Each year, I host a Holiday Party and Music Salon for our music students at one of our student’s homes. It’s a great way for our youngest and shyest to get over their fears of performing in front of others. And every year it gets better. It also gives a chance for new friendships to be be born and our Music Mentors and Mentees to hang out, each some treats and play for all of us. Wonderful.
Here’s some of the highlights.
And how to ask a better question
“What’s in it for me?”
This is the underlying question almost everyone has running in the back of their minds. Someone makes you an offer and you automatically ask it.
“What’s in it for me?”
Parents ask a variation, “What’s in it for my child, my family?”
It’s perfectly normal and most everyone does it.
So why is this question a problem?
Because this question reveals a mindset of lack.
“Gimme, gimme, gimme.”
“Take, take, take.”
It’s the voice of the ego based on fear, insecurity, and a lack of abundance.
It’s victim thinking, not a hero.
I experienced this growing up.
It was like life was an all you can eat buffet.
But “You better get your money’s worth.”
It’s why cruise ship guests put on their “buffet pants.”
Or the advice of some who say, “don’t fill your plate with the cheap stuff, grab the good stuff.”
Now, what if we could shift this to the opposite?
What if we could change the question?
“What’s in it for me?”
“How can I help?”
By asking this new question, there is an assumption of abundance. This question assumes you have the power, capacity, and ability to help. It’s a powerful question. You are tapping into your true gifts. It comes from a deeply spiritual place, not your ego. There is more than enough to share.
We’ve all had ups and downs in our lives. I personally experienced many magical miracles. And then flipped to complete despair.
What I’ve noticed is the presence of the first question and not the latter. Mindset is the key.
So what is mindset?
A mentor of mine recently gave me an amazingly simple definition:
“Mindset is the voice(s) in your head.”
That’s so true. I hear my parents, teachers, and even people I don’t care for speaking in my head.
Who put these voices in our heads?
They get installed automatically throughout life. Parents. Teachers. Relatives. Caregivers. Friends. Facebook. The media…
The thing is, unless you are aware, you are being programmed all the time. If you let it wash over you daily without consciousness, you are installing these voices. The prevailing mindset of lack, poverty, and despair.
The good news is, you can reinstall new voices. It’s like upgrading your internal operating system to the latest, greatest version. You choose your own voice.
Ask Better Questions
Tomorrow, my son turns sixteen. Sixteen! We’re about to start visiting colleges. Think about focus of study. Plan out a course for life.
What I want most for him is to flip the questions. Ask more empowering ones.
“How can I help?”
“What can I offer the world?
What was I born to do?
What are my gifts?
What makes me the only one?”
Of course, questioning goes on for a lifetime.
We never completely know
We are always discovering.
The journey of life and success IS the journey of discovering the answers to this question. Life is self-discovery. And this question can change your life.
How can I help?
I hope this awakens something inside of you. New voices = new life. This goes beyond parenting, music, education, business, whatever. This is for you. And through you, you will light up the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and place it under a basket, but place it on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine, so that they may see your good works…” – Matthew 5:14. the Bible
It’s National Arts in Education Week, the perfect time to remember the many benefits that learning music, art, and drama bring to our children.
Not only does Arts Education provide kids with the possibility of discovering a lifelong passion or creative career, but it also nurtures happiness, wellbeing, and inspiration – all things that can have a positive impact on academic subjects, too.
Here is visualization of the many evidence-based benefits of Arts Education:
Now you can see why it’s vital for parents and arts educators to come together and make their voices heard. Arts Education must remain a core part of our children’s learning experience.
To explore in more detail the benefits of Arts Education for kids, check out the full article accompanying this infographic, here: http://wetheparents.org/arts-education
Is it too early to start music lessons?
The best part of our curriculum, the Musicolor Method®, is that it enables children 4 to 6 year olds to start exploring their natural curiosity and passion for music. Most music schools and private teachers will not accept children under the age of 7 or 8. We can, and we have a proven system to do it with fun. By the time your child reaches the age of 8. When their peers are just beginning, he/she will already be playing, singing, reading and understanding great music.
