Keeping the music alive at home

PrintSo amid the isolation, and frustration that might come with that, I have been challenged to think outside the box when it comes to keeping my students motivated. I have also had to confront what I would do if I was a parent stuck at home with no school work, and perhaps trying to keep myself entertained, as well as my younger children. I know my older students are probably okay because they have whatsapp/internet/youtube but the littlest of children might be a little niggly in this situation. So, I have compiled a list of resources I will be using for my ages 5 – 10 students.
The first task is something I am doing to entertain myself and to help my younger solo and ensemble students. I have been making arrangements of well known melodies and creating backing tracks to send to them. This gives me something to do (arranging the music and recording practice videos for the children to play along to) and allows me to give a homework incentive every week. Here are two sites I am using to find the sheet music needed (please remember to check the copyright on melodies):
The second task is setting either a scale to learn, a flexibility exercise, or a tonguing exercise. Make a video of the set task and include it in the video examples. I then upload and send these via google drive.
I also help run the early music education classes and for this I am using a five “senses” model: a warm up dance, a listening activity, a looking activity, a practice activity and a singing activity.
The warm up dance activity includes dancing videos from youtube:
The listening activity is probably the easiest because there is so much out there, but in case you don’t feel like searching, here is something to get you started:
Peter and the Wolf:
Tubby the Tuba:
For the looking activity, I am downloading pictures with different instruments (like the picture above) and then do a “Where is Waldo” or in this case “Where is timpani/trombone/etc” kind of game. In my lesson plan, I use this as an opportunity to explain size, shape and texture of the musical instruments. I also like to link the listening activity to the looking activity and choose video clips of an instrument that I would like to introduce this week and then have the appropriate picture.
We use glockenspiels in our early music education, but for the practice activity, any instrument that makes some kind of sound can work. With this activity, I suggest using the rhythm of a nursery rhyme or well known children songs (this week was “Baby Shark”) and play the rhythm on one note or using a DIY – instrument. If you need some easy “home made instruments” here we go:
More intricate and colourful – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sUNXA4NYKI
The “sing – a – long songs” for the singing activity come from here:
This is a nice way to end the little lesson plan.
Feel free to contact me with your own resources or if you need anymore help. I am planning on continuing these different tasks with my students as quarantine continues and will be happy to share what I have with you.
Stay safe and healthy!

Musical expectation: the reality

This cartoon has recently gone viral in the music teaching community.

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As musicians and music teachers we are fully aware that we are not necessarily generating the next performing “wunderkind”. Rather we want to focus on developing a mentorship programme that betters and develops the child as a whole.

The comic however points to a disconnect within the music system and the expectations involved in becoming a musician, and how this may affect a child’s academic, social and physical performance for the better.

Music has long since been associated with a higher IQ, and better language and mathematical skills. An interesting study has been initiated by a group of researchers at the Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) who are interested in discerning whether this is true.

“We are broadly interested in the impact of music training on cognitive, socio-emotional and brain development of children,” says Assal Habibi. Habibi is the lead author and a senior research associate at the BCI in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “These results reflect that children with music training, compared with the two other comparison groups, were more accurate in processing sound.”

But what does this actually mean for your child’s primary education at WPPS?

Ear.pngThe auditory pathway from ear to brain is sent via forms of vibration. This is then converted into neural signal. The neural signal is sent to the brainstem, up to the thalamus in the center of the brain and finally to the primary auditory cortex located on either side of the brain. When participating in the practice of music, the auditory system is able to more efficiently assess and recognise melody, as this pathway is utilised and trained

This results in the ability to process sound more effectively, which in turn betters “language development, speech perception and reading skills.” (Gersema, Emily. “Children’s brains develop faster with music training”.www.news.usc.edu. 20 June 2016) All these skills are vital aspects used in our schooling system, as well as our day to day interaction with friends, teachers and fellow persons.

