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December 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- I will not be teaching during the latter half of December. Here's a rundown of my schedule for the month:
Monday students: I will see you twice, 12/5 and 12/12 Tuesday students: I will see you twice, 12/6 and 12/13 Thursday students: I will see you thrice, 12/1, 12/8 and 12/15 Sunday students: I will see you twice, 12/4 and 12/11
There are a number of students I will be scheduling make-up lessons for due to various conflicts of mine. I will contact you directly. If you do not hear from me, then follow the schedule above.
-- There is a recital fee of $15 for every student participating in the recital. For families who have 2 siblings enrolled with me, the fee is $25. Please include this amount with your payment for December lessons.
-- The next student recital will be held on Saturday, December 10 between noon - 4pm at CSUEB. Click here for all important info about the event. And here is a list of performers and which group they will be in.
Have happy days, Jesse

November 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule for November will be mostly uninterrupted. I am not be teaching on Thanksgiving Day holiday, of course. I need to shuffle some Thursday and Sunday students to different times this month due to my ongoing performances in Berkeley. I will communicate schedule changes to everyone on an individual basis.
During the first two weeks of November I'm continuing my work with actress Rita Moreno's one-woman play "Life w/o Makeup" at the Berkeley Rep Theatre. If anyone is still interested in seeing the show, you need to get moving: Sunday, 11/13 is the final performance.

-- Fees for Certificate of Merit students are due with November lesson payments.
As a reminder, here are the CM dates for this spring:


* Performance evaluations will be held on the weekends of March 3-4 and March 10-11** Theory testing will be conducted on the weekend of March 3-4.
-- The next student recital will be held on Saturday, December 10 between noon - 4pm at CSUEB. Save the dat…

When Practice Isn't Enough

From an article by Corinna Da Fonseca-Wollheim, published in the Wall Street Journal 9/29/11: Performance psychologists are invited into music departments nation-wide, as educators recognize the need to prepare musicians for the competitive, high-stakes world of classical music. In the past, performance anxiety was rarely discussed; if anything, it was seen as a Darwinian way of separating those fit for a solo career from those doomed to teach. Today, performance psychologists advertise their services as coaches, not shrinks, providing musicians the same concrete tools and drills offered athletes and CEOs.
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Fear is not the problem: If you want to do well, you will probably experience fear. [The newer approach] is to build up the mental skills needed in a performance, like courage, trust and a focus on higher-order qualities: artistry and expression for musicians, strategy for athletes. Much of this involves [mental training] ... In addition, [performance psychologists coax] teachers…

October 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule during the month of October will be complicated. I have been hired to take over the pianist chair for actress Rita Moreno's one-woman play "Life w/o Makeup" at the Berkeley Rep Theatre. My first performance will be the evening of Tuesday, October 11.
The play runs through the entire month of October and then through the first week in November. There are shows Tuesday through Sunday every week. I will be calling and emailing parents and students in the next few days to discuss lessons that will need to be re-scheduled.
-- I have scheduled the next student recital. It will be held on Saturday, December 10 between noon - 4pm at CSUEB. More details are forthcoming.
-- The 2011-12 Certificate of Merit cycle has begun. Fees for participating students will be collected with November lesson payments. Here are the CM dates for this spring: * Performance evaluations will be held on the weekends of March 3 & 4 and March 10 & 11** Theory testing will be…

Musicians’ Brains Stay Sharp as They Age

From an article on FYI Living, published 6/15/11: "Engaging in musical activity for most of one’s lifetime significantly helps remember names, and enhances nonverbal memory, the ability to work based on what one sees, and mental agility during old age. The habit of physical exercise, in addition to musical involvement, further adds to mental lucidity in old age. Starting musical training early and continuing it for several years have a favorable effect on metal abilities during old age. Musical training also seems to enhance verbal prowess and the general IQ of a person." Read the full article here.

Important Dates: Next Recital & C.M.

