For more music education and professional development please visit professional-development.com.au/
Music educator and profession development specialist Michael Griffin discusses the misunderstood idea of talent, its intersection with hard work, and whether or not it is a genetic phenomenon. The "learning mindset" vs. the "talent mindset" can lead to drastically different results in students, and although each individual's perception and environment affect these outcomes, reliance on talent can lead to a decrease of effort he argues. Click here to read the full article by Michael Griffin.
For more music education and professional development please visit professional-development.com.au/
By Rachel Stroia
Note-worthy Experiences has announced its second annual Scholarship competition. The competition is open to all MetroWest students ages 9-17, all instruments. The competition will consist of two rounds, the first will be a recorded round in which the student will submit two pieces of contrasting style. The second round will be live performances by four students selected by a panel of judges, based on the submitted recordings. The prize for the winner is a $250 cash prize.
Last year’s winner was Catie Siedel, a piano student of Dr. Daniel Dickson. Catie was also featured in GetLocalMA magazine shortly after winning the competition. Read more about her here. She was one of four finalists to perform in front of panel of Note-worthy judges of various backgrounds. The four finalists performed a variety of pieces of all styles from Bach Preludes to Beach Buggy Boogie by Martha Mier.
The competition is an excellent opportunity for students not only to prepare a piece for a formal performance, but also to receive a variety of feedback on their progress. A teacher’s feedback is incredibly valuable to a student, and receiving feedback from others is just as valuable to the teacher and the student.
Please see the flyer below for more information on the competition:
By Jessica Petrus Aird
I'll let you in on a secret: I was absolutely one of these kids. Each week, my mom would drag me to my piano lesson, where my teacher would glare at me in disappointment because, again, I didn't practice. Maybe one song really spoke to me, and I got good at that one. But the scales, technique exercises, and that really challenging one? Often, no.
I understand her approach; she had a disciplined method that worked for many of her students and she stuck by it. Unfortunately, I was just one of those kids with which it didn't really work. I needed a more emotional and creative approach; I needed to first love the music I was playing. I was not really a "10 minutes a day, every day" kind of kid; I did better with less structure. I would go days without practicing (worrying my mother endlessly), but then spend an hour listening, singing, and playing dress-up to all kinds of music in our CD collection. As much as it probably drove my parents crazy, I'm grateful they let me find my own way in piano through various creative expressions. It was through these processes I found the spark to love some of my songs in piano and want to play them.
As you can guess, finding that spark in students can be a real challenge sometimes. My work in private teaching has shown me that the best way to help kids develop a healthy practice habit is to first identify what motivates them naturally. This is where parents' input is invaluable to me. Does your student really enjoy movement? Singing? Patterns? Problem solving? Poetry? Composing? Something else? Let's find a way to build on those natural motivators in their music learning! Below are some ideas.
Find your student's motivators!
Jessica is a voice and piano instructor for Note-worthy Experiences. To learn more about Jess, please visit her Teacher Page.
By Rachel Stroia
Earlier this year, Note-worthy embarked on the project of collecting teaching philosophies from all of our teachers. We know that all of our teachers are unique in their teaching styles and goals. Reading a teacher's biography can sometimes not be sufficient information to decide if that teacher is a good fit for your student. We asked ourselves how we could make more focused information about out teachers available to families searching for music teachers. Just as every teacher has a different teaching style, every family has a different requirement for their own musical journey. We asked our teachers to write a teaching philosophy so that we could understand their motives, inspirations, and goals, not just their achievements. The results surpassed our expectations. Not only did we learn about individual teaching styles and methods, but we also discovered the wealth of diversity that the teachers at Note-worthy offer.
One teacher said, "I teach students to focus on achieving the sensations of healthy singing, rather than making judgments about the resulting sounds, which can often be instinctively negative, rather than objective and analytical. Once we free ourselves from negative judgments, singing becomes healthier, more creative, AND more fun! I ask students to view lessons and practice as science experiments; be playful and observant and the beautiful sounds will happen." Another, "My teaching philosophy is to instill a state of constant wonder and curiosity for music of all forms." Another, “"Whether teaching voice or piano, my primary goal is to help students see music as a creative, individual, and fun process! Through my positive and gentle guidance which includes invaluable tools like healthy vocal or piano technique, musical literacy, improvisation and ear training, and appropriate repertoire, I hope to help cultivate a lifelong love of music in my students that keeps them learning and experimenting for years to come."
