Tag Archives: Music Education

Music Careers for Your Personality Type

Are you wondering where you might best fit in your local music community? Check out this infographic shared with us by Emily Parker with collegematchup.net. As you’ll see, the multi-faceted music industry has a place for all personality types!

Music Careers for Your Personality Type
Source: CollegeMatchup.net

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!

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.”

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

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.

Decisions, Decisions: Should I Major in Music?

Working for Kennedy Violins, I am constantly immersed in music–and I like it that way. There was a time in my life, though, when I reached a crossroad that would determine exactly how music might, could, or would be a part of my future. It’s a crossroad many young musicians face.

As high school wound down to an end, I had mixed ideas as far as my future plans were concerned. I went from feeling reluctant to go to college to eagerly applying with the hope of a scholarship. Then, during my senior year, I really started considering not just where I would gain my higher education, but in what emphasis of study I’d immerse myself. At the time, I was very dedicated to two creative pursuits: the visual arts (painting) and the performing arts (classical string bass).

To paint or to play? That was the question. Even though I majored in music, I still enjoy painting.
To paint or to play? That was the question. Even though I majored in music, I still enjoy painting.

When I approached my private bass teacher, the principal of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, with my decision, he surprised me with the question, “Are you sure you want to major in music?” At the time, the symphony was facing serious financial troubles with a lack of funding and drama within the board of directors. Sometimes, apparently, the music business can be no fun.

I went on to major in music–mostly because playing the bass was something I was good at, so why not keep going with it?–but looking back, I wish I had considered some of the following questions regarding my decision, my goals, and my future.

Now that ten years has passed since graduating high school, I am grateful for my music degree and to still be performing, teaching, and sharing a skill (not just a hobby) developed during my years of collegiate study.

So if you (or your child, friends, or associates) are facing the decision to study music, ask yourself the following questions to bring some light to the subject:

  1. What do you think about when you don’t have to think? What occupies your thoughts (when you actually have a moment to think) is a good indicator of what’s important to you and what really interests you. If you find yourself jotting down melodies, humming the theme from a favorite symphony, or mentally practicing a piece you’ve been working on, these are signs of your interest in or passion for music. Don’t major in music if you’re not seriously passionate about it.
  2. Do you plan to seek higher education? Really assess not just your desire for further education, but the path to get there. “Planning” to go to college includes actually having a concrete plan! Talk about it with your parents and guidance counselor. Access all the resources you can. Research scholarship opportunities and financial aid. Learn about different schools and the programs they offer. Put application deadlines on your calendar and schedule time to complete the mounds of paperwork and online forms. If you want to gain a higher education, do all you can to realize the opportunity!
  3. Do you like to practice? Does anyone really like to practice? Well, sure! Practice isn’t drudgery when approached the right way and with a desire to improve. But SERIOUSLY, you need to have a high tolerance level for being in the practice room. If you major in music, you will practically live there. And if you dread stepping foot into the practice room, you’re going to be a miserable music major. You have to be really dedicated to your craft to understand the value of diligent practice.

    My program required three hours of practice per day. Exhausting, but so important!
    My program required three hours of practice per day. Exhausting, but so worth it!
  4. Do you perceive music as a hobby or a potential profession? Maybe music something you simply do for fun or as a social outlet. But perhaps you’re interested in applying your skills in a way that influences others on a greater scale. Consider whether music is something you simply do for yourself and your own enjoyment (and this is great!) or if you want to share your talent for music more broadly in your music community through performance and education. If you hope to share music effectively with others, majoring in music will provide you with effective means to do just that.
  5. What are your career goals? Do you want to be a dentist or a doctor? A journalist? An accountant? Your professional ambitions don’t have to eliminate your musical involvement, but you will need to invest in an education that enables you to reach your professional goals. (Note: You can actually still minor or even major in music and still access those career paths through graduate and doctoral studies.)
  6. Which do you hope to do more: teach or perform? This question will help you decide whether to pursue a degree in music education, music performance, or general music. All music majors can teach privately, but if you plan to teach in a public school, you’ll need a teaching certificate attained through a music education program.
  7. Are you hoping for a scholarship? Whether you major in music or another field of study, you might be eligible to receive a music scholarship! There are so many scholarships, grants, and awards available to musicians. Do some research to find these, and again, be sure not to miss any deadlines to apply or audition!
  8. Will you regret majoring or not majoring in music? This is a hard question to answer because you may not know until after the fact. Whatever you decide to do, I hope there will be no regrets as you look back on the decisions you’ve made and the doors of opportunity you’ve opened. I hope you’ll find success and joy in your future pursuits no matter what they are.

And remember, even if you don’t major in music, there will always be opportunities to study music and be active in the music community throughout your life. (Visit www.kennedyviolins.com/lessons to learn more about lessons offered in our private studio.) Whatever you decide, we hope music will continue to play an important and enriching role in your life as a music performer, teacher, or lover. Either way, it’s totally worth it. Best of luck!

