Music education instills compassionate confidence

Park Slope Music Lessons Spring 2015 Recital

I believe music education is vitally important as it teaches one of the most important skills of childhood…confidence.  But it’s not the egotistical, brash arrogance posing as confidence that is plaguing our society.

Rather, we parents want our kids to be a clear channel for intuition and spirit developed by learning the laws of the Universe so perfectly exemplified in music.

We are all vibrating, resonating beings.  Let’s lift ourselves by resonating with the highest vibrations!

Come join us

This Saturday, June 10, 2017, we will host our Spring concerts at the Park Slope Library on 9th Street and 6th Avenue.

We have an 11am show and a 2pm show in the lower level auditorium.  Free and open to the public.  Come check out what your kids and neighbors have been working on for the last few months.

We have a diverse and eclectic music program including everything from Bach to Beethoven, Folk Songs to Lady Gaga, classic rock to the blues, original compositions and songs and, of course, music from Disney’s Moana.

Winter Recital 2015 is this Saturday Feb 7

WinterRecital 2015 Poster-2

Where: Park Slope Library (corner of 6th Avenue and 9th Street)

Brooklyn, NY 11215

Time:2pm

Day:  Saturday February, 7, 2015

Lower Level Auditorium.

Hopefully the weather will be cooperative.

We have a great lineup of kids from ages 4 to 14 playing everything from Peanut Butter Sandwich to Moonlight Sonata to Demons to Do You Want To Build A Snowman and everything in between.

Watch for the coming video deluge right here on our video page.

Spring Recital 2014 is on June 7 at 2pm

 

Our Spring Recital will be June 7, 2014 at 2pm
June 7 at 2pm, Park Slope Library

I’m looking forward to our upcoming Spring Music Recital on June 7 at 2pm.  It will be in our usual location, the auditorium of the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

We have a great program of diverse music from folk classics to Suzuki standards to pop songs from Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, One Republic, jazz standards in the style of Frank Sinatra and film and Broadway soundtracks all played by kids ages 5 to 13.

The show is free and open to the public.   You can see previous recital videos here.

Also, if you haven’t already signed up your child for summer lessons, I have some openings for our short summer session which runs 4 weeks in July from the 7th to 31st.   More info.

I’m also offering music lessons via internet (Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts) over the summer and into the Fall too.  This may be a good opportunity to continue practicing whilst at Grandma’s house.

Some Kids Have A Secret Advantage

Ava wrote her own music!
Ava wrote her own music!

All parents want the best for their child and after-school is an opportunity for extra enrichment beyond the classroom.

Yesterday, The Atlantic published an article,  After-School Activities Make Educational Inequality Even Worse.   The author, Hilary Levey Friedman, interviewed and followed 95 middle-class families over 16 months who were involved in soccer, dance and competitive chess.   She identifies 5 skills  she believes separates middle/upper class children from less fortunate children and which she calls Competitive Kid Capital.   There’s some overlap here with Angela Lee Duckworth’s concept of Grit which I discussed previously.  Though Friedman didn’t profile music students, these all overlay very well with music instruction and recitals.

1 – The Importance of Winning – In music there is not necessarily winning and losing, but if you didn’t get the right notes, or you didn’t perform as well as you did at home, then, there’s a sense of a loss.  All of my students are pretty hard graders on themselves when asked, “How did you do on that piece?”

2 – Learning from Loss – this is resiliency and happens everyday you practice at your instrument.  You’re going to make mistakes, but what matters is what you do next.

3 – Time Management – Music is a time based language- you need to keep the beat  – events happen over time.  Having good rhythm and timing to correctly and effective communicate a beautiful piece of music is one aspect but so is the management of practice time  over weeks and months for a big recital.  

Is Music Education The Key To Success in Life?

Is Music The Key To Success?
Is Music The Key To Success?

This past Sunday, there was a NY Times Article on the importance of music education in everyone’s life.  I feel like it was written specifically for music teachers!  The author interviewed some of the top performers in numerous  and diverse industries and has found a surprising number had deep musical training from Condoleeza Rice to Allan Greenspan to Paula Zhan to James Wolfensohn to Steven Spielberg to Woody Allen and Paul Allen.

[box] “I’ve always believed the reason I’ve gotten ahead is by outworking other people,” he says. It’s a skill learned by “playing that solo one more time, working on that one little section one more time,” and it translates into “working on something over and over again, or double-checking or triple-checking.” He adds, “There’s nothing like music to teach you that eventually if you work hard enough, it does get better. You see the results.” – NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd[/box]

See the full article, Is Music The Key To Success at NYTimes.com

 

Teaching Kids How To Read Music Using Solfège, Hand Signs & Kinesthetic Learning

Learning Solfege with Curwen Hand Signs

Teaching young kids to read music is quite a challenge.  I approach through a long process of micro-steps.  It’s the reverse of peeling an onion.  It’s a layering technique of building up from tiny kernels of understanding, expanding outwards. The first lessons are always performance focused – get them excited about playing a song!  It’s fun and within reach to play a song in 5 minutes!  That is so awesome! Then over the course of many lessons, we explore basic concepts of music theory through a series of games.  One of these “games” is learning solfeggio (Italian pronunciation), also known as solfège (French pronunciation).  This is the system of pitches with words that was created in the eleventh century by a Benedictine monk, Guido de Arezzo.    

