Alfred Music is excited to announce today that it is joining the Peaksware Holdings, LLC portfolio of companies. This group includes MakeMusic, Inc., the developer of Finale and SmartMusic, bringing together the leaders in educational music publishing and music technology.
Both Alfred Music and MakeMusic will continue to operate independently. By sharing resources within the Peaksware group, additional investments and innovations will provide additional content and distribution channels for both companies. Specifically, this relationship will not change MakeMusic’s long-standing commitment to work equally with all publishing partners to provide the highest level of quality content for musicians and educators within SmartMusic.
“We are excited to be working with MakeMusic. Alfred Music truly believes in the MakeMusic products which is why we took over exclusive North American and UK distribution of the Finale suite of products in 2013. We also believe strongly in the SmartMusic platform, evidenced by the fact that we are one of its leading content providers. This partnership provides the resources needed to significantly enhance Alfred Music’s mission of helping the world experience the joy of making music,” said Andrew Surmani, Chief Marketing Officer of Alfred Music.” “We are combining the leading music education publisher with the industry leader in music technology to benefit everyone, from our music publishing partners, to music dealers, composers, arrangers, educators, students and independent musicians.”
MakeMusic owns some of the most advanced and patented technology solutions to support the composing, arranging, teaching, learning, and playing of music. Regular updates and innovations to Finale make it the industry standard for music notation software and the trusted creation tool for composers and arrangers around the world. With more than one million students and 20,000 teachers, SmartMusic is at the forefront of interactive learning technologies for the classroom. And, with their recent acquisition of Weezic, an Augmented Sheet Music innovator, SmartMusic will now be available wherever musicians are – on the web, Chromebooks, iPads, Mac and PC.
Alfred Music’s customers, dealers, and industry partners should expect business to continue as usual with no immediate changes. Alfred’s main office will remain in Van Nuys, California and additional offices will stay in their current New York, Miami, UK, Singapore, and Germany locations.
By Wynn-Anne Rossi
Teachers and students may wonder why a Minnesota composer is writing Latin American music. In short, I could not be more “taken” with this fabulous musical style. In today’s small world, where Russians write jazz and Japanese compose big band music, I feel that I can certainly take on the mambo (and other Latin styles).
When I appeared at the Tango Lights Music Festival in Langdon, North Dakota for the premiere of one of my Latin pieces, students were surprised to see that I had blonde hair. To top that off, my French is better than my Spanish. But, this does not dampen my enthusiasm for Latin American music.
It has indeed been a pleasure to research Latin American music to complete my vision of eight books devoted to this style. The recent release of Musica Latina, Solo Book 4 completes that vision of four books of graded solos and four books of graded duets. Solo Book 4 is written for the late intermediate pianist. Writing at this level gave me the flexibility to use challenging syncopations and rich harmonies.
In the spirit of this series, each piece includes a “nugget” of information that offers students the experience of a journey through Latin America. Book 4 opens with Trem para Paranaguá, capturing a spectacular train trip from Curitiba to Paranaguá in Brazil. This route crosses over 67 bridges and runs through 13 tunnels, descending a steep mountain to the sea.
Each piece also includes a rhythm workshop to help students move from counting to “feeling” the difficult rhythms present in the music. I recommend that students begin by counting and “lap clapping” these slowly, three times in a row. A drum can also be used to play the rhythm. The goal is for students to internalize these rhythms and speed them up until the rhythms feel natural. Latin rhythms can be very tricky, and counting aloud can often get in the way of a smooth performance.
Notice the unusual ties in the rhythm workshop for Trem para Paranaguá. Ties are a sign of syncopation, and in this case, a polyrhythm. In the first measure, the right hand has a 2+3+3 against a left hand 4+4. Polyrhythms are at the heart of Latin rhythm, thanks to a history of multiple drummers simultaneously performing multiple rhythms. In the second measure of the workshop, you see a more common use of syncopation. The tie over beat 3 causes an anticipation and natural accent to fall on the previous note.