A quick post here to alert students and parents of some important dates for the upcoming year. The next Student Recital will be held on Saturday, December 10 between noon - 4pm at CSUEB. The 2011-2012 Certificate of Merit dates for the spring are also in:  - Performance evaluations will be held on the weekends of March 3 & 4 and March 10 & 11- Theory testing will be conducted on the weekend of March 3 & 4. Jesse

MTAC General Meeting in Castro Valley

I watch my 7 month old son on Wednesdays. I'm getting to know his ways. It seems highly unlikely that he would be able sit quietly and not disrupt an hour-long MTAC meeting. So I've been planning all along to not attend this yearly "welcome back" meeting for Southern Alameda branch MTAC teachers. It's lovely for me that these meetings are held at the Castro Valley Center for the Performing Arts, which is located about 3 blocks from my house. I strapped the boy into his Ergo baby carrier and walked to center. Picked up my teacher packet, signed up for the requisite spring CM job, and then walked right out. I was like a phantom. "Hey, where'd that guy with the baby go?" Straight back home. Preparations for Certificate of Merit will begin ramping up with my students soon. I'm not looking forward to the added workload. But it's something I'm committed to offering. I won't back down. So let's do this. Jesse

Tips for Buying a Used Piano

Another informative video from Robert Estrin and Living Pianos. The best advice I would give to someone who is strongly considering purchasing a particular used piano: hire a piano technician to come with you and give the piano a thorough examination. Don't spend thousands of dollars purchasing an instrument that turns out be a lemon! Bring a piano technician (aka piano tuner or piano restorer) to the instrument first. Their cost will be small in relation to the greater cost of the instrument and will deliver you peace of mind about your purchase.

Had my piano tuned today...

My piano is on an every-6-months check-up schedule. To have one's piano tuned twice yearly is common. Due to the heat of the summer, my home instrument had predictably veered sharp in pitch. New realizations: 
- My regular tuner Linda saw when she entered my studio that I had my piano's keyboard covered by the key lid. She suggested I avoid encasing the keys this way on a regular basis because it will cause them to yellow more quickly as a result of being exposed to less oxygen. This was news to me. Instead, one can shield the keys from collecting dust with a felt piano key cover. Here's an inexpensive option sold by Amazon:
- The humidity levels in my teaching studio are too high and this climate problem will affect my piano's "health" in the the long-term. That is, unless I take action. I was convinced to finally take the plunge and have a Dampp-Chaser device installed on the instrument prior to my next tuning appointment. The Dampp-Chaser is a climate-control…

Foo Fighters: Back and Forth

The Foo Fighters were an important band for me. Their first album was released in 1995. I devoured it. I can recall a long drive with my family from the state of Washington back home to California in which I played my cassette copy of the Foo Fighters debut on repeat. My Walkman must have felt exhausted by the end of that trip. Dave Grohl is the frontman of the Foo Fighters. He is also an amazing drummer. His first taste of fame was as the drummer of Nirvana. I was a couple years late to discovering Nirvana. By the time I had immersed myself in fandom of that band, the frontman Kurt Cobain had committed suicide. What a waste. But what a joy, then, to discover Dave Grohl's awesome songwriting talents. The documentary "Foo Fighters: Back and Forth" chronicles the first 16(!) years of the band. In his interviews, Mr. Grohl has an unfortunate propensity for the "F word". His inability to speak articulately on camera unfortunately renders many of his remarks void. His…

September 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule during the month of September will be uninterrupted, save the observance of Labor Day on Monday, 9/5.
-- The Summer Film Scoring project is nearing completion. Several individuals have already composed and recorded their contributions. Others need to really buckle down and get to work during the upcoming weeks, because September is the final month for this project. 
-- I am planning to offer a wider variety of music web games to my students in the upcoming year. In particular, I'm eyeing the Theta Music Trainer and Music Learning Community offerings. More details are forthcoming.
-- The Song of the Month for September is "Someone Like You" by Adele. The chorus sounds like it would fit in perfectly with this song medley by Aussie comedy outfit Axis of Awesome (hint, hint).
Have a happy day, Jesse

Talmage Farlow

Tal Farlow (1921-1998) was a remarkable musician who revolutionized jazz guitar playing and then disappeared. He abandoned the plaudits, the fame, and the limelight for a quiet life in a town called Sea Bright on the Jersey shore, returning to his previous occupation as a sign painter. But he never stopped making music.  This 1981 documentary reveals the quiet life Farlow led in Sea Bright and features many interludes of his jaw-dropping exploits on the guitar. Farlow proves warm-hearted and winning. His remarkably huge hands reached intervals and chord shapes on the fretboard that are impossible for nearly all guitarists. He was physically gifted to accomplish special things on this instrument. That's not to say it was easy for him. Just like any other musician he had to graft and toil to achieve his skill set. It's a joy to see Farlow contented, flashing grins at his fellow musicians while in the midst of a jam session as they execute musical derring-do. It's interesting t…

August 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule during the month of August will be uninterrupted.
-- Effective August 1, the lessons fees will be raised for my Fremont students. Please note that I have not been consulted with regard to this fee rise; the store I rent a space in one day a week in Fremont sets the rates for all the teachers who work there. I will continue to work hard at providing the best service I can.
**Lesson rates are unchanged for my Castro Valley students.
-- The Summer Film Scoring project is up and running. I have about 20 students participating and it has been an educational experience for all. I'm learning more of the features of the iMovie program. Students are learning about the joys and challenges of linking music and sound to visuals. This project will continue through this month and then to at least mid-September. Everyone will receive a copy of their work in some form when the projects are complete.
-- There will be no Song of the Month for August. There's already enough g…

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?