Our teachers bring a wealth of experience from some of the best music schools in the county. But more than that, they bring a passion to share their love of music with others and to inspire a life-long love of music in their students. For more teacher philosophies, please visit our Meet our Teachers page.
Rachel Stroia is the Office Manager at Note-worthy Experiences Music Studio. In addition to working at Note-worthy, she is also a student at Suffolk University and enjoys reading and cooking.
By Alix Raspe
Allow me to introduce Luna, my oldest and best friend. Luna’s not your typical companion; she’s not a beloved stuffed animal or a neighborhood pal. She is a Style 85, Lyon and Healy Concert Grand harp. Now, how did a toddler become attached to an ninety pound, six foot high, widely unpopular musical instrument? My parents definitely weren’t musical. The only performing art they introduced me to was “Big Bird Meets the Orchestra.” Yet, by the age of five, I was obsessed with the harp.
It all began while watching Duchess in Walt Disney’s “The Aristocats.” Though the Scat Cats were entertaining, I was completely mesmerized by Duchess. At that moment, I didn’t want to “Be a Cat”; I wanted to “Be a Harpist”. This dream was a self-proclaimed commitment. Nothing would change my mind; nothing would stop me... except maybe my parents.
Not only was the harp an expensive investment for a five year old; it was three times my size. Mom and Dad tried to sell me on piano lessons, but I remained resolute. As a compromise we agreed on piano lessons for three years and harp lessons thereafter.
My obligatory interest in piano lasted exactly two minutes. Sitting at our baby grand piano, my eyes skipped over the keys and immediately focused on the inner strings. I had to pluck those strings. I dragged the piano bench to the side, climbed up, and started picking at all 230 wires. When Mom arrived home from work, she found me headfirst inside the piano. Afraid that the lid might crash on my head or smash my fingers, Mom insisted that “piano string plucking” become a supervised activity. She assumed that this provision would suppress my need for a harp. Little did she know.
A year later I made an even greater discovery. While rehearsing on my grandparent’s upright piano, I noticed that I couldn’t visibly see strings. But there had to be strings. My grandmother had no rule against “piano string plucking,” so I proceeded to pop the top, pull out the soundboard, and plunge my fingers through the soundboard’s crevices. At that moment my grandmother walked into the room and witnessed a scene right out of “A Day at the Races.” Like Harpo Marx, I had pulled apart a piano and proceeded to play the wires. Though the soundboard didn’t fit back into the piano, my miffed grandmother joined the battle for harp lessons.
Finally three excruciating years of piano lessons passed. I earned the nickname, “The Terminator,” thanks to two destroyed pianos and countless broken wires. My Mom kept her promise and she enlisted former jazz harpist, Ruth Berman Harris, a spunky ninety year old lady with severe arthritis. As I watched her play throughout her pain, my respect and devotion to the harp intensified. Mrs. Harris started my early harp education, leading me to then study with June Han at Juilliard Pre-College in high school, Bridget Kibbey at New York University for my Bachelor’s, and Jessica Zhou at New England Conservatory for my Masters in Music. Stated simply, harp was my calling, and Luna will be my friend for life.
Alix is a graduate of New York University and New England Conservatory. She has received numerous awards as a soloist including: the Annapolis Music Festival Maestro Award for Outstanding Soloist at the age of 13, the NYU Excellence in String Performance and Leadership Award, and the NYU Orchestral Excellence Award. She has taught harp for Note-worthy Experience since May of 2018.
By Leonardo Ciampa
You just had the worst day of your life. You overslept because you set your alarm for 6 PM instead of AM. You were late for work because your dishwasher gave up the ghost. Your conflict-averse boss made you mediate an argument between colleagues so that he could take a day off. In the middle of the meeting, the school nurse called you and told you that your child punched another child, whose mother happens to be a defense attorney. On the way home you got a flat tire on the highway and had to change it in the rain. You decide to cheer yourself up by going out to eat. But when the bill came, your card was declined, because the bank froze your account due to fraudulent activity.
On the way home, you think of the time George Gobel said to Johnny Carson, “Do you ever feel like life is a tuxedo, and you’re a pair of brown shoes?“
You walk in your door, take off your shoes, and after stepping on a Lego with one foot and cat puke with the other, you look at the calendar. It’s only Monday.
