Orchestra students at the Mitch Carter school play instruments from Kennedy Violins.

A GUIDE TO TEACHING CHILDREN MUSIC – Principle 2: “Self-Initiated Learning vs. Imposition”

“Children learn best when the learning is self-initiated, arising from their own curiosity and interests, rather than imposed on them.”

– Aletha Solter, Ph.D., “Principles of Learning”

Godfrey Kneller's portrait of IsaacNewton, 1689

Godfrey Kneller’s portrait of IsaacNewton, 1689

Newton hit the nail on the head with his third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Try verbally or physically trying to make a child do something will make them resist even more.

Examples:

  • Try forcing green vegetables into a kid’s mouth and they will refuse to open their mouth or immediately spit out whatever you put in there.
  • Yell at a child to get in bed and they’re be riled up and less tired or willing to sleep.
  • Try physically removing a child from doing or playing with something they like and they will kick and scream.

When we apply this to music and helping children develop the habit of practicing, negatively forcing a child to play a specific instrument or practice at specific times for specific lengths of time may produce results—BUT, on the other hand,  they might sap away a child’s desire to play over time. This happens especially if those measures result in reluctance, resistance, indifference, apathy, or rejection of musical activities or practice.

There are two types of motivation:

  1. Intrinsic motivation, or an inner desire or interest to do something, usually for the sake of enjoyment or self-satisfaction.
  2. Extrinsic motivation, or a drive to accomplish something in order to receive a reward or recognition from an outward motivator. Motivators include threats, bribes, prizes, fame, competition, pressuring, etc.

In teacher Lara Hansen’s article “The Inherent Desire to Learn: Intriniscally Motivating First Grade Students,” she says,

“When people are intrinsically motivated they feel interest and enjoyment in what they are doing. They also feel a sense of capability and determination. What they don’t feel is tension, stress, and anxiety.”

In general, people tend to enjoy activities more when they can enjoy the experience and develop a personal passion for what they are doing. Any trauma introduced to an activity in the form of external motivators can lead that activity becoming stressful instead of a pleasure to perform.

As teachers and parents, we can provide opportunities for a child learn an instrument, but imposing, pushing, or bribing a child will create resistance and perhaps kill the child’s original curiosity and interest.

But don’t worry! We all have negative experiences with music, like playing a bad concert or being pressured to practice because of an assignment or impending performance. External/extrinsic motivators naturally exist and aren’t all bad unless they kill our passion for music.

And even if desires and passions dwindle, they can be fed and nurtured back to life. Just because a child throws a fit and doesn’t want to go to a music lesson one day doesn’t mean all is lost—you may find the same child excitedly getting their instrument out to show a friend the next day.

They say curiosity killed the cat, but perhaps killing the curiosity in the cat is the sadder scenario. Let’s keep the desire to learn alive and well!

Orchestra students at the Mitch Carter school play instruments from Kennedy Violins.

A GUIDE TO TEACHING CHILDREN MUSIC – Principle 1: “The Ability and Desire to Learn”

“All children are born with the desire and the ability to learn.”

– Aletha Solter, Ph.D., “Principles of Learning”

THE ABILITY TO LEARN

Young students come to lessons at Kennedy Violins with minds like blank slates.  From the start, children are born with brains like sponges—you’ve heard the comparison before. Sounds, sights, movements, and smells engage the brain as it makes neurological connections. Every experience is absorbed, defining a growing child’s understanding of the world around him. 

Music is a language, so the ability to learn, read, and make music can be compared to language acquisition. From birth, and even in the womb, infants are extremely cognisant of sounds. A baby recognizes the specific tone of her mother’s voice. Pitch recognitions allow a child to recognize high and low tones.

The sound of music, which does not have to be deciphered, decoded, or read, can absolutely captivate a child of any age. Children stop in their tracks to identify the sounds around them like a bird chirping, a plane flying overhead, or the playing of a piano upstairs. Musical sounds are expressed in a universal language of melodies, to which language humans are programmed to respond from the very beginning.

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A DESIRE TO LEARN

Because music is inherently fascinating to children and adults, it can be introduced and immediately engage a child’s interest, filling him or her with an intrinsic desire to hear, learn, and experience more. A parent or teacher can take this golden opportunity to feed a child’s natural interest in music by recognizing his or her specific desires and creating a learning environment to satisfy the child’s hunger for more — more music, of course! 

A child’s natural curiosity leads to questions like

  • What happened?
  • What is this?
  • What was that sound?
  • Who is that?
  • Why? Why? Why?
  • Are we there yet?

Kids want to learn. As parents and teachers, we have the great opportunity and responsibility to provide an education to satisfy a child’s thirst for knowledge. Hand a child an instrument, and they will want to play with it and on it.

