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Just Try!

DAMTA President’s Message
November 2018

Hello DAMTA!

I wanted to share a few thoughts on why some students are a pleasure to teach and others are more trying.

Of course, it’s a dream to have a talented student who applies themselves with dedication and makes tremendous progress.  But those students are few and far between.

And raw talent is not always an indicator of how well lessons will go.  I have one very talented student that drives me crazy!

And I don’t require unquestioning obedience.  Sometimes it’s delightful when a student has a suggestion that is better than what I was advocating.

No, what really sets the fun students apart from headache inducing ones is a simple thing; the willingness to try.

I have written in the past on the importance of willingness in a student for their own progress.  But that willingness makes such a difference when working with a student.

When a kid is only in lessons because his parents are making him/her come, they can be almost education proof.  You can tell them the same thing 50 times, but their memory will not turn the data into a piece of useful information.  It’s because they have no use for it in their own mind.  They slop through expending the absolute minimum of effort.  It’s maddening.  And it can make you question your own effectiveness and approach.

On the other hand, if you have a kid (or adult) that is willing to try, even if progress is very slow, at least you have someone you can work with.  You are both on the same team.  You both want them to improve.  It may take patience, but if it’s better this week than last week, there’s gratification for both student and teacher in that.

So when you see someone making an honest effort, celebrate that!  There’s hope and there’s progress to be made!

And the students who don’t understand why they are with you?  Well, you can try to bring them around by bringing them music they like.  Music they are interested in.  Sometimes that works and can convert a kid who’s ready to quit to a kid that’s ready to practice.

But sometimes you can’t help but question if you’re being paid enough to put up with this every week.

Try not to have two of this type in a row!

Vince Madison

DAMTA President


DAMTA President’s Message

Oct 2018

Hello DAMTA!

Vince Madison your president here.  This month I want to say a few words about how as teachers we have a responsibility to be role models for our students.   We interact one on one with our students more than most of the adults in their lives.  They may spend more time with coaches and teachers, but those are in groups.  Those young eyes and ears are always learning, and not just about the subjects we think we are teaching.

In observing the news and society around me, I have noticed a big trend toward selfishness.  Both on the national stage and in people’s day to day behavior, selfishness in on the march.  And what’s more, its practitioners are increasingly unapologetic.  Not only will people cut you off on the highway, but proudly display their middle finger while doing so!

There is no shortage of bad influences out there for our students.  But I know the members of DAMTA well enough to know that we can offer a counter-balance to those influences.  We can be kind.  We can be fair.  We can be compassionate.  We can be friendly, happy and welcoming.  And we can show them that creating beauty in the world is one of mankind’s most worthwhile endeavors.

By being generous with our time, attention and empathy, we can show our kids that a kind smile feels better than a harsh glare.  That you can be effective, competent and compassionate.  That respect and affinity are not only compatible, but natural companions.

I’m not asking you to do anything you are not probably already doing.  I know how caring and thoughtful you all are.  This is just a reminder that what we are all doing is important, and I salute you for it!

Vince Madison

DAMTA President

How do you “Recital”?

DAMTA President’s Message

May 2018

Hello DAMTA!

It’s recital time!!  I’m sure most of you are in the throws of getting ready for a recital or recovering from one.

Mine is this Sat. April 28.  I have about 35 students performing, so I split it up into 2 halves.  Families are welcome to attend both, but most are happy to attend the half with their kids in it.  I found more than about 45 minutes is too long for families with small children.

I try to have mine in a nice venue, and I always play the first piece so no one else has to go first.  I sometimes play duets with my kids, and sometimes they accompany each other, but that’s about as crazy as it gets.

I have friends who have recital “themes” (like songs from movies), hire side musicians and put together whole bands.  Great big productions!  I am not generally that ambitious.

But I want to use our new website to start a discussion on this topic.  Go to this link:


There you will find this article as a blog-post.

Beneath there is a place for comments.  So please comment!!  Share your hard won recital wisdom, or ask for recital advice.  I want to turn the website into a space where we can interact with each other!

By the way, I wrote a song for my recital which I am going to perform at the teachers’ musicale on May 9.

You can get a preview here: https://soundcloud.com/vmplusone/storm-clouds


Vince Madison

DAMTA President

2018 MTNA Conference Report

DAMTA President’s Message

April 2018

Hello DAMTA!

I’m back from the 2018 MTNA National Convention.  I want to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to go.  It was at the Coronado Springs Resort in Disney World.  So warm weather and a fantasy-land environment.  Lots of fun!

I want to share with you some of the interesting things I ran across at the convention, along with links so you can check them out yourself.  These are in no particular order.

