Why I want my student’s “desk” as big as possible

Did you ever go to a library or coffee shop just to have a bigger desktop?  There’s something so spacious and freeing about just having more physical workspace right in front of you.

Last week, I visited several co-working spaces in New York City just for that reason. Having a bigger desktop is incredibly freeing. It opens up your thinking.

And it’s the same thing with your internal mental workspace.  Years ago, I came up with the metaphor of the mental desktop.  This is how I imagine each child learning.  As I begin teaching a 4-year-old, they can only retain one note at a time in their mental workspace.

Over time, we begin chunking that into two and three-note phrases.  Over time, we begin expanding their “mental desktops” to be able to hold complete phrases and sections.  It is incredible to witness!

Each child’s progress is individualized.  

There are no hard and fast rules of how many days or weeks it will take to expand from two notes to two measures.

But sometimes we overestimate how much a particular student can retain.  Sometimes the student will shut down and not want to do anymore.  They’ll refuse to even try!  Other times, it’s as if we’ve gone backwards.

I’ve had some parents complain about their kid’s slow speed in learning how to read music.  But it’s similar to learning to read words.  You can’t skip ahead.  That will only lead to confusion, frustration, and overwhelm.

The core principles of the Musicolor Method include a 7 step framework of teaching and learning.  

The best way to praise your children

The best way to praise your children

Take a look at these two sentences.

1) “Great job, you must be really smart.”

2) “Great job, you must have worked really hard at this.”

So similar but a vast difference in results.

 

If you say “Great job, you must be really smart,”

the child hears,

“Oh you think I’m brilliant and talented.  That’s why you admire me and why you value me. I  better not do any that will disprove this evaluation.”

It leads to a “fixed mindset.”

Whereas focusing on the process of growth leads to greater perseverance, grit and focus.   This comes from the research in the 1970’s by Stanford professor, Dr. Carol Dweck and has influenced so many others including Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth’s work on Grit.

When Alejandro was still small, I used to habitually say, “Good job.”  And I noticed over time, a fixed mindset was starting to set in.  If the task did not come quickly and easily, he wouldn’t persist or even attempt to try.

After I learned about Growth Mindset, I quickly shifted how I  praised and it began to change.  Thankfully, it seems to have been corrected.

It’s the same in music lessons.  I have become aware of seeking to praise the process and effort.  Over time, you will begin to notice how your child reacts differently.

I tried to read Carol Dweck’s academic works, but found them very dry.  This video is a much simpler,

How To Set Up A Successful Practice Routine

Parents: How to set up a successful practice routine for your child
  1. Pick a time of day when you can always practice, even for just a few minutes.
  2. Choose a small amount of time that you can always do, for example, 5 minutes.
  3. Set it on the calendar or sticky note or smartphone alarm.
  4. Practice for just the allotted time.
  5. If you feel you can do more or want to do more, go ahead, but don’t skip a day,
  6. Make an X on your chart or calendar for everyday you practice.
  7. Celebrate each small win with a small reward
  8. Repeat

As I said in a previous post, creating a practice routine that is at the same time everyday, in the same location, begins to cultivate a habit.  Willpower is required at first, but then it becomes a trigger that sets the  routine in motion.

Habits are what we are made of.  Successful habits separate winners from losers.  There’s no willpower involved, you just do it.

This Will Make Your Kids More Successful In Life

This will make your child more successful in life

When I was a kid, I felt like loneliness was my best friend.  It’s not like I wanted to be around him.  He just clung to me.

We were the only Asian family in an all-white neighborhood in a suburb of New York City.  The typical question was,

“What are you, Chinese or Japanese?”

 

As if those were the only two options.

 

“I’m Thai, Chinese and Korean.”  I would try to explain.

 

This answer was usually met with bewildered stares and silence.  Mind you, this was long before kimchi tacos,  Pad Thai noodles and Sriracha hot sauce were even a blip on the radar of the general public.  Heck, most people hadn’t even heard of sushi back then.

