Monday, April 29, 2013

Picking the Right Instrument to Learn

     You like so many things about music and you have seen so many cool things played by professionals, but you do not know which instrument to choose for yourself (or your child). This is actually good news!

Here are some things that will help you make a decision:

1. Size. Some instruments these days come in different sizes, like the violin and the guitar, so these instruments will work for ages as young as four 3 years old. Other instruments require that you wait until you are in middle school, like the trumpet.

2. Free Trial Lesson. If there is an instrument that you or your child have some interest in, contact a music academy, a music store or an online teacher (I am available for instance) where they offer lessons to see if you can come in and give an instrument a try (more about this here).

3. Band & Orchestra. For students all the way up through college there is the possibility of taking a class to learn an instrument in the United States of America. One thing that will help you here is to look for the instruments that are few in number because you will get more attention and it will open up opportunities towards learning other instruments as you progress. For example, you may start out with viola in the orchestra, but then make the move towards the violin since they are so similar. Whatever instrument you learn will give you skills to learn other instruments as well.

Parents and students, it is important to remember that whether it's the piano, the cello, or the saxophone, you (and your child) will gain a musical education, some discipline, and it can be enjoyable. I have noticed parents being very concerned when their child does not like a certain instrument. Sometimes students are looking for a certain feeling towards an instrument. Feelings come and go, so if you hold on and keep playing your instrument, over time your affection for the music you play will transcend the up-and-down feelings that all musicians experience.

If the reason you want your child to really like the instrument is because you think that will keep them motivated to practice, let me assure you that the hype of something new is very transitory. It is more important that you and your child value and enjoy the learning experience, that you learn to practice even when the feelings are not there, and find ways to get inspired (more on inspiring to practice here). So, definitely take in consideration that you (or your child) likes the instrument, but remember that we all grow to love things as well.

I admire the approach that some Asian parents take towards music lessons. They see private lessons as a part of the overall education of their children, so viola lessons are next to Math and Science.
I encourage you consider music lessons as building you and your family into a well-rounded people, try a free trial lesson, find a good teacher (more about this here) and give it a year!

More information on picking out an instrument here

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Christoph Gluck: Reformed & Simple Opera

Christoph Willibald Gluck became a reformer of 
opera in what is now called the early classical period.

Historical Period: Classical
Nationality: Germany
Born: 2 July, 1714; Erasbach, Germany
15 Nov, 1787; Vienna, Austria
Cause of death:
Alexander Gluck
Wife: Marianne Pergin
Daughter: Marianne (his niece, adopted)
Contemporaries: J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel

What's Happening in History? It is the 1700's; the First Copyright Act has been passed in Britain (1709); in North America there is fighting with the Tuscarora Indians; Jean Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher, dies (1712); the same year that the Shawnee Indians established themselves in Ohio. The United States of America is not a country yet, just colonies (more world history during the 1700's here). 

Beginning. It was around this time that Christoph Gluck was born to Alexander and Marianne Gluck on July 2, 1714 in the country of Germany. Alexander Gluck worked for Prince Lobkowitz as a gamekeeper to provide for the family. Although the name may make one think that it has something to do with sports, a gamekeeper took care of animals. Marianne, his mother, took care of the house and helped Alexander. Alexander's job for Prince Lobkowitz made it possible for Christoph to get a good education at the Jesuit School of Kommotau from twelve to eighteen years of age; a Jesuit is a kind of Catholic priest. Not much has changed today, parents are still responsible to make sure their children are in a good school. This is where Christoph received music lessons alongside his general education. At eighteen years of age, Christoph went to Prague, Austria, to continue studying music with Czernohorsky. I wonder if Christoph called his teacher Mr. Czerno or Mr. Hors for fun.

Working. As Christoph was studying in Prague, he had to work to pay for food, clothes, a place to live, and other necessities. At first, Christoph worked playing the violin at county fairs and dances. After a while, with the help of Prince Lobkowitz, Christoph was able to meet some richer families, which in turn helped him get a better job teaching music. It is good to ask others for help. In 1736, Christoph went to work in the city of Vienna and then moved to Milan, Italy to study with a famous teacher named Giovanni Battista San Martini. It was around this time, 1741-1745, that Gluck started writing operas, and Italians loved going to watch operas. Operas are like movies in that there are actors, cool costumes, and there is a story being told. But, operas also have something that movies do not have: singing! People liked Gluck's operas so much that he was invited to London  to write more operas there; the first one is called La Caduta dei giganti. Gluck not only wrote operas, he also performed on musical glasses, which is kind of interesting! It was also in London that Christoph became friends with George Friedrich Handel, another famous composer. Gluck admired Handel so much that he kept a picture of Handel in his bedroom to be inspired by it.

Reforming. In 1762, with the help and encouragement of his friend, Raniero da Calzabigi, Christoph made some big changes to the way opera was performed. It was his opera Orfeo ed Euridice that showed off these changes. The overture started the opera to introduce the drama and mood; instead of having singers show off their singing skills, the opera now told the story simply. Poetry and music were now bound together to show the emotion of the story and dramatic continuity.

     Christoph Gluck was the opera man, that's what he focused on in his life and he did not give up. Gluck's perseverance and openness made a big difference in the musical world. Do not give up on your music, keep pushing yourself!