Beginners are often frustrated by the simple (read; boring) nature of the pieces that are usually found in lesson books.  I met Paula Dreyer who has a series called “Little Gems for Piano”.  These are “rote” pieces meant to be taught by playing them for the student and having them mimic you.  This allows for more complex rhythms then a student at that level is able to read.  Link: http://littlegemsforpiano.com

I played a wonderful digital piano from a new company called Dexibell.  I was very impressed by the sound and playability.  It was much higher quality than one would expect from a new company’s first offering.  The only problem is that they are not yet widely distributed.  I found out that this company was founded by ex-Roland employees in Europe who found themselves unemployed when Roland pulled the plug on their European operation.  With some design help from Ferrari, I think they have a real winner.  Link:  http://dexibell.com

I men a young man, James L. King III, who is creating his own online music catalog.  Very prolific.  Check him out at http://alijammusic.com

Here is a source for online music games;  http://musiclearningcommunity.com

A German company was there promoting their very serious urtext editions. http://www.baerenreiter.com

Roland had some impressive digital pianos there as well; http://rolandus.com/pianos

Online theory system:  http://sproutbeat.com

A new piano method; the Hoffman Method – http://hoffmanacademy.com

Piano Maestro was there again.  I still use them all the time since I met them 2 years ago.  For iPad only. https://itunes.apple.com/il/app/piano-maestro-by-joytunes/id604699751?mt=8

I was intrigued by a new method for teaching improvisation.  Jazz piano basics by Eric Baumgartner – https://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.action?itemid=234476&lid=2&whatsnew=30&searchcategory=00&subsiteid=1&

A piano method that balances reading, rote and creativity; Piano Safari- https://pianosafari.com/

Finally, an interesting app for staying in communication with your students and tracking practice time between lessons. Practice Presto – http://www.practicepresto.com/



Vince Madison

DAMTA President

Help Wanted – President of DAMTA

DAMTA President’s Message

March 2018

Hello DAMTA!

The ”President’s Message” is appropriately titled this month.  I’ve been DAMTA president since 2013-14.  That means I am in the middle of my 5th year.  I really enjoy being president of DAMTA.  But I think I should pass the baton on soon.

I have just finished the re-vamp of the DAMTA website (http://damta.org)  as you probably already know.  That is the first step of my effort to revitalize DAMTA.  I want to turn the DAMTA website into a place where Denver area residents go when they need a music teacher.  The idea is that when young teachers ask “Why should I join DAMTA?”, we’ll be able to list as one of the benefits that we regularly receive requests for lessons, so we can be a source of new students, as well as the many other educational benefits DAMTA has to offer.

I am willing to serve as president one more year to put this plan fully into place.  But if anyone else wants to step up to serve as President starting in the fall, I’ll be happy to simply maintain the website and work on promoting to get more hits on the DAMTA website from prospective students.  Email me ASAP at mail@vincemadison.com if you are interested.

But if no one is ready to step up now, I just want to give my notice that I will be retiring after next year.  So notice has been served!!

I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as your president.  Thank you for your trust.  I’ll see you at the March membership meeting.

Vince Madison / DAMTA President


DAMTA President’s Message
February 2018

Hello DAMTA!
How much time do you spend outside of lessons preparing for the lessons? Working with beginners doesn’t usually require much preparation. But more advanced students can.
I often arrange pop songs for my students. Too often the available sheet music is too difficult or just poorly done. But when I have multiple arrangements to do in a week, and each can take a couple hours or more, it can get time consuming.
Sometimes I will do some of that work in a lesson, but it feels like I’m leaving the student unattended and it just works better to do the work at home.
Looking for repertoire can also take time outside of the lesson itself.
I’d like to start a conversation on this topic. Perhaps I will bring it up at the member forum in the Feb. meeting. It would also be great if we could post this message on Facebook and members could comment there. I look forward to the wisdom of my fellow DAMTA members!
Vince Madison / DAMTA President