At that moment, what do you turn to to relax? A piece of chocolate? A glass of wine? A cold beer? A cup of herbal tea? A few rounds of Tetris or solitaire? A mile on the treadmill? A cigarette or ten?
The thought crosses your mind, “On top of everything else, I forgot practice the piano today.“
Then you think, “I can’t possibly do that now. I’m tired and cranky.“
But here’s what I ask you to do. I ask you to let music be the wine, the chocolate, the treadmill, the pack of Davidoffs. Rather than say, “I can’t practice because I had a bad day,” think instead, “I HAVE to practice BECAUSE I had a bad day.” Instead of thinking, “I’m too angry to practice,” think instead, “I need the music to soothe my anger.“
And if you think, “I can’t practice because I’m not focused,“ what better way to focus than to play music! It is a chicken or the egg thing: rather than wait to be focused before practicing, use practicing to focus you.
No matter how hard work is, don’t forget that life consists of bread and roses, and both are equally important. Because you need the roses to carry you between loaves. You need the job for the bread, but music is the most beautiful and fragrant rose of them all.
Lastly, turn the ringer off your phone while you’re practicing. With the kind of day that you’ve been having, whatever the news is, you don’t want to hear it.
Leonardo Ciampa is a composer/pianist/organist and instructor with Note-worthy Experiences Music Studio. Leonardo is also the founding director of MetroWest Choral Artists, an all-professional choir and Honorary Music Director (Maestro di Capella Onorario) of the Basilica di Sant'Ubaldo in Gubbio, Italy. From 2009-2016 Ciampa was the artistic director of organ concerts at M.I.T. For more about Leonardo please visitLeonardo's teacher page.
By Tyrone Allen
Over the years, I’ve been in a number of situations experiencing and playing music. Whether it was playing electric bass in Church, trying to sneak in some extra practice time in during High School, or struggling through guitar lessons, I have very different feelings associated with many different musical situations. Nowadays, I could find the most joy from working alone on a simple musical concept, and or it could be playing with an Indie-Rock band. Luckily because of the support of my parents, music eventually became a multi-dimensional joy for me, constantly filled with twists and turns that characterize my personal experience with sound...and that’s where you come in! The question I want to ask parents is this; from what you see and hear, is your child experiencing music in a way that works for them? Why or why not?
As you can probably tell, my musical journey up to this point was not so cut and dry. My father first taught me recorder, and early on I dabbled with the piano and saxophone. Eventually I came to the guitar, and somehow I stuck with that for around 6 years. After a few years of taking lessons, my teacher brought to my attention an opportunity rehearse and preform 3 songs with some other students at the music store I was studying in. I participated and this ended up being a blast! For a while I continued playing with Tony and Leslie, the bass player and drummer from the group respectively. These are some of my first memories of feeling truly elated from playing, a feeling that has become the fuel for my musical journey. There was one thing not quite right though...I wanted to play bass. Playing lead guitar had its moments, but I can remember being enamored by Tony’s feel, and his role in the music. It resonated with me and I knew it!
In high school I then began to take music a little more seriously, studying classical and jazz simultaneously. Like many of your kids probably do, I found joy in the meticulous and repetitive nature of practicing either a piece of music, or technique associated with the instrument. Stemming from my background with guitar, I also found love in improvising and creating music. In later years I also deepened my love of the bass function, which is something that I think will keep any bass player working for a long time.
So, how does all this relate to your child taking piano lessons for example? The answer isn’t so simple, but nonetheless deserving of some investigation by parents and teachers. I believe that the most important question here is “What music does your child seem to like the most?” Is that supported in lessons and with the child’s practice routine? Are piano lessons and practicing at home the extent of your child’s musical development? Maybe he/she would have a refreshing experience playing with others in the community. Maybe even on another instrument! Being open to many musical possibilities as an adolescent could only broaden your child’s experience as they grow, which is in the end, the worldly view we need the most.
Exploring different avenues of musicianship and education is one of the goals of Note-worthy Experiences, and I’m sure it is part of the reason why you gave your child the opportunity to study music.
