Musical experiences

Welcome back to Term 2!

I hope our students have enjoyed some extra musical experiences over the school holidays.

In the rush of farm stays, soccer camps, holiday programs and fun parks, musical experiences can often be forgotten.

 

I was fortunate enough to attend 3 world class concerts over the holidays. Two were classical and one was jazz/funk/rock.

For me several things were delightful:

  • watching the differences between genres and how each perform
  • seeing passion and joy come through all performances
  • knowing that there are so many musical options all over Sydney, every night
  • bumping in to friends who were also attending

There are wonderful ways to get children involved in music. Certainly, children could not be taken to the jazz concert I attended, as it was held in a licensed venue. However the two classical concerts were both possible events to be enjoyed by the slightly older child.

Another fantastic and ongoing event is the Sydney Flash Mob choir, under the baton of Richard Gill. I signed up for this as I love singing in groups, and am always keen to hear from Mr Gill, who is so passionate about music and music education. https://www.cityrecitalhall.com/events/flash-mob-choir

Musica Viva’s Festival was held during the holidays, and they have a magnificent kids program. Unfortunately it will be another year until this comes round again, but most of our children have fortunately experienced the professionalism and joy of Musica Viva performances in their schools.

Here is one of the artistic activities on offer at the Conservatorium last week. 

So even as we return to the busyness of school and other extra curricular activities, please do remember that it’s great to supplement your children’s music lessons with experiences of music out there in the real world!

Get ready to practise!

Welcome back to 2017!

It’s a brand new year and Stellar Music School has a completely new approach!

We are continuing to focus on the relational aspect of our tuition, believing that having inspirational teachers who are musicians in their own right, is a key way to inspire passion for music in children.

However, we have said goodbye to our physical properties in Lindfield and North Sydney, and now our highly qualified and passionate teachers will be coming to you!

Lessons will be held in your homes from now on.

 

What can you do to prepare for our teachers’ arrival?

  • Get rid of distractions: turn off the TV, make sure siblings are in another room
  • Get ready by making sure the room is well lit and ventilated
  • Make sure you’re not hungry, by having a snack and a drink of water
  • Open your practice diary so your teacher can see where you got up to last week

I often say to my students that the most important practice of the week is the practice you do immediately after the lesson.

When your teacher leaves at the end of the lesson, DON’T IMMEDIATELY CLOSE THE PIANO OR PUT AWAY YOUR INSTRUMENT!!

If you stay and practise for about ten minutes more, it will help you to remember the new learning you just did, and it will make every other day’s practice that much easier.
We look forward to coming and teaching you at home. Keep practising and keep loving your music!

Slow and careful practice

Welcome back to Term 3, which will be a busy term holding many exams and concerts!

Today’s blog and is another encouragement on how to practise more effectively.

Many of my students present me with work-in-progress which is extremely disjointed, as they play too fast for their current ability regarding this piece. They play one bar well, then stop, read and fiddle for notes, before playing another bar then pausing again.

The better to way to prepare, is to play so slowly that it is IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE MISTAKES! This takes discipline, but is an excellent way to play so that the student can observe all aspects of the piece at a slower speed, gradually increasing speed over consecutive practices, until they can succeed with no mistakes and no pauses.

Holiday homework

I’m sorry to disappoint my students, but I don’t see holidays as an opportunity to rest; I see it as an opportunity to practice without the problem of school taking up so many hours of each day.

My suggestion in making holiday practice more fun, is to mix things up a little. Try different repertoire, try different technical exercises or scales and arpeggios. If you’re an instrumentalist, take your instrument into a different practice room for a change.

Do your siblings learn music? Try forming a duo or a trio. See if you can make an arrangement of a song you all know and like.

See how creative you can be. Maybe write your own song.

And in the other extra time you have, try to see a live show, or a concert. It’s always inspiring to see professionals play.

Enjoy the time off school, and mix things up a little with your music during the break!

 

Never lose the wonder!

Another busy term is drawing to a close.

At Stellar Music School we are gearing up for our Semester 1 concerts, and an opportunity to share our pieces with an appreciative audience.

It has been a great term of new classes, continuing lessons and examination goals.

 

And for those classes who are moving along, making slow but continuous progress, how do we maintain the magic?

 

Fun, humour and passion are hallmarks of our tuition. We love to learn and we learn together.

We mix it up in our classes, doing aural exercises, playing bingo, drawing music notes on the whiteboard, and also doing scale drills.