To make it easier, I always look for ways to engage other learning modalities besides visual or aural.  In this case, an Englishman by the name of John Curwen did this work in the 1800s by creating a system of hand signs to go with the solfège system.   This engages the brain to have another way of remembering these pitches.  Kids love it and it certainly is fun! Another great educator (and composer) the Hungarian Zoltan Kodàly took these hand signs and made it easier by associating a height with each sign to correlate the rising of the pitch with each syllable. In my lessons, I teach my students using 2 hands to make it even easier as it balances both left brain and right brain.  Plus it’s easier and more fun!  Did I mention that fun is important?

The Everlasting Positive Effects of Music Lessons

It seems every year there’s a new study that confirms the positive benefits of music lessons in early childhood.  This one has some great findings:

From the NY Times Well Blog:

By PERRI KLASS, M.D.

Joyce Hesselberth

When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills. Recent studies suggest that these benefits extend all through life, at least for those who continue to be engaged with music.

But a study published last month is the first to show that music lessons in childhood may lead to changes in the brain that persist years after the lessons stop.

Researchers at Northwestern University recorded the auditory brainstem responses of college students — that is to say, their electrical brain waves — in response to complex sounds. The group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested. And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.

Indeed, scientists are puzzling out the connections between musical training in childhood and language-based learning — for instance, reading. Learning to play an instrument may confer some unexpected benefits, recent studies suggest.

We aren’t talking here about the “Mozart effect,” the claim that listening to classical music can improve people’s performance on tests. Instead, these are studies of the effects of active engagement and discipline.

Play Piano For Kids, Volume 1 iPad interactive book app is now available

An interactive iPad book for young children with their parents, caregivers
Available now at the Apple App store

As many of you know, I’ve been working hard on an interactive iPad iBook for quite some time.  Today Play Piano For Kids, Volume 1 (Penguins Don’t Play Piano, But You Can!) is officially live in 32 countries around the world in the Apple iTunes Bookstore.  It’s on sale for the next week for only 99 cents after which it will go up to $6.99.  Pleases go and take a look and give a review/rating.

Aimed at parents , home-schoolers and teachers of young children aged 3 to 6 years old, the book is really an app which delivers a learning system including audio, video, animations and my unique color system.  It spans the first month and a half of lessons that in my private lessons would cost over $200!   There is no experience required and no need to read traditional music notation.  In fact, the problem with most music books and teachers try to present too much information at once.  By breaking down the learning process into micro steps, I’ve helped hundreds of kids learn to play piano, (and guitar) whilst having proper technique, and learning music theory, traditional notation and even composition.

For those of you who have been unable to get on my roster, this is a great way to virtually start lessons with me.  There’s even a free sample that gives you the first lesson for free.  And this is just the beginning, I’m already working hard on the next volume as well as a support website PlayPianoForKids.com

Feel free to comment!

Winter Recital 2012 Success!

It was a great recital last Saturday at the Carroll Gardens Library in Brooklyn.  With 30 students performing and a house of over 100 guests, we had a lovely time and everyone did their best.  Thanks again to all the parents, grandparents, friends and family who came to show their support, love and appreciation of our young performers!  And special thanks to Jeff Schwartz and the entire staff of the Carroll Gardens library who graciously let us use their space and even set up the chairs for us!

 

Here’s some photo highlights.  Videos are posted here.

Students warm up before the music recital
Students warm up before the music recital
Music Students of Park Slope Music Lessons
Lining up to receive award certificates
Giving out awards
Everyone comes onstage
Students at Winter Recital 2012
Winter Recital 2012
Strumstick student Felix
4 year old Felix on Strumstick
Evan & Sienna perform What A Wonderful World
Evan & Sienna perform What A Wonderful World
Ryan performs Katy Perry's Firework
Ryan performs Katy Perry's Firework
Ava performs Lightly Row
Ava gets prepared to play Lightly Row
Stella & Tellulah perform Adele's Someone Like You
Stella & Tellulah perform Adele's Someone Like You

 

 

A Typical Music Lesson – My Approach to Teaching

4 hands are better than 2!

Apologies for the site being down all of last week.  But we’re back!  Here’s a quick update and enjoy the week off for Thanksgiving!

 

As many of you know, in each of my lessons, my aim is to address 3 main areas: repertoire, reading and music theory.

