Why Recitals are Like Life Skills 101
Tuesday, May 10, 2016 | Uncategorized
Why Recitals Are Like Life Skills 101
Public performances and recitals are an essential ingredient in music education. Not
only do the student’s music skills benefit from the culminating event, it also has many
transferrable skills with life skills.!
Recitals are like so many things in life. It’s a due date when you need to really know
something well and you need to show it in public, in this case 100 of your friends,
families and peers. Think of the times when you had to present a paper or a case or a
sales pitch at a specific time and day. The recital is preparation for that. It’s a deadline.
Discipline and Mastery
Preparing for the recital is also like life. The discipline required to learn, memorize and
perform the pieces is the same discipline you use when you are in college working on a
term paper, at your job preparing the big powerpoint presentation to your clients,
presenting your court case to the judge and jury and so on. There’s a level of mastery
that needs to be achieved in a recital. Nowadays, it seems there’s less encouragement
or paths to mastery with all the instant gratification of digital downloads and games and
apps. We don’t let our children go 5 seconds before we step in to help them with a
frustrating problem. Mastery requires discipline and a commitment to “do it again...and
again.” Self-help guru Anthony Robbins speaks of the 10,000 hours it required to master
a skill. Malcolm Gladwell describes some greats including Bill Gates in Outliers:
The Story of Success!. It does take a lot of time, discipline and repetition to master
anything. And music lessons culminating in a recital is a training ground for discipline on
the road to mastery. Even better to start at such an early age!
Anxiety is a big part of any public performance. There was a survey somewhere I saw
that listed people’s top fears in order of worst to least. At the top was public speaking,
followed by death by burning! Incredible. Most people would rather die burning at the
stake than have to speak in public. A recital is a public performance and by repeatedly
going through the process, the anxiety lessens over time. 2 years ago, I remember a
number of students in particular looking rather ill before their turn. Now, those same kids
are still nervous, but it’s not the same panic attack level, rather a heightened level of
awareness with a confidence that they will fly through.
Mistakes will happen as in life. In fact, how often do things go exactly the way you want
them to? Almost never. Your goal is to minimize them. But you can never achieve 100%
perfection, you wouldn’t want to. To play like a machine is completely useless. It’s the
mistakes that make you sound human and gives you unique expression. As described
in a recent NY Times article about what makes music so expressive, researcher Daniel
J. Levitin at McGill University and Edward W. Large at Florida Atlantic University
recorded a concert pianist performing a Chopin etude analyzing it for speed, rhythm,
loudness and softness. They then recreated the performance with a computer stripping
it of any human variances, in other words, making it more perfect. They then scanned
the brains of listeners as they listened. The results? Perfection is boring.
Another thing discovered by these researchers is that music can give us emotional hits
by creating a subtle change from a pattern. In all of my lessons, I’m always showing the
structure lying underneath the piece of music we are working on. Whether it’s the grand
scheme of section A followed by section B or even just how the notes of one measure
actually are spelling out an F chord. It’s the same in real life. There’s an order and
structure to how things are put together, whether it’s a sandwich, a computer program, a
resume or a social network.
Possibly the best part of a recital is the immediate feedback from the audience. There’s
no waiting around for an acceptance letter in the mail, if you did well, you know it right
now! And if not so well, then you know that too. What’s great about our recitals is they
are safe space, a controlled environment as everyone is there rooting for you. It’s your
home court and we all want you to make a slam dunk! And if you don’t, we’ll empathize
with you and give you a hug too. It really doesn’t matter - you did your best. And there’s
always the next recital.
WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MUSIC PRACTICE
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 | Uncategorized
WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MUSIC PRACTICE
- Your children will need help – Up until about age 11, children need hands-on help with home practice. And even though you yourself may not read music or play an instrument, your assistance is still very much needed! Parental help can take the form of reading lesson notes, organizing practice time wisely, providing encouragement through difficult sections or situations, and seeking out answers for “I’m stuck on this” problems. Asking a young child to be in charge of something as important as musical instrument practice is often asking too much. Your help at home will make a substantial difference in your children’s progress.
- Your children need you to establish a routine – Music practice that happens every single day is by far the most effective practice structure. 30 minutes three times a week is just 90 minutes. 20 minutes seven days a week is 140 minutes. The total difference is 43 hours of missed practice per year if your children are only at their instrument three times a week!