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Looking for more advice? Feel free to contact us at support@kennedyviolins.com or call 1-800-779-0242. As usual, we love hearing from you!

Suzuki vs. Traditional Method

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“Music is the language of the heart without words.” -Dr Suzuki

There is so much confusion surrounding what the difference is between traditional and Suzuki method violin lessons. What’s the difference? Is one better? How do you choose?

I, personally, started on the Suzuki method at the age of three, went through two years of Suzuki pedagogy training,  and currently have a studio of thirty students that I teach the Suzuki method to. I believe in the Suzuki method and really enjoy using it with my students.

Dr. Suzuki was born in Japan and was a firm believer that every child can learn to play music. He was a strong advocate for creating an “environment” where music was fostered and encouraged in every child. The basis of his method was on linguistics and how a child learns spoken language. Just as we do not expect a child to read before they can talk, we should not expect a child to read music before they can play music.

With that idea, a Suzuki teacher will teach at least the first year of violin without having the child read music. The focus is on posture, tone and developing a love of music. This means the child will attend concerts, play with other violinists, perform as often as possible and be immersed in the violin world.  It is for these reasons that the Suzuki method is often the preferred method for teaching younger children ages 2-5. Children at these ages are not trying to keep up with any kind of school orchestra, are often not reading yet and their ear is still developing making them prime candidates for learning music by ear.

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Dr. Suzuki leading a group of children playing violins

Traditional violin lesson teachers will often be leery to start a child before 1st grade and often would prefer to wait until 4th or 5th grade. This is sad because many years have been lost in which the child could have been exposed to music and learning to appreciate it. The other major benefit to starting young is learning to perform at a young age which makes it less intimidating as you get older.

The positive side of waiting and doing traditional method is that the child can be self-propelled and often needs very little help from the parent other then encouragement. The Suzuki method is very parent involved. Especially when you start from a young age. Dr. Suzuki always encouraged the parent to learn along side the child. He felt like this was a positive role modal for the child and then the parent could assist in practice. Ask any teacher; too often a parent ruins a week of practice by giving a student wrong advice.

You can start the Suzuki method at a later age. I have started many students age ten to twelve on the Suzuki method. They do really well. The benefit of only focusing on posture, tone and love of music really brings out the artistry in playing the instrument. Making it way less about the technical side of reading music and more about the artistic side of making music.

To be honest, I do start my students with reading music by Book 2 of the Suzuki method. My reason for this is that my own musical growth was stunted by leaving out the reading of music for so long. By the time most of my students reach Book 2 though, they have been playing for three years. This is plenty of time to focus on posture and tone development without the stress of trying to read music at the same time. I do not however, use the Suzuki book to read music. I supplement with fiddle tunes, duets, scales, etudes and rhythm training.  If a teacher claims to be a Suzuki teacher and just teaches from the books they are missing the whole point of Dr. Suzuki’s method. His method was not about the songs he wrote or pieces in the books. His method is about believing in the ability of every child to play music, to foster the love of music in every child and to start them off in music the best way possible.

 To get a visual idea of what Dr. Suzuki was like and what his method brought about, watch this YouTube channel by clicking here. Crazy what love, devotion and belief in a child’s ability can bring about.

How Young is Too Young?

As a violin teacher, with a pretty good size studio, I think the question I get the most is, “At what age should I start my child?”  There are several responses that I could have with this question, but I will go with the two that I feel most strongly about.

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First, what is best for your child?  In this day and age it is not uncommon for a child to have an extra activity every day.  From soccer to acting class kids’ schedules can be crazy.  If you want them to play an instrument, not have to practice with them, and just have fun, then starting in 5th or 6th grade is probably the best option.  At that age, kids can be pretty self-driven and if they like the instrument will practice.  You may need to be flexible, however,  because your child will probably want to switch as they get exposed to different instruments.  For a child to try violin one year and cello the next is great, but as a parent can be frustrating.

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Second, what is best for you as the parent?  If you want to start your child on violin at the age of three, that’s awesome, but realize you will have to be very dedicated.  Practicing with the child every day, enduring tantrums when practice gets difficult, and having a slow and steady approach to learning the instrument.  I love it when a young child gets a grasp on music early.  The students I have that started at the age of three or four have a way better understanding of music then a child that starts in 5th or 6th grade.  They have been around music longer, appreciate it, and see music almost as a second language.  It is a beautiful thing, however, it is not an easy thing to accomplish as a parent.  If you are not the type of parent that wants to dedicate yourself to learning the violin and practicing with your child every day then hold off on starting them young.  It will cause you more grief than joy.  So, unless you are a bit of a “tiger mom” it may not be best for you.

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I started the violin at the age of three.  There has never been a day, in my adulthood, that I have regretted starting the violin at such a young age.  It is why I love teaching younger students so much.  By the way, all of the children’s pictures in this post are students of mine.

