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DAMTA President’s Message
We find ourselves heading into another academic year! This means a new fall course! Our fall course last year was so well received that we are doing a similar theme this year. We have a great line up of guest speakers covering different styles and periods of music history. Please sign up for the Fall Course and spread the word. The fall course is our main income generating activity and always instructive and fun. I look forward to seeing you all there!
We had a board meeting on July 20, and made a significant decision I want to share with you here.
I had heard from a few different members a desire to do away with the $5 musicale fee. In the past, I was resistant to this idea, as reducing DAMTA income is not something I usually support.
But I have also been aware that collecting these fees has been fraught with problems. People end up with a combination of checks and cash with no easy way to get the fees to the treasurer. Families forget to bring money and then the host has to try to chase them down for payment later. It’s common for fees to be missing weeks, even months after the actual musicale date.
And when I heard that the hassle of collecting the money was making people reluctant to host, that got my attention. I know it’s always hard to find musicale hosts.
So this coming year we are trying an “experiment”. For the 2017-18 school year, the board has decided to wave the $5 musicale fee. I am hoping that this will encourage greater musicale participation for both hosts and performers, and make the musicales more trouble free for the hosts.
Hosts will still need to make programs and send 2 copies of those programs to Aileen Voyles so she can forward them to CSMTA and the appropriate royalties can be paid to composers. (The living ones. Beethoven is not a member of ASCAP!) Since we are no longer charging the musicale fee, the costs of printing programs falls to the hosts. I think it’s a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to collect the fees.
At next summer’s board meeting, we will assess this experiment. If we have greater participation and more volunteers to host, we’ll consider making the change permanent. But if all that happens is lost income, we’ll reinstate the fee.
The musicales do not cost DAMTA money to host as Classic Pianos is kind enough to give us their space for free. So I feel this is an experiment that we can afford.
I encourage you all to step up and make this experiment a success!
DAMTA President’s Message
My recital is this week, so I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on recitals with you. You may agree or disagree with my thoughts, but it seems to me to be a topic worth thinking about.
I hold 2 recitals a year, one in the fall, usually late October or early November. Late enough for kids to have time to polish the summer rust off their playing, but before Christmas season gets rolling.
I try to make sure that the kids are super-comfortable with the piece they will play. Especially with the little ones. It’s a little traumatic for kids to have a melt down on stage. I don’t think it builds character. I often meet adults whose only memory of piano as a kid was a horrifying recital. So, I don’t push too hard until they reach the teen years. In general I make the recital as safe a place as I can.
I also leave all competitive aspects out of the recital. We’re creating beauty. Not defeating opponents. They get plenty of that in soccer. (And they get plenty of soccer!!)
I stress to my students the difference between practice and performing. When you practice, you are on the alert for all mistakes. When you find one, you stop and handle it, with many repetitions. In performance, it’s the opposite. You act like mistakes never happened. You don’t acknowledge them at all! That takes some practice!
I usually have around 35 students performing at each recital. That can be about an hour and a half. I find that’s too long, especially for families with young kids. So, I split my recital into 2 shifts, with a 15 minute break in between. That has been a big hit with my families.
I always start each half with a short piece that I play, both to hopefully inspire my students and to spare anyone else from “going first”. It also gives me a chance to perform, which is fun.
I find doing recitals is a valuable part of my teaching. Good luck with yours!!
DAMTA President’s Message
Welcome to 2017! I hope the New Year brings you all the desires of your heart.
I think there’s a lot of good in new beginnings. When we leave the pain and disappointments of yesterday behind and try anew.
The older one gets, the easier it is to drag yesterday’s losses into today. But I think there’s great strength in optimism. In believing that tomorrow can be better than yesterday, even when there’s no apparent reason to think so. That hopeful attitude can cause you to spot an open door or opportunity that you might be blind to otherwise.
And even if the cynics turn out to be right, and things go downhill and go splat after all, at least the optimist got to feel hopeful on the way down. The pessimist just got to have a bad attitude for longer. And the optimist is the one that will rise from the ashes.