These tests were used on a study group in Los Angeles using MRI brain scans and EEG to track electrical activity. The assessment of the children started prior to their musical training, and continued throughout their music training. They were then compared to students that had followed the same academic programme without music. Although, this study is fairly new the results favour the musical programme of learning written music. The BCI plan to continue their study to assess the effect on a full academic life in music. You can find out more by contacting them on their website http://dornsife.usc.edu/

I hope that this short overview helps better the understanding of what we are striving to do in our music programme at WPPS.

Our doors are always open if you want to know more!

Brass parenting: some basics for a successful year

Welcome to February 2018! My 2018 started with a “whoosh!” and I am still receiving questions from parents on how to best use their music departments to fully realise their  children’s potential. I decided to write a few basics that parents could follow on how to better their relationship with their child’s teacher, and to fully utilise the skills and knowledge available out there. This e-note is for students who are based at a music programme in school, but there are some points that are still valid for students who might be having private lessons.

Nitty Gritty:

  • Get in touch with the music teacher and introduce yourself. Let them know you are on their side. Most music teachers want their students to flourish (it is the reason we teach) and knowing that you support this process is great in establishing a working relationship.
  • Read the T’s and C’s of your music departments contracts. This really helps avoid any surprises. If there isn’t a standard letter that goes out at the beginning of every year, ask general FAQ’s. These include rates, when they must be paid, how they must be paid, what is expected in terms of practise, notice period, and information on external exams (ABRSM, Trinity and UNISA).
  • If you think you want your child to perform in the external exams, you should confirm this with the teacher so that are aware of your intentions. Students need to be practising fairly regularly to enter into these exams. Regular practise allows for an exam to be a positive experience for both your child and the teacher.
  • If your child is in a music programme at school, check which day your child has their lesson, and make sure they bring along their instrument and music.

Planning for success:

  • As the year starts, consider scheduling in some weekly practice times. We suggest 20 minutes daily at our school, but this is sometimes difficult to achieve in busy schedules. I would say that students should try to play their instruments 5 times a week. Those who can manage more, will reap the benefits but it is important to be realistic in preparing for the academic year. The schedule can go behind the bedroom door, be stuck into the music/school diary or anywhere to help the students remember their practice time.
  • If the student is able, I would really recommend getting involved in an ensemble programme. This can count towards a daily practice session and involves community (playing with friends), team building, and stops the isolation of individual practice.
  • There is always something to practice. I give my students quite a bit of music so if you hear the words “I don’t have homework” it is not true! On a brass instrument practising can include:  the foundations of long notes/tonguing/flexibilities, scales, pieces, band pieces, music found online (that is applicable for the student’s level).

Planning for the future:

  • If your child shows an affinity towards music, and you think this might be an option for high school please consider enrolling your child into music theory.  I would, personally, recommend that, if possible, all music students do some theory, as it is an integral part of the subject and helps young musicians with their reading (even sport has rules and strategy that need learning.)
  • Get your child to listen to as much music as possible! This can be fun and is important in exposing your child to the various styles and artists out there.
  • At the International Young Water Professionals conference, I was able to meet one of the engineers at Aurecon, an engineering firm in Cape town. He referred me to this article regarding the importance of creative thinking that is developed and nurtured in the arts subjects. Here is the link: https://justimagine.aurecongroup.com/is-a-master-of-fine-arts-the-new-mba/. I would really recommend reading the article as a whole (for perspective) but the quotes I would like to include are:

“From Richard Branson to Bill Gates, ‘creativity’ ranks as one of the top ten traits of all billionaire entrepreneurs across the globe.”

AND

“Art is an important, dynamic part of the mould that makes up the progressive business climate today . Should we be studying Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare at the same time as the management theories of Peter Drucker?”

Good luck for 2018! You know where to find me if you need me.

P.S. Some listening to get you started: Oystein Baadsvik plays Czardas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

”Duh” tips!

IMG_20170117_152721_631.jpgFor the young professional.

So you have just received your fancy degree (OR are busy with your fancy degree) and need to get a job to pay the bills. What are the things that fly out the window the moment you start working?