Rhythm is not the only hallmark of Latin music. Rich, colorful harmony abounds in this style. In both American jazz and Latin styles, you can find extended harmonies (7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths) along with quartal and quintal configurations. However, the two styles sound very different. I think of this as similar seeds that have been sown in completely different ground.
In the score above, I have marked several things that should aid students in performance, analyzing the music, and understanding the style. Enjoy the ever-changing rhythms, rich colors, and conversational melodies that are so unique to this American music from our southern neighbors!
By Melody Bober
I remember the fun that I had studying repertoire in a variety of keys. Experiencing the unique character and physical sensations that each key created was a fascinating journey. Some composers who wrote collections using all major and minor keys include Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), Carl Czerny (1791–1857), Alexander Scriabin (1872–1915), Paul Hindemith (1895–1963), and Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975). Following in this tradition, I am excited to present In All Keys, a two-book series that includes original solos in all major and minor keys.
Frederic Chopin (1810–1849) used the following order for his 24 Preludes, Op. 28: C major, A minor, G major, E minor, D major, B minor, etc. The order follows the circle of fifths, with major keys followed by their relative minor keys. Each book of In All Keys contains 16 pieces and follows Chopin’s circle-of-fifths model, with major keys followed by minor keys.
Book 1 features one piece in C major, one piece in A minor, and the seven major “sharp” keys (G, D, A, E, B, F-sharp, and C-sharp major) and their relative minors (E, B, F-sharp, C-sharp, G-sharp, and D-sharp minor). Book 2 includes one piece in C major, one piece in A minor, and the seven major “flat” keys (F, B-flat, E-flat, A-flat, D-flat, G-flat, and C-flat major) and their relative minors (D, G, C, F, B-flat, E-flat, and A-flat minor). The C major and A minor pieces of Book 1 are different than the C major and A minor pieces of Book 2. However, the pieces with five, six, and seven sharps in Book 1 have been transposed to their enharmonic flat keys for Book 2.
Between the two books, there are a total of 26 different pieces, six of which appear in both sharp keys and their enharmonic flat-key equivalents. Experiencing the pieces in enharmonic keys provides students with the opportunity to read music in challenging keys while playing familiar notes and rhythms. As an example, “A Night in Cordoba” is written in D-sharp minor in Book 1 and written in E-flat minor in Book 2.
Regardless of the length of time students study, it is unlikely they will play repertoire in all major and minor keys. Wouldn’t it be nice to give them that opportunity through pieces that also reinforce the study of scales, arpeggios, and chords that are common to those keys? For instance, in Book 1 “Rushing River Rapids” is a piece that features changing meter, arpeggios, and a chromatic scale in a dramatic and fiery setting.
There are a variety of styles and forms represented in each book: ragtime, boogie, Latin, marches, ballades, and showstoppers. The waltz on page 10 of Book 2 is “Waltzing Through Time” in F major. This delicate piece features four-voice writing, arpeggios in 6ths, and left-hand scale passages.
Within each book, there is a treasure trove of various technical challenges. “Night Gallop,” the D minor piece from Book 2, is a fast-paced showstopper with crossovers and the D minor scale in both parallel and contrary motion.
The pieces in the two books also provide effective solos for recitals and competitions. It is my hope that students enjoy performing repertoire in a variety of styles while unlocking the skills necessary to explore music In All Keys.
By Amy Greer
Yesterday Jake came into the studio with the screen door banging behind him. “What new song are you going to teach me today?” were the first words out of his mouth. He was almost shouting in his excitement. Jake is six years old, a precocious child who started lessons almost a year ago. He is progressing nicely. He can play major and minor five-finger patterns in all twelve keys. He has been initiated into the “flashcard club,” meaning he can identify the notes on the piano of 30 flashcards in under a minute. He is halfway through the Lesson and Performance Level 1B books in Alfred’s Premier Piano Course. A few weeks ago he earned a “Superior +” rating at a local piano festival. It goes without saying that Jake is a kid I love to teach.
Jake is happy and good-natured about whatever I assign, but what he really loves are the “songs,” or what I call “rote pieces.” This is the music that I teach him by rote—note by note, phrase by phrase—without him ever laying eyes on a written score. Every week I take a few minutes of lesson time to teach him at least a portion of a rote piece, music that is beyond his rhythmic and note reading skills, but well within his technical grasp.