Even after finding some of these joys, staying involved and passionate about the bass was (and is!) not always a walk in the park. I even tried to give up the bass one summer, but my parents were able to thwart that plan before it could take off. At this point, I’m eternally glad for my musical journey, for it has influenced me beyond what I know. It has allowed me to travel overseas to places I could only dream of, and meet people I will never forget. Whatever your child’s musical experience becomes, I hope that they can find as much joy as I have. This is owed to people like Renee Bordner, who give kids the opportunity to experience music in a way equivalent to their wildest dreams.
Tyrone Allen studied at Eastman College of Music where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Classical Bass and Jazz Bass. He is a former bass teacher for Note-worthy Experiences Music Studio.
By Shirie Leng
One thing many parents don’t understand when they choose to start their preschool- or
kindergarten-aged child on an instrument is that the process of learning an instrument is not new to the child. The language is new, the physical motions are new, but the idea of doing something every day with the goal of getting better is familiar. They do this naturally. What’s not familiar is the command to “Practice!”. Kids don’t go to the playground and say to themselves “I’m going to practice my monkey bar skills today so I can become better at the monkey bars.” No, the monkey bars are fun so they do them over and over and, while having fun, inadvertently also get better. Parents don’t generally push their kids to get better at playground equipment right? Why not? The strength and balance required for gripping the bars, the understanding of the push and pull that make the swing go higher, the experience of centripetal force on the spinner are all pretty important in becoming a healthy, strong human being. We don’t push kids on the playground because we don’t need to. The motivation is already there.
And yet the first thing we tell kids when they learn an instrument is that they have to practice if they want to get better. This is actually an alien concept. Children from birth have the general internal motivation to master their environment, but they don’t do it by setting out a certain amount of time every day and calling it “practice”. A parent doesn’t say to a child “you’d better practice the monkey bars for 15 minutes every day” when the child falls off the monkey bars. The parent just picks the child up and says “try again, you’ll get it.” Believe me, if the kid wants to learn this skill, he’ll repeat it until his hands bleed, no exhortations to practice needed. This is intrinsic motivation that comes from having fun, mastering the environment, and being able to do it by himself.
Research suggests that intrinsic motivation requires at least two things: the ability to achieve competence and the feeling of autonomy. (Carlton and Winsler, Early Childhood Education Journal, 1998) In general, for a little kid, competence means being able to do it by him/her self. This ability, once gained, is a deep source of satisfaction to the child. The quality of the result, as adults would define it, means much less at first. First the child has to want to gain the skill. A kid won’t master the monkey bars if he hates monkey bars. Parents wanting their children to learn instruments because it is educationally valuable or because all the other kids are doing it or to get them into good colleges will not get far without serious and punitive extrinsic motivators. Once interest is established, the emphasis should be on presenting the skill and then stepping back and letting the child figure it out in his or her own time. Not on the schedule that is convenient for the parent, not bound by time limits or schedules. Success is defined by the child who, above all, wants to be able to do it himself.
If you want your young child to “practice” you can bet asking him to “show me what you can do!” will work much better than telling him to “go practice so you can get better.”
Shirie Leng graduated from The Manhattan School of Music in 1991 with a degree in violin performance. She studied there with Ani Kavafian. She also has a master’s degree in nursing from Yale, an MD from the University of Connecticut, and was a practicing anesthesiologist until 2011. She writes a medical policy blog: firstname.lastname@example.org and is the author of the book The Choice: Medicine vs. Nursing: Which field is right for you?
Always an avid musician, Shirie is active in the amateur chamber music community in Boston and plays principal second violin for the Longwood Symphony Orchestra. She studies with Peter Zazofsky at Boston University. She lives in Newton with her husband and three daughters.
By Jim Lansing
The Rascal Flatts song “My Wish” is one of my wife’s favorite songs. The chorus goes:
“My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.”
This became her anthem, a song she would sing to my boys. It resonated so much with my eldest son, now a college junior, that he and my wife got matching tattoos of the phrase “Dreams stay big, Worries stay small.”
As a piano teacher, I have dreams for each of my students: I wish that they will play piano for the rest of their lives. We begin this musical adventure by learning how to hold their hands/fingers, how to sit on the bench, and how the mechanisms work inside the piano. We also learn musical concepts like note values, names of spaces/lines, and playing loudly/softly. Through practice and recitals, students build up their skills and confidence.