Repertoire

This is building up a collection of pieces that your child can play from memory and perform in public.
It allows us to work on technique and bring music to life whilst giving a great confidence boost and joy in playing. This material I often present using my own color notation which enables your child to learn a piece as quickly as possible and then memorize it. Many of you are using Suzuki material for this repertoire whilst others are working on a combination of Suzuki with jazz, blues, pop and world music.

Reading

To  learn to read music is truly a great skill. To be musically literate opens a whole door to deeper appreciation. Reading music is not as difficult as it seems, but requires a steady practice diet.   I will usually not start this until we’ve been playing a repertoire of about 7 to 10 songs.  I use a proprietary method of notation to get them up to speed quickly with simple and then complex pieces.

Music Theory

This is the nuts and bolts of music. We get under the hood and see how music is structured and built through games,

Glenn Gould’s Finger Tapping Exercise for Piano Technique

Many of you are struggling with playing cleanly and smoothly. This simple technique can help you to relax your fingers to pay more fluidly. Developed by Glenn Gould’s mentor and longtime teacher Chilean pianist Alberto Guerrero, it aims to retain a relaxed muscle memory. You can learn more about this in the wonderful documentary Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould.

How To Read Music: Rhythm using Stick Notation

When teaching to read traditional music notation, I separate the 2 parts of pitch and rhythm.  Rhythm is easy to teach using stick notation.

[update-12-3-12] Stick notation is taking traditional notes and removing the note-head.  The note-head is the round dot at the bottom of the stick.  The dot is placed on the 5 lines of the staff and depending on where it is, tells us which pitch to play.  By removing the note-head, we focus only on the rhythm.

The use of hand movements, words and sounds enable us to get the music in our body, mind, eye and ear.  Multiple modes of experience!

This method is created by Michiko Yurko and you can find her and her books/games/workshops at MusicMindGames.com.

Here’s a little video I made with the help of Ava.

Essential Reading for Parents of Music Students

Talent is not inherited. The first month in a nightingale's life determines its fate...I had always thought that a nightingale's incomparable song was instinctive or inherited. But it is not so. Nightingales to be used as pets are taken as fledglings from nest of wild birds in the spring. As soon as they lose their fear and accept food, a "master bird" is borrowed that daily sings its lovely song, and the infant bird listens for a period of a about a month. In this way the little wild bird is trained by the master bird...It is not a matter of being born a good singer or a bad singer...the life force has a wonderful power to adapt to environment.

At What Age To Start Music Lessons?

As a teacher of music, this is a common question I hear.  Every child is unique and while there is no one right answer, I can offer a few guidelines.

ABCs

One of the first “games” I play with my younger students is to have them order the letters of the alphabet.  This is a chance for them to show off their knowledge, build confidence and break the ice with their new teacher.  I do this by giving them a stack of flash cards, each with one letter on it.  By connecting this to the musical alphabet, there’s usually an “a-ha” moment.   So if you’re child knows their ABCs, it will be easier to connect the dots to the musical alphabet.

Interest

Having a child who is passionate about music is probably the most important thing.  The amount of time required to master these new skills and concepts is great.  Has your child been asking about music lessons?  Do you listen to music around the house?  Does your child sing spontaneously?  If so, these are all great signs that your child is ready for more musical challenges and instruction.

Fine Motor Skills

Many kids, especially younger ones, have difficulty controlling different fingers.  With these children, I usually spend more time on singing, clapping and movement activities designed to internalize basic music concepts.  With piano, these kids can play melodies with one finger.  Other instruments may need to wait.

Which Instrument?

Voice is the instrument we already own.  With all of my students,

The Goal of Beginning Music Lessons

My goal with my beginning music students is to

  1. Ignite the passion, fun and excitement of music within
  2. Introduce the names of the notes
  3. Connect those notes to their location on their instrument
  4. Connect those notes to standard written notation
  5. Through achievements, build their sense of self confidence and self worth.
  6. Have fun

To go through these steps, I have a variety of techniques and methods.  Steps 1 and 2 are usually not a problem.  If you know only the first 7 letters of your ABCs you know all the names of the notes in music.  Connecting those note names, A-B-C-D-E-F-G to where they lie on a guitar or piano or xylophone can be a challenge, especially for 3 to 5 year olds.  Once students know where the notes are on the instrument, we can make music and the fun begins!

I have experimented with many methods out there.  One method is to use color to correlate note names to keys.   I’ve been doing this with some of my younger students with great results. This is not synesthesia, where a person actually perceives one sense with matched with another like say “middle C is always a certain hue of red.”  It’s using what is readily available as a transmission system that is highly developed in all but the color-blind.

However, there is a caveat.  One has to know when to remove the “crutch of color” to allow the student to walk on their own.  Otherwise they never progress to the next level.