Therefore, music need not be forced upon a child to produce interest—in fact, forcing children typically repels their interest. Read more about imposed learning with Principle Two: “Self-Initiated Learning vs. Imposition.”

Students participating in the string workshop

A GUIDE TO TEACHING CHILDREN MUSIC: An Interpretation of Aletha Solter’s “Principles of Learning”

Orchestra students at the Mitch Carter school play instruments from Kennedy Violins.

Fifth grade students at  M.I.T.C.H. Charter School play instruments from Kennedy Violins.

As parents, teachers, and musicians, we hope to guide both our children and students to learn in the most effective way. But how can we encourage

  • a desire to learn
  • discipline to practice
  • enjoyment
  • and a sense of accomplishment

when teaching children to play an instrument?

Quite often children

  • equate practice with punishment,
  • experience boredom during lessons and practice sessions,
  • don’t understand what is being taught,
  • resist being encouraged (or forced) to practice,
  • lose interest in their instrument,
  • and/or don’t believe music can be enjoyable.

How can we keep children from these pitfalls and stumbling blocks during what could otherwise be a fulfilling, effective, and FUN learning experience?

Understanding how children learn is absolutely imperative when you are a teacher or parent introducing a child to music. Parental involvement is very important in the process, which is why all private instructors at Kennedy Violins encourage parents to participate in and be aware of their child’s learning experience.

The following series is a guide expanding upon eleven points from “Principles of Learning,” an article excerpt from Helping Young Children Flourish by developmental psychologist Aletha Solter, Ph.D. This series will expand on the eleven principles of learning in terms of how children can learn to play a musical instrument.

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Please check back as sections of “A Guide to Teaching Children Music” are added to this series!

  1. “The Ability and Desire to Learn”
  2. “Self-Initiated Learning vs. Imposition”
  3. “Hands-On Self-Discovery” – Coming Soon
  4. “Learning Through Play” – Coming Soon
  5. “Appropriate Stimulation” – Coming Soon
  6. “Inspiring Imagination and Creativity” – Coming Soon
  7. “Children Learn at Their Own Rate” – Coming Soon
  8. “Children Have Different Learning Styles” – Coming Soon
  9. “Screen Time: Stifling Creativity” – Coming Soon
  10. “Stress Interferes with Learning” – Coming Soon
  11. “The Parent/Child Relationship Affects Learning” – Coming Soon
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Kennedy Violins Concerts: Young Artist Debut Winners Perform Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kennedy Violins is thrilled to present four of Metro Art’s 20th annual Van Buren Concerto Competition winners in concert!

young-artists-preview copyEnjoy this special preview this Thursday, March 13th, at the Kennedy Violins Recital Hall before the Young Artists Concert on April 1st, 2014 at 7:30pm in the Newmark Theatre,

See you Thursday!

poetry

The 2014 Poetry Contest Winners!

We are excited to announce the results of Kennedy Violins‘ 2014 Poetry Contest! As always, it was very difficult to judge with such fantastic entries. Thank you to all the magnificent poets who submitted their work this year!

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THE 2014 POETRY CONTEST WINNER

So without further ado, CONGRATULATIONS winner Caroline Castleton for her beautifully crafted entry! Caroline will receive Kennedy Violins’ Premium Accessory Package as the grand prize!

We shall keep playing!
We shall keep playing, for poor souls bulge,
too swollen for inarticulate frames.
Great organizers of sound consigned to us
St. Matthews, Violettas, Tills–a host of names.
We bring blood and breath;
They pull stoppers from welled-up humanity.
We shall keep playing,
and give utterance to our sensibilities.
As Bach made life, Beethoven storm,
Berg a scream, Debussy a sigh,
We, then, shall keep playing, you and I.

- Caroline Castleton

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Three honorable mentions will receive awards (and tuners as prizes!) this year as the judges could not settle on just two. Congratulations to Veeresh Taranalli, Rachel Richardson, and Liza Lehmkuhl Walters!

Life is but a set of strings to be pulled,
To make a song as best as we could,
Touch the hearts of one and all it should,
Then gift a memory to life, we would.

- Veeresh Taranall

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“Is that a guitar?”
Or “Should have played piccolo.”
To such I say, “No.”

-Rachel Richardson

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I grew up believing my large hands and long fingers were a curse–until your neck was cradled in my palm.

I felt like such an oddball with my used station wagon–but it was important for you to travel safely

I carried you on my shoulder, against my chest and hip, over long distances, in heels, and responded to stares and questions with a breezy “sometimes it’s awkward, but you get used to it”–you were my responsibility.

And then college came and we spent less time together. Cross country moves, weddings, births, and now you have a corner in a spare room.

I remember how I felt you rumble in my belly and quiver in my hands and how my fingers arched and flexed as they traced the length of you.

You beautiful girl.

You beautiful bass.

