7 Insider Tips for Aspiring Music Educators [Video]

7 Insider Tips for Aspiring Music Educators [Video]

Music careers in the 21st century are flexible and diverse, often incorporating more than just one thing. Many of us are freelancers, curating opportunities and crafting a creative career based on our varied skill sets and interests.

We're performers and teachers, writers and creators, collaborators and makers.

I decided to mix things up a bit and offer this post as a mini online workshop.

Today, I'm going to talk about designing and developing your music career, with a focus on music education and ways to incorporate that into the work you do. Because whether or not you pursued or are pursuing a degree in music education, teaching (in one form or another) will invariably be part of your future career, if it isn’t already.

How to Read Lead Sheets and Chord Charts [Video]

How to Read Lead Sheets and Chord Charts [Video]

You want me to play that? Where is the left hand part? Where is the time signature? Why aren't there any barlines?

If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm talking about lead sheets and chord charts.

I'm mixing things up today and offering this post as a mini online workshop!

So, grab a pen and a piece of paper (or better yet, print out the corresponding practice files - there's a notes page at the end of the packet) and get ready for a crash course in how to read lead sheets and chord charts.

This will be especially relevant to those of you in more contemporary church settings, but I think you’ll find that the skills used in playing lead sheets and chord charts are skills we can all use - these are just basic musicianship skills, for the most part.

So even if you’re not in a situation where you're playing from lead sheets on a regular basis, I think you’ll find the skills useful in the work you do - from harmonizing to composing to playing more by ear to developing flexibility, and more.

Enjoy! (And P.S. Be sure to watch to the end for an exciting announcement!)

The Joy of Children's Handbell Choirs [Video]

The Joy of Children's Handbell Choirs [Video]

While writing last week's post on how to start a children's handbell choir, I came across a number of practical, helpful videos on YouTube. These videos show real children of all ages in real churches playing (colored) handbells in worship and at special church events. In addition to being completely adorable, I found them to be incredibly inspiring and motivating. And did I mention, helpful?

Here's why:

The brain processes visual images 60,000 times faster than text (source). In addition, more than 65% of us are visual learners (source). But that's just images. Researchers estimate that one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words (source). Crazy, right?

So, today, I thought I'd supplement my last post by sharing a collection of videos that show the ins and outs of children's handbell choirs. Click through the slides below to get started. Enjoy!

15 Singing Games for Children's Choir

15 Singing Games for Children's Choir

Singing games are a great way to teach musical concepts, incorporate movement, and give children an opportunity to sing alone and with others. They're perfect as gathering activities, ice-breakers, or a quick change-of-pace in the middle of rehearsal. 

A few months ago, I shared seven fun musical games for children's choir. As a follow-up to that post, I'm rounding up fifteen singing games - some, more suitable for younger singers; others for older elementary; and even a few that your youth choir would love. Most of these are sung in unison, without accompaniment. Also, since movement activities are difficult to describe in writing, I've included video demonstrations for most of these. 


Musical Pairs: Mondnacht


Today, I'm excited to share with you two video recordings from our recent program, The Art of Song: Musical Pairs! Just to recap, Steve and I chose to perform two settings of "Mondnacht"–one by Schumann and one by Brahms.  There are several common musical features that suggest Brahms used Schumann's setting as a model:

1. Meter + perpetual motion. Both composers used 3/8 meter and sustained a sense of perpetual motion (suggested by the text) with constant sixteenth notes in the piano accompaniment.

2. Plagal "Amen" cadence. Both settings include a plagal or "Amen" cadence near the end, underscoring the last two words of the text - "nach Haus" (to home). This implies not only a sense of arrival and resolution but also a sense of rest (perhaps eternal rest, as suggested in the text).

3. Introductions. The introductions in both song settings are the same length (six measures), include a fragmented melody (stated twice), and end on a dominant, unresolved chord. This sense of suspension at the end of the introduction leaves the listener waiting for the vocal line.

Here is our performance of Schumann's setting:

And, for comparison, here is the Brahms setting (minus the final two chords because our camera died–so sorry!)

What do you think?  Do you hear the similarities between these two songs?  Did Brahms set this text as a tribute to the Schumanns or was he trying to compete with Robert?

Read more about this concert here, here, and here.

Cultivating Creativity

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original."

What a great quote by Sir Ken Robinson.

Confession: Sometimes, I get caught up watching TED Talks.  They're just so engaging and each presenter has something unique to say.  Topics are often very different but the commonality is found in the discussion of innovation, education, technology, and creativity.  In this talk, Sir Ken Robinson talks about the creativity of young children and how our educational system counteracts it (i.e. kills it) in favor of more important subject matter (math and science).  He offers three useful points when describing intelligence:

1. Intelligence is diverse. We think visually, in sound, and kinesthetically; we think in abstract, we think through movement.

2. Intelligence is dynamic. The brain is interactive.  Creativity often comes about through different disciplinary ways of seeing things.

