Tacoma Workshop and Performance – November 4

On Saturday, November 4th, I’ll be presenting a workshop for music teachers and educators in Tacoma from 9:30 am to 3 pm. Then at 4 p.m. I’ll be playing a concert of original and improvised music that is open to the public.

The event is organized by the teacher association in Puyallup and Tacoma. If you have questions about any events during the day, feel free to email Mary Ellen Cavelti at molly60music@comcast.net.

You can find the event flyer, schedule and rsvp info by clicking here.

Passion Makes Perfect

Playing and practicing music can be a real grind. Just like anything that requires discipline and hard work, it’s easy to lose track of why we even do it. We often lose touch with what is really important to us or we never find it in the first place. We simply follow a path that has been well worn by teaching methods, peers or mentors.

This week I was reminded of what it looks like to be emotionally engaged in the music-making process. It was a very inspirational and informative moment for me.

Bjork Up Close

Bjork up Close

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The Unassigned Assignments

There’s an assignment that we often miss as teachers. And it’s one that always makes our jobs way easier – maybe easier than anything we could have students do. Over time it simply transforms our students’ musical experiences and their abilities.

Students should be asked to listen to music each time we see them. It can be done in casual conversations about what they’ve been listening to (or what we’ve been listening to), to more precise assignments based on what you’re working on in lessons.

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The Repertoire Dilemma Creating More Hours in the Day

There are allegedly only so many hours in a day that students can set aside time to learn repertoire. Many teachers I speak with get flustered by the amount of time they spend trying to get one to a few pieces up to a student’s potential, knowing all along that the student needs to know far more repertoire than what they ever have time for in the lessons and in their practice.

Painting by Jeff Laibson

Painting by Jeff Laibson

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WSMTA Notes and Thank You

For those of you who I was able to cross paths with on the Seattle trip, thank you so much for a great time. It ‘s been a real pleasure to reconnect with so many friends, former students and meet new folks.

SAMSUNG

Art of Song

Links to things…

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Strive to be the Worst Look for growth situations even if they're intimidating

Students have often come to me asking if they are “ready” for a musical situation. Whether it be an audition, adjudication, festival, accompanying gig, college program, a certain ensemble, a tour, etc. – my answer is always the same… Participate in as many musical situations as possible where you are the worst one. Be musically overwhelmed as much and as often as possible. We grow the most from these experiences. And if we are taking lessons, earning a degree or just trying to be the best version of ourselves that we can be; growth is the most important thing we can aspire towards.

Miles Quintet

View video of performance below

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Drum Kits are Our Friends Drum Kits Can Make Us Better on Our Instruments

Over time as I’ve gotten the opportunity to hang out and discuss music with people who have had very successful performance and recording careers, there is a common thread that they all emphasize in their own playing and admire in the playing of their peers. This common thread is rhythm. It can either be the commitment to and admiration of deep and individual time-feel, high levels of rhythmic accuracy, advanced rhythmic phrasing or to their ability to make the most basic musical parts feel so good.


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Sonata Form and Jazz Solos Rethinking what it means to "solo" in jazz

A couple of years ago I began to shift away from using the word “solo” with many of my jazz students. This was especially the case for beginning improvisers or the ones who were preoccupied with the chord progressions or playing a barrage of disconnected patterns or licks. Many of them started to sound way better in a very short amount of time.

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What to Look for in a Private Music Teacher A Guide for Parents Starting their Children in Music Lessons

When children begin music lessons there is always a lot more happening than just starting lessons. Parents bring their experience as former students or inexperience in music to the table. Experienced teachers bring well-formulated habits and routines that may or may not serve the new student. Inexperienced and young teachers may relate exceptionally well to a young student but not have the ability or experience necessary to efficiently move students from one goal to the next.

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Circle of Fifths – Step One Applying the Circle of Fifths

Several years ago I had an adult student who was a great jazz player. She felt all of her issues in playing music came from not understanding the circle of fifths. She came in with the diagram and explained it to me perfectly. I said that it sounded like she knew the information really well. But she insisted that I help her use the information within the context of a performance/piece, rather than in a theoretical sense – and especially not restricting it to key signatures.

It took me a while to wrap my head around what she was looking for, but I’m glad she was so adamant about this. Because the series of exercises we worked through and I later refined has become a staple for all of my students from and intermediate level and up. It helps with learning and memorizing large volumes of repertoire (in any genre), improvisation, composing, ear training and reading… Just to scratch the surface.

Here is the first step:

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