You can see the joy on their faces and it's awesome!
Excitement is building for the two Winter Recital Concerts coming next week. It's a massive undertaking to produce these concerts and I appreciate your support. Here's some reminder details.
Date Time and Location
Where: St. Francis Xavier church - corner 6th Ave and Carroll St
When: Saturday, January 26, 2019
Time: 10:30 am OR 2 pm
Registration Of Performers Closes Today at 5pm
Reminder to register today as we need to start printing programs and certificates.
Structure Of Recital
If this is your first recital, here’s how it’s structured.
After a brief introduction, I gather all the performers and teachers onstage and hand out achievement certificates for all performers. We take a big “class photo” and stand powerful and strong in our “power poses.” It helps overcome the jitters of getting up in front everyone as we are all together looking out at you, our loving and supportive audience.
Your Teacher Will Support Your Child
Then we follow the program and I introduce each performer. Your child’s teacher will greet them, support and assure them. Also, they’ll make sure they have their correct starting positions on the keys! They will also stay near for emotional support.
Video Recordings on YouTube
I will record video of each child. We’ve been pretty lucky with having decent quality in the past -though, I can’t guarantee it! I post these on our YouTube channel with first names only. Let me know if you do NOT want a video taken.
Support All The Performers
Please plan on staying for the entire concert. It’s important to show your love and support of all the performers, not just your child. I know a few of you have told me of scheduling conflicts, so please be discreet if you have to leave early.
Thank you for being part of our musical community!
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.
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.
Wow, what a great set of concerts we had on Saturday!
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 with his Dad perform Heart and Soul with a surprise support guest little brother Gabriel.
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!
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.)
We have two concerts scheduled at the Park Slope Library at 9th street and 6th Avenue.
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!
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. He/she will also be able to warm up a little on the keyboard as I set up the equipment. Certificates I print out Award Certificates for each and every performer.
I bring up all the kids to the stage at the beginning. Please be on time!
This allows for
1) the realization that it’s not so scary on the stage – you’re already there!
2) a wonderful photo opportunity of the entire group
3) a chance to recognize all the hard work and effort of our children
We usually set up a rug in the front for children to sit together. We try to reserve chairs for elderly and pregnant parents first. If you need to ensure seating for a family member, get there early.
We are here to support our kids. Please give them your full attention. Please refrain from talking, texting or leaving early. No matter how polished or unpolished the performer is, we need to applaud the effort. It takes massive amounts of courage to perform in public. Through repeated practice, we can overcome our stage fright.
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.
We had our 10th recital hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library and it was a resounding success! Such a wonderful diversity of music, talent and focus. All my students pulled it together and presented their best.
I’ve posted all the videos on our YouTube Channel.
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!
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.
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.
Practicing small bits at a slow speed can produce incredible, exponential results. When pianist Glenn Gould burst onto the scene as a young man, his flawless technique stunned the world, as did his ingenious interpretations of Bach.
The bits of music phrases teach re-usable pieces of the fabric of music. Just like a recipe book or a code pattern that can be re-used in many projects, future songs will surely employ similar melodic, harmonic and rhythmic ideas. Music performance, composing and listening becomes easier as we progress. This is in fact the basic concept of object orient programming for computers. By designing a library of re-usable components, programmers can quickly put together new projects by cobbling together pre-build elements. Learning a later song is easier because the old one had similar patterns. And then, creating variations is now an option.
The famous actor Spencer Tracy was once quoted,
“Know your lines…and don’t bump into the furniture.”
You could say the same of music. Know the notes.
How can you make the music your own without knowing it at a deep subconscious level.
When I was briefly an actor, I took a wonderful class in
the Meisner technique. The basic exercise was called the Repetition technique. It consisted of 2 or more actors on a bare stage with minimum set props. It was improvisatory in that each would only repeat what the other said until there was a natural impulse to say something else. What was amazing was that the inane conversation became full or emotion and life immediately as the words were not hindering the emotion. It’s the same thing in music. But, we need to know our parts. Of course, in jazz, improvisation is the raison d’etre, but there is still an agreed-upon structure.