3. Intelligence is distinct. How did you discover your talent?

How can we cultivate creativity in our teaching?

When Music Happens

Steve posted this video on his blog last week and I just had to share it with you.  I know we've all seen flash mob videos circulating the web - particularly the ones of choirs breaking into the "Hallelujah Chorus" in the middle of an unassuming place like a mall food court.  After a point, they all seem the same.  But, when Steve played this video for me one evening last week, I was moved.  There is something so powerful about the way music just happens in this video.

Music is meant to be shared.  It's a language, a form of communication.  It's about interaction.  I love, love, love the expressions on the listeners' faces as they watch and listen - especially the children.  Look at that joy!  Everyone gathered on the street that day seemed to really be a part of the music as it was happening.  They weren't sitting silently in a dark auditorium - they're smiling and pointing and sharing the experience with the people around them.  And doesn't it just warm your heart to see how many aspiring conductors were in the crowd?!  I hope this inspires you to get out there and be a part of the music happening in your community.  Let's make music happen.

2012 WCMW: Recap II

I’m back with part II of our 2012 WCMW Recap!  In case you missed it, our first two events of this season can be found in our 2012 WCMW: Recap I.  Picking up right where we left off last week, here is a glimpse of our third and fourth events of the season.  Enjoy! WEEK 3: Saxophone Quartet Directed by Lynn Klock Jeff Soffer, soprano saxophone Aaron Stewart, alto saxophone Anthony Cincotta, tenor saxophone Lynn Klock, baritone saxophone

WEEK 4: The Copernicus Duo Jamecyn Morey, violin David Bebe, cello

2012 WCMW: Recap I

Y’all, we have had SUCH a fun time planning and organizing the second season of the WCMW!  With four diverse concerts (one every weekend in May), we had a whole month of exciting chamber music right here in Westminster.  The great thing about chamber music is that it’s intimate.  It breaks down some of the barriers between performer and audience that traditional venues (auditoriums, halls) often have in place.  It allows for better communication.  In fact, the Q&A conversations with the musicians each week were some of our favorite moments! Here’s a look at the 2012 WCMW:

WEEK 1: The Samirah Evans Jazz Trio Samirah Evans, vocals Miro Sprague, piano Wayne Roberts, bass

Watch a video clip here.

WEEK 2: Community Sing Led by Dr. Susan Conkling

Watch a video clip here.

Stay tuned for part II with recaps of weeks 3 and 4!

Teaching Inspiration: Marvin Blickenstaff

Two years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Marvin Blickenstaff at the New School for Music Study in Kingston, NJ.  I was in the second year of my masters at Eastman and was researching piano pedagogue and innovator, Frances Clark (Co-Founder of the New School) for a final project.  As part of my research, I visited the New School for several days, met with the faculty, observed lessons and classes, and experienced truly excellent teaching.  At the end of my first day, after observing a lesson with Marvin, I wrote this reflection:

Marvin Blickenstaff, and high school PEPS [Program for Excellence in Piano Study] student, Grace, were already in the midst of Chopin’s Etude in C Minor when I snuck in to observe.  Together, they identified the salient motives, determined the differences between the lines of each hand, rehearsed the rhythmic structure, and discussed Chopin’s individualistic thoughts on trills.  Similar to the other faculty members, Marvin sought answers from Grace by asking questions and engaging her in conversation about the music.  Comments such as, “Talk to me about the fingering in this scale” when working on the first page of the Pathetique Sonata and, “What are four ways you are going to practice this?” assessed Grace’s understanding and encouraged dialogue.

At the end of the second day, I observed one of PEPS group class with Marvin:

PEPS students meet in small rotation groups every few weeks and in a larger group class of eight students once per month, each an hour in length.  Currently, there are 24 students in the program.  Marvin began each class with scales, often asking two students to play in ensemble: one ascending and the other descending.  The students had end-of-the-year fluency goals posted in the room: 100-160, depending on age and ability.  Repertoire included Debussy, Clementi, a Mozart minuet (where Marvin led the students in an impromptu minuet around the room while singing words that fit the melody), a Bach invention, a concerto by Vandall, and lastly, Sibelius’ Romance, to which Marvin stated, “Begin warm, soft, calm, and with a feeling of moonlight. . . Music that is calm is even.”  Musical discussions included historical influences, theoretical considerations such as the importance of the cadential 6/4 progression, and phrasing decisions supported by careful pedaling.  Students were challenged in thought, touch, and sound.

These few days had a profound impact on my teaching.  I love reliving the experience through my notes and recollections of those lessons and classes.  I was thrilled to discover last week – the NSMS’s newest venture!  Complete with teaching videos, tutorials, and a blog written by New School faculty, this website is a great source of knowledge and teaching inspiration.  Enjoy this glimpse of a lesson with Marvin as he coaches an early advanced student on Edvard Grieg’s “Notturno” at the New School:

Previously: Notes from the New School – Day 1 Notes from the New School – Day 2 Notes from the New School – Day 3