Friday, April 29, 2011

May 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- My teaching schedule during the month of May will be uninterrupted, save the Memorial Day holiday. I will not be teaching on Sunday, May 29, and I will not be teaching of Monday, May 30. 

-- The next Piano/Guitar recital will be held on the evening of Saturday, May 21 from 6:30-9:30pm in the recital hall of the Music building on the CSUEB campus. Group 1 will begin at 7pm. Group 2 will begin at 8:15pm. Here's a listing of which students will be performing in each group.

It is essential that you include the $10 recital fee with your payment for May lessons. I need to collect this fee for every participating student in order to offset the cost of renting the recital hall.

Once the recital fee has been paid you will receive 2 tickets (4 tickets if you have two of your children enrolled in lessons with me) for adult admission to the recital. Admission for children (18 & under) is free. Any other adults - family & friends - will be charged $5 at the door. It's available to purchase extra tickets in advance.
-- The Ear Power song for the month of May is "Rocketeer" by Far East Movement. No comment. Download links below.
Rocketeer
Free Wired - Far East Movement

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Timeless: Suite for Ma Dukes

Timeless: Suite for Ma Dukes

This CD/DVD package presents a singular occasion: the setting of legendary hip-hop producer J-Dilla's music for chamber orchestra(!) in a one-off concert event. Conductor & arranger Miguel Atwood-Ferguson does the heavy lifting here, often padding J-Dilla's minimalist masterpieces into arrangements more suiting the heft of the 60-piece "Ma Dukes" Orchestra. Ma Dukes is the affectionate nickname for J-Dilla's mother. Her stamp of approval was required for this project since J-Dilla passed away at a tragically young age from a lupus-related ailment. At times the members of the orchestra resemble an MTV casting call: these are beautiful people. I doubt they were recruited for their looks, but still -- it's notable that they don't look like gawky, music-conservatory bred nerds. Atwood-Ferguson has an unconventional conductor style, and this makes him a lot of fun to watch. Speaking of fun: I've never seen an orchestra visibly enjoy performing in concert this much. Most everyone bobs their head, smiles, and laughs knowingly when a telling musical wave emerges in the arrangements. A refreshing encounter. What a beautiful and gracious tribute by Atwood-Ferguson to J-Dilla's legacy. No doubt this took hundreds of hours to organize. He pulls it off.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

20 Practice Tips


Here's another outstanding offering from Australian music educator Nicole Murphy. Her postings on the Music Teacher's blog are always insightful, and her compilation of "20 Practice Tips" for musicians is no exception:

1. Warm Up
2. Practise often
Small, frequent practice sessions are more effective than one or two longer sessions each week.
3. Have a plan
Have immediate, short and long-term goals.
4. Develop a practise routine that works for you
5. Practise at your instrument and away from it
Next time you’re on a bus, plane or train, try practising without your instrument. Study the score, analyse the harmony, think through the phrasing. You will be amazed at how easy it is to become familiar with a piece when you don’t have your technique distracting you.
6. Listen
Enough said.
7. Make notes
Keep a pencil with your instrument and scribble as often as you need to in a practice journal or on your music. As you become more familiar with a piece you can start to remove unnecessary practise markings from the score.
8. Make noise
Don’t be afraid to sing, clap or count aloud.
9. Listen to different recordings of repertoire you are learning
Analyse aspects of technique, expression, style and interpretation.
10. Identify the problem
Don’t bash through a piece aimlessly, wondering why it hasn’t improved. Identify the problem and get to work on that particular passage.
11. Repetition is key
If you play a particular passage incorrectly 5 times in a row, then finally get it right on the sixth try, don’t move onto something else. In doing so, you have effectively practised the wrong thing 5 times and the correct passage only once. The number of times you play a passage correctly needs to far outweigh the number of times you played it incorrectly.
12. Decide on fingering and be consistent with it
Make decisions early in the process and stick with them.
13. Play as many details on your first read as possible
Dynamics, articulation, phrasing, etc are as much a part of the music as the pitches and rhythms.
14. Practise slowly
15. Refer constantly to lesson notes
Prior to each practice session, read over the lesson notes from your teacher.
16. Record yourself
This can sometimes help with Practise Tip #7.
17. Understand the difference between practice and play...
And make sure you do both!
18. Don’t practise when you are tired
You won’t achieve anything if you aren’t focused and concentrating when you practise. This only leads to frustration.
19. Be aware of your entire body, not merely your fingers
20. Be inspired
Feed yourself a steady diet of live performances, books on music, YouTube clips and audio recordings of your favourite performers.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Art Pepper: Notes from a Jazz Survivor