My New Best Friend

Somewhere along the way, though, I discovered music, who quickly became my new best friend.  It was through music that I began to feel less alien, foreign and an outsider and more like “just one of the gang.”  Through the bonds of shared passion for Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, I found new friends.

 

Music was the social lubricant and the universal language of our tribe.

 

I was 14 and teaching myself to play guitar.  I needed to get better fast!  Thus, I began to learn how to learn and how to practice.

How to ensure your child’s success?

How to ensure your child's success-

What can we do to help our children become successful?  It’s a question that reverberates deeply in every parent.

[box] “To give our kids the best possible potential for a successful life, we need to teach and model for them how to work well.” – Cal Newport[/box]

The summer I was 10 years old, I would ride my bike every morning to my local public library.  There, I would greet the librarian, Mrs. Mascolo, and take home a stack of books: everything from mysteries to biographies, science fiction, and history.  

For most of the day, I would be hidden among the leaves, high up in my backyard willow tree, diving into worlds far beyond my backyard.  

There wasn’t much else to do in my suburban town.  

To me, the book was the ultimate escape. I could sit reading in the tree all day, until Mom would cry out, “Andrew!  Dinner time!”

Today there are so many ways to escape.  

I doubt I would have spent so much time reading books if I had the options available today.  Every kid has a “pocket computer” that can instantly look up anything, listen to music, “talk” to just about anyone, watch movies, videos, take photos, and play games.  

It’s a blessing and a curse.

As a parent, I love the ability to “find my friend” and track my son’s location.  I can instantly message him and send automated reminders for appointments with the orthodontist.

Black History Celebration Gig at local hospital, featuring Park Slope teacher Sean Spada!

Recently, one of our teachers, Sean Spada, had an interesting gig…at a hospital!  Held February 8 at Maimonides Medical Center, the event celebrated Black History Month, focused on highlighting influential women, and even featured some employees from the institution for the first time.

 

During the program, staff members represented influential women in the fields of civil rights, politics, literature, athletics, and science. The presentation honored a total of seven members of the black community from the 1940’s through today, including pioneers such as astronaut Mae Jemison and poet Maya Angelou, as well trailblazers like Rosa Parks and Shirley Chisholm.

 

Sean Spada

 

 

The celebration opened with a performance of the song known to many as the Black American National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by a choir from St. Mark’s Day School. Throughout the evening, songs by revolutionary artists like Whitney Houston and Nina Simone accented the presentation. Accompanied by Spada, artists N’Kenge and Natalie Renee concluded the night with their renditions of “God Bless the Child” and “Minstrel Man.”

 

Congrats to Sean Spada on being involved in such an awesome and meaningful event! Be sure to check out the full article at the Brooklyn Reporter.

http://brooklynreporter.com/story/maimonides-medical-center-honors-women-black-history-month/

Ukulele for kids: what size should I get?

What size ukulele for my kid?

There are several sizes of Ukulele.  This instrument, from Hawaii, has had a major resurgence in the last decade or so.

(If you’ve never heard of Jake Shimabukuro – just google him now.)

And why not?  It’s so fun!  And portable!

Plus you can get a really nice one for less than $100.

The four most common sizes of Ukulele are

  1. Soprano
  2. Concert
  3. Tenor
  4. Baritone

There is another now called the Bass Ukulele which is a whole new animal.  It is only possible because of some special string technology.  More on this in a future post/video.

For most kids under the age of 10, the best size is the soprano.  Not only is it small, it’s the most affordable.

I definitely recommend this one from Kala 

I had one and recently sold it to a 6 year old student

And here’s what I got now:

What will my child learn in their first piano lesson?

Park Slope Music Lessons

When you’re searching for a music teacher for your child, you want to get a feel for the teacher.  What is a lesson like?  What’s their philosophy?  What can I expect?

We have taught hundreds of kids in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn over the last decade.  The secret to our success is in the fun we bring to the lessons right from the start.

