What Makes a Great Music Teacher?

(Originally posted here:  http://www.musicparentsguide.com/2015/09/29/what-makes-a-great-music-teacher/   )

Greatness in teaching is just as rare as greatness in any other profession. Although it’s impossible to offer a prescription of qualities in order to cultivate great music teachers, understanding these qualities can give all would-be teachers a standard of excellence to strive for, and guide schools and parents toward what they should look for in current and prospective teachers.

Here are just a few characteristic traits that I believe all great music teachers have:

Great teachers connect to their students on an emotional level.  We all remember how teachers we really respected made us feel.  We remember the teachers who saw something special in us and identified with us on some level.  Before we teach, we must show that we care — and there are many ways to do this.  The best way is the one that comes natural, and for me that is humor — but it can be anything from eye contact, a strong sense of empathy, or something else that indicates that the teacher truly “sees” the needs of each individual student.

Great teachers don’t look to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy all the time.  There are a lot of school music teachers who strive to have all of their students “like” them.  They look to ensure that all of their students are happy and comfortable at all times, making sure that there is not too much effort involved with rehearsing and learning.  These teachers usually run entire pieces of music and cover a lot of material in a short period of time –they tend to not “dig in” to small sections and have a laissez-faire approach to developing young musicians.  Great teachers, however, command respect and are not afraid to stretch their students’ comfort zone in order to teach them how to strive toward achieving greatness.

Effective teachers are great communicators of knowledge.  You will rarely walk into a great teacher’s rehearsal and see them giving long speeches.  Highly effective music teachers keep the concepts at the highest level but the explanations short and incredibly clear.  A great teacher has a target they are aiming their students toward and do everything in their power to guide them toward it in the most efficient manner.  Often times, the most useful information is delivered in a few seconds between the  action (in our case, making sounds) that should be occurring throughout the majority of class time.

Great music teachers love fundamentals (and know how to “sell” them to their students).  Wise music teachers understand that technique is essential, and that proper technique can be taught during a school day, no matter how many students are in the class.  These teachers are not afraid to go back to the beginning of a method book and honor the foundations of playing a musical instrument.  Not only will a great teacher understand that building blocks such as posture, breathing, and hand position are critical to beginners, they also understand that these fundamentals must be constantly reinforced throughout their student’s schooling.  Great teachers do not abandon fundamentals in order to “teach to a concert” — they ensure that their concert repertoire is an extension of strong musical foundations.

Being “scared” of your teacher once in a while is not the worst thing in the world.  Of course I do not mean that students should fear their teacher, or that teachers should ever scare their students  intentionally.  But great teachers often evoke feelings that may be unfamiliar to our younger generation — students should feel true respect for a great music teacher;  they will also tend to admire them very much; and yes — they will be a little scared of them from time to time.

Even though it may often seem this way, students do not win when teachers seek to be their buddy, or even a parent figure.  They do need someone who they trust (and trust a lot) and someone who they will dedicate their time to being with for a long haul, but there needs to be a little distance present.  Students should be a little timid to show up unprepared to create music.  The words “that’s okay” should not come out of a great teacher’s mouth when students aren’t holding themselves to a high standard.  Great teachers are honest and tell students “how it is”, even if it is sometimes a little blunt.  Hearing the truth is rough, but when true constructive feedback is delivered with clear language that is not personalized, students will be thankful, and see that they can use that information to get better.

Great music teachers understand that every single child is capable of becoming proficient at their craft.  We have a long way to go to dispel the myth that talent and musical ability is inherent and inborn.  Great teachers understand that they must help build proficient young players, one day at a time.  While some students may have instant and early success, a great teacher communicates through their teaching that those who persist and practice in an intelligent and mindful way will grow, learn and reach their potential as well.

Great teachers render themselves useless.  The long-term goal of any teacher should be to help their students learn so much that they longer need the teacher.  They do not lead by personality alone, and needing to be the center of attention.  That’s why great music programs cannot be built on a personality — it isn’t sustainable. Successful music teachers create a culture where students want to continue to go beyond their comfort zones in order to get better on their own.  These teachers seek to create moments of independence, so that students can slowly begin to “teach themselves” moving forward beyond the classroom.