Starting children young can be very rewarding.  My mom was an amazing, dedicated woman and she said there was nothing more rewarding then seeing her children come alive while playing music.  My mother also came up with the best quitting rule when it came to music.  If we ever came to our mom and said that we wanted to quit she always said that was just fine and we would mark the calendar for 6 months from the time that we asked to quit.  If 6 months later we still wanted to quit the instrument, we were allowed to do so.  You would be amazed at how often quitting an instrument is associated with an upcoming performance, current frustration with a technique, or just pure laziness. Often, after 6 months, we would not even remember wanting to quit.  I still use this rule with my own students.  It works brilliantly.  In ten years of teaching I have only had one student quit.

In closing, a child is never to young to begin to experience music. Singing to and with your child, playing music for your child, and being intentional about learning different instruments and their sounds can go a long way towards teaching your child to appreciate music. Music is not so much a talent but a gift and like all art, should be deeply appreciated.

I would start by watching the “Goat Rodeo” sessions on YouTube with your child. Totally entertaining and lively. They will love them.  You can click here to see what I’m talking about. 🙂

Face to Face with Elizabeth from Kennedy Violins

We are all musicians and teachers here at Kennedy Violins, so when you call or come to the store, we are happy to talk with you about which instrument to buy or explain repairs to you and, we will gladly give you music lessons and host concerts, but we don’t often get to talk about much else.  Which is why we decided to start the Face to Face series on our blog.  This will give you a chance to better know each unique individual at Kennedy Violins.

Today, we will kick off the series with our most recent additions, Elizabeth Knopp!

Elizabeth Picture

Elizabeth is a certified Suzuki teacher for violin books 1-10, viola 1-3. She plays first violin in the High Strung String Quartet, was Concertmaster for two years with the Oregon Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra and has played with the Vancouver Symphony, and Willamette Falls Symphony.

Recently, Elizabeth took some time to tell us more about herself and her time here at Kennedy Violins.

1. How long have you worked at Kennedy Violins?

About two months! I first visited Kennedy Violins in March of 2013. I fell in love with the shop the minute I walked in.

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

Trying all the different violins! I can’t believe it’s part of my job to play hundreds of violins and sell the best ones to our costumers.

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

The David Yale violins are excellent. The sound and ease of playing is superb! I also really like the Henner Violas. Such deep clear tones it brings a huge smile to my face.

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

Mumford & Sons. Good music and stellar lyrics.

5. If you didn’t play the violin, which instrument would you play?

A lap harp! I took lessons for about six months on the harp and have never felt so close to heaven. I plan to play the harp once I retire and have more time to practice.

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

Chris Thile…. He’s just so talented and handsome. Check out the “Goat Rodeo Sessions” on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.

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

GETTING MARRIED!!! Friday, August 2nd is the big day!

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

I’ve traveled to 14 countries: England, Netherlands, France, Romania, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

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

Drinking coffee with my True Love, Jason.

We will feature one of our team members each week in our Face to Face series.  Check back next week to meet another team member of Kennedy Violins.

Making Music at M.I.T.C.H. Charter School

Every once in awhile, there is a collective sigh at Kennedy Violins when we hear of yet another school orchestra program being cut.  A few months ago, however, we were thrilled to get a call from Cami Galloway of the band, Virginia Real.  She was in need of violins to use for a workshop at a school that wanted to START a string program for their students.  We were thrilled to know that there were still schools out there that recognize the value of music. So, when Cami asked if we could provide the violins for the workshop, we didn’t have to think twice-of course we would!

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The members of Virginia Real

Over the next several weeks, we worked with Dee Grothe, the coordinating teacher for the workshop at M.I.T.C.H. Charter School.  There would be 78 students participating in the 3-Day workshop!  Wow!  She described how the hope was that the workshop with Cami would ignite an interest in the students and that an official strings class would begin in the fall.

Our team of luthiers worked for weeks to professionally set-up all the instruments that would be needed.  Then, a few days before the workshop started, our customer service team went to M.I.T.C.H. Charter School and sized each student so that they could have the proper violin and they got to take home their violins that day!  So, by the time the Cami and the Virginia Real band showed up, they students were eager and ready to go!

By all accounts, the workshop was a huge success!  By the end of the three day workshop, the students performed “Twinkle, Twinkle,” “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” and “Shortenin’ Bread.”  Many students expressed an interest wanting to continue and are going to get private lessons this summer!  According to Cami Galloway, “M.I.T.C.H. is truly showing innovation and the teachers, Dee Grothe, Dianne Wright and Kelly Shelton have corroborated together to help bring the band across the country to provide this opportunity for their students.”  We think that when school starts again in the Fall, M.I.T.C.H. Charter School will have no problem getting a string program up and running.

Students participating in the string workshop
Students participating in the string workshop

Cami Galloway and Virginia Real have done workshops like this across the country.  If you are interested in having them lead a workshop at your school or organization, you can contact them at varealband@gmail.com.