Every morning is a new beginning if you allow it to be. Just try to start the day with a thought that makes you happy. It doesn’t even have to be true, or even logical. It just has to make you smile. Then think another one. And another. Then listen to some music that makes you smile. The more pleasant you make your state of mind, the more energy and patience you will have for others. So do the selfless thing; make yourself happy!
There are always a million reasons to get upset. And the modern media makes sure we hear about every one of them every minute of every day. I took Facebook off my phone about a month ago, and I really noticed my mood has improved.
I think we should be picky about the info streams we allow to assault us. If it feels bad, turn it off. We are artists. We are here to lift the world up. We can’t do that from a state of depression. Find the things that make you smile and indulge in them. The world needs our smiles and grace. Cultivate joy in your heart so you have something to smile about!
DAMTA President’s Message
In Defense of Emotion
I know I’m a bit late with this month’s message, but I’m glad I waited. Yesterday we had a fall course presentation by Alejandro Cremaschi. He was telling us about Spanish and Latin American music, which is clearly dear to his heart. He played several examples for us, and I was struck by the joy on his face as he played. At one point in the lecture, he was showing us how when you played a certain passage, if you just did it metronomically correct, you miss the point! It had to be felt and played as if you were singing with deep emotion. The difference was night and day.
It got me thinking. Isn’t emotion the whole point in music? In life? What do we value the most about anything? The way it makes us feel. What if I told you that you could have millions of dollars, a beautiful house, the mate of your dreams and your dream job, but you would be miserable once you had all of it? It would seem like a cruel joke, because the only reason we want anything is that we imagine it will make us feel better. That it will make us feel happier.
Emotion is the juice of life. And as musicians we have access to an extremely powerful well of emotion; music! All the technique, practice, theory, discipline, etc. is in service of communicating emotion. And since feeling is the essence of life, the better you get at feeling and expressing emotion, the more alive you are!
My message this month is this: Don’t undervalue the service you provide as a music teacher. You are giving your students the opportunity to feel and express emotion in a more profound way than most people have access to. This is an extremely big deal. Of course, it’s hard. Initially there’s a lot of attention to technique, so it’s easy to lose sight of the emotion. But don’t! Even Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has an emotion behind it. Get into it. When you teach your students to feel emotion through music, you are giving them the key to a deeper, more fulfilling life. If a person has a song she finds uplifting, playing it will be more therapeutic than a whole bottle of anti-depressants! (And a lot healthier!)
Music is the fire of life. You’re a music teacher. Go light up the world!
DAMTA President’s Message
I want to throw something out there that’s been bugging me. I’ve always tried to get my young (and not so young!) students to count out loud. They always resist it, but their rhythm always improves when they do. I also encourage use of a metronome to develop playing with a steady beat. My experience with recording with a click track in studio sessions tells me that this is an absolutely valuable skill.
I was surprised then to see that when I replied to a post in an online teacher’s forum about counting out loud, not a few teachers seemed strongly opposed to both counting out loud and using a metronome! I didn’t see that they had any better answers to developing rhythm.
Let me know what you all do to develop rhythm in your students. Counting out loud, metronome or something else? I am putting this message up on the DAMTA Facebook page. Here’s the link:
Leave a comment with your thoughts!
DAMTA President’s Message
Your president Vince Madison here. Welcome to another school year! Sorry for the late message, but it’s been a little crazy this year.
I had an interesting lesson today that I want to share with you.
I teach two young boys who are brothers. They both are talented but are very energetic and have a hard time concentrating for more than a few minutes at a time.
Usually I have each of them for a half hour back to back. But last week, one of them was gone, so I did an hour with the younger brother. So of course, to be fair, I had to do an hour with the older brother this week. Five minutes into the lesson, I knew I was in trouble. He was making the same mistakes over and over and seemed to have very little energy. I asked him what was wrong. He said, “I’m tired.” I asked him why. He said he had trouble sleeping. I asked him if that happened to him a lot, and he said yes. So I told him I was sorry, but we still had to try to get through the lesson. We tried a short time longer, getting nowhere.