We also have a collection of other instruments – a cajon, an accordion, rain sticks, ukuleles, and more percussion instruments.

We sing, we dance, and we play other instruments.

I am delighted to hear of any musical adventures my students have elsewhere in life, even when it means they feel the need to bring their recorders to show off in their lesson!

 

I hope that I will also always be learning and finding new musical things to wonder at and to inspire my students with.

Surely life will be more rich if we all greet each day as an opportunity to make new discoveries and find new adventures!

 

Whatever it takes!

This blog is to inspire and hopefully to share some clues about what works in motivating students to practise, and to work on the skills necessary to learn and play music.

This post is a quick one, but it worked for one family, so I’m sharing it!

 

5 minutes’ practice = 10 minutes of Minecraft.

That simple.

 

This child hasn’t played his trombone so much in months, if not in years.

 

If bribery works for you, then feel free to rework this model, substituting whatever has currency for your child.

 

 

Quantity vs Quality

An age-old question….

One of my students proclaimed yesterday in class that she is practising for an hour each day.

That’s fantastic! Exams are only four weeks away, so more practice is necessary.

However this particular student had completely ignored one important scale, which she was still unable to play.

Another student who apparently was practising an hour a day came to each lesson playing the same mistakes every week. Nothing had ever improved.

Further investigation revealed that her daily hour of practise began at 8pm (she’s 7 years old) as a way of delaying her bedtime.

I love it when my students are practising for good blocks of time.

But if they are practising mistakes, then the good parts of the pieces are becoming better, and the bad bits stay bad.

If they are completely ignoring the difficult sections, then obviously no improvement is ever made.

I love the following quote, by Daniel Goleman in his book “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence”.

I hope that it can help inspire my students to aim for quality in their daily practice, rather than quality in which nothing is ever improved.

The “10,000-hour rule” — that this level of practice holds the secret to great success in any field — has become sacrosanct gospel, echoed on websites and recited as litany in high-performance workshops. The problem: it’s only half true. If you are a duffer at golf, say, and make the same mistakes every time you try a certain swing or putt, 10,000 hours of practicing that error will not improve your game. You’ll still be a duffer, albeit an older one.

Performance practice

It’s that time of the year, and our end of year concerts are weeks away.

What advice can I give to our students as they prepare?

  • Work on perfecting the concert song – make sure that all dynamics are observed (louds and softs) and that any different articulations are attended to (staccato/legato/accents/tenuto)
  • Make sure phrasing is thoughtful – watch how the melody flows, and try to have a rise and fall in each phrase (generally each four to eight bars)
  • PRACTISE THE BAD BITS – I cannot emphasise this enough – playing a piece through time and again tends to make the good bits better while the bad bits stay bad.  Please spend time and concerted energy on any sections which are challenging.  It may take awhile the first time, but with each successive playing, the trouble part should become stronger and more confident.
  • Practise performing – over the coming weeks, take any opportunity to practise in front of class members, family and friends, and neighbours, so that when the concert arrives, it is not such a big deal
  • Lastly, ENJOY!  Our concerts are very friendly and supportive and the audience is always delighted to share in your learning and encourage your performance.  Remember to smile and acknowledge their encouragement with a bow or curtsey.

All your family, friends and teachers at Stellar Music School look forward to cheering you on during our concerts on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th December.  Keep working and keep loving your music!

Back to the beginning

Well, I did promise to report back on my experience as a beginner.  I have now had two carillon lessons, and it has been fascinating to see how I fall into all the habits that drive me to distraction in my own students!

  • I play everything better alone; when the teacher is listening, mistakes happen.  (Even worse, if I’m playing well and my teacher says, “Good,” then I immediately stumble!)
  • I play much faster than necessary.  I know that the chances of success are much higher if one starts slowly, but I want to show off for my teacher, and I want to sound good.
  • I try pieces all hands and feet together, when I know that my chances of success are greatly improved if I learn things hands/feet separately first and then slowly add a component.
  • I know that practising 15 minutes a day is preferable to doing 1 hour’s practice the day before the lesson, and yet this is what I do (although in my defence, I have to make a journey to the carillon, so it is more difficult that picking up an instrument at home).

 

Already, this experience is giving me more insight into my students, and hopefully it will increase my patience when students exhibit any of the above tendencies!

Carillon selfie

Me at the Sydney University practice Carillon…. am I the only one who thinks that it looks a little like a medieval instrument of torture?!