Art Pepper: Notes from a Jazz Survivor


Art Pepper (1925 - 1982) was one of the greatest alto saxophonists to ever grace a stage. He also was a severely troubled human being. He is most notorious for his addiction to heroin, which spanned several decades and landed him in prison numerous times. This brief documentary film (less than 50 minutes duration) finds Pepper in better physical health and performing again at or near his peak level. The man still had his delusions, though. At one point he deadpans to the camera, "I'm a genius. I don't think there's anyone out there who plays better than me. I'm a genius". Humility is not his strong suit. A fascinating portrait of a man whose past cast a dark shadow, and whose horn was a vessel for melodious disclosures.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Still Bill

Still Bill

Bill Withers is best known for penning the classic songs "Lean On Me", "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone", and "Just the Two of Us". In this humanizing documentary portrait we visit with Bill decades after the hurricane of fame swept through his life. He's not sure he wants to make music anymore. He struggles to feel inspired. Juxtaposed with present-day scenes of his quiet domestic life are clips of Bill in his heyday, performing on stages around the world. Now he's content to simply rest and reflect on his days in the limelight; he's no longer fueled by the passions of youth or a need to prove himself. That said, as the title of the film simply states, he's "Still Bill". Still a sensitive soul possessed of a poet's heart and an effervescent compassion for his fellow man.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

CM Honors Recital Hosting @ C.V. Performing Arts


It happened: this year I was charged with working a 2nd day for the Certificate of Merit program. The threat always looms that if you enroll 10 or more students in the annual C.M. proceedings you may be scheduled for 2 or even 3 work days. 
A couple weeks ago I worked for an entire day as a theory test room monitor and today I hosted 2 honors recitals and was a "helper" for a 3rd. I don't really buy into these honors recitals and that makes it difficult for me to act as a leader of them. It's all too starchy and stiff for me. 
The kids are great musicians, no doubt. With every one of the performers I listened to today, one conclusion was clear: these are exceptional music students. But after hearing 2+ plus hours of solo piano music it wouldn't matter if Ludwig van strode through the doors and performed his "Tempest" Sonata. My ears were fatigued, my head was saturated.
As recital host I was asked to read opening and closing remarks from a written script. I attempted to quickly extract the bullet points of said remarks in order to speak more off the cuff and be more than a drone onstage.
Unfortunate that I had to cancel students who I normally see on the weekend, but fortunate that I can walk about 3 blocks from my home to the Castro Valley Performing Arts center. I lost income, but I didn't pollute the air with my automobile. Little victories. 
The grand piano in the Auditorium at the Arts center is remarkable. It produces a winning, warm tone. The grand piano in the smaller Exhibition Hall is not so delightful; that instrument sounded shrill and dull at the afternoon recital I hosted. It didn't help that this Hall (aka "room" - it's the size and shape of a regulation school classroom) had an incessantly buzzing light fixture or P.A. speaker or something. That was a drag: a sub-par piano accompanied by a droning industrial noise. These children deserve better!
The defining image of my day of work: many male students entered the building wearing heavy winter gloves on their hands. I hope they're not developing a complex about their hands so young, but it seems they're already traveling down that road. They looked like mad geniuses, aware of something beyond the understanding of common-folk. "It's 70 degrees outside, why are they wearing gloves?" Right - they're pianists. Budding Glenn Goulds, for better and worse.
Jesse

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 2011 Teaching Schedule

-- I will observe both the Castro Valley and Fremont school district spring breaks during the month of April. The C.V. spring break runs from 4/18 - 4/22. I will not be teaching Castro Valley students that week (except the ones I have spoken to - I think you know who you are... if you are confused, email me). The Fremont spring break runs from 4/25 - 4/29. I will not be teaching Fremont students that week.

-- The next Piano/Guitar recital will be held on the evening of Saturday, May 21 from 6:30-9:30pm. Please save the date. I would like to have as many of my students participate as possible.

-- The 2011 Certificate of Merit results have been posted online. I now await word that I can pick up the evaluation packets to distribute back to students. I should have these materials to hand out by mid-April.
-- Lastly, the "Ear Power" song of the month program resumes in April. Student votes are in, and the song we will be learning by ear in April is "Forget You" by Cee Lo Green. This is a great pop song. Download links below.
Forget You
Forget You - The Lady Killer

Have a happy month,
Jesse