So I decided to try something. I made up a little chord progression in Eb minor. I started playing it, and told him to play anything he wanted as long as it was on the black keys. He started playing away. Nothing very artistic, but it wasn’t banging. And we went on for several minutes. He seemed to be having fun.
So I told him we were going to write a song. I had him improvise for a few more minutes, listening for him to play something we could use for a short melody. After a while he played something that had promise. So we worked with it until we had a 2 bar melody. The chord progression was 4 bars, so we put the melody over it twice and then repeated the whole thing. (His tiredness had mysteriously disappeared by this point.)
So I made up a “B” section chord progression of 4 bars, and we repeated the process. So now we had an 8 bar B section. Then we repeated the A section and voila, instant song.
I put it in a music notation program. It’s simple enough that I think he will be able to play it, despite the key signature. We’ll see! But by the end of the lesson, he was wide awake! It was just a reminder that there is no better “energy boost” than curiosity and interest. And it’s sugar free!
Looking forward to seeing everyone this Wed at the 1st meeting of the year!
DAMTA President’s Message Aug 2016
Greetings DAMTA Members,
It may be hard to believe with all the 90 degree days we’ve been having, but fall is rapidly approaching! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone once we get into the swing of regular meetings.
I want to remind everyone to sign up for the fall course if you haven’t already. Early registration is over, but it’s still a bargain at $115 for the seven lecture series, “The Periods of Music: exploring repertoire, style and context.” Sign up today!
I also want to remind everyone to attend the DAMTA Ice Cream Social. Arlyce Black is hosting. You can find further details in this newsletter.
This month I want to share with you an insight I was reminded of regarding progress and practicing. Of course, the more you practice, the better you get. And effective techniques can help that progress happen faster and more consistently. But there’s an aspect to how we improve when we practice that I was reminded of this morning. Progress from our practice is not always linear.
I joined a gym a few weeks ago. This place has a couple of basketball courts that are often empty when I go in the mornings. I got into the habit of shooting free throws for fun. I decided to keep shooting until I made 3 baskets. The first days, that could take 15 minutes! Just miss, miss, miss. I was never much of a basketball player, so I was doing it for the exercise, not really worried about how much I improved. But I was doing this several times a week, so I was getting consistent practice. But I really hadn’t noticed more than a modest improvement.
I went in today, expecting more of the same. In fact, it had been 3 days since I’d even made it into the gym. The first shot I took went right in! I was sure this was a fluke. So I tried again. It went in again! I made 4 or 5 baskets in about 15 tries! Certainly not NBA level, but a tremendous improvement for me!
It reminded me of something I’ve seen in practicing. Sometimes I’ll really beat my head against the wall on a piece. Finally, I’ll call it a day and give up, discouraged not to have made more progress. The I’ll come back later and magically be much improved! All that practice payed off, but not at the moment I was doing it. Has this ever happened to you?
Not certain why this is, but I have a theory. In “The Talent Code” Daniel Coyle explains that what makes physical skill is the myelin sheath that forms around the nerves that send messages to your muscles. The more you repeat a motion, the stronger that sheath becomes, allowing you to move more quickly and accurately.
I’m thinking that this sheath needs time to form. So when you’ve played that passage that’s driving you nuts 100 times, you’re showing your body the nerves that need the myelin sheath to grow. But it doesn’t happen instantly. You leave and come back a day or two later, and your body has worked it’s magic. “All of a sudden” you can play it. What happened? Practice happened! But the cause and the effect are not immediate.
I think we need to remind our students of this so they won’t lose heart when they actually sit down and practice really hard, but don’t see an immediate result. The practice is helping. It’s just not instant.
In our instant gratification culture, it’s easy to lose sight of this. But patience is one more gift that learning a musical instrument can give us.
Have a great summer!
DAMTA President’s Message
I read an article a few days ago that I want every teacher to read. Not just every DAMTA teacher. Every teacher. It was entitled; “What Students Really Need to Hear.” It was written by Chase Mielke. I don’t know who he is, but he has a great point! Here’s the link:
What Students Really Need to Hear
I really want you all to go read this! But I will give you my takeaway. He’s a teacher. A classroom teacher. And he writes about why he is losing sleep worrying about his students. It’s because he feels they are missing the main point in their education. That they are missing out on the main benefit their education has to offer. What is this tremendous skill? This golden ticket? It is: Learning how to overcome adversity.
