Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Music Lessons Help Improve Math Skills

From Newsweek, 7/24/00:

"The most controversial finding about the musical mind is that learning music can help children do better at math. When a researcher at the recent conference in New York brought up these studies, he got an auditoriumful of laughs. Yet the link, reported in 1997 by Gordon Shaw of the University of California, Irvine, and Frances Rauscher at the University of Wisconsin, has held up. Last year Shaw compared three groups of second graders: 26 got piano instruction plus practice with a math video game, 29 received extra English lessons plus the math game and 28 got no special lessons. After four months the piano kids scored 15 percent to 41 percent higher on a test of ratios and fractions than the other kids. This year, Shaw reported that music can help bridge a socioeconomic gap. He compared second graders in inner-city Los Angeles to fourth and fifth graders in more affluent Orange County, Calif. After a year of piano, the second graders who received twice-a-week piano training in school scored as well as the fourth graders, who did not; half of the second graders scored as well as fifth graders."

Read the complete article here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sorry Kids, Piano Lessons Make You Smarter

From Forbes.com, 7/15/04:

"It's sure to be music to parents' ears: After nine months of weekly training in piano or voice, new research shows young students' IQs rose nearly three points more than their untrained peers. 

The Canadian study lends support to the idea that musical training may do more for kids than simply teach them their scales--it exercises parts of the brain useful in mathematics, spatial intelligence and other intellectual pursuits."

Read the rest of this article here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The recital's over...and I'm tired!

Phew! That was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. All the performers were great, and I feel very encouraged that each one of these events is better than the last. Jason & I will continue our striving to always present a quality concert experience.

There are a few things that we can improve on for the next recital in December, including:

- Giving actual tickets to the parents & students who pay the recital fee in advance. Having physical tickets to hand to the door person will eliminate any confusion as to who has paid already, how much they have paid, which student they're with, etc. Just hand them your ticket, and you're in, program in hand.

- Jason & I are hopeful that in the future we can enlist older (or at least more mature) students who are willing to assist as members of the stage crew. Working as part of the stage crew is a different part of the concert experience featuring setting-up, tearing down, problem-solving, and working together as a group. It could be educational and enlightening for students interested in learning what type of effort is required to put on an orderly concert.

- Students need to know what to do when they have finished their performance onstage! There are generally 2 choices: retrace your path and return backstage, or return to the audience to sit with family & friends. As simple as these choices are, I think a lot of the performers hadn't thought that far ahead, and it led to a few awkward moments. I'll try to give better instruction prior to the next recital in December.

Do you have any thoughts as to what we can improve for future performances? Please email me and let me know: jessemicek@yahoo.com

I'll sign off now -- exhausted, but content.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 2009 -- Teaching schedule & upcoming events

-- The July 12th recital is imminent. It will be held in the music department at CSUEB in Hayward. We’ve reserved the recital hall from noon - 4 pm that day. Per our usual, the performers will be divided into 2 groups. The first group will start at 1pm, and the second group around 2:30pm. Watch this space the next couple days for further recital info!

-- My teaching schedule will be uninterrupted during the month of July. However, I am performing in a summer musical workshop at CSUEB the weekend of July 24-25. I will need to leave teaching early on the evenings 7/20, 7/21, and 7/23 for dress rehearsals. I am hopeful that I will be able to schedule my evening students at different time slots that week. Students I see earlier in the day will be unaffected. This new musical I'll be performing is called "Almond Eyes", and you can learn more about it here should you be interested.

-- Parents & students: please continue to keep me informed as summer travel and vacation plans arise. Thank you in advance.

I am looking forward to the July 12 recital performances.

Hope to see you there,


MTAC Convention 2009 - Day 3

The weekend rolls along. I woke up bright and early this Sunday morning to attend:

Film Scoring Seminar with Glen Stark, "Teaching Film Scoring in a Traditional Studio"
- I am interested in developing a method for teaching music composition to interested students. A further step past that goal is the possibility of instructing students in scoring music for film (!). While I have composed my fair share of original music, I have never worked on synchronizing music to film, so I am presently lacking expertise.
Mr. Stark is the leading light in this new MTAC program. He presented a short lecture on how to teach film scoring, and then fielded questions from the audience. Many teachers were concerned about the technical aspects of the program, i.e. how to employ certain computer software, how to record the music, etc. It's a new avenue of instruction, and it appears that very few MTAC teachers have attempted to teach film scoring thus far.
I need to allow this idea to simmer for a time, and then hopefully in the next year I'll be able to select 1-2 "guinea pigs" (AKA willing students) to try their hand at film scoring. It is a very exciting prospect, but I need to figure out where to begin.

I had a morning engagement directly after the film scoring presentation, so I headed to that next. Afterward, I was overwhelmed by exhaustion and decided to drive home. I know that I missed some great performances (Hans Boepple gave an afternoon piano recital, which I missed) and presentations (the student winners for this year's film scoring competition were presented in a "screening" of their work), but I do get tired.

