with upperclassmen on a daily basis. One of the older students who was in his second week of student teaching had dropped by the music building, for what I can’t recall. He decided to sit down for a moment, plopping himself onto a lounge couch.

‘I’m so tired,’ he said. ‘After four years of a full class load, a couple hours of instrument practice a day, homework, and a part-time job, I wasn’t expecting to be so...tired.’

He was happy with his chosen profession, and excited about his future as a teacher, but still surprised that the daily job would take so much out of him. I should note, he was a long-distance runner who worked construction on his summer breaks. He was not out of shape.

Teaching demands much of us. There is so much to juggle: short and long-term classroom objectives, development standards, classroom management, homework, scheduling, parents to update and inform, administrative tasks to attend to, and of course the list goes on.

Every student is different, and each has their own needs. Those needs must be met in various ways, and there is only so much time before our students pass on to the next phase of their lives. There are students with all different needs and abilities. Yet each student deserves our care and attention, and when we give them what they need, teaching is one of the most rewarding professions in the world, no question about it!

Want to find a great group of dedicated educational professionals? Check out this site!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why teach music?

I was going through some folder handouts from a school the other day, and came across a wonderful sheet of paper. It appeared to be a simple take-home sheet, listing the day, the name of the class, the concepts worked on and the homework for next week. Since the eight week class had finished, I turned the paper over to see if I could use the other side.

To my delight and excitement, I could not. It seems the back side had been used as a canvas, filled up with an endless supply of drawings and slogans. There were pictures of the girl holding her hand in the air, cheering. Pictures of pianos and music notes, quarter rests and sunshine. There was writing covering the page, each saying more excited than the last. ‘Piano is so fun!’ ‘My teacher is the best!’ ‘I LOVE MUSIC!’

All of this was drawn on the last day of an eight-week, hour-long class.

There are so many lessons here it’s hard to know where to start. The first thing I think is, ‘this is the reason.’ This is why we educate. We teach to inspire wonder in our students, so that for the rest of the day, they are thinking about what we’ve taught. So that after their eight-week (or ten-week, or year-long, or whatever length you like) class is over, they remember how much fun and joy they received from thinking, moving, playing. We teach so that they can take these experiences with them, use them, grow from them, pass them on, and make themselves and the world around them better.

It doesn’t take a lifetime to make a difference. It can happen in an hour, or in an instant. We are often so wrapped up in our own lives that we fail to realize the impact we have on others. This is true of every interaction we have, and especially true, I think, of the teacher-student relationship. We have all been affected by our teachers, sometimes positively, sometimes otherwise. How many college teachers inspired after only a semester? How many remember their first-grade teacher’s name? I sure do.

No matter where this little girl is headed in her life, she will remember the awesome piano class she took when she was in second grade. This incredible experience happened (hopefully not for the last time), and it happened because a teacher inspired. These moments can happen in group settings, in the middle of an all day summer camp, or in an hour-long class that only runs for a few weeks. Make no mistake: if we educate to the best of our ability, they will happen.

Looking for great music classes near you? Check out this site with options from group lesson locations to lessons in your own home!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What is the right instrument for my child?

What is the right instrument for my child?

Every parent interested in enrolling their child in music deliberates over the choice of instrument. What will be the best for them? Voice? Trumpet? Guitar? The oboe that a family member played twenty years ago and left in the basement? There are many options out there, but thankfully, relatively few considerations to address.

The first concern many parents have is about size, particularly for instrumental programs that begin before the standard late-elementary band/orchestra time frame. While it is true that no kindergartner should be playing a full-size guitar or tuba, there are appropriately sized options in every instrument family: Violins come in ¼, ½, ¾ and full size. Flutes can be purchased with curved headjoints so that students can reach the keys comfortably. Acoustic guitars come in ½ and ¾ sizes, to make strumming and reaching the furthest frets a comfortable endeavor. The list goes on, but the idea should be fairly clear – every instrument family has a sized model that a youngster can physically handle.

The next question parents often have is, What is the best instrument to start out on? While this answer could be qualified with a discussion of the merits and challenges various instruments might provide, the real answer is that the best instrument for any student, regardless of age, is the one that they like the best. If a student is in love with the bassoon, and someone hands him a clarinet, then the best we can hope for is that the student will dutifully do as he’s asked. But how much more experimentation, exploration, and understanding will take place when that bassoon is put into his hands? We all learn better, faster, and more thoroughly when we are excited about the subject matter. This excitement, and the resulting increase in learning, is far more important than worrying about whether the violin or, say, the guitar might be easier for the budding musician.

Finally, if after a serious trial period (about a school year, generally) a child decides that their first instrument is not the right one for them, have them try another one! It will probably be slow going at first, as they learn how to manipulate their new instrument, but that’s all right. Eventually, they will be able to apply the musical terminology and the listening that they gained during their first musical foray. Of course, music takes patience and dedication, but anyone can learn, and there is an instrument out there for everyone!

Looking for info on lessons on ALL instruments? Contact this link and Happy Practicing!