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,

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.

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.

Spring Recital is June 10, 2017

Students receive award certificates – Photo by Ted Ely

It’s less than a month to our Spring Recital.

Public performance is a huge growth opportunity and an essential skill for success in life.  I’ve heard many adults say how public speaking is at the top of their fear lists.

It was mine too!

Back when I was an awkward kid, somehow, I knew that if I could get over my fear of speaking or performing in public, I would have an easier time in life.  Through repeated practice in jobs, gigs and performing, I somehow got better.  Eventually, to my sheer amazement,  I even got a job as a host for MTV with a daily audience of millions!

Over the last ten years, I’ve seen many of my students blossom from shy wallflowers to starring in school plays – from unable to take a bow to belting out pop songs at the top of their lungs – from hiding behind their mother’s legs to standing confidently in front of a middle school interviewer…

Our recitals have played a huge part in your kid’s lives and I am immensely proud to be a part of this magical journey.

If you have never been to one, they are warm, family-friendly affairs where your children can grow.  I’ve considered moving to other venues, but the intimacy and community aspect of the library space is exactly what we are after.  A safe space.

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.

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:

Recital Awesome-ness January 2017

Elias performs Heart and Soul at the Winter Music Recital January 2017

Wow, what a great set of concerts we had on Saturday!

Life Skills

It’s truly amazing to see what our kids can accomplish with some directed focus, guidance and perseverance.
These skills translate into wonderful life success skills and you may already notice them surfacing in areas like school, sports and homework.

But, I think this photo truly captures the spirit and essence of what our recitals at Park Slope Music Lessons are all about.
Can you guess what it is?
Elias performs Heart and Soul at the Winter Music Recital January 2017 Elias with his Dad perform Heart and Soul with a surprise support guest little brother Gabriel.

Joy!

Look at all that joy!  And how fun is it that Gabriel was so moved that he had to join them on stage!  After all, what good is music (and life) without joy?
Music is fun.

Music is social.

Music is therapeutic.

Music is all of these and more!

Grit

I’m so proud of all our students.  Please tell your children how much you appreciate all the courage and hard work that happened this week.
(And continues every week in the lessons and practicing.)

Be sure to praise specifically the effort and the work – not just a vague “good job!”
This is a key component of grit, which I’m sure you have heard lots about.
If not, check out Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED TALK or her new book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

Winter Music Recital at Park Slope Library January 28, 2017

winter music recital 2017

Tomorrow is our big day.

We have two concerts scheduled at the Park Slope Library at 9th street and 6th Avenue.

  • 11:30 am
  • 2:15pm

As we have grown, we’ve had to create two separate concerts as the auditorium would not fit us.  Plus, I’m afraid of tiring out our audience with multiple renditions of Hot Cross Buns! 🙂

We’re going to have some great music – everything from folk songs to classic rock from Deep Purple and the Police to newer hits by Rihanna, Broadway show pieces, classical sonatinas and original songs.

Here’s Oliver practicing for the recital as he discovers a new sound he can use!

Mastery

All music should be memorized.  This is all about creating mastery.   With exception of lyrics and duets.

Stage Jitters and Power Poses

It is normal to be nervous and anxious.   One of the most amazing discoveries in the last few decades is the idea of the power pose. It has been proven in scientific studies that by holding the body in a confident pose, you can create the feeling of confidence.   And it only takes 2 minutes! Check out Dr. Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk or her new book Presence.

So when I talk about Power Poses on Saturday, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Get There Early

Another way to alleviate anxiety is to get there early.   It gives time for your child to acclimate to the new room.  

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.  

Brain scans show marked difference before and after music lessons

There has been a lot of attention towards the affects of music instruction on brain development. But I think this is the first time I’ve seen actual scans of the brains of young children.