During his very first lesson I taught him “Desert Rose,” a simple pentatonic piece. “What is a desert rose anyway?” was the question that Jake asked as I broke down the phrases and demonstrated each musical gesture. At that first lesson, he didn’t know his finger numbers and he couldn’t identify a single note on the piano. He had no idea what a quarter or half note was. But he could learn “Desert Rose.”
As the weeks went by, his repertoire of rote pieces grew. At the same time, he was learning all the traditional concepts taught in beginning piano lessons: note reading, rhythms, technical exercises, and finger numbers. But from the start, he also had “real songs” to play – music that sounded interesting and sophisticated. This music used more than the few octaves in the middle of the piano and had imaginative titles that asked him to play creatively and dramatically.
I knew that these rote pieces were helping Jake build skills related to pattern recognition and memorization. He was developing his listening skills and his musical ear. He was not only improving his physical coordination, but gaining a tactile sense of keyboard geography as well. All Jake knew was he was learning “songs.”
I reach for my trusty notebook of rote pieces not just during the first few years of lessons when students are still trying to acquire basic skills. But, I also use rote pieces when a student’s motivation might be flagging and in need of a musical pick-me-up. I have used rote pieces to help students struggling with memorization. I have turned to rote pieces when I felt students were too tied to the written page. I have relied on rote pieces to inspire improvisation and compositional assignments. A well-chosen rote piece has saved many lessons.
Until recently, there has not been an easy source of rote music for the inquiring teacher. Although easy-to-teach rote pieces can be found in method books and solo collections, teachers searching for rote music at their local music stores would have been hard pressed to find anything at all. Often when giving workshops, I would mention in passing the concept of “rote music.” Inevitably, questions such as “Where can I find rote music?” or “How do you teach rote music?” would follow.
Repertoire for Rote, a book that I wrote with Dennis Alexander, is the answer to both questions. Dennis wrote seven pieces that can easily be taught by rote and I developed steps for introducing them along with a musical map for students to take home after learning them in the lesson. Unlike other collections that are purchased by the student, in the true spirit of rote teaching, this book is designed for the teacher. Remember that students are learning this music without using a written score. Pieces range from the simple “Desert Rose,” which could be taught on a first lesson, to slightly more technical pieces like “Roadrunner” or “Bells are Ringing,” which might better suit a student after several months of lessons. While one could wait until students have developed the rhythm and note reading skills to play any piece in the collection, there is no reason for the delay. By definition a good rote piece is tricky to read, but easy to play. Pieces like “Green Frogs” (Key of F# Major) fit the description precisely.
Admittedly, rote teaching is different than teaching done primarily by referencing written notation. For each of the seven pieces in the collection, there are step by step instructions for breaking down the music into small teachable units, followed by a reproducible “memory map” (in non-musical notation, of course) for students to help with both learning and memorizing. Ideally, the memory maps printed in the book would only serve as a reference for the map students might design for themselves. Teachers who purchase the book are granted permission to copy the memory maps for students.
For example, the music for “Desert Rose” follows:
Even with a simple piece like this one, detailed steps are provided for teachers:
The memory map suggested for the piece is intended to help the student organize the musical gestures in a visual format.
Just as thoughtful rote teaching is only a piece of the pedagogical puzzle, this book is just a beginning. Dennis Alexander and I hope that after working with the seven pieces in this book, teachers will make rote teaching an integral part of their pedagogical approach, much like incorporating technic work or theory into lessons. Soon, teachers will begin to recognize previously undiscovered “rote” pieces in the music they already teach regularly. After all, a good rote piece is quite simply a piece that sounds more difficult than it is.
Last week was my spring studio recital. As always, I asked students to practice performing their recital pieces for the students whose lessons were before or after their lessons. Little Jake proudly showed off his recital “song” (“Green Frogs”) for fifteen-year-old Richelle, who had been busy preparing Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C-sharp Minor” for the program. After Jake left, Richelle shook her head, “You know, it wasn’t that long ago when I was playing those frogs.”