Many parents want to start as early as two or three years old. How do you know if they are ready?
There is a natural progression of childhood development. Most kids are ready at around 4 years old. Sometimes a little earlier or later. Here’s a few questions to ask.
Do they know basic colors?
Do they recognize and can name the letters of the alphabet?
Has fine motor skills developed enough? Example: can pick up small objects or write their name legibly.
Can they count to ten?
Can they focus on a single activity for at least five minutes?
But will my child learn to read real music?
Yes. The Musicolor Method® uses a phased learning process where the skills of making music are taught, only in a different order that other curricula.
We start with playing first. On a parallel track, we begin introducing technical and theory elements. After a student reaches a certain level of ability and confidence, we begin to gradually introduce elements of reading on the music staff. This process can take months or years depending on the starting age of the child.
What we have noticed is that children learning with the Musicolor Method® from the age of 4, flow easily through the stages of development of a musician, artist and person. We believe learning to make music imparts skills for a successful life. Music as personal development plus the enjoyment and artistic development that goes along with it.
Should All Music Students Learn to Read Music?
As a music teacher, I’m often asked about reading music. Some parents want to know,”Will my child learn to read music?” These are usually parents who have had musical training and see the benefits of being able to read music from the last 1000 years of music literature!
Music notation is an incredible invention. It is so concise, brief and elegant in it’s description of what would have been a lost experience. But that’s the problem. It’s so concise and symbolic, you need years of training, practice and conceptual development to simply read music. It’s well worth the effort though. Learning to read music unlocks the doors to vaults and vaults of incredible music by the masters from Bach to Mozart to Beethoven to Stravinsky to Bernstein to Miles, Bird and Lin-Manuel Miranda, to name just a few.
But My Favorite Rock Star Can’t Read Music
Others want to know if they “have to learn to read music.” This is usually from parents who struggled with reading music and really did not enjoy the process.
I can see both points of view. While yes, there is a great value in learning to read music, many of the greatest musicians cannot read standard music notation. Paul McCartney is just one example. And no one would ever claim Sir Paul is not a “real musician” or songwriter.
The Old School Traditional Way
Traditional music teachers often start with reading music. They want to do this because it is teacher-centric. It’s easier for teachers as there’s so much music written with traditional notation.
Music notation is over 1000 years old!
Ye Olde Songs…yawn
So, often, this old school, easy way for teachers, is also focused on older music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, if you want to connect with younger students, you need to find a common ground. You need to connect them with their music. No, you can’t start immediately on the latest songs on the radio. But you can accelerate the learning to get to that goal much quicker.
Accelerate Learning Techniques for Music
At Park Slope Music Lessons, we feel that to present the written music first is backwards. It’s like teaching grammar rules before even learning to say hello!
Our curriculum, the Musicolor Method®, works by giving students an experience of playing first, while building up technique and then gradually presenting the language of music through games and activities. It’s much more entertaining and twice as effective!
By empowering children of all ages to immediately start playing, there’s a huge boost of confidence. Emotion is part of all learning. How do you feel if you don’t get it? Dumb? Confused? Frustrated? But what if you could learn to play a simple song within the first five minutes of your first lesson?
Take a look at our videos, and the rest of our site. You will see we have helped so many kids here in Brooklyn and now around the world learn to make music in a manner more organic, fun and fast.
Life Skills Through Music
And that leads to building life skills transferrable to school, work…everything!
Music lessons for special needs children?
If you ask the average music teacher about special needs children as students, you may get a blank stare. There isn’t much literature focused on this. Children with special needs may include those with learning disabilities, developmental issues, as well as those on the Autism spectrum.
At Park Slope Music Lessons, we’ve had several students with special needs. Our Musicolor Method® has proven to be a great way for these children to learn music where other teachers/methods have failed.
Can a special needs student learn to play piano?
“I still can’t believe you got my son to play with all 10 fingers in a single lesson! He is so excited and practicing every day on his own. Our previous teachers were all trying to get him to play one finger the whole time. He was bored and frustrated!”
