Monday, October 31, 2016

The End Game- Your Most Important Responsibilities as a Music Teacher.

     Looking at this, my second trip down the lane as a music major and I can easily tell you the biggest difference between this time and last. Maturity is a big part of it but ultimately the biggest difference between 40 something me and 20 something me is PERSPECTIVE. I process what my teachers say a lot differently than I did in 1990. What I enjoy is when my major professor and I get to 'talk shop' and look at how we arrive at the big picture. We had such a conversation this morning.
       This is a really busy semester and we're nearing the busiest point in that semester for much of our music department. This morning, my professor was talking about his own practicing and how he was having a difficult time currently getting more than a few minutes a day worth of practice time because of all of the extra things going on. His statement made me continue down the path of a thought I'd already formed........

- One of the problems with teachers is that they are humans and humans each have their own agenda. It may be subconscious but it exists. As such, every teacher has their pet projects and have the mindset of 'Oh, this won't inconvenience folks too much!'. The problem is that when every teacher in a department is doing this it becomes completely overwhelming for both teachers and students. This isn't something exclusive to any grade level or happens everywhere unless folks remain diligent and keep things in balance. The most important thing for any music teacher (or any teacher of any subject) to remember is the end game which is 100%....


There is no ensemble, no project, no agenda that should EVER come before this. So, what does this have to do with my professor and practicing? Everything.

You see, paramount to the continued growth and development of the student is the continued growth and development of the TEACHER. You MUST continue down the path of your own growth and education as a musician (or in whatever subject you teach) to truly serve your students and ensure you can give them the best version of yourself. Schedule practice time daily. Continue with score study. Transcribe solos. Do whatever you can to be the best musician you can. You owe it to those who trust you to teach them.

No excuses.
Get Better
Go And Make Your Students Better.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

No Witty Title- Common Musical Terms That Young Musicians Might Not Know.

 I hate not knowing...and normally I'm not afraid to ask...BUT..

When I returned to school in my 40s I was already scared out of my wits. Often it kept me from asking questions that made me feel dumb. The question usually would revolve around a musical term someone would throw out that I didn't know. I have no doubt that incoming freshmen go through similar things. Therefore, I thought I'd post some common musical terms and their definitions. Now, you'll know....and knowing is half the battle....G.I. JOOOEEEEEEEEE!!!! (but I digress...)

Appoggiatura-  A grace note performed the prior to the note of the melody and landing on the beat.
Cadenza- A musical term referring to a chord sequence that brings an end to a musical phrase.
Dominant- The fifth note of a scale (or the fifth chord of a key).
Enharmonic-  Two notes that differ in name but refer to the same pitch. For example, C sharp and D flat.
Giocoso- Playfully.
Hemiola- A rhythmic pattern of syncopated beats with two beats in the time of three or three beats in the time of two.
Leading Tone- The seventh tone of a scale which LEADS to the tonic.
Mediant- The third note of a scale.
Ostinato-  a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch.The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in itself.
Sempre- Always.
Senza- Without.
Subdominant- The forth note of a scale (or forth chord of a key).
Submediant- The sixth note of a scale (or sixth chord of a key).
Supertonic- The Second note of a scale.
Tutti- All together.

More terms to come!

Monday, October 24, 2016

When is Hard, Hard? When is Extended Really Extended?

Greetings from the home stretch of my pedagogy degree!

It's been a while since I've posted a new blog. Sorry about that! A senior recital and graduate school auditions temporarily took priority of my life. Now, they are successfully completed and I'm back to practicing and pondering about why we do what we do?

So....why do we do some of the things we do?

I'm actually referring to 'we' as teachers here and not as players. There are some things that I've even caught myself doing and realized that I was simply continuing a cycle of something I was taught at some point in my life. Here are a couple examples.

1: Why do we continue, as teachers, band directors, whatever, to propel the notion that one key is harder than another in reference to scales? I have students who are 100% convinced that B, C#, and F# are the devil. Why do they believe this? Why did I use to believe it? Well, it's likely they saw a bunch of ink on the page (in the form of sharps or flats) and it LOOKED harder. Understandable, right? However, that's where a teacher, at some point, failed them. Each major or minor scale is tonic, seven scale tones, and tonic again. The PERCEPTION might be that they are harder but that isn't matched by reality....except for the one we've slowly created over the years.
    A good example is Ferling's 48 Famous Studies. Anyone who has worked through that book knows full well that etude 48 is in no way more difficult than etude 1. However, because of the way the book is laid out, the student sees the C#s and F#s in the back; making them appear far more ominous than they actually are.
   The point I'm trying to make here is that we often shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot by making certain things appear harder than they really are or, at the very least, not dispelling the myth of their difficulty. Fair enough? Fundamentals should be presented as just that. Db is no more difficult, finger wise, than F. It's all perception.

2: At what point does saxophone advance (in regards to what's possible) that we stop using the term 'extended technique' for technique which is no longer really 'extended'. The world now has high school students playing literature which regularly carries them into the altissimo register and. truthfully, it's rare to find saxophone music being published today which DOESN'T have altissimo? Is this something which now needs to be presented at an earlier age? Do we not need to begin looking at voicing exercises for students much earlier in their playing careers? What about double tonging? It's common place for brass players within three years of beginning the instrument. It's less common in saxophonists but would it not be useful in not only solo lit but wind ensemble lit? The point is that perhaps it's time to reconsider hurdles to leap in the progress of a saxophone student because they just keep getting better. The bar is continually being raised as far as the skill of player at every level. In my opinion, that bar should also continually be raised in the teacher's studio, as well.

Thoughts? Comments?