She was right. Blink, and “Songs” turn into “Preludes.” “Desert Rose” becomes a Chopin nocturne, and “Green Frogs” morphs into Rachmaninoff right before our eyes.
GarageBand for the iPad is one of the strongest reasons musicians, students and teachers would consider using the iPad. Its collection of traditional and electronic instruments and its touch screen permit expressive performances that can be recorded, edited, and enhanced. With a set of computer speakers, the iPad becomes a performance or classroom instrument. With a small mixer or hub, you can form iPad ensembles. GarageBand’s collection of loops, effects, and editing tools permit composing and performing on an unprecedented level. When a song is finished, GarageBand’s sharing features provide the opportunity to create a portfolio of songs to share with the world through YouTube, SoundCloud, and other channels.
Creating a Song with Loops
One of GarageBand’s great features is the large number of included prebuilt musical building blocks, called loops. Songs may be composed in a wide variety of styles and instruments using only these loops. Loops can be repeated, combined, stacked, and edited as needed to create the sound you’re looking for.
#1) Create a New GarageBand Song
Launch GarageBand, navigate to the song list and tap the “+” button in the top-left corner of the screen to create a new GarageBand song. The Instrument Selection list will automatically appear. See image below.
#2) Navigate to the Track View
To build a song with only loops, you must navigate to the Track View. This requires you to create an instrument track, even if you don’t use it. Tap “Audio Recorder” and then tap the Track View button at the top of the screen. This will create an empty track that you can delete later if you don’t use it. GarageBand defaults to an eight-measure section of music. To work on longer or shorter songs or sections, tap the “+” button in the top-right corner of the screen. See images below.
#3) Search for Loops
You can search for loops and preview them before adding them to your song. Tap the Loop button at the top of the screen to view the Loop Browser. You’ll find a wide variety of loops for various instruments and styles. You can search by individual instrument or style. Just remember, some will work well together, and others won’t. See below image.
#4) Add a Loop to Your Song
You can preview any loop by tapping on it. Once you find a loop you like, simply drag it from the Loop Browser to the timeline of the song. Repeat this step to add additional loops. You can position, layer, combine, repeat, and edit them as needed. See below image.
#5) Preview Your Song
Press rewind to move the playhead at the top of the track window to the beginning of the first measure of the song and press play! How does it sound? Now that you have the foundation of a song, you may decide to reorder sections, add some vocals or record your own instruments using GarageBand’s virtual instruments. The possibilities are endless. See below image.
For more on Learning Music with GarageBand on the iPad by Floyd Richmond, click here.
The Bach, Mozart & Beethoven books in three progressive levels make up the first volumes in the new Classics for Students series. They are designed to encourage students to bring new life to the music, as well as to provide core literature by the most important Baroque and Classical masters in one book. The selections are at the center of the standard repertoire at these levels, and the book format provides aids to help connect students with the composer. Each volume includes spacious editions of the pieces, inviting composer biographies, and study guides that focus on three key teaching points for each piece.
The Composer Biographies are divided into two parts. For example, the first section of the biography for Mozart in Book 1 provides a basic overview of his life and works. In the second section, his life as a Child Prodigy and the difficulties related to this are discussed. This section explores how Leopold Mozart booked engagements haphazardly for Wolfgang. He relied on word of mouth for concert promotion. Once, when the family was temporarily stranded in London, the children performed in a tavern to earn enough money to continue travelling.
In Book 2 the same core overview of Mozart’s life is provided in the first half while the second section goes into detail about the Dueling Pianofortes in Mozart’s competition with Clementi. The discussion reviews the various stages of the contest, what they played, and how Mozart and Clementi were asked to sight-read and improvise in the competition.
The About the Music section provides three key points for students to consider when studying each piece. For example, for the Mozart Minuet in F Major, K. 15oo in Book 1, the key points provide a concise and clear introduction to the piece.