– Parent of a 5 year old student
Take a look at some of the videos of our past recitals, music salons and read our blog posts. You will see we have helped so many kids learn music in a way that is fun, fast and supportive. It doesn’t matter if your kld is or isn’t a prodigy, we make learning music an organic process. And it all activates life skills that are transferrable to school, work and life!
If you have any questions about your child and their specific issues, feel free to contact us.
Most of our students at Park Slope Music Lessons have some experience with early childhood music programs. But you can even start singing to your baby in the womb. I came across this delightful and educational infographic from the fine folks at Mom Loves Best.
Our Musicolor Method® is a fun, simple and effective next step from those Mommy&Me type programs and makes learning higher levels of music easy.
Learn more about the benefits of music for babies and kids at Mom Loves Best.com
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 first is the Growth Spiral. Every organism in the universe follows this spiraling outward from a central core. You can see it in the petals of a flower, microscopic cells and the macroscopic like the cosmos. It’s how growth happens, physical and mental. You can’t skip from the inner to outer rings.
Another principle is called the Stepping Stone Principle. Imagine you are trying to cross a stream. Your guide (the teacher), picks a path and even lays out some stones for you (the student) to cross over. If the stones (lessons) are too far apart, the students falls in the water. Some may even get swept away or drown. Putting the stones too close leads to boredom and perhaps the student also gets stuck there.
These principles are not something taught in music education programs. It’s my distillation of what I have learned from other effective mentors and reflection on my teaching experiences.
So what if your child is not progressing to your expectations?
Well, the first question to ask is: Are they practicing every day?
Practice is a learned skill.
You need to teach them how to practice. It’s not about cramming. It’s creating a routine that then becomes a habit. We are all made of our habits, good and bad. Learning to practice takes effort at first, but quickly becomes a routine. It’s all about finding even five minutes at the same time every day. This makes it easier. Brushing your teeth was not something you just did on your own. Your parents taught it to you. It’s the same with music.
If practice is happening, then most issues dissolve. But please be patient. If your child seems to be going slower than their friends, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. Skipping ahead will only make things worse. Trust the process and practice.
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, easier and fun way to learn more.
- Pick a time of day when you can always practice, even for just a few minutes.
- Choose a small amount of time that you can always do, for example, 5 minutes.
- Set it on the calendar or sticky note or smartphone alarm.
- Practice for just the allotted time.
- If you feel you can do more or want to do more, go ahead, but don’t skip a day,
- Make an X on your chart or calendar for everyday you practice.
- Celebrate each small win with a small reward
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.
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.
I dove deep into technical exercises and repetition. I studied the form and structure of music. And I improved rapidly. I began to realize that I could improve my results by focusing on the things that gave me better results and leaving the rest behind. This was before I had ever heard of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. By focusing on that high leverage 20%, I was able to improve much more quickly.
One day I realized something profound.
Practicing what I already know is a waste of time. I need to practice what I don’t know to improve!
The Practice of Practice
Now, I am a professional music teacher, and I strive to teach the practice of practice to all my students.
Last week, I held a Parents Curriculum meeting where I shared my core belief:
“Learning a musical instrument is one of the best paths for personal development.”
It requires knowing how to study, learn and focus. These skills affect everything in life. Cultivating these skills will transform your child’s life forever.
Most people, kids included, will enthusiastically start a project like learning an instrument with great enthusiasm and a lot of willpower.
But there’s a problem with willpower.
Many world leaders, CEO’s and military commanders know about decision fatigue. It’s been proven- there is a finite amount of decisions you can make in a day.
It’s why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit everyday. He saved his decisions for designing life-changing products. It’s why President Obama didn’t choose his meals. (I don’t know about Trump.) Why waste limited resources?
It’s the same thing with practicing, and the good news is that you can design a practice routine.
Many successful people have a morning routine. New parents are familiar with creating a sleep routine for their infants.
It’s the same with practice.
By creating a practice routine that is at the same time everyday, in the same location, you begin to cultivate a habit. Willpower is required at first, but then it becomes a trigger that sets the routine in motion.