Watched this documentary knowing full well the turn of events: immense talent descends into self-destructive behavior -- booze, drugs -- and dies young. "Who Is Harry Nilsson?" isn't an amazing film portrait but it does provide an entry point to the musical offerings of said raconteur.  Nilsson was probably most well-known as The Beatles' favorite artist in the late 1960's. After the Fab Four had issued many public remarks upping Nilsson's work, Nilsson struck up enduring friendships with Ringo Starr and John Lennon. During different periods, each served as Nilsson's "wingman" when Nilsson would set out on his regular, wild binges. One is struck by what an angelic voice Nilsson possessed yet squandered due to misbehavior. His last wife remembers him with a smile and a laugh, which is lovely to see. What a long-suffering woman!  Another takeaway for me from this film is Nilsson's likeness to a more recent depressive singer-songwriter who flamed…

Just purchased: Pedal Extender

The Piano Pedal Extender I ordered last week arrived in the mail on Monday and I placed it straight into use with a couple of my younger students on Tuesday. The pedal extender attaches easily to the piano, "extending" the piano's two vital pedals upward, thus allowing more height-challenged pianists to begin work on their pedaling technique despite their feet not yet reaching the floor.  I've been meaning to purchase one of these for awhile and finally made it happen. The extender will be a fixture in my home Castro Valley studio. I purchased the extender for a very reasonable price from CPS Imports. Great service, great product. Jesse

Marc-Andre Hamelin: No Limits - The World of the Piano, Vol. 2

Marc-Andre Hamelin is an outstanding Canadian-American concert pianist. This documentary film presents Hamelin as he prepares for a solo concert, checking in with him several times in the months and weeks leading up to the performance. His insights into the music he's practicing - selections by Haydn and Debussy, among others - are always revealing. We witness him sight-reading the Haydn work for the first time. Many would mistake his playing for a finished performance, but it becomes clear immediately that Hamelin maintains exceedingly high standards for his work. Also included on the DVD are the concert and an hour long sit-down interview in which Hamelin is probed by a staid French journalist. Hard to get through that interview, but the rest of the package is golden.

MTAC Convention 2011 - Day 3

I am attending the annual Music Teachers Association of CA (MTAC) convention at the Marriott hotel in downtown Oakland this weekend. Here's a summary of the events I attended today: "Practicing Performing" lecture by Fred Karpoff: - Mr. Karpoff's whirlwind presentation this morning focused on wisdom he's gained from two prominent performance coaches: Don Greene, Ph.D. and Robert Caldwell. I say that the presentation was "whirlwind" because Karpoff was allotted a mere 45-minutes to deliver a bushel full of material. He was speaking so fast at times that I thought steam would begin surging from his ears. Unfortunate that he was forced to rush, because he had much vital material to share. Upon reflection, the most striking thing he said this morning was that we spend too much time practicing the wrong things. We should seek to stimulate performance scenarios more frequently in order to become more comfortable with the tense sensations inherent in that endeavor…

MTAC Convention 2011 - Day 2

I am attending the annual Music Teachers Association of CA (MTAC) convention at the Marriott hotel in downtown Oakland this weekend. The city of Oakland is a great tease. It seduces you with its grand history, cultural diversity, and urban attitude. But just as soon as you let your guard down it buffets you with some harsh reality. For many Oakland residents I'm sure the first blow is a personal encounter with crime. I can attest to this sensation from my years living in Oakland: when my car was stolen, I experienced a loss of innocence coupled with a feeling of violation. I love Oakland, but now that I'm almost two years removed from living there I understand better why it's best for me to reside elsewhere. On my lunch break today I was saddened at the number of homeless people sleeping on the ground in Ogawa Plaza at midday. Adding to my melancholy was the amount of rubbish on the ground in the plaza. Trash was everywhere and it was not a pretty sight. My Jamba Juice smoot…