Students should play the melody with a light sound and slight emphasis on first beat of each measure. I often ask students to circle the two-note slurs throughout (11 in this one-page piece). Writing in small diminuendo signs beneath each slur reminds the student to taper the slurs. Students can also locate the upbeats that seem to pull over the bar line toward downbeats of the next measure. In these examples (marked with arrows), two eighth notes pull to the quarter note on beat one, helping to bring the music to life.
With the Polonaise in G Minor, BWV 125 from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena in Book 2, students may want to listen to a recording and then divide it into practice sections. I have marked suggested practice sections with brackets. I like to help students discover the surprises (sudden stops on quarter notes) at the ends of the main motives (two sixteenth notes and an eighth note). These unpredictable surprise endings appear at the end of the declamatory gesture each time it appears (mm. 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 21, 22). For variety, I usually suggest that the sections beginning at measure 13 and measure 17 be played lighter.
Some of Mozart’s most attractive writing for students appears in the Viennese Sonatinas that were originally composed as Wind Divertimenti, K. 439b for two bass horns and bassoon. They have become standards in the piano repertoire in these arranged versions. Pianists can imagine the different sections of the orchestra playing different phrases, alternating in dialogue. This can expand students’ abilities to “orchestrate” at the keyboard by studying the varying textures (thick and thin) within the examples. The performer also learns to work with thick versus thin textures in voicing and inflecting the phrases. Both Books 2 and 3 contain a Viennese Sonatina.
A Suggested Order of Study is included in each book as a guideline for teachers. While most students will not study every piece in every book, these guides can aid teachers with repertoire selection. The Suggested Order of Study for each of the three volumes is included below.
I hope teachers will enjoy working with students on these pieces and that the information in the books with help student find fresh and creative ways to bring them alive.
It’s coming and the excitement is building. The epic Star Wars story has proven to intrigue all generations. Alfred Music has many settings of this great music that are performed many times every year. In honor of the new movie, a new arrangement titled “Star Wars Heroes” (string orchestra, grade 2½) was just released in January. However, if you are looking for something to work on after the holiday concert/recital, when everyone is a bit excited about the upcoming vacation, try out the classic Star Wars arrangements listed here for everyone from soloists to full orchestra.
For young players, the books titled Pop Showcase for Strings include a very easy setting of “Star Wars (Main Theme)” set for flexible instrumentation for solos players, small ensembles, and string orchestra.
Playing music can often be related to the visual elements: stage lights, clothing and appearances, visual shapes of patterns on the guitar up and down the neck and reading guitar tablature and notation. However, any great guitarist and musician will tell you that it all comes down to having a well-trained ear. Recently, I had an opportunity to meet Robert Montgomery, Wes Montgomery’s son, who told me stories about how his dad didn’t read music and would learn extremely complex songs and note-for-note solos by ear. This kind of listening led him to understand the highest level of jazz harmony by relying on his hearing and formulating his own vocabulary. It can be said for many great studio guitarists that they can hear melodies, chord progressions and forms and play them back instantly. How can a guitarist progress and practice developing their ear?
1) Sing what you play. One of the most important techniques is to allow notes to vibrate through you by singing them. If you are new to this, play a note on your guitar and then sing it back. Was it the exact note in the same register, or was it sharp or flat? Try to match precisely and, as you improve, eventually you can improvise anything on the guitar and match it with your voice. Often you can hear guitar greats doing this where they solo and sing with it. Once you have that mastered, try to harmonize with yourself—playing a scale on guitar and harmonizing it with your voice (for example, singing a third above).
2) Listen to the individual elements. When some people listen to music, it is just part of the background—they listen to the singer’s words and melody but the accompanying instruments are in the distance. There is so much more going on. First of all, there are five elements of music to be aware of: melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre and form. When you listen to music, be acutely aware of how these elements are used and combined. How is the melody shaped and contoured? What are the chord relationships and how do they evolve through time? What kinds of rhythms are being used by every instrument and do they contrast in different sections of the song? What is the timbre or quality of each instrument, the effects, natural tone and range and equalization that were used in the production? What is the form of the song from the beginning to the end and how many sections were there?