Self reflection is a requirement of great teaching.  Most great teachers do not think of themselves as being great.  They are constant students of their craft, and constantly look in the mirror and ask themselves, “How can I do this better?”.  We all learn by experiences and mistakes, but unless teachers question themselves about what their experiences mean and think actively about them, they won’t make any changes.  Self-reflection enables teachers to move from good to great by eating some “humble pie” once in a while and not being afraid to grow and make changes along their professional journey.

It’s impossible for me (or anyone) to produce a complete and definitive list of the characteristics of great music teaching, but I believe this is an important starting place. Knowing the qualities of greatness can help teachers strive for the highest standards and help students, parents, and school systems celebrate music as a core part of their curricula.  Observing a great music teacher at the top of his or her game is like watching a masterful performance; although infinitely difficult and painstakingly planned, great teaching appears effortless and seamless.

Many parents and administrators tend to believe that teaching music is the simplest thing in the world—until they actually see the work that goes into it.

These Photos Show How Steinway Makes Its Famous Grand Pianos

(Originally posted here:  http://petapixel.com/2016/02/09/photos-show-steinway-makes-famous-grand-pianos/  )

Founded in Manhattan in 1853, Steinway & Sons is widely considered to be one of the greatest piano makers in the world. Its grand pianos grace the world’s grandest stages and are played by the best pianists.

Architectural photographer Chris Payne visited the company’s factory at One Steinway Place in Astoria, New York, and created beautiful photos that document how raw materials are turned into some of the world’s finest musical instruments. His project is titled “Making Steinway: An American Workplace.”

Payne first toured the Steinway factory in 2002 while working as an architect. After his father and grandmother (both pianists) passed away, he decided to return to the factory to shoot a series about the instrument that had been so central to his family.

“The piano is something we all know and love as a whole; its deceptively simple, iconic form is instantly recognizable,” Payne writes. “But my photographs look in a different direction: a deconstruction of the piano’s unseen constituent parts and a glimpse into the skilled labor required to make them.”

“After spending countless hours photographing the choreographies of production and scrutinizing the parts and pieces that will never be visible outside the factory, I came to realize that a piano is one of the supreme acts of human invention and imagination.”

To someone who doesnt really know what is so special about Steinway’s pianos, well it is a Rolls Royce in the world of pianos. Some models may cost hundred thousands of dollars!

 

Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY
Steinway Piano Factory, Astoria, NY

Guinness record for longest orchestra career

(Full article is here:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3436176/All-bass-Bassist-87-earns-Guinness-World-Record-having-longest-tenure-orchestra-71-YEARS.html  )

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Little’s now in her 71st season with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is a bassist. Her 87th birthday took place February 2.

Little’s streak spanning more than seven decades has earned her a Guinness World Record ‘for longest tenure with an orchestra,’ according to the Washington Post. According to the Washington Post, when the season ends, the longtime bassist is intending to step down.

Little’s Atlanta Youth Symphony debut took place February 4 1945, the newspaper reported.Two years later that symphony turned into the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, it explained.

The Atlanta Symphony tweeted Thursday February 4: ‘Congrats to #WorldRecord holder & ASO Bassist Jane Little – the original #AllAboutThatBass!’

The symphony earlier tweeted an image of her on Tuesday, writing: ‘Happy Birthday Jane Little, bassist with the #ATLsymphony for 71 years! What an inspiration! #pioneer.’

‘It was just me and the lady in Utah [who spent 70 years with the Utah Symphony playing violin].

By the way, Little is 4’11” and plays the double bass. She told the television station: ‘I must be the smallest bass player in the country right now in a major symphony.

7 Reasons Why People Who Play Music Are More Likely To Be Successful

(Originally posted here:  http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/7-reasons-people-play-music-likely-successful/   )

If you look carefully, you’ll find musicians at the top of almost every industry.

Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, plays the guitar. Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player. The hedge fund billionaire Bruce Kovner is a pianist who took classes at Juilliard. The co-founder of Google, Larry Page, played saxophone in high school.

Whether they only played music in high school or continue to play it today, a lot of successful people have gone through the process of learning to play an instrument.

If you’ve ever heard about “the Mozart effect”, you might not be surprised that listening to music leads to higher brain activity and improved performance on certain mental tasks.