We need to get to the very heart of emotion in the music, and the only way is to memorize, internalize, and interpret as our own. To know the music fully.
Tell A Story
To make your music tell a story, you need to have a physical comfort level with it. You can’t NOT know your parts. Otherwise it’s like the actor who doesn’t know his lines…you don’t believe them.
Instrumental Music is extremely abstract. Pop and folk songs with lyrics provide a narrative focus. But pure instrumental music can benefit in having some kind of narrative in that it can bring a piece to life. Make up a storyline for your piece! Sometimes this is relatively easy as the music is dramatic and narrative by nature. Disney realized how Dukas’ Sorceror’s Apprentice was perfect in that it told the story. Take a look.
I’ve been astounded by the difference in performance by some of my youngest students when they add a storyline to their piece. What’s even more amazing is that 6 year stories are all pretty much the same! But the music sparkles!
Having a mind full of pieces to perform at a moment’s notice is a wonderful thing. It’s what makes one feel like a truly accomplished musician. And, you never know when your Aunt Harriet is going to pop over with her friends and ask you to play “something sweet.”
So far, it seems that there are some generally agreed-upon concepts.
Encoding – getting the information into your memory. Of course, the information needs to be right from the start. Garbage in does equal garbage out.
Storage – There’s short term and long term. It seems we are similar to computers in that we have temporary space for short term and commonly used information. If we don’t use it, we lose it, unless we consciously store it in an organized way.
Retrieval– Getting the right information out when you want it is possibly the trickiest. Many scientist believe that the human mind never forgets anything, it’s just difficult to retrieve on command. But, repeated retrieval places the keys to a specific memory in a prominent location. So if you want to remember where you put your keys, try saying it aloud when you put them down. And, practicing your piece on your instrument at repeated intervals is like oiling the doors to that memory closet.
How To Memorize Music
In a famous study done by George Miller at Princeton University they discovered that humans can memorize up to 7 discreet bits of information, plus or minus 2. But chunking this into groups greatly increases the amount that could be stored and retrieved easily. We can apply this to music memorization.
Chunking It Down
To start memorizing, I suggest with a small chunk or part, perhaps even as little as 3 to 4 notes. The younger the student, the less notes. As they learn, we can go to the next chunk, and after mastering and memorizing that, we group those two chunks together. By continuing to add to the memory in small groups, and then synthesizing those into a larger whole, the entire piece can be memorized quickly so that a piece with several pages can be played from memory easily.
Some common breakpoints would be first measure, then second measure, then group them together. Then do the next 2 measures that way before you group together the entire first stave. Then A section can be memorized as contrasted to B section, etc.
An extremely effective way of learning a new piece is by listening to an existing recording. This is, of course, the bedrock of the Suzuki program of music instruction.
At higher levels, this may influence the styling of the performance, but that’s why we listen to great performances! Better to mimic the masters. You can also record yourself playing the piece slowly to listen to it over and over again.
Writing as a Memory Aid
Actors learning lines often write and re-write their lines without punctuation, like a long run on sentence. Why no punctation? By learning the words as raw material, they can add their own punctation depending on the emotion required for the scene. We can do the same for music, though the punctuation is usually dictated by the composer in terms of tempo, dynamics and accents, etc. By copying the music to staff paper, another method of input has been created both visual, kinesthetic and even aural through mental memory of the sounds. As a composer, I’ve gained invaluable details and nuances by just copying pieces of music. The physical act of copying does something that internalizes into the mind and body. It’s why the great painters all learned by copying the masters at the Louvre.
Another technique to memorize is by relying on the auditory, and kinesthetic only. By blindfolding, or closing one’s eyes, or even turning out the lights, the musician can practice
without relying on the visual and play by touch and ear. This will also make the student realize quickly if they are not committing to a fingering pattern as they will be unable to play it blind. And, some of the best musicians in the world were literally blind.