If you hated piano lessons when you were a kid, this is not your old lessons.  It’s a complete reversal.  We work using a child-centric approach.  What would a child love to learn in a first lesson?

By focusing on fun while sneaking in technique, we can build technical facility in our students very quickly.  Within 15 minutes, they will be playing a song using all 10 fingers.

Here’s a video of just one part of our first lesson.  We use the Musicolor Method™ which was created right here in Park Slope, Brooklyn and is now being taught by teachers all over the world.  For more info, check the website for Musicolor Method here.

The Musicolor Method™ was originally designed for young children, even preliterate ones.  But it has been used successfully with older students as well even teens and adults.  For the older students, we just explain that these are finger exercises in disguise and the sooner you master them, the quicker we’ll be playing your favorite Taylor Swift, or Imagine Dragons or Stevie Wonder song…whatever.

We’ll be posting videos of all of our teachers soon.  

What makes our preschool piano lessons better?

Our preschool piano lessons are virtually unmatched.  Most teachers will not accept a student until 7 or 8 years old.

Why is that?

There is a gap in most music curriculums that do not cover the pre-literate preschool aged child.

The curriculum we use with our young preschool students is what makes us stand out.  It was developed in house by our founder, Andrew Ingkavet and is called the Musicolor Method.  It is currently being taught to music teachers all over the world through an online training course and curriculum.

What makes the Musicolor Method unique?

musicolor-2000-white-boxThe Musicolor Method is the first music curriculum aimed at teaching piano to preschoolers (aged 3 1/2 to 6 years old) that aligns with principles of human development, early childhood education and information design.  Over a ten year period, the curriculum and method have codified into a dynamic and flexible program that has been used successfully with hundreds of children.

Direct Labelling

By labelling keys, fingers and notation with color, we create a direct labelling that allows children to bypass all the abstract symbolic knowledge required in most other curriculums.

It is the best curriculum for bringing preschool beginners up to a level where they can then begin to read music on the staff and can branch out to other curriculums, methods and styles of music.

Here are some of the key components of the Musicolor Method:

  • It doesn’t rely on the need to read
  • Unique musicolor notation is clutter-free and designed specifically for this age group
  • Begins with piano/keyboard which allows for easier understanding of theory
  • Transferrable to other instruments such as guitar,

Inside a music lesson – it’s more than just sitting on the piano bench

Our music lessons are fun!

We not only want our students to learn how to play songs.  We also want them to understand the concepts of music theory which make it easier to transfer to other instruments.  Many of our students have started at the keyboard and then added other instruments like ukulele, guitar, recorder, flute and lap dulcimer to name a few.

In our Musicolor Method™ curriculum, around the 3rd or 4th lesson, we introduce solfeggio, which was invented over 1000 years ago in Italy!  How crazy amazing is that?  Somehow, the French word Solfége has become more widely used.  Most people just know of it from the movie the Sound of Music where Julie Andrews teaches the children to sing using do – re – mi – fa – so, etc.

In our lessons we use the syllables, along with hand signs invented in the 1800’s by John Curwen along with the positions created by Zoltan Kodaly in the last century.  If you’ve never heard of them, it doesn’t matter, but they are iconic figures in music education.

Each student begins to use the solfege along with the hand signs to learn every new song going forward.  It helps to internalize the music through multiple modes:  visual, aural and kinesthetic.  And…it’s fun!

And they each go home with a fun poster to help them remember this along with some fun facts.

Here’s Lilah learning the first phrase of the old folk song Lightly Row.

 

American Idol And Finding Your Voice: A Music Teacher’s Perspective

My family loves to watch American Idol as well as The Voice.  These competitive singing shows are fun and introduce a new audience to a lot of great songs, old and new.   The shows are both well produced and fun and get you involved with each contestant’s story so that you care whether or not they make the cut.

One thing that stands out for me is the subject of song choice.

So many of the judges comments on these shows go something like, “That was the perfect song for you.”  But who’s helping these fledging artists make these choices?