However, there’s a huge case to be made for the effect that playing music – of any genre – has on your mind and the positive impact it can have on your life.

Things like.

1. Reinforces confidence in your ability to be creative

At its heart, music is a creative process. When you pick up that instrument and start making a beautiful sound, you’re tapping into your mind’s ability to create something out of nothing. The instrument itself is just the medium in which you let out that creative drive.

And creativity itself is a skill that is required for almost every area of your life. Whether you’re trying to find a solution to a problem or thinking of a new way to get work done in the office, a creative mind is advantageous.

Playing music is about funneling that creative force into something constructive and useful.

2. It helps you learn how to be collaborate with others

Music naturally lends itself to collaboration. Performing in groups – whether it’s in a school band, or another ensemble – is something familiar to most musicians.

It’s not enough to be good by yourself. You have to work as a team with everyone else in the group. Good music naturally flows from the harmony you create as you come together.

All of this promotes the idea of teamwork and collaboration with others. It teaches you all the positive results that can happen from working together as a group. And, as it turns out, working in groups like this can make you, quite literally, play well with others.

3. Thinking in patterns and new connections

When you play an instrument, you’re not just making a single note – you make a string of them together – that’s what makes the music flow. As such, music isn’t just a series of single notes, it’s about how they connect together to form a coherent piece of music.

Playing music teaches you to visualize all those notes together and find the pattern they make – why coming together the way they do works. Playing music teaches you to find the interrelationships between the notes.

The ability to spot patterns and seeing interrelationships is a critical component of intelligent decision-making. By combining past experience, intuition and the ability to recognize patterns, we’re better able to predict the consequences of one action over another.

4. It strengthens mental skills like discipline, self-control and concentration

Learning how to play an instrument and read music is quite a difficult task when you first start out. Most of us are not naturally born musicians so we need hours and hours of practice to sound decent.

That requires a lot of mental focus, determination and patience to turn the flat and lifeless music we first create into something with a lot more pep and rhythm. And hearing yourself play better, is a wonderful reminder of how all that discipline and focus pays off. That’s a lesson you can take with you in so many other areas of your life.

5. It improves your emotional intelligence

Playing music makes you a more attuned listener. And being a good listener is important for interpersonal relationships because emotions are often conveyed by the tone or melody of voice or speed of speech. It’s not surprising that studies have shown that musicians are more perceptive in interpreting the emotions of others.

6. Your memory gets better

Learning to play your chosen music piece correctly means remembering what note comes another the other. In some cases, the amount of memorization is astounding – for instance, a soloist for a symphonic concerto usually performs for twenty minutes or more from memory alone.

All that concentration on what note follows another strengthens your mind’s memorization muscle. And that can extend into other areas of your life.

Playing music has been shown to increase your ability to remember words and helps auditory learning skills. Some have even shown that musicians have better retention skills while reading.

7. It improves your ability to plan and strategize

Playing music is actually quite a complex task. Your brain needs to coordinate motor control and auditory information – there’s a lot of planning strategizing and paying attention to detail going on requiring simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects of the music.

When you’re playing music, you have to coordinate your brain’s activities to carry out all the steps to making the musical piece work. That takes following instructions through a series of steps, detecting and correcting errors and anticipating what’s coming up.

Keeping track of all this activity not only connects multiple processes of the brain, but studies have shown that it creates greater interconnectivity of the two hemispheres. So, in effect, playing music helps connect every area of your brain together to focus on tasks you’re trying to accomplish.

A 19th-Century Vision of the Year 2000

En L’An 2000 was a series of French images created by Jean-Marc Côté and other artists that imagined what life would be like in the year 2000.

According to the Public Domain Review, the artworks were first produced in 1899 (for the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris) and subsequently in 1900, 1901 and 1910. They were first produced as paper card inserts in cigarette and cigar boxes and later as postcards.

There are at least 87 known cards and they only came to light decades later when science-fiction author Isaac Asimov chanced upon them in 1986, publishing the works with commentary in a book entitled, Futuredays: A Nineteenth Century Vision of the Year 2000.

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(full article and full collection of cards is here:     http://www.peacefulcentury.net/100-years-ago-artists-were-asked-to-depict-the-year-2000-these-were-the-results/ )