So take some time to consciously design a successful practice routine for your child that then becomes a daily habit. It will transform your child’s life and make your kids more successful. And, through the shared love of music, it may even open doors of friendship, too.
Do you believe in music?
Music is one of the most fun & effective ways to transfer skills necessary to be a successful, contributing, compassionate human being.
Jobs of the future depend on your child’s ability to think. Because, when the robots come, and they are coming, we all need to be able to think, grow and contribute beyond AI and machine learning.
Learning a musical instrument is training for life and will help with the educational divide between haves and have-nots and teach thinking skills vital to success, now and in the future.
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.
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.
So be sure to take advantage of this opportunity. You can see previous videos here.
June 10, 2017 – 11am or 2pm
Park Slope Library, 9th Street at 6th Avenue in the lower level auditorium. Wheelchair and stroller accessible. There is limited seating, so arrive early.
Please email me and let me know which time you would like to have your child perform.
You can sign up for lessons here – choose your dates & teacher and it will send a request for booking.
Please email me directly if you would like to enroll in the songwriting workshop. Wednesdays from 4:30-5:30pm. Ages 7+
As we have long had a waiting list, you will need to put down a $100 deposit/student to hold your time slot with your teacher. This ensures you will continue beginning Friday September 8th, 2017.
I will be sending invoices for the Fall deposits shortly.
Please let me know if you will NOT be continuing so we can release your time to others.
We now have 5 teachers in total! Adam Holmes, Luba Mirzoyev, Frannie Brodeur, Sean Spada and myself. We posted some new videos on Facebook of Sean and Adam recently. You can see all the bios here.
Please like us on Facebook, leave a review and check out some of the new videos there!
It’s a pleasure and honor to work with you and your children. Thank you for letting me, and all of our teachers, be a part of your world.
Owner, Teacher and fellow Park Slope parent
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.
But these options have made a problem. A problem of focus.
With the lure of instant gratification, our attention has become shallow and scattered. (Note the rise in cases of ADHD.)
In his book, Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in A Distracted World, author Cal Newport states
“The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
To be a contributing member of society today, one needs to achieve mastery of multiple areas. As the pace of innovation increases, we need to learn new skills, behaviors, and tools that didn’t exist a few years ago!
And to do this, we need to learn “how to learn.” We need to develop the muscle of concentrated focus. It’s a skill that is not inherent. Simply clearing away the noise is not going to make you a master of focus. It’s a skill that needs to be cultivated, honed, and practiced.
Perhaps because I was bored and lonely in my teens, I spent hours and hours practicing guitar. I felt like I had to “catch up” to all the other prodigies who started when they were 5 years old. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was engaging in the “10,000 hours” rule that Malcolm Gladwell describes in his fascinating book, Outliers – The Story of Success.
The basic idea is that it takes a long time, about 10,000 hours, to achieve mastery in anything.
The Zen of Practice
Studying a music instrument is like a zen practice on the art of practice! It cultivates attention skills required for deep focus. In psychology terms, they call it deliberate practice: repetitive performance of intended cognitive or psychomotor skills.
This is what will set apart your child for their future life success.
Deep work is not an inherent ability but a skill that needs to be practiced.
You can’t multi-task your way to mastery.
Multi-tasking is not a real thing.
Studies have shown that you are not actually doing more than one thing at the same time, but rather jumping between two or more things quickly. This results in a slow-down and lowering of quality of attention. So when you want to get things done, you need to go into the world of Deep Work.
Success is not about innate abilities / talent, but rather skills of focus, courage, action, and perseverance.
So the next time your child sits down to practice, take a moment to be fully present. Listen deeply, observe, and praise something specific. Your gift of attention and focus is a reward in itself. You are showing, not telling, that this is important and a priority.
And you are showing your child the path to mastery and success in life.
[box] “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint The greats were great cause they paint a lot Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands Ten thousand hands, they carry me” – 10,000 Hours by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis [/box]
“There is a lot of confusion about the 10,000 rule that I talk about in Outliers…practice isn’t a SUFFICIENT condition for success. I could play chess for 100 years and I’ll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.” – Malcom Gladwell Business Insider
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.
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.