Last night’s American Idol had a lot of interesting re-workings of old songs in such unusual ways.  There was a slow, introspective almost morose version of “You’re the One That I Want” – the song from Grease.  There was a female singer doing a version of an Adam Sandler song!  That is probably the first cover he ever got.   So interesting!  Talk about “making it yours.”

A&R is not Accounts and Receivables

In the early days of the recording industry, there were specialists at the record companies.  They called them “guys with ears.”  These Artists & Repertoire or A&R men (they were always men) were the specialists in matching the singer with the songs.  This art of song selection is the true magic behind some of the greatest music stars.   The most famous of these A&R men are guys like John Hammond who discovered Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday to name a few. 

Music Instruction Expands Brains!

As an independent, private music teacher, I am always being forwarded studies and news articles about the benefits of music lessons.  It definitely feels good to be on the right side of this issue!   And it certainly validates my profession.

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal has an article, A Musical Fix for U.S. Schools, which puts music instruction higher than all other so called non-academic activities.

“Kids in sports also showed increased ambition, while those in theater and dance expressed more optimism. But when it came to core academic skills, the study’s authors found, the impact of music training was much stronger.”

This seems to be one-upping another article this week in the NY Times about how Exercise Boosts Young Brains.

Breaking the day into different activities just makes sense.  You need a break from just constant focus of core curriculum of Science, Technology, English and Math.  But what the WSJ article says is it’s not just a break, but actually a boost.  And the most potent boost comes from learning, playing and practicing an instrument, so much so, that it could be a simple cure-all for all the ills of the school system.  At a calculated cost of $187/student per year, a typical large suburban school system could turn itself around.

Ava performs Lightly Row
Ava gets prepared to play Lightly Row

The list of benefits of musical training include:

  • Music raises the IQ
  • Music can reduce the academic gap between rich and poor
  • Music does more than sports,

Teaching Strategies For Growth Mindset

What is the most important factor in a student? Many people would say it’s talent, or effort, or persistence, or luck or some combination of these.

Behind all of this is something that is more important – the proper mindset. Recent research (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007) has shown that there are two different mindsets among students:
1) intelligence as a fixed, static trait or you got what you got
2) intelligence is a changeable, flowing trait, in other words:  you can learn whatever you put focus and effort to

Most of my music students do have a growth mindset, but may need some extra encouragement.   To do this I need to use a specific way of communicating.

The Dangers of Praise and How To Do It Right

Researchers have discovered that if you just praise the intelligence of the child, there are negative consequences.  So just being positive and saying “Good job!” is actually detrimental and has a backlash because given a new challenge, the child would rather not participate (quit) in order to “save face” and live up to the expected standard.  Rather if the child was praised for their effort, the next harder challenge was met with more effort.

Communicating Learning Goals

Almost daily I have a student who complains
“That’s too hard! I want to just stay on the same song!”

Here’s some things I say and you can too in your classroom, studio or with your own children.  Though I’ve made these specific to music, you can apply a variation of these to any subject.

Why Every Child Should Learn Music With Tips, Strategies and Resources

listening is programming

We had a lovely Parents Curriculum Meeting this morning. It was wonderful to see so many of you.  Here’s a summary of what we covered.

The Benefits of Music Lessons

My philosophy of teaching music is to impart an enjoyment, appreciation and ability to create and perform music while having fun.

I don’t expect all my students to become professional musicians, but I do expect them to gain life-long skills such as

  • goal-setting
  • problem solving
  • conceptualization
  • organization
  • memorization
  • categorization
  • structuralization
  • delayed gratification
  • self-discipline
  • persistence
  • tenacity
  • the last 3 can be combined to be called grit
  • and  learning the process of how to learn just about anything.