3) Practice ear-training exercises. Ear training exercises are essential for the developing musician. There are some great websites that feature a variety of theory related lessons and ear training interactive players. You should test yourself on the following topics: note intervals, chord qualities, rhythm dictation and melody dictation. Let’s talk about each independently.
• Interval ear training will help you hear and recognize the distances between notes, typically all 12 notes and their multiple spellings. This is particularly helpful when figuring out melodies. At a gig or studio session when an artist or producer plays a melody you need to be able to pick it up immediately without fumble.
• Chord qualities are hearing a type of chord, (typically four triads types and about 7 seventh chord types, built from any root). You should be able to identify the chord the first time, but in the beginning you may need to hear it several times or each note of the chord played separately.
• For rhythmic dictation you will probably have to do yourself if you have a way to record yourself. Record yourself clapping out a few rhythms—start slow with just one measure, but for more advanced training, do several measures—then write out the rhythm on a sheet of paper.
• Finally, for melodic dictation do the same thing, record notes in time and then listen back and write out your melody. Start with only a few notes in a short phrase but, after you improve on transcribing, try longer phrases of four measures or more.
4) Reading music that you’re not familiar with. This is just how it sounds: practice reading and understanding the notes on a page and how they turn into sound. Similarly to the previous lessons, it will get easier the more that you do it. Eventually all the musicality that we’ve talked about will come together and you will see the notes, intervals, and chords on the page and know how they sound before you play them.
5) Transcribing note-for-note. Everyone has his or her favorite players and musicians. If you’d like to like to learn from them the best way is to play along. Often you can write down the notes, chords and rhythms to understand them better, but listening, learning and playing along is good enough. Be careful to notice all the inflections, bends and ornaments. There may be great transcriptions and charts out there already but although it may take longer, and figuring it out on your own will ma ke you internalize it more.
Think about great musicians with an incredible musical memory like Wes Montgomery, who had all the melodies and chords of a night stored in his mind, or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who could hear a full symphony and go home and write down what he heard. That musical memory is related to ear training and identifying in a deeper way how you process sound. Good luck, and happy listening.
For products by and featuring Jared Meeker, click here.
What is a medley? A medley is a mixture. In the three books ofChristmas Medleys for Two, the medleys mix two favorite Christmas pieces for piano duet. Writing medleys is fun because they offer open-ended possibilities for endless creativity. In my first holiday music project, I arranged three solo books of medleys titled Christmas Medleys for Students. Christmas Medleys for Two is a follow-up to these solo books.
Why teach duets of Christmas medleys? Performance with a partner is always challenging but twice the fun. These Christmas medleys are a little longer than most Christmas solos. Consequently, these duets offer more breadth of interpretation, and students feel quite accomplished when they play a piece that is a little longer than a short two-page solo. And, this does not have to be difficult! I usually assign holiday music that is a little below the students’ normal performance levels, knowing that they have a limited season of practice. I also offer additional opportunities for performance, encouraging family concerts, nursing home visits, and group gatherings of all kinds.
I discovered lots of choices when arranging these holiday duets as medleys. In some cases, I chose two similar carols and joined them with a bridge, making them feel like one piece. Imagine the festive nature of “Deck the Halls” coupled with “O Christmas Tree” (Book 1). In other selections, I chose two completely different styles to surprise both the performer and the audience. For example, in Book 2, I paired “Silent Night” with “Jingle Bells” to create a refreshing surprise!
My third choice was to create a “mash-up,” blending two carols together in creative ways. One interesting example is “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” with “O Holy Night” inBook 3. The structure of the score is highlighted in the music example accompanying this article. In the spirit of the season, I have marked the two carols in holiday colors. “O Holy Night” entrances are marked in green, and “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” entrances are marked in red.
Both the primo and the secondo parts start with red arrows, meaning this arrangement begins with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Notice the up/down interval pattern in measure three of the primo. The first entrance of the “O Holy Night” (green arrow) is in measure 10. In measure 11, a similar up/down interval pattern to the one found in measure three appears in the primo. This up/down pattern is a bonding feature that both carols have in common.