I’ve heard of stories where prisoners of war without access to their instruments practice completely in their mind, visualizing the experience completely, hearing it in their mind’s ear and seeing themselves in the mind’s eye performing their piece perfectly. These people return from their isolation playing better than before! I’ve told a few of my students about this and you can see in this video, my student Mitra is actually visualizing herself right before she performs onstage. Wonderful!
My son Alejandro has been working on a difficult piece by Bach and he recently told me that every night before he goes to sleep, he visualizes himself performing this piece. Wow! I don’t even recall telling him to do this!
An Odyssey, A Memory Palace
There’s a lot of wonder at how some of our ancestors could remember stories to pass on to the next generation. One was was through the use of rhythm and sound in the form of poetry, a kind of word music. By linking the sounds with the imagery in the stories, whole long passages could be told and memorized. By singing the melodies of the piece you are trying to memorize, you are using these very techniques and internalizing the music. Glenn Gould would sing all his parts incessantly to the point where he never stopped singing even when performing in public or recording his piano pieces.
There’s also the technique called the Memory Palace, where using the memory of a physical place you know intimately such as your own home, you could “store” information in specific locations. So, to remember things in a specific order, you could then mentally walk through your palace and retrieve the information. I found this book where it taught me all the names of every play by Shakespeare in the proper order, and lo and behold, it works! Now I should really do this for something more useful like song lyrics as I’m terrible at remembering them.
The Benefits of Memorization
Now the greatest thing is that these memorization and learning skills are applicable and transferrable to the rest of your life, forever! You can use them to learn anything like languages, careers, work stuff, school, research, anything! You are basically learning to operate your mind. How to store information, keep it fresh, retrieve it when you need it and then use it to combine, build, mix, remix and synthesize all you want. And to think you got all this from memorizing your little recital piece!
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!
We had such a great recital last Saturday and it made me think of how important these events are for so many reasons.
Recitals are like so many things in life. It’s a due date when you need to really know something well and you need to show it in public, in this case 100 of your friends, families and peers. Think of the times when you had to present a paper or a case or a sales pitch at a specific time and day. The recital is preparation for that. It’s a deadline.
Discipline and Mastery
Preparing for the recital is also like life. The discipline required to learn, memorize and perform the pieces is the same discipline you use when you are in college working on a term paper, at your job preparing the big powerpoint presentation to your clients, presenting your court case to the judge and jury and so on. There’s a level of mastery that needs to be achieved in a recital. Nowadays, it seems there’s less encouragement or paths to mastery with all the instant gratification of digital downloads and games and apps. We don’t let our children go 5 seconds before we step in to help them with a frustrating problem. Mastery requires discipline and a commitment to “do it again…and again.” Self-help guru Anthony Robbins speaks of the 10,000 hours it required to master a skill. Malcolm Gladwell describes some great outliers including Bill Gates in Outliers: The Story of Success. It does take a lot of time, discipline and repetition to master anything. And music lessons culminating in a recital is a training ground for discipline on the road to mastery. Even better to start at such an early age!
In my past life as an actor and television host, I had to memorize lines all the time. I remember this as an incredibly difficult task. My acting teacher gave us the trick of writing down the lines over and over to internalize them. And then to say them back in multiple different rhythms and phrasing. Along the way, I started to notice certain patterns in the language and even structural groupings of how one paragraph was almost like a variation on a previous one. We’ve done many of these things in the music lessons as I ask my students to play the second part first, or play it at triple speed and then play it with your eyes closed and then play it as if you were dancing. And then somewhere around the 100th time, the notes stop being just a sequence of sound events, but they start to flow and have a feeling of their own. “It’s like I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore.” is the phrase I’ve heard from several of my students.