 

When I started working it was super tricky to balance all the things you learned in varsity. You no longer have the hours (even though a music degree feels like the most ”full” 4-10 years of your life) that you had previously. I am going to write six ”duh” tips to help those who feel like they are drowning, and hopefully make their start easier in a busy career. This post is entitled ”duh” tips because when you hear them you will think ”I would obviously do that!” BUT we don’t. We get tired or want to crawl into bed or just don’t feel like being an adult.

No. 1 Schedule a time to practise.

Don’t lose the years of work you did in the practise room. You most probably will not be able to keep up the practise regime you had in varsity (unless you nabbed that prime orchestral spot) but try to at least maintain it. Listen to your body. I practise super early in the morning so practise feels like it is a priority. I am awake. I know that my day will get busy, and by then end of the day I won’t have the energy to practise. Also, use the practise time as YOU time. Don’t look at your phone, don’t get distracted, don’t listen to your colleagues problems. Practise. And enjoy the fact that you can, and that you made it an important part of your day.

No. 2 Budget

This one is a sensitive issue because people don’t want to cut out those two Vida coffees a week but seriously, you cannot choose coffee over something like instrument maintenance or rent. Also, in an industry that doesn’t always pay per month, it is a good thing to budget and save. Be realistic and honest in doing your budget. If Vida is something that has to be on the list make sure it is there i.e. don’t think of it as “I just got X gig money – Vida!!” Include everything from valve oil to new concert shoes. If you need help in budgeting, ask mom or go to a financial planner (the banks offer this kind of service) but don’t leave it too late. The point is to consider what you need verses what you want. Rent, work clothes, food, cell phone contract, retirement annuity, have to come before evenings out, drinks, coffee or movies. It is vital to get this balance right in the beginning.

P.S. Vida can be replaced with whatever luxury you have in life. I just know students, here in CT, who will choose coffee over bread!

No. 3 Watch your health

Stress is something that every career has but I have never met as many unhealthy people as musicians in SA. Obviously this does not apply to everyone, but growing up it was a normal thing at all the courses I attended, for the majority of musicians, to smoke, drink alcohol and drink loads of coffee. This coupled with the late nights and crazy schedule normally ends in a sick person who has snot running down their face during their performance. This kind of life might be because we are young but why not start looking after your body now? It is recommended that 30 minutes of cardiovascular is a good to start to a healthy body and mind. It is good to flex your creative mind and go for an activity that gets you outside or even better, strengthens your core – something I find vital in playing a large and heavy instrument. Watch what you eat and drink and don’t overdose on coffee. I was a serious coffee addict and I have managed to get it down to three cups a day and even that is too much. Keep hydrated especially in winter. We have just come out of term 2 and most of the music staff were suffering from headaches do to stress and dehydration. Finally, look after your teeth, and go for the annual health checks. Put this in your budget because it is important for a long and happy musical life.

No. 4 Be proactive in your work space

Our industry does not allow for us to be “only an euphonist”. Keep this in mind while you head out into the industry. If you are going into education be proactive and learn the recorder, or teach theory, or learn to arrange music. By the way, these things are not hard – they just need practise. We need to be multi-faceted. If ever you are freaking out about something go ask someone in the industry, who is already doing it, for their advice. If you are a brass player you will need to go find a venue for the concert you will want to put on. It is scary but it is also worth it and through the process you learn the important skill of concert management. Jump in and just do it!

No. 5 Make money but keep your soul alive

When you finally get busy with your gigs just keep a mental note of the things that made you want to be a musician. So often, I meet musicians who have lost their love for the work that they do because “it is just a job”. It is your job but we are very lucky to be able to have a job we chose. Listen to music, read poetry, read books, watch your favourite artists on youtube, find a composer that gets your heart revved up, or go walk in nature and be filled with the nostalgia and wonder that you are living your dream. Also, keep up your practise (as said before) and choose that piece that you thought you might never be able to play, and learn it.

