Monday, June 30, 2014

The Summer Practice Challenge!

     Every summer, my students are encouraged to go for The Summer Practice Challenge. Why? I started it a few summers ago because I thought it would be a fun way for students to get a prize and it would encourage them to avoid being lazy with their instrument. Being lazy in the summer time is very tempting with no school, hot weather and other fun activities that they are doing. But The Summer Practice Challenge has been a success, more and more parents are telling me how it's motivating their children.

How does it work? The student needs to be able to play everything I give them on their practice chart 20 days in a row. If they do not skip a day and get 20 days they get their prize, or they may go for 40 days to get a bigger prize, or if they get 40 days, they can go for 60 days for the biggest prize!

The Good news: 1. the prize is something the student likes, 2. the student may start the challenge any time they want before the 1st day of school, and 3. they may re-start the challenge as many times as they want. As you can see the point is to motivate the student to keep trying.

The Benefits:
1. Motivates students to practice (they want to push for the prize).
2. Challenges the student's and the parent’s integrity to be honest (will they cheat?).
3. Teaches the student consistency and discipline to practice even when you do not feel like it.
4. It teaches students to set goals and have fun at the same time. 
5. The student will learn to take responsibility to complete his or her goal.
6. Parents will not have to push their child very hard to practice.

        In the end it is the attitude of the teacher and the parent that will influence the student on how to approach The Summer Practice Challenge.  Parents, out of good intentions, have pushed their child so hard that the student shuts down and they do not want to do the challenge.  I encourage teachers and parents, to make this optional to their students as it will "put the ball in their court." You might be surprised what happens when you give them the responsibility. Let the challenge begin!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Musette: Suzuki Violin Book 2 - Tips and Focus Points

     So you are now getting comfortable playing with the whole bow Chorus from Judas Maccabaeus and now we are ready for the next step: Musette by J.S. Bach. Here are some tips and focus points:
  • Check the key signature: 2 sharps (F# and C#), which means 2nd and 3rd finger touch on A and D string; 1st and 2nd finger touch on the E string.
  • Play at the tip of the bow as many notes as possible.
  • Bring out the sudden changes in dynamics. Make a distinct difference between p, mf, f by the amount of bow you use.
  • Take a small breath when you see the commas in the music.
  • The last note in the piece you can play as a harmonic on the D string.
  • One way to practice the 4-note slurs is to make them into hook bow, so that it is easier to distribute he amount of bow per note.
  • Play scales and pieces from book 1 at the tip to make it easier playing at the tip.
Feel free to ask questions, suggestions and concerns. And if you want more help, try a free online lesson!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Lessons, the Best Time to Start or Keep On

        Summer is here and many of us are going on vacation or are right now on vacation!  This does not mean that you have to go without lessons for the entire summer. I know that some of you are thinking whether or not to do them. Short answer: Do It!

If you are looking for a teacher or just want to try something out, take 2 free online lessons with me! And for those of you in the Louisville area, I teach at the Oldham County Arts Center and the University of Louisville Community Music Program. I teach the violin, viola, cello and piano. We can do Suzuki, fiddle, bluegrass, classical and/or church music. Send me an email at: for more info.

For those of you who have a teacher, here is what I recommend you keep in mind as you think it over:

1. Some teachers will be able to have lessons earlier in the day since there is no school, so just ask.
2. A few lessons will help keep students going so that they don't fall behind.  Students that do not take any summer lessons forget some of what they have learned. So guess what happens when Fall rolls around? The parents and student get frustrated when things have to be relearned.
3. Some children think they are done with music lessons, so by taking just a few lessons you can avoid misunderstandings.
4. If you take lessons in the summer you will have a spot for sure in the Fall with your teacher. 
5. Summer lessons are a great way to keep your child sharp and moving forward. What I have noticed, is that students have a harder time staying motivated to practice without the weekly lessons
6. Good opportunity to prepare for orchestra auditions.
7. Most importantly, quality time with your favorite teacher.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Louisville Philharmonia Pops Concert!

         On Thursday, 7:30 PM on June 26, 2014, at the Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church (311 Browns Lane in Louisville, Kentucky) the Louisville Philharmonia is putting on their annual Pops Concert!

           Here are some of the pieces you can expect: Gershwin An American in Paris,  Lloyd Webber/Custer The Phantom of the Opera, Anderson The Typewriter, Shore/Whitney Lord of the Rings, Gliere Russian Sailors' Dance, plus many other favorites!  As usual, the cost is $0, unless you would like to donate. We usually fill the entire auditorium so make sure to get there around 7 p.m. so that you can get a good seat.

        What a nice way to try something new and encourage your children in their musical endeavors, talk about a simple way to make practicing easier. Learn more about the orchestra here

Monday, June 9, 2014

Teaching Reflections: Unique Moments

      Every profession, job, and career comes with good things and bad things. For many people in the United States it is easy to focus very much on the disadvantages, it is easy to complain, to be jealous, to just get through the day. Can you imagine how painful it is to go through life that way? We lose so much when we do that?

A little while ago I had the wonderful opportunity to play with one of my students at a private family occasion. The student and I played a song together. As I was there, I realized what rare privileges I have as a private music teacher. I get to see families have fun, celebrate and even grieve, all because of private music lessons. Who would have thought that teaching students can be more than a 30-minute lesson once a week? I am not sure how many other professions get a chance to experience these kinds of unique moments, but these kinds of moments in life encourage me and I praise God for them. 

These kinds of unique moments have also helped me remember that as much as musical excellence is important, sharing life with people is even more important.  This is especially important to remember in the American society that is always "on the go" with no time to breathe.  The priority of the relationship between the parent and child with the teacher is one aspect of the Suzuki method that I find so refreshing.  At times I get the impression that people think of teachers as waiters at the restaurant just giving people what they order.  But how much better to see a teacher, a student and their parents as more than just clients who give me something.

Prioritizing relationships with people makes it possible to have good unique moments. Are you looking for these moments? What do you live for? So, what are some great moments that you have experienced lately?