Music for Life

Fear not Gals With Goals readers! I haven’t given up on my August goal, I’ve simply been in Washington, D.C. for the National Flute Associations Annual Convention! After two rehearsals on Wednesday, I traveled to D.C. on Thursday with my teacher, Alison Brown Sincoff and the Ohio University Flute Choir to perform on a combined concert with the OSU Alumni of Katherine Borst Jones. We had beautiful weather and such a great time at convention. I had a chance to meet new members of the OU Flute Studio, reconnect with fellow OU grads who also studied with Catherine Keener in high school, hang out with my fellow Divertimento Flute Quartet members, and attend a University of Nebraska Alumni breakfast. I’m already looking forward to next year’s convention on San Diego!

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I finished readingĀ Making Music and Enriching LivesĀ this past week for my August goal and wanted to share what I thought were the best highlights of the book. As students head back to school this week, many parents might be considering music lessons for their child. In the book, Bonnie Blanchard lists the advantages of starting lessons early, starting lessons later, and she also provides parents with ways to determine if their child is ready for music lessons. Hopefully these lists will help students and parents decide if private instruction is right for them this fall!

Some Advantages of Starting Early

1) May learn best before age ten, according to some studies.

2) Integrate music into their lives before extracurricular activities crowd it out.

3) Think of themselves from the beginning as musicians.

4) Learn by rote and quickly develop their listening and memorizing skills.

5) Enjoy the sense of belong and the role models group lessons provide.

6) Gain confidence when initially playing ahead of their peers.

7) Need more parental involvement, which brings the family together in music.

8) Develop more fluid and natural technique through years of lessons.

Some Advantages of Starting Later

1) Are better able to sit still and concentrate.

2) Have developed the needed fine motor skills.

3) Have the necessary breath capacity.

4) Base their learning on reading music instead of imitating, learning closer to “real life” music situations.

5) Better understand music theory as it presents itself through the music.

6) May choose to play their instrument, instead of it only being the parents’ idea.

7) Are less likely to “burn out” by adolescence.

8) Progress faster and in more exciting ways, requiring less patience from the child, parent, and teacher.

9) May, after a few years, catch up with their peers (especially in woodwinds), saving years of time and money investments.

Is Your New Student Ready to Start Lessons?

To determine a child’s readiness, ask:

1) Can the child sit still for twenty minutes?

2) Can he/she perform small motor tasks with both hands?

3) Are his/her hands big enough to hold the instruments? Does she have the necessary breath control for a wind or brass instrument?

4) Is he/she fairly organized? Does he/she take care of her belongings?

5) Does the child show an interest in music? Does he/she ask for favorite songs? Does he/she sing?

6) Does he/she feel comfortable talking with adults? Will he/she take direction?

7) Is he/she mature for his/her age?

Fellow teachers, I didn’t forget about you! Kick start your year, not just with music fundamentals but also with ideas for teaching musicality to your students. It’s easy to get caught up with the “nuts and bolts” of music making, but what about musicality? Here’s a short list for teaching, not just a technician but also a musician.

How Do You Teach Beginners to Be Musical?

1) Show the similarities between spoken speech and music

2) Create a musical attitude from the beginning

3) Listen to good music

4) Provide other tools

5) Musicality is many notes on one gesture

6) Music has a feeling of forward motion

7) Music is tension and release

I think most musicians would agree, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a musician is participating in chamber music with your friends and colleagues. Why not share that sense of community with our students? In Making Music and Enriching Lives, Bonnie lists the following reasons for providing and promoting chamber music for our students.

Why have your students play in ensembles?

1) Ensemble music, especially for strings and piano, is some of the best music there is.

2) Performing in an ensemble takes the pressure off each individual and is a great way to ease students into performance.

3) Learning to interact with ensemble members is a valuable growing and maturing tool for teenagers. It forces them to “get out of themselves” and communicate with the members of the group, the first step to communicating with an audience.

4) Ensemble playing is a great antidote for prima donnas. It forces players to think like a sports team and not like soloists.

5) It teachers leadership.

6) The skills students learn through ensembles make their solo performances better too.

7) It is valuable ear training as each member tries to listen to all the parts at once.

8) It’s an easy way for students to make friends and for parents to get to know each other too.

9) It beats the monotony and loneliness of playing by oneself all the time and adds to private lessons.

10) It’s a way to teach more than one child at once.

11) It’s tons of fun!

If you haven’t done so yet, please check out Bonnie’s website and book. I’ll have more to come next week as I begin reading Bonnie’s second book, Making Music and Having a Blast.