 

No. 6 Pace yourself

The above paragraph and this one kind of tie in. It is so easy to hit burn out by doing too much. Too much, however, is how a lot of us survive so keep in mind that you need to take some time off. Put time off into your schedule! I, for one, am still terrible at this but I am learning to be better and since scheduling in time off my energy levels are up. I also see friends more, go out more, and basically be a better person.

 

A is for ABRSM…I mean August

I am not sure why, but August in South Africa’s music scene is always a crazy time of the year. Maybe it is because we are all predisposed to preparing for our ABRSM exams and as we get older we can’t help but keep up that “must aim for August” mentality.

This August is no different. I start by jetting off to East London for the annual East London Youth Orchestra Course. This year they will be focussing on chamber music too, and so there will be a host of ensembles (brass, wind, percussion), a jazz band and wind band. The team includes Wesley and Lisa Wong, who run the course, Danre Strydom from UFS (Buffet clarinet artist), Neteske Horton (sax queen who is based in EL) and myself. I love working with a group of kids and team that are purely interested in making our SA music scene better. This time round I also get to flex some conducting muscle with their wind band. If you are in East London between 6-9 August stay in touch by following them on their FB page and come support the concerts.  This course is endorsed by the South African National Youth Orchestra Foundation.

Mycmc is excited to see Emma Luyendijk (who has returned fresh from Musicians without Borders), this time with the very talented Nicole D’Oliviera. They will be performing movements from Beethoven’s 1st Sonata, Massenet’s Meditation and De Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. These concerts are always lots of fun and even offer supper. If you want to join for supper please call 021 674 2596 (church office) or contact Denise on denisehip@yahoo.com the Friday before. Alternatively, come along at 6:30PM on 17 August and watch this two play up a storm for only R50.

Baobab Trio are back from a successful National Arts Festival trip and are bringing our programme to the lovely people of Cape Town on the 28 August at The Rosebank Theatre. Tickets R100, bookings at 072 316 6133 or rosebanktheatre@gmail.com. We will be playing some latin, some classical stalwarts as well as some of our own compositions. There always seems to be a hesitancy towards newer classical works – well you need not worry! Our music tells stories about our own South African soil, rain, baobab trees and elephants and are completely easy on the ear. If you are someone who enjoys the CT market scene we will also be playing at Root44 on the 28 August.

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In addition to this, good luck to all the music teachers out there who are busy preparing their students for our exam run! I guess we will see each other at the end of this month and probably need a few glasses of wine to celebrate.

Watch this space for more exciting projects happening still this year!

Planting Seeds

This winter holiday starts with two exciting projects I get to be involved in – woohoo!

I am really looking forward to joining the South African National Youth Orchestra Foundation as a tutor. We meet in Potch to brave the cold and play music all day (and night). I am especially excited to see Thami James and meet Darryn Prinsloo – two young euphonists who are passionate about playing their instruments. I get to see old friends again, as Bjorn Breistein will be coming to conduct the wind band and Mark Hampson and Yvonne-marie Brand will be tutoring the brass too. Thanks to Sophia Welz for getting us all together for a kiff course!

In other news, we will be sending out more info as the dates approaches, but Proboscistour03 will be around in July for only 5 gigs. Liane Halton leaves us for new adventures in China and, as much as we hope she will come back soon, we also hope that she has a mind blowing, crazy, fun, eating-lots-of-food, making new friends kind of adventure. BUT SHE IS NOT GONE YET. Phax and Seed join to collaborate  – you can check out our sound here…https://soundcloud.com/proboscis-3

It is all originals works by myself, Liane Halton and Shaun Acker. Jay Latter (drums) and Kyle Dijkstra (bass) are the kick ass rhythm section.

SESC Music festival – Heart sore feet!