Measures 10–27 feature “O Holy Night” with motives from “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” appearing in the secondo. At measure 28, the two carols begin to speak as one. The primo features “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” while the secondo clearly focuses on “O Holy Night.” However, motives from both pieces appear in each part. Notice the eighth-note follow-through in measures 38–39 and 42–43 of the secondo. At measure 44 of the secondo, the up/down interval pattern reappears. Finally, there is a lovely echo of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” in measures 59–61 of the primo. These two beautiful compositions could not have been more compatible and fulfilling to transform into a medley.
I wish you and your students a fabulous musical adventure as you enter the holiday season. May theseChristmas Medleys for Two bring added enjoyment to lessons and performances.
Happy New Year! What an exciting day of the year January 1st is! Everything is new again. We have a new outlook on life and we set new personal goals in an effort to better ourselves. We look at the prior year, consider the highs and lows and try to address anything we would like to improve upon. So why am I talking about New Year’s now? As a teacher we celebrate New Year’s twice a year. The start of school (August or September) is our New Year! At home, we have our resolutions—you know, I am going to lose weight, go to the gym, eat healthier! Sadly, those usually last about a month—okay, a week—then it is back to buffalo wings and professional couch sitting. As teachers in school we have an opportunity to look at our previous school year and wipe the slate clean with a fresh start. Each new school year we have the opportunity to hit the “reset” button. How exciting is that? It is a part of the profession that I just love, and by approaching each year as a new opportunity for personal and professional growth—and sticking to your resolutions—you can avoid the dreaded burnout.
That doesn’t mean that your prior year has to have been a disaster to take the New Year’s Resolution approach. By reflecting on even the most successful year you will find that there are areas that could have been better in some way. Maybe the collection of uniforms could have been more streamlined or maybe your attendance taking skills could use a little brush up. Or maybe there are specific concepts that you would like to focus on with your students. The exciting aspect I find is that there is never a lack of ideas on how we can improve the classroom experience for both our students and ourselves. I would like to share three of my own personal improvement goals, or School Year’s Resolutions with you. Perhaps you will be inspired to think of your own. I am excited for this school year, my 25th as a teacher, and I wish you all the best in your year!
Play more, talk less. This simple phrase is so important. Everything I have to say is so incredibly important! I am sure this is true for you as well. We have all the answers and want to share those answers with our students. Many times the best education happens when you say nothing at all. Students discover the answers as we guide them. The play more, talk less approach keeps that concept in mind. It is also a wonderful tool to help with classroom management. When students are actively engaged (or have an instrument on their face) they will be less likely to talk to their neighbor!
Don’t Say It. Do you ever yell over the ensemble? “BASSOONS! YOU ARE TOO LOUD!” Ok, you’ve never said that one. How about this, “TRUMPETS TOO LOUD, TROMBONES ARTICULATE, PERCUSSION WATCH ME!!!” Me too. It is so easy to just tell them with our voice, and it works in the short term. However when we do this, we are taking away from our ultimate goal of communication from the podium. We want our students to watch us to understand our interpretation, but if we yell instruction at them, why would they watch? So, my goal here is to not talk (or sing) over the ensemble as they are rehearsing.
K.I.S.S. We love analogies. I know I do. They are so effective when trying to get kids to understand concepts. When a student gets a concept through an analogy it is like a beautiful ray of sunshine beaming through the darkest of clouds. (See what I did there?) I would never say to not use a wonderful analogy or share a great pun—just be sure to not overuse them. Many times we just need to keep it simple. Give a short direction with simple and direct instruction. How about saying, “Alto saxes, there is a wrong note on beat 2 of measure 5,” instead of, “Alto saxes, there is a criminal lurking in the shadows of measure 5. You need to swoop upon it to eradicate the musical world of this eternal evil.” Use your analogies, I used one this morning and it really connected with my students, but also keep it simple.
I wish you all a Happy New School Year and hope it is your best yet! If you have a resolution to share, please send me a note (email@example.com) and perhaps I will compile them and share them in the future. Until then—be active, maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet!
By Chris M. Bernotas
Alfred Music Composer & Sound Innovations Author