Saturday, October 31, 2009

Susan Clark's benefits of Music Education

Excerpted from a speech by Susan Clark, flute teacher and new MTAC president:

- It has been proven that studying music at a young improves a child's (and adult's) math skills. Fractions translate directly to Rhythm; Sets and Intersecting Sets are nothing more than musical keys and related keys. Private music study, and the practice required to learn the music, makes musicians excellent project managers, able to plan ahead toward individual or group goals. Musicians are able to manage time wisely and able to handle multiple projects at once, taking responsibility for each outcome.

- Much of musical training has to do with identifying and mastering patterns in everything from compositional structure to technical passages. Musicians can apply that ability to working environments, including computer technology. Those with musical aptitude and training have the closest match to persons with the personality and skills to be successful in today's technical world.

- Musicians tend to be creative people, in tune with their minds, their bodies, and their emotions. They are able to identify patterns in behavior and processes which may or may not work with speech. Musicians are able to work closely with others (especially instrumental musicians) and meet group goals. Musicians come to understand that it is only through working effectively with others (accompanists, conductors, and other performers) that a performance (or a project) will be successful).

Susan Clark, new MTAC President

Susan Clark is a flute teacher and the newly inaugurated MTAC President. Her July 6, 2009 acceptance speech is published in the Fall 2009 issue of the MTAC publication "The California Music Teacher". It contains many passages that I find inspiring. Here are some excerpts:

"So ... we are all music teachers. We all go through the same grind of scheduling the students who have chosen us as a teacher, teaching them the basics and the intricacies of the instrument they have chosen to play and we have chosen to teach, and then collecting our due payment for instruction. We coddle the slow-learners and revel in the joy of teaching those who catch on quickly... We keep our distance from stuffy noses and coughs... We deal with late arrivals, and those who hang around after lessons when we wish they would leave. We juggle our own lives to allow time for teaching and end up juggling the students' lives as well, as they try to find a balance between school and sports and music and church and a myriad of other outside influences. We act as mediator between students and their parents regarding the cost of music, the cost of lessons, the cost of recitals and competitions, the cost of instrument repair, and the importance of regular practice. We also end up being counselors by default, as students arrive at lessons with outside problems that need attention before they can concentrate on the lesson at hand. And amidst all of this -- we teach music.

You are all to be commended for your exceeding effort and success in teaching such a life skill. Not only are you teaching music, but you are teaching your students to literally survive in this world. Not many, if any, of our students come to us as prodigies, or will be solo/concerto winners, or complete the highest level of Certificate of Merit... Few, if any, will choose music as their course of study in college, and some won't even go to college. But I can guarantee you that your students will be successful in life. Often we lose track of our students after many years and don't realize that our music instruction had a major impact on their lives. In some cases, the student may not even realize the impact...

[We] have the very best profession of all -- teaching music, which is the basis for life itself. And survival in today's world is not easy. Musical development takes place over a span of time, beginning with the years it takes to develop the muscles (and the ears) required to "just get the notes right" and continuing as ability increases to perform musically. It culminates with the development of enough technical facility to attempt the most difficult and rewarding compositions. And all this time, the students thinks he's only learning music! But we know the truth. In reality, he's learning everything needed to face life, no matter where his goals and opportunities take him. In the words of Jon Nakamatsu (tonight's concert artist): when he was at the bedside of his long-time teacher, Marina Derryberry, he said to her: "You gave me my life." Never underestimate the impact your teaching can have on your students, because you, my fellow teachers, are where it starts."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What's going on

I "moved" to a new home in Castro Valley on Oct. 1, but the truth is my wife and I have been in a state of limbo, sleeping at my parents house and working on refurbishing our *new* home in the meantime. The previous tenant left all kinds of rubbish and general disrepair for us to tend to. What a kind woman! (<-----that is cynicism) It has been two weeks of near-constant graft and labor.

Finally, last night we were able to finish enough of our interior work to sleep in our new house. I am hopeful that stability will return to my life as we continue settling in over the coming weeks.

This period of my life has been challenging, but also encouraging. We have the opportunity to shape a home in the way that we would like (assuming we're willing to put in the work!).

Just thought I'd drop a note to let anyone interested know what's been going on lately. This move is like starting over.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 2009 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule will be uninterrupted during the month of October.

-- I am in the process of moving into a new home in Castro Valley, and thus may be a bit slower in responding to communications (especially email). Bear with me - I should be settled in from mid-month onwards.

Have a happy day,