SESC 2

Words cannot describe the festival, but writing a summary of the event does help sharpen the memory. The SESC International Music festival starts your year off with good food, loads of exercise, music that makes your heart want to explode, and a general ‘all good’ kind of feeling. My feet will never be the same after all the dancing and walking we did, and my heart really misses everyone that I met and worked with.

The Fifth SESC International Music festival was held in the very humid Pelotas, RS. If ever there was a way to get to know a town and it ‘s people this is the way to do it. You are housed in the city centre, which creates an electric buzz. The daily schedule includes private lesson, groups lesson, ensemble practice, lunch hour concerts and evening concerts. The concerts were all varied and of a high standard. The staff of this course are from all over the world including Brazil, USA, Argentina, Spain, Chile, France, Holland and Slovenia – to name only a few. If you don’t feel like attending a concert there are restaurants that offer local Brazilian music. I loved the one café we went to. The musicians played Choro and I was able to learn the very basic samba and mambo (I think those were the styles mentioned!). The course is run as an on going two-week performance and includes all kinds of ensembles. I was able to perform in a euphonium sextet, euphonium and tuba octet, a brass ensemble, a wind orchestra, and as a soloist in a euphonium duet (composed by my teacher Fernando Deddos). These were performed in concert halls, the local library, out in the street and even in small churches based in the countryside.

The master classes we had with Fernando were inspirational so I thought I should include a few of the notes I took. I will put them in point form to keep it simple:
• Your ear is the most important thing. Train it first.
• Be an artist and be humble (both of these are necessary to continuously learn)
• Knowledge is vital. Gather as much of it as you can. Read and listen to everything.
• Know what you are playing/performing. Know everything you can about it.
• You are going to sound like you. Understand your sound. Be able to manipulate it according to the need of the music.
• Make a checklist of your practicing needs. Practise wisely and keep goals in mind.
• Always ask why – why do we play scales? Why standards? Why western music? Why do I do this? These questions are imperative in understanding what you are actually doing and how to progress.
• Air is critical for a relaxed and tone enriched performance. Practise your breathing. Build stretching and breath exercises into your practice regime.
• Performance is a state of mind. You need to, mentally, be in that situation at all times so that when you finally have to perform, you step right into it.
• Rhythm is about space; not sound. Understanding the rhythm is vital in communicating a piece of music.
• The heart of an artist needs to be creative. Mix it up! And inspire yourself.

Fernando Deddos is really an amazing artist who has chosen euphonium as one of his mediums. I learnt so much from him and really appreciate that he would share this knowledge with all of us. If you can get to a course/class with him do go! It’s the best thing I have done for my playing.

I have included a link to the national premiere of Modinha and to the wind orchestra playing the Hunsberger arrangement of Star Wars (just click on the name to go to recording)

Here are links to the newspaper article and TV interview I was asked to do too.

There are quite a few concerts coming up soon so keep your eyes open!

International Music Festival in Pelotas, Brazil

PHAX_LR_62Happy new year everyone! I hope you have all had some rest and are ready to take on the new year.

I am so excited to start my 2015 off with a music festival in Brazil. It is an international festival held in Pelotas and it seems there are going to people from all over the world. Wish me luck as I do my second round of auditions on Monday. The program is looking good and I am really looking forward to seeing some of my friends, Pacho and Fernando, who I met at the IET last year. They are also euphonium enthusiasts and Fernando is a phenomenal composer.

Here is the link to the website http://www.sesc-rs.com.br/festival/

It is in Portuguese so, unless you are fluent, you will need to use google translate. Pictures and blogposts to follow!

Barbara Hendricks live at Kirstenbosch!

The South African National Youth Orchestra has been rehearsing like crazy to present you with a Kirstenbosch Summer Concert featuring Barbara Hendricks (soprano) & Magnus Lindgren (sax) accompanied by the kick-ass rhythm section Concord Nkabinde (bass), Rob Watson (drums) and Jason Reolon (keys). This is being conducted by the awesome Fredrik Burstedt tomorrow 17:30 at Kirstenbosch. Come check us out!!Barbara Hendricks