How Are We Doing Preparing Students for Careers in Music?

Great ideas on how to make music relevant to high school students and administrators.

mr a music place

2011Symposium_1_2Preparing studnets for careers in music is appropriately  done in electives rather than in required general music classes. The latter will typically have a small percentage of students who intend to or are even considering a career in music, so focusing on career preparation in general music quickly results in a relevancy problem for most students in the class. Electives, on the other hand, are the perfect venue for preparing students for music careers. These classes are filled with students who have a specific interest in music, and will either pursue careers in music, or just enjoy learning what is taught as music career preparation. With this in mind, I’d like to look at what careers we should be preparing students for in these specialized elective classes. While the particular interests of the students enrolled should be addressed, music educators teaching these classes should be aware of the employment climate…

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Faces At Concerts

I don’t often get to look into the audiences when I perform. When I play with an orchestra, I’m lucky if I get to see the faces of the orchestra and choir members I get to perform with. There are no surprises to me about the different kinds of people involved in making music, although I still find myself looking for people that look like me in the ensembles and in the audience.
When I see a person of color at a concert of classical music, I notice them. I wonder if they notice me too. Perhaps they came to this place for the same reason I did…I love this music and music is my truth.

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My Week in Books: Picture Books? Again?

Can’t wait to read some of these books with my kid.

The Best of It

2014-09-12 10.11.13I’ve gotten a little behind with all the events and such happening lately. My list of picture books got very long, and as a matter of fact, I surpassed my Goodreads goal of 200 books in 2014 just this week. I hope I haven’t inadvertently repeated myself anywhere – but here are (still more) picture books I’ve read over the past couple of weeks.

Flora and the Penguin, by Molly Idle

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As fun as Flora and the Flamingo, or maybe even more so. Love the expressions and gestures used by both Flora and the penguin.

Nana in the City, by Lauren Castillo

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Fantastic book about coping with fear, and being open minded. This one belongs in the IB list for sure.

Outfoxed, by Mike Twohy

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Who is being tricked now? Fun!

Alfie Runs Away,by Kenneth M. Cadow, ill. by Lauren Castillo

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Fun little book about…

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Teaching Modern Music

There are times when I think I’m biting off more than I can chew. However, unlike most things I dread doing this could potentially one of the coolest topics I teach this year. I’ve decided to take on introducing three ideas of modern music composition to middle school students.

It give me a chance to explore aspects of music I truly enjoy: Serialism, Minimalism and Electronic Music. There have been many hours spent admiring the processes of some of the 20th century’s imaginative composers. So now I get to indulge in a not so secret vice.

Igor Stravinsky