Structure Of A Typical Lesson

  • Repertoire – a fancy word for a group of memorized pieces at a performance level. Having a memorized repertoire means you can play anywhere at anytime. It also starts to give rise to conceptual skills such as seeing/hearing structure, order and experiencing how feeling can be transmitted to others through music. It’s very empowering! These pieces are usually taught by ear, visual memory and my color system. They are usually a bit harder to read from traditional music notation but within the student’s abilities to perform. Sometimes I’ll use video to help communicate tricky pieces especially for students whose parents do not read music.
  • Reading – Learning to read music opens a door to the thousand year tradition of written music.

Music Lessons Make For Grittier Kids

the path to success in life

2 Types of Students

Some of my music students will naturally wrestle with a new challenge.  They’ll go over and over a specific passage until they  have a break-through.   Sometimes I have to bite my tongue as they doggedly work out the solution in front of me.  Sweet victory!  These kids have tenacity a.k.a., grit!

And then there’s the other kind.  They sit placidly and wait for the answers to be handed to them.  If I present something new, they almost always says, “I don’t understand, it’s too hard!” and then give up immediately.    When I do give them the answer, they’ll do it once and then say I got it, but then want to move on to something “new.”    As I tell all my students, “repetition is the mother of skill,” –  Tony Robbins.

The ones who have the tenacity or “grit” as they now call it, have been shown to be the ones who become better students, not only in music but also in almost every aspect of life. There have been studies showing that later success in life is better predicted by emotional qualities such as “grit” than academic scores.

It seems that if we as parents and educators can instill more “grittiness” in our kids, then they’ll be better prepared for the future.

A path to grittiness

So how does Music Lessons develop this quality called grit?

Any repeated practice can be used for building grit.  Whether it’s music or sports or juggling.

[box] Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do,

Why Memorizing Music Is So Important

By Andrew Ingkavet

With all of my students, I stress the importance of memorizing their pieces, especially for performance at a recital. Here’s some of the reasons why.

Repetition is the Mother of Skill

How many times did Tiger Woods hit a golf ball before ever entering a competition? Apparently he was already golfing at age 2 when he made an appearance on the Merv Griffin show with his Dad. He turned professional at age 21 after winning many competitions along the way. That’s 19 years and probably 30,000 to 40,000 hours of practice! In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers,  he discusses the theory that it takes an applied 10,000 hours of practice to mastery in any field. No wonder Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer that ever lived!  He’s simply played 3 or 4 times much as anyone else before he even turned pro!

Tiger Woods golfer
Now, I’m not demanding 8 hour practice days for my students, but five minutes the day before the lesson is just not going to cut it. It’s unfair to the student who is going to sound awful and not enjoy the wonderful process and sense of accomplishment of learning a song to a masterful level.

Technique

As we use our muscles to achieve the production of sound, we need to train them to move in specific ways. Fluidity can only be achieved by repetition. By consciously practicing the repeated motions at the same time being mindful of proper alignment of back, wrists, hands, we can create smooth, fluid motions that create beautiful sounds without repetitive stress injuries.

Winter 2013 Music Recital Videos

Piano Lessons For Kids in Park Slope, Brooklyn
Winter 2013 Music Recital

We had a lovely Winter Recital on Saturday at the Park Slope Library here in Brooklyn, NY.  Though there was a scheduling mix-up and we almost had to cancel, it all turned out well in the end.  Thanks much to all at the Brooklyn Public Library especially Leane and John who worked it out.

I’ve posted a playlist of all the videos on our YouTube channel, but here’s a few below.

Amalia:

Alejandro:

Photos from our first Music Salon

Music Salon at Minovi House
Sing along with us!

I had this idea to have more public performances for my students which was well received by all the parents.  This afternoon, we had our first Music Salon, hosted by Maziar & Michelle, and it went wonderfully!  It was a casual festive event with wine and snacks and a roaring fire with a great 13 foot Christmas tree.  Just lovely.   And we had a sing-along of some Christmas favorites.  The best part was that some of my shyest and quietest students  got up to play several times and all did a great job.

Here’s some photos from the event.  And many many thanks to Maziar and Michelle for being such gracious hosts.

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