- Liza Lehmkuhl Walters

STAY TUNED

Thanks again to all who entered — we can’t wait to see what you enter next year! Stay tuned to the blog and follow Kennedy Violins on Facebook page for news of upcoming contests including our annual photo contest!

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History Preserved: Guarneri, Amati & Stradivarius Violins

This weekend I had the great opportunity to travel to New York City and spend time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was especially excited about their wing dedicated to musical instruments with some incredible stringed instruments on display, including original violins by makers Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri as well as other 16th century violins from the Cremona school in Italy.

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“The Antonius” Violin by Antonio Stradivari,1711, during Stradivari’s “Golden Period.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY)

Evolution of the Modern Violin

The Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari families actively produced instruments between 1550 and 1744 in the same region of Cremona, during which time the modern violin as we know it came to life. While string instruments have evolved over time with various body shapes and string counts, very few changes have been made to the violin that was standardized during this time as a four-stringed instrument with its signature shape and size, strung in perfect fifths (E, A, D, G).

You may notice slight differences in design between the Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivarius violins, but they are clearly instruments in same family with the same tuning, string count, and contours. These violins seem so familiar because they are; almost all violins today are made with Stradivari, Amati, or Guarneri body designs.

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1731 “Baltic” Violin by Giuseppe Guarneri “del Gesu” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY)

For example, if you take a look at all the violins we carry at Kennedy Violins, you’ll notice that they are all made with the same standard measurements (body length, string length, string height, fingerboard length and so on—take a look at our violin measurements chart) used by luthiers today. Most are made and shaped with an original Stradivari design.

Preserved Historical Violin

As you may know, some instruments preserved from these hundreds of years ago are still in use. Most notably, there are 650 Stradivari violins still in existence, ranging in value from between hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. In 2010 a Stradivari violin sold at auction for $3,600,000, a record high.

Updating to a Modern Setup

Even though these 16th, 17th, and 18th century violins are in tact and in use, the ones in performance today have actually been modernized with fittings that make them playable by today’s standards.

I found the diagram below so fascinating. From it we learn that a Stradivarius violin in performance today has been OPTIMIZED to compete with modern violins to catch up with the evolution of the violin that has taken place over the centuries. These evolutionary changes in setup have made the violin more easily playable with more projection and better sound quality.

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What’s changed? Here’s a visual comparing Baroque violin setup to modern violin setup.

What’s New?

Updates from the Baroque setup to the modern setup include

  • a new neck that angles back
  • a longer fingerboard that allows performance in higher octaves
  • a modern bridge
  • new strings, often synthetic with metal winding instead of strings made from animal gut
  • a modern tailpiece
  • a longer bass bar in the interior of the violin

What’s the Same?

What remains “untouched”? Essentially, the body of the violin (back, face, and ribs) and the scroll/pegbox.  This may not sound like much, but it’s the body of the instrument that most greatly affects the sound. The quality of wood and the precise gradations in the carving and thickness of the plates make these instruments sound like they do.

In this sense, the restored Baroque instruments retain their authenticity because no one can replicate the carving of the plates done by the original masters themselves.

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Violin by Andrea Amati, Cremona, ca. 1569, one of the “earliest surviving violins.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY)

The Legacy Lives On

If you get a chance to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art or other museums throughout the world with string instruments on display, definitely take the opportunity to see these preserved treasures. Better yet, you can hear a Stradivarius performed live (or on record) by modern violinists including Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman.

To see and hear these pieces of history alive is truly a privilege as we remember the master makers who brought to life music as we know it today. Here’s to the continuation of their legacy through the practice and performance of music forever!

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Related Articles:

 

 

Hoe can we keep classical music from ending up six feet under? (Photo by Ben Salter)

How to Keep Classical Music Alive

How can we keep classical music from ending up six feet under? (Photo by Ben Salter)

There are plenty of saucy articles floating around questioning classical music as a dying art, such as these treasures:

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Each of these articles brings up some very good points about the past, present, and future of classical music. So is it dying? And if there is any truth to the conclusion that classical music is a dying art, is there anything we can do to stop it?

HOW TO KEEP CLASSICAL MUSIC ALIVE

I don’t know what all the statistics are — ticket sales, CD and digital music sales, concert attendance, radio traffic — but I do know that the best way to

  • keep a plant alive is to water it.
  • lose weight is to eat less and exercise more.
  • accomplish something is the work hard.
  • make friends is to meet people.
  • learn an instrument is to practice.

So when you apply this principle of ACTION in the quest to keep classical music alive, the trick to making a difference in the music community is to do something about it.

INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE

At Kennedy Violins we are really serious about keeping classical music alive. That’s why our biggest priority is to get quality instruments into the hands of anyone and everyone who has any desire to play. We try our best to provide instruments, rentals, and lessons at the most affordable price for the quality because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to make music without unnecessary costs as a stumbling block.