Fibers belonging to the greater forceps pre-musical training are observed (A, B, C). Fibers belonging to the same patients after 9 months of musical training are observed below (a, b, c). Credit: Radiological Society of North America

Studies have already shown that learning music can be beneficial to children with brain development disorders like autism. Researchers from the Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City wanted to understand more specifically what changes happen in the brain due to musical instruction.

“When a child receives musical instruction, their brains are asked to complete certain tasks. These tasks involve hearing, motor, cognition, emotion and social skills, which seem to activate these different brain areas.These results may have occurred because of the need to create more connections between the two hemispheres of the brain,” explained Dr. Dies-Suarez.

See full article.

 

 

music lessons for kids 4 years old and up in Park Slope

How old should my child be for private music lessons?

As parents, we want the best for our children and we are usually anxious about getting it right.  Here in Park Slope, we all know the competition for preschool, day care and elementary schools begins at birth!

You can usually get a sense of your child’s interest in music by around the age of 2 or 3.  They will be singing along with songs in the car or asking you to play a certain song over and over again.   And at some point, they may even ask you,

“Can I learn to play ____?(guitar, piano, flute or whatever).

So when should we start getting our kids into a private music lesson?

As a private music teacher and parent, I recommend the following.

Try out a mommy-and-me type class first. 

My son enjoyed the Music Together classes on the corner of 1st street and 6th avenue though he was usually more interested in putting away the instruments than actually participating!  We also had a lovely time with Juguemos A Cantar, a Spanish language program that includes lots of music and playtime.

There are so many sing-along programs available where general exposure to music,  singing and dancing take place in a group environment.  This is great for toddlers from 6 months to around 3 years old.

Listen To Music In The Home

This seems rather common sense,

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.

 

Spring Music Recital June 18 2016

SPRING MUSIC RECITAL in park slope

A super Spring Music Recital is headed your way. We’ll have 26 of my students performing uplifting music from Beethoven to Katy Perry to Andrew Lloyd-Weber to the Beatles to music from Hamilton and beyond!

  • Saturday June 18
  • 2pm -3:30pm(?)
  • Open to the public
  • Park Slope Library
  • 6th Avenue at 9th Street
  • Lower level auditorium – there is wheelchair ramp and elevator

Summer Music Lessons 2016 in Park Slope Brooklyn

Park Slope Summer Music Lessons 2016 (2)

 

Park Slope Summer Music Lessons 2016 (2)
Learn ukulele, guitar, piano and general music using the Musicolor Method™

The summer semester will run for 6 sessions from

June 29 – August 11 (no lessons the week of July 4 through 8).

Here’s the options.

Piano Using The Musicolor Method™

  • Ages 4 and up
  • 30 Minute private lessons
  • Including all materials, books and sheet music
  • First 2 lessons are trial lessons at $65/each
  • Subsequent summer lessons are $59/each payable in advance

You will need a keyboard or piano – here’s some piano and keyboard recommendations.

Guitar Using the Musicolor Method™

  • Ages 7 and up
  • 30 Minute private lessons
  • Including all materials, books and sheet music
  • First 2 lessons are trial lessons at $65/each
  • Subsequent summer lessons are $59/each payable in advance
  • You need to bring your own guitar – here’s some guitars for kids recommendations.
Please contact to set up a call to discuss your child in detail.

 

Summer 2015 Music Lessons in Park Slope, Brooklyn

summer lessons banner

Summer is usually the best time to get started with private music lessons.  There’s less distractions going on with other activities and homework and my roster is much more flexible and open.

  • Dates:  July 6 – August 6, 2015
  • Days:  Monday through Thursday
  • Times available:  10am – 6pm (last lesson starts 5:30pm)
  • You can register your child here.
  • Within a day of registration, you will be sent a welcome email as well as access to the calendar to schedule your times/days as you wish.
  • Cost per lesson is $59.
  • There is a $10 materials fee.
  • You will receive an invoice by mid to end of June.

For more information take a look at the homepage at Park Slope Music Lessons.com

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.

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.