Learn Now Music, Inc.

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.



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