Short, focused and regular practice sessions help your children retain and understand what they are learning while making the most of generally short attention spans. If practice is enjoyable, rather than arduous, your children will naturally (and unknowingly!) increase the time they spend at their practice… eventually reaching that 30 minute mark.
Setting a regular time of day when music practice happens “no matter what” will ensure a daily practice routine is easy for your children to maintain.
- Your children needs lots of encouragement – Learning to read music and play an instrument can be difficult; it can be discouraging… it can feel overwhelming. Your children (no matter what their age) need loads of encouragement.
And not just verbal encouragement. You can show your children that you value their efforts by attending their recitals with enthusiasm, inviting friends and family to listen to them play, and taking the time to sit and listen to them practice with your undivided attention.
- Your children need an instrument that is enjoyable to play – Much of the pleasure from playing a musical instrument comes from one’s ability to emote feeling, nuance and expression through music. Even young beginners will experience great satisfaction from making beautiful sounds…. so choose an instrument that gives them the best opportunity to make beautiful sounds. Guidance from your children’s teacher will help you find an affordable instrument (don’t worry, there are many great and affordable options) that will give your children the tool they need to truly experience music lessons. An investment in a good instrument protects the investment you are making in your children’s musical education.
- Your children need a positive practice environment– Aside from providing encouragement, your children need you to create a positive practice atmosphere. Help your children avoid “cramming” the day before lessons. Stick to your daily routine to avoid weeks of forgotten practice (which lead to feelings of inadequacy on the part of your children). Music is joyful… and so practicing music should be as well. This is, fortunately, something that you are able to create easily with a commitment to regular practice.
- Your children need you to communicate with their teacher – Working as a parent/child/teacher triangle is the optimal way to ensure progress and success in music lessons. Be sure to communicate often with your children’s music teacher. Check in on how lessons are progressing, ask for help if something is difficult for your children at home, let your teacher know when practice weeks have gone extremely well (or not so well). Working as a team means your children are supported equally on all sides at all times.
- The Pleasure of Being THE PARENT OF A MUSIC STUDENT…
Learning to play music is a life-changing experience. And, as a parent, the process is a thrill to watch. Being a major part of this accomplishment is incredibly rewarding! The profound pleasure of being the parent of a music student far outweighs the required extra efforts; and this is, by far, the most important thing that music teachers want parents to know about musical instrument practice.
ASSISTANCE FOR PARENTS WITH NO MUSICAL BACKGROUND
Wednesday, January 20, 2016 | Uncategorized
Here is a formula for successful music study:
Involved parents = Successful Practice + Progress
Successful Practice + Progress = Happy Kids + Successful Music Studies
The key of course being “involved parents”. Much of your music lesson success hinges on this one single factor. Which is why, when I begin teaching a new student one of the first things I do is to strive to help parents be active participants in the music lesson process… even if they have absolutely no musical background.
Most parents have no musical background. Their ability to help with music technique or instruction is limited to such phrases as “Julie, it’s time to practice piano!” or, “Julie, did you remember to practice your violin?”, or “Oh my gosh Julie, your lesson is in 10 minutes, quick, practice!”
But it doesn’t have to be this way. By simply sitting with your children for the first 5 minutes of a practice session and using the following Parent Practice Questions, you can have a huge impact on your children’s musical success.
HOW TO USE THE PARENT PRACTICE QUESTIONS
Sit with your child for the first five minutes of daily music practice and have a little chat… using the questions as a jumping off point for the discussion. And then, wait for your child’s next lesson. If you have indeed taken a few minutes of their day to get involved with music practice, I’ll bet you’ll see some serious progress… which, in the long term, means seriously successful music study!
PARENT PRACTICE QUESTIONS
♩ Where is the hardest part in this piece? can you play JUST that part for me?
♩ Can you play this piece for me in slow motion?
♩ Can I play the last note in this piece? Can you show me which key to press and then nod at me when it's my turn to play?
♩ Clap the rhythm of any measure in this piece and I will try to copy you!
♩ Let's write a note to your teacher about today's practice session. What should we tell her?
♩ What does this mean? (said while pointing at any marking above a music note)
♩ Let's write some lyrics! What do you think this piece is about?
♩ Let's surprise Grandma with a special tune. I'll phone her... when you hear me say HELLO, start to play!