Anxiety is a big part of any public performance. There was a survey somewhere I saw that listed people’s top fears in order of worst to least. At the top was public speaking, followed by death by burning! Incredible. Most people would rather die burning at the stake than have to speak in public. A recital is a public performance and by repeatedly going through the process, the anxiety lessens over time. 2 years ago, I remember a number of students in particular looking rather ill before their turn. Now, those same kids are still nervous, but it’s not the same panic attack level, rather a heightened level of awareness with a confidence that they will fly through.
Mistakes will happen as in life. In fact, how often do things go exactly the way you want them to? Almost never. Your goal is to minimize them. But you can never achieve 100% perfection, you wouldn’t want to. To play like a machine is completely useless. It’s the mistakes that make you sound human and gives you unique expression. As described in a recent NY Times article about what makes music so expressive, researcher Daniel J. Levitin at McGill University and Edward W. Large at Florida Atlantic University recorded a concert pianist performing a Chopin etude analyzing it for speed, rhythm, loudness and softness. They then recreated the performance with a computer stripping it of any human variances, in other words, making it more perfect. They then scanned the brains of listeners as they listened. The results? Perfection is boring.
Another thing discovered by these researchers is that music can give us emotional hits by creating a subtle change from a pattern. In all of my lessons, I’m always showing the structure lying underneath the piece of music we are working on. Whether it’s the grand scheme of section A followed by section B or even just how the notes of one measure actually are spelling out an F chord. It’s the same in real life. There’s an order and structure to how things are put together, whether it’s a sandwich, a computer program, a resume or a social network.
Possibly the best part of a recital is the immediate feedback from the audience. There’s no waiting around for an acceptance letter in the mail, if you did well, you know it right now! And if not so well, then you know that too. What’s great about our recitals is they are safe space, a controlled environment as everyone is there rooting for you. It’s your home court and we all want you to make a slam dunk! And if you don’t, we’ll empathize with you and give you a hug too. It really doesn’t matter – you did your best. And there’s always the next recital.
We’ll be hearing the great work your children have been doing on Saturday June 11 at 3pm at the Carroll Gardens Public Library. I’ll be there from 2:30pm to set up the room. If you can, please come early to help and to let your kids get acclimated and to calm down any last minute nerves.
It’s free and open to the public, so invite your friends and family. It’s also a good time to see the great resources of your local public library system – please support them!
What a great success our Winter Music Recital was last Saturday! I hope you all celebrated the great achievements of your children. No matter if they played some notes that were not intended, the entire process of going on stage, in public, in a crowded room of at least 80 people, and performing the piece they practiced for months – priceless!
I noticed many parents who were much more nervous than their children! And, by starting your kids early in this process of focus, practice and performing publicly, you’ve started them on the road to success in life no matter what professional path they choose. And the benefits of developing an appreciation for beauty, form, structure and communication through music is why I do what I do. I love teaching your kids and thank you for supporting us on our journey!
We’ll be having our recital at the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 2pm. The space looks nice and they even have a grand piano – though so out of tune it is unusable!
It’s located at the corner of Clinton and Union Streets. The recital, as always, is free, and open to the public, so come early to guarantee a seat and to help me set up the room! I appreciate your help in putting away the chairs afterwards as well.
So we continue our tour of the Brooklyn Public Library spaces as weekend hours have been cut at Pacific Library and Park Slope is still under renovation for another year! Please support your/our public library!
Last Saturday’s Spring Recital was a great success and I am so proud of all of my students!
Performing in public is a skill that only a small minority of people in this world have developed a comfort and ability with. It is such a huge accomplishment even to get up onstage and then to perform a piece that they’ve worked hard on for months. You as parents should be happy and proud of this achievement and I hope you celebrated this milestone in your child’s life. Whatever small mistakes they made in the performance were greatly outweighed by the entire experience of publicly performing.
We’ll be having our next recital on Saturday June 12, 2010 at 2pm at the Pacific branch of the Brooklyn Public Library – downstairs. Please save the date! It’s a great chance to showcase our talents and I look forward to seeing you all there.