The convention actually carries on a couple more days, ending Tuesday afternoon, but I will not be able to attend any more events due to my teaching schedule. I had an enlightening experience attending my first convention. I am filled to overflowing with new knowledge and feel replenished. I have great hope for the future.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

MTAC Convention 2009 - Day 2

Day 2 of the convention was invigorating. I took in much great information today and will focus on digesting said information over the next few months.

Here are the events I attended today:

Hans Boepple Advanced Master Class:
- I arrived late to this event. Our country's forefathers fought and earned many things. Today I decided that among the things they won is my personal right to sleep in on July 4, Independence Day. Thank you, forefathers.
Anyway, Hans Boepple is a piano master. Last fall I attended a he gave on the music of J.S. Bach. Boepple is filled with a depth of knowledge. I caught the 2nd hour of his "Master Class" today and it was excellent. Several high school-age students performed for him and he offered critiques. This can sometimes be a very clinical process, but Boepple managed to keep things light and always encouraging for the students.

Michael Schneider Lecture on Louis Gottschalk:
- Gottschalk (1829-1869) was America's first musical virtuoso. He is particularly significant as the first American-born musician to gain wide acclaim and acceptance from Europe's conservatories and musical elite.
Schneider - whose Intermediate Master Class I enjoyed yesterday - alternated speaking about the events of Gottschalk's life and performing piano pieces composed by the man. The music was striking and the performances were stellar. 
I must admit that prior to today I had never heard the name "Gottschalk". Shame on me, I guess, but not really -- my head was previously filled with many more important things, i.e. my wife's birthdate, my bank account number, etc. But now my brain has made some space for Gottschalk, alongside all the rest.

Jane Bastien Master Class Demonstration:
- Jane Bastien is a jedi. This woman was on point today, offering a presentation of her methods for instructing children of various ages. I had previously not taken any notes at this convention, but as Bastien spoke, I found myself having difficulty keeping up with my note-taking, so insightful were her remarks. And they really ought to be: she has 50+ years of teaching experience now, and she has never stopped working. The Bastien piano method books have been among the most widely used for decades now, and they are used by teachers all over the world. She is a master instructor.
It was a joy to witness the warmth she shared with the 4 students of hers that were invited to participate in the demonstrations - a great reminder of how rich the teacher-student relationship can become.
Full disclosure: I use the Bastien method books with all of my younger students, so listening to Mlle. Bastien today was a "celebrity experience" for me. She provided great insights, and I have the 6 pages of notes to prove it.

Lecture with Jane, Lori & Lisa Bastien, "Continuing the Legacy -- Music and the Family":
- Jane Bastien worked closely with her husband James Bastien until his passing in 2005. Both their daughters developed a love of the piano also, and now, as adults, each of them teaches a thriving piano studio. Jane Bastien's mother - Lori & Lisa's grandmother - was a piano instructor as well, so the Bastien family tree is truly a dynastic link in modern piano pedagogy.
Each of the three women offered rich & humorous reminisces of their lives in music.
*It ought to be noted that Lori Bastien was wearing a smashing red leather jacket, with white stars. This top was complemented by striped dark blue pants. Only at the end of the lecture did I realize, "Of course - it's July 4th; stars & stripes, she's making it work!"

And then I headed off to a holiday barbecue.
More tomorrow.


Friday, July 3, 2009

MTAC Convention 2009 - Day 1

I am attending the annual Music Teachers Association of CA (MTAC) convention in Santa Clara this weekend.

Here's a summary of the events I attended today:

New Music lecture by Gail Lew:
- A presentation of newly published works for piano. Each attendee received a packet with descriptive listings regarding the new works. The packet also included complimentary copies of select pieces. Free stuff -- hooray!

Melody Bober lecture:
- Mlle. Bober gave suggestions for how to effectively teach rhythm to younger students. I need to buy a wood block!

Michael Schneider Intermediate Master Class:
- Schneider, a noted concert pianist and teacher, tutored a select group of 5 students. Each student prepared 1 piece to perform, and then Schneider spent 10-15 minutes with each performer making suggestions and encouraging each how they can improve future performances. Some of these kids are musical machines. I am thinking of one of the little rascals in particular, though unlike your typical robot, he was visibly enjoying himself.

Gary Ingle lecture:
- Ingle is Executive Director and CEO of Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), the oldest music teacher association in the United States. He spoke on how music teachers ought not to bunker themselves, hiding away when faced with adversity. Instead we ought to be adaptable and confident of the essential role we play in society. We all know that schools and communities are perpetually cutting music education funding, but what will our response be? 
I particularly appreciated this remark he made in the middle of his presentation: "The private music teacher is the backbone of the arts community." (Gary is an idealist, like me)

I'll post again tomorrow.