My wish for each student is that they lead “Happy Birthday” from the bench when their families gather to celebrate milestones. Maybe they’ll accompany a song by their school choir. Perhaps they’ll play a piece at a family wedding. Once they’ve done that, they might make a musical offering during a worship service at their house of worship. Their path might lead them to play keyboard in a garage band with their friends, audition for their school jazz band, or even earn a few bucks playing in a church worship band. Some of these activities could take six, eight, even ten years of study to achieve. A few students will become that proficient; many will not.
When a student announces their “retirement” from piano lessons, it often coincides with their move to middle school and a shift to playing a band or orchestra instrument. At this point, my wish for them being lifelong pianists shifts to a dream they will be lifelong musicians. When they are “out there getting where [they’re] getting to,” maybe they’ll join a drum & bugle corps, a church choir, or a community orchestra and continue to make music!
Should they quit their musical endeavors, my final wish is that become lifelong consumers of music. For the musical arts to survive, we need people to purchase tickets to concerts, buy recordings, and otherwise make it possible for musicians to make a living at their craft.
While I don’t have lyrics tattooed on my body, “My Wish” resonates with me just the same. As a piano teacher, I hope that each student will become a lifelong pianist. I wish this for every student because you can never predict what each will achieve!
Jim Lansing is a piano teacher in Bloomington, MN. You can find out more about him at www.jimthepianoguy.com or follow him at www.facebook.com/JimThePianoGuy.
By Lia Hwang
As a teacher, I'm supposed to be encourage my students to practice, but I don't. Of course, I subtly hint at it during lessons and I physically write a long list of things for them to practice after every single lesson. However, I am not perfect and I don't expect them to be. I would much rather have them have a good summer or go swimming with their friends than worry that they have to practice. Practicing is very important. It's actually the only way to get better, but at their age, they are still learning how to practice.
Think of practicing like this: you are going to sing in front of the Queen tomorrow and you haven't even picked out a song. If you don't practice, you're going to embarrass yourself in front of the Queen. Which, if I might add, is not something you really want to do. So what SHOULD you do? Practice, right? You end up practicing all night, and you wake up the next morning dazed and nervous. If you had prepared this song two-three weeks in advance, you would be well-rested and confident (as best as one could be before performing for the Queen). Time is up. You can't go back in time.
I don't tell this story to all of my students. Instead, I show them a video by Josh Wright. He talks about how to develop good practice habits and he talks about how successful it can be if students were to try this technique. There are a couple of suggestions he makes:
1. Figure out a time in your schedule to practice. Only you know how much time you have to practice each week
2. When practicing, stick to only working on one page at a time. Don't do more than that. If you're trying to learn a lot of pages in a short amount of time, you can increase it to two pages
3. Divide the song into parts. Focus on one part at a time and perfect it
4. Once you have perfected one part, don't go back to it. Many students practice only the beginning of a song because they keep practicing what they learned. You have to force yourself to practice the next part. And repeat this until you have finished the whole first page
5. Work with separate hands first and then both hands together
And here are some of my own suggestions:
1. Hold yourself to a standard. If you practice for your lesson every week, don't let a week slip by without you practicing
2. Practice what your teacher suggests or gives you. Don't go back and practice material that your teacher didn't tell you to practice. It's counter-productive
3. Practicing for hours is sometimes the necessary way to master a piece. The more advanced it is, the more hours and hard work you'll need to learn it
4. You are not a machine. That is why you have to look at your schedule and carve out specific times to practice. Make this a priority. And schedule it in every single week
5. Practicing is piano playing. Lessons are not meant to be your only playing time. When you are practicing, you are playing by yourself. And eventually, your teacher will not be there in the future to help you. You have to become independent.
I hope this helps many of you! There are so many ways to develop good practice habits and it starts with implementing just one of these suggestions. Start slow, and take your time. Hold yourself accountable. And you will start to see yourself progress much faster.
Here is the link for Josh Wright's practice video if you want to check it out:
I also have two blogs of my own that I write in all the time. I write about lifestyle, and everything under the sun about music and teaching!
My name is Lia Hwang, and I’m a full time piano/double bass/English teacher and part time blogger. I started my blog with the purpose of writing about whatever I wanted. I didn’t know it would turn into so much more. It has become a community and I’m so lucky to help other teachers + parents learn more about music. Nothing was easy for me, but I wouldn’t trade teaching for the world.