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.

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.

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

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,

Roar, by Katy Perry, easy guitar chords

Easy sheet music for Roar, by Katy Perry
Hand drawn sheet music is more fun to read – notice the stick notation

This is very popular with  my guitar students.  It’s funny, I have recently acquired a bunch of young girl rockers who have switched or added guitar to their musical instrument repertoire and this is one of those songs that resonates with everyone.

It seems the new style of songwriting is to use the same harmonic structure, meaning the chords, over and over again.  The only difference between the verses and choruses are in melody, rhythm or the buildup in the production.

I use stick notation with all my students and it really helps them understand rhythms separate from pitch. Here’s a good overview of how I present rhythm using stick notation.

Enjoy the hand drawn sheet music!  Notice the CAPO is on the 3rd fret if you want to stay in the same key as the original recording.

Here’s a video of Melina performing at our Winter Recital on January 25, 2014.

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.

Music lessons & effects on the brain

EVANSTON, Ill., July 21 (UPI) — Musical instruction can “prime” the brain to improve human skills in language, speech, memory and attention, U.S. researchers say.

A study at Northwestern University found the effects of musical training on the nervous system can build meaningful patterns important to all types of learning, reported Tuesday.

Researchers studied music training’s effect on neuroplasticity, defined as the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of training and experience over the course of a person’s life… read the rest at

And here’s a snippet regarding the same study from The Sun UK.

Dr Nina Kraus, who headed the research at Northwestern University in Illinois, said: “The beneficial effects confer advantages beyond music. This argues for an improvement in the quality and quantity of music training in schools.”

Musical training has long been linked to intellect. But until now experts believed it was because children who played instruments were more likely to come from wealthier backgrounds where they got extra help.

The study showed musical training benefited children from all backgrounds.

It claims music “stretches” the brain by forcing it to recognise pitch and rhythm.  Read more:

And another take from the journal Nature.

We can hardly be surprised, meanwhile, that music lessons improve children’s IQ7, given that they will nourish general faculties such as memory,

Link between music and academic achievement

A new study in the journal Social Science Quarterly reveals that music participation, defined as music lessons taken in or out of school and parents attending concerts with their children, has a positive effect on reading and mathematic achievement in early childhood and adolescence.