I’ll use a gardening analogy. If you want to grow a garden full of produce or flowers or fruits, the first step is to plant seeds. Likewise, if you want beautiful music to be produced in your community, the first step is to get instruments into the hands of the people, especially the children.

Not to say that children are the only one who can play, but the majority of professional musicians who have found success started playing at a young age.

THE THREE ACTIONS THAT PERPETUATE MUSIC

Orchestra concert attendance, ticket sales, and symphony bankruptcies are only a portion of the picture. In the grand scheme, the continuation of music as a lasting tradition is based on three foundational elements:

  1. EducationIn order for music to be produced, musicians must be taught music performance, theory, and history.
  2. Performance - In order for music to be produced, musicians must perform what they have learned.
  3. ListeningIn order for music to be appreciated, it must be listened to by people who care.

With that said, there are SO many ways to promote the ongoing exercise of these three foundational elements. I would encourage everyone to take part in these exercises by learning, playing, and listening to music. It’s all about INVOLVEMENT and faith in the lasting value of classical music as an important tradition worth perpetuating. May we each do all we can to support this worthwhile and enriching art.

Valentines-day-roses

Enter Kennedy Violins’ Annual Poetry Contest!

PoetryContestHeader‘Tis the season for expressions of love! In celebration of Valentine’s Day, why not write a poem dedicated to the true love of your life that will

                  never let you down,

                  always be there for you,

                  embody how you feel,

                  warm your heart,

                  and last forever.

That’s right: MUSIC!

THE DETAILS

  • WHO: You and your haiku, limerick, sonnet, ode, or other form of verse in any length.  (Up to three entries per poet.)
  • WHAT: A poem about MUSIC — how much you love to play, listen, or experience.
  • WHERE: Post it on KENNEDY VIOLINS FACEBOOK PAGE (and “like” us while you’re at it!)
  • WHEN: Submit between 12:00am PST on February 1, 2014  and 11:59pm PST on February 14, 2014.
  • WHY: Because we love music, and we love YOU. Period. Oh, and you could win the grand prize —a free Premium Package of accessories!
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Read last year’s winning poem!

*NOTE: Because entries are submitted through Facebook, Facebook terms and conditions apply to all submissions. Additionally, all poetry must be the original work of the author never previously published online or in print. May the muse be with you!

(Rose & Sheet Music photo by Summers Skye Photography)

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Face to Face with Shiloh from Kennedy Violins

Continuing our “Face to Face” series, we are excited to introduce the newest member the Kennedy Violins team: Shiloh Congleton. Prior to joining the staff at KV, Shiloh apprenticed one-on-one for several years under an exceptional luthier and master repairman at one of only a handful of shops on the West Coast authorized by C.F. Martin & Co. After performing warranty-related work on Martin instruments, Shiloh’s professional training has given him the ability to recognize the subtle differences that make an instrument perform both as it should and at its best—the latter for which he strives.

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Shiloh Congleton, Kennedy Violins Luthier

1. How long have you worked at Kennedy Violins?

I have worked at Kennedy violins since Dec. 2013.

2. What is your favorite thing about working at Kennedy Violins and why?

My favorite thing about working at Kennedy Violins is that we are able to offer instruments at almost every price point, enabling most anyone with the desire to play  an instrument to be able to afford one, whether it be through a rental program, an entry level instrument or a high end setup, thereby spreading the power of music as far as we can.

3. What is your favorite instrument/product that Kennedy Violins carries and why?

My favorite product that we carry is the Bunnel violin outfit. Although many of the other instruments that we carry are “better”, I feel that the Bunnel is the perfect balance between affordability and playability. As mentioned in my response to question #2, my favorite thing is putting instruments in the hands of those that wish to play them. Sadly, beginning musicians often quit because the entry level instruments available in their price range are simply of such poor quality that they do not sound good and/or are difficult to play. I feel that our Bunnel line of instruments successfully bridge that elusive gap between affordability and quality.

4. What is your favorite band/musician/composer?

Possibly the most difficult question to answer ever… but my favorite musician (this year) is Peter Green.

5. If you didn’t play the violin/viola/cello/guitar, which instrument would you play?

I would wish to play the cello.

6. Which musician (alive or dead) do you wish you could play with?

I plead the fifth.

7. What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming year?

This year I am most looking forward to completing the instrument builds that I have begun.

8. What is something interesting that we don’t already know about you?

I have two connected toes on each foot!

9. What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working at Kennedy Violins?

My favorite thing to do when not at Kennedy Violins is to build instruments and spend time with my beautiful wife and daughter.

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Learn more about the amazing members of our Kennedy Violins staff on our About Us page!

A New Way to Play

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