First of all, he states that the actual material of academics (math, science, literature, etc.) while worthwhile and certainly worth knowing, are not the “main event”. The main event is learning how to deal with difficult situations. What you learn in algebra may or may not be useful later in life. But solving hard problems is a skill that everyone can use.
And what he worries about is that he sees his students quitting. Not quitting school, but quitting when things get tough. In hundreds of small ways.
I think this is something we should keep in mind in the studio. I know that kid with no rhythm who never practices is never going to play concerts. But if we can show him that it really is possible for him to be better. That he can improve. That what seems so hard can be done with some hard work. That just because something is hard it is not something to be avoided. It is something to be embraced and conquered. That is self-confidence. Not some stupid “participation trophy”.
It’s so tempting to let our students off the hook. Let them get away with sloppiness, no dynamics, etc. And you do have to know what a kid is capable of getting right now, and what things are going to have to come later. But when a kid tells you “this is hard” and expects that you will let him avoid it, do the opposite. Force him head on into it. Make her understand that hard things are nothing to be afraid of. Then you will be giving them not only the gift of music, but the gift of courage and self-confidence. And they will remember you and that lesson the rest of their lives, even if they never touch piano again!
Here’s that link again:
What Students Really Need to Hear
February 2016 President’s Message
Hello DAMTA members,
With the passing of David Bowie and Glenn Frey I am reminded of the strange relationship music has with time.
On the one hand, music happens in time. Music needs time to be experienced. As musicians our ability to perform accurately in time is essential. I think it’s fair to say that one of the hallmarks of a great musician is a great sense of time. So music more than any other art form is interwoven with time.
Music also can define an era. The big band era, the baroque era, the romantic era, the ragtime era. The music of those times expressed so much more than a passing musical style. It expressed the emotional context of the society during those eras. All great art is an expression of emotion. I think that’s why we grow so close to the musicians who create music we love. It’s because they are singing our hearts out, and we are grateful for their ability to do so.
Finally, the greatest music is timeless. From Bach and Beethoven to Led Zepplin and Elton John, I’m always amazed how young people are drawn to music created before they were even born. Sure some music can get embarrassingly outdated, but the best music transcends its era and speaks across generations.
It’s easy to lose sight of music’s power when we are trying to get an eight-year-old to play quarter notes correctly. But as music teachers we are sharing the secrets of an incredibly powerful art form. And sharing our love and passion for music is I think equally important as sharing the nuts and bolts of technique and theory.
Playing and listening to music one truly loves is one of those things that really makes life worth living. Spread the joy!
January 2016 President’s Message
Hello DAMTA members,
Happy New Year DAMTA members! I hope you all had a great holiday season and are ready to get back in the swing of things in 2016!
I had a couple of experiences I want to share with you from the holidays. First, I had the opportunity to play at a Christmas party. I hadn’t played a “gig” like that for at least 10 years, and I really enjoyed it. Later, I played on Christmas Eve when we got together with my daughter and her family. They really enjoyed singing Christmas songs together.
Then my wife and I hosted a New Year’s Day (not Eve) party and had about 25 people over to our house. I didn’t play that day, but had the best time ever seeing a bunch of friends and family. I think I enjoyed seeing them interact with each other even more than I enjoyed them myself (and I had a really great time doing that!)
The point of all this is that I realized looking at it all, how much pleasure there is in the company of friends and family. It’s so much more valuable than all the material things we obsess over. Cars, houses and gadgets can’t give me nearly the satisfaction of seeing people laughing, talking and smiling.
Which brings me to you, my fellow DAMTA members. I am so grateful to have this organization where we can get together, and learn and talk about our shared passion; teaching music! I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and seeing you all each month! It’s always a pleasure. Thank you for the honor of being your president!
By the way, we are in need of a new DAMTA secretary. Please contact me if you can help our group out in this way. It’s a voting position, so it would give you greater input on DAMTA decisions.
Think it over! Let me know if you are interested!