DAMTA President’s Message
January 2018
Hello DAMTA!
Happy New Year!
I hope this finds you in excellent health and spirits!
I want to take a brief look at something that is vital to any learning that one may undertake. Something so basic that it is often overlooked or just assumed.
As a teacher, it seems safe to assume that a student who shows up for lessons is willing to learn something new. But I think this is something that should be addressed directly with every new student, both children and adults.
Sometimes kids are dragged into lessons by parents. There’s nothing wrong with that. But as teachers, we should actively address the willingness of our students. Do they even understand what it means to play an instrument? Do they think it would be fun? Or cool? Or interesting? Do they even like music? Don’t take these things for granted. It may take a bit of salesmanship to convince a new student that he or she is about to take a grand adventure. And that sales job will not stop after the 1st lesson. But it’s important. Otherwise the kid will always be looking for the path of least resistance; “What’s the minimum I can do to skate by this week?”
For the youngest students, making it fun is important. As kids get older, seeing music as a challenge or as a way to make themselves special are all motivating factors. Playing music is hard work (two four letter words!). Too many students never get past that simple reality. I think as teachers anything we can do to inspire a desire to play is vitally important.
Confidence in one’s ability to acquire new knowledge is something that we need to cultivate. I’m always amazed at how unwilling a 7 year old can be to learn to read notes. They want to read the finger numbers. Memorize it. Write in the note names. Anything but learn a new system (the staff). How set in one’s ways can you be at 7? It boggles the mind!
Even adults can have problems with this. They usually understand that some effort will be involved. But the gap between what they can do and what they want to do is usually wide. Generating the willingness and patience to bridge that gap can be tough.
I think it’s important to celebrate the small victories along the way. When a student shows improvement, it’s a big deal. Don’t let it go unnoticed!
On the survey we did for next year’s Fall Course topic, “How to inspire students” came in at #1! It’s a worthy quest! Stay tuned!
Vince Madison / DAMTA President

Website Update

DAMTA President’s Message
November 2017
Hello DAMTA!
Vince Madison here. This month I want to give you all an update on the website upgrade. I have to say: it’s complicated!
I’ve talked to five different sources and considered possibly doing it myself. I’ve heard estimates from $2,500 to $40,000 (oh, that’s for starters!)
I am looking for the website to do quite a few different things for us. The most basic need we have is for what is called a “responsive” website. That means a website that automatically changes to look good depending on the kind of screen it’s being shown on. This is important because so many folks these days use phones and tablets on the web. Fortunately, this does not seem that hard to come by. Everyone I talked to can do it. Some are better at it than others.
I also want the website to have an aesthetic and contemporary look and feel. We are artists after all, not a hardware store.
The board has decided that we should have a “members only” part of the website where we can put things like the membership directory and meeting minutes. Things that we want to access online, but don’t want to share with the public. I feel this is important.
But the most important upgrade I want to make is harder to come by. I want to turn our website into an effective lead generator for our members. The reason for this is that I feel attracting young members is vital for the future of DAMTA. But young teachers are not likely to pay the $135 or so a year for membership unless we can provide them with something they really need. Teachers starting out need students, and I want DAMTA to help with that.
That means a couple of things. First, we need an easy to use teacher search. The one we have is ok, but we need something more streamlined. This is the most expensive component of the website, and really the reason doing it myself is not feasible. But it is vital and all the folks I talked to can do it.
But a great teacher search is useless if no one comes to our site to use it. This is the hard part. And it may be that it goes beyond just redoing the website. Should we run ads? What kind of SEO (search engine optimization) makes sense? Like I said; it’s complicated.
I’m continuing to collect information. This is going to be a significant expense, and I want to get it right. Feel free to share your ideas and feedback!
Vince Madison / DAMTA President

Vision for the Future

DAMTA President’s Message
October 2017
Hello DAMTA!
Vince Madison here. I want to thank you all for being part of DAMTA. Our Fall Course is off to a great start with 2 fantastic presenters who treated us to some amazing performances! I want to thank everyone who has volunteered to serve on the board, as well as those who have volunteered to bring refreshments and signed up to host musicales.
I want to encourage those of you who may not be volunteering at this point to consider doing so. Hosting musicales is an area in which we can use help. I believe we had to cancel the Sept. musicale for lack of a host (not lack of students wanting to play.) Let’s try not to have that happen again!
I want to lay out my vision of what I want to see DAMTA accomplish. I believe that DAMTA is different in focus from the other MTNA groups around the Denver area in that our primary focus is teacher enrichment rather than providing student activities. Of course, we have the musicales, and the newly re-instated Spook-a thon. (Thank you Betsy Johnson and Evelyn Billberg!) But our main focus is the Fall Course and the spring presentations.
As we then are teacher-centered, it’s important that we continue to attract new teachers. I’ve seen a few new faces this year, and that’s wonderful. But I know there are literally hundreds of young music teachers in the Denver area that don’t even know DAMTA exists. That’s why I’m focused on re-doing our website to generate more leads. I want to be able to tell prospective new members that if they join DAMTA, we have an effective website that will refer students to them. (I could say that now, but not with a straight face!)
I’m still in the process of getting quotes for the new website. I hope to have the new website up and running before the end of this school year.
So, if you know any teachers that are not in DAMTA, invite them to a meeting. Especially if you know any young teachers starting out. They will benefit from contact with our more experienced members.
I look forward to seeing you all at the next Fall Course!
Vince Madison
DAMTA President

