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Showing posts from November, 2010

It's a fact...

Music education helps children in their studies of other subjects. Several smart people have concluded this. Here are some quotes from various smart people on this subject: 1. On the basis of observations and experiments with newborns, neuroscientists now know that infants are born with neural mechanisms devoted exclusively to music. Studies show that early and ongoing musical training helps organize and develop children's brains. -"The Musical Mind," Susan Black, The American School Board Journal, January 1997. 2. Two research projects have found that music training--specifically piano instruction--can dramatically enhance children's spatial-temporal reasoning skills, the skills crucial for greater success in subjects like math and science. - Neurological Research, February 1997; Rauscher and Shaw, and Neurological Research, March 1999; Shaw, Graziano, and Peterson. 3. School leaders affirm that the single most critical factor in sustaining arts education in their scho…

Wattstax

"Wattstax" was a concert organized by Memphis's Stax Records to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts Riots in southern California. The concert was envisaged as "the African-American version of Woodstock". "Wattstax" is an interesting time capsule, preserving a moment in U.S. history when racial tensions were a constant issue and the fashion was decidedly Dy-No-Mite. My musical highlight was watching the Staples Singers perform "Respect Yourself". Oh, man - awesome. Family bands always sing together so well. Comes from doing it all their lives. The film closes with an Isaac Hayes performance. In 1972, Isaac Hayes was the Man, fresh off his mega-successful "Shaft" soundtrack. But I've never cared for his music, so I just fast-forwarded through his portion.  Watching the audience members at the  "Wattstax" concert is arguably more fun than watching the concert. The assembled throng is nattily attired in the hi…

Benefits of Formal Music Evaluations

Most of my students perform in the twice yearly recitals I organize. I also offer a more formal music performance and evaluation option each spring in the form of the Certificate of Merit program. I am able to offer this program for students because I am a member of the Music Teachers Association of California (MTAC). The benefits of yearly, formal music evaluations are different than those offered within a more casual recital setting. I was reminded of this when reading a recent blog post by teacher Yiyi Ku:
Benefits for students: Meeting deadlines: Having a specific date means certain pieces must be learned, memorized, and polished in a given time frame. This teaches the students about time management and the importance of meeting deadlines – immensely useful skills to have in all aspects of life.Handling pressure: Coping with nerves, anxiety, racing heartbeats, and learning to perform one’s best under pressure is one of the most important life skills students can learn.Accepting criti…

"The General" & "Steamboat Bill, Jr." @ Bal Theatre, San Leandro

I watched two classic Buster Keaton silent films last night at the historic Bal Theatre in San Leandro. It was an excellent time. The films were accompanied by a pianist (whose name escapes me).  Interesting to consider how much more work was available to musicians prior to the onset of "talkies" (i.e. films with sound). In this instance the pianist had some themes that he must have planned ahead of time to perform with each film, but much of his playing sounded improvised. During the first film "The General", he favored ragtime piano styles. Strains of Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" littered his playing. But not in an obscene, annoying way. He also adapted a well-known Thelonius Monk tune "Blue Monk" into a slow boogie-woogie style. This piece complemented some of the "runaway train" scenes especially well. The pacing of the  music accompanying the film was impressive. Essentially, the pianist was required to play non-stop for an ho…

Chopin's Small Miracles

From an article written by David Dubal, published in the Wall Street Journal, 9/3/10: Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), whose 200th anniversary it is this year, is the overwhelming favorite composer for the piano. He possessed the most subtle intuitions and fathomed the mysteries of the world. Oscar Wilde once said of him, "After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed and mourning over tragedies that were not my own." Most of the 24 Chopin Preludes were sketched out between 1837 and 1838. They are the ultimate miniatures. In an age when the symphony and sonata still held sway, writing these aphoristic Preludes was revolutionary. All except two contain a single musical idea, each boiled down to its essence. Never had brevity been so brief. Ten are under a minute in length; nine last just over a minute. Only the celebrated No. 15, the so-called "Raindrop Prelude," attains the length characteristic of a small piece, clocking in a…

The piano pedals

One of the questions I am asked most frequently by students is: "What does each pedal do?". I try my best to explain the functions in person, but to complement my explanations here is a post detailing the piano pedals, their use, and application. Most students have upright pianos at their disposal at home. Upright pianos rarely have an effectual "soft pedal". A teacher will explain to a student to a student, "The pedal on the far left is the soft pedal. Hold it down with your left and then when you play you should hear a muted sound with a different character." The student goes home, tries it, but alas the soft pedal produces no audible change. But the teacher has not lied. It's just that most upright piano soft pedals have no effect. They are just window dressing, garnish for the look of the instrument. Also, upright pianos rarely have a functional "sostenuto pedal". Instruction regarding this pedal is also difficult for teachers, as often th…

November 2010 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule for the month of November will be uninterrupted save for the Thanksgiving holiday in the last week of the month. I will not see Thursday students that week. -- Our Winter Recital will be held in the CSUEB Recital Hall on Sunday, December 12 between noon and 4pm. More details are forthcoming. -- The Certificate of Merit 2010-2011 cycle is in full swing. I will be collecting CM fees with payment for November lessons. This month I will finalize repertoire selections with each participating student and make sure that everyone has all the handouts they need to tackle the material appropriate their level. -- The monthly Ear Power program will be on hiatus until Spring 2011. Students: start dreaming up which favorite songs you'd like to nominate for selection when we resume in March! Have a happy month, Jesse