A Miracle

DAMTA President’s Message
September 2017
Hello Friends
I have an unusual message this month. It has nothing to do with music. It may have something to do with teaching, although I’m still trying to understand exactly what lessons I observed yesterday.
I witnessed a miracle yesterday. My 15 year old granddaughter is alive today, and it’s a miracle that she is.
My beautiful and compassionate stepdaughter has a strong, big hearted husband. They have two great kids; a 15 year old girl and a 10 year old boy. They had a rough week last week. There was a controversy at school and there were unpleasant interactions with the media. My son-in-law was just recovering from one surgery and getting ready for another on Monday. They all felt the need for some R&R and decided to head to Aspen for some hiking.
They were enjoying the gorgeous Colorado mountains outside of Aspen Saturday afternoon. They were at a waterfall hiking near the top. My son-in law warned his kids to be careful, as some of the rocks near the top were slippery. But despite his warnings, my granddaughter inadvertently stepped on a slippery rock, lost her footing and fell 20 feet into the rushing water below. The river was full of rocks at that point. She hit the back of her head on a rock, and went under water. The water was gushing so quickly it was like rapids. When she went under, she disappeared from view.
Her dad jumped in (yes, from the top) right in after her. (The fact that he didn’t kill himself with that jump was a miracle in itself. He did get banged up a bit.) He frantically felt around under the water trying to find her. He thinks it took him about 45 seconds to find her leg. He realized she was stuck under a rock. He managed to free her and bring her above the water. At his point however, he saw that she was not breathing and lifeless. They were also standing in rushing water so strong that it threatened to wash them away. He wedged himself between some rocks for stability and started to give her CPR while holding her in the water. (By another miracle, he’d been certified in CPR just 2 weeks ago.)
The CPR worked, and she started breathing. But now they were both in these rapids that were threatening to sweep them away. By now the rest of the family had gotten down to where they were and miraculously, there were some nurses hiking on the trail who came to help. They made a makeshift rope by tying their shirts together and pulled my granddaughter and son-in-law out.
Now they had to get her to a hospital. But there was no cell service in this remote area. Miraculously, 2 folks came by who were only there because their car had broken down. They were EMTs and they had a satellite phone! So they were able to call for an ambulance!
But due to their remote location, it would take over an hour for help to arrive. My granddaughter was conscious, but having a hard time remaining so. She was also unable to speak. At one point, they were having a hard time getting her to respond. The adults were all trying to get her to open her eyes with no luck. Her brother came to her and told her to open her eyes. And miraculously, her eyes popped open immediately!
When help finally arrived with a stretcher, they had to carry her down a rugged mountain trail for about a mile where the ambulance was waiting. They put a brace on her neck, and no one really knew if she was going to be ok. They got down the trail and got her in the ambulance.
They brought her to a local hospital. Upon examination, they put 8 stitches in her head and did a scan. They determined she needed to be taken to a Level One Trauma Center. The nearest one was in Denver, so Flight for Life took her in a helicopter. But there was no room for her parents, so they called my wife and I along with my son-on-law’s dad and asked us to be there when the helicopter arrived at the hospital.
We got there before the helicopter and waited. Finally, we saw the helicopter approaching to land on the roof. As soon as they had her in an emergency room bed they let us all back to see her. I didn’t know what to expect. But miraculously, when we walked in, there was by beautiful granddaughter! She was a little groggy, but awake. Not a scratch on her face, and she still had her beautiful hair! (Which apparently she had ordered the doctors to leave alone!) She laughed when I told her “You know there are easier ways to get a helicopter ride.” In fact, she was incredibly lucid considering what she had been through. And miraculously, she was now able to talk. She told us the helicopter ride was cool, and that the pilot was funny.
Her parents and brother arrived before long. They said it was the longest drive they’d ever experienced. Miraculously, there was no traffic. They are watching her in the ICU, but all indications are that she is doing fine.
We found out that people have died falling in that area. Between the fall and going underwater my granddaughter could have easily died. But the way my heroic son-in law jumped in (literally) to save her, and how so many miraculous pieces fell into place to allow her survival really made an impression on me. It seems to me the that God did not want this one to die that day, and he moved all the pieces into place to insure her survival.
Life is precious and fragile. Love the people in your life. There’s no guarantee that they will be there tomorrow no matter how much we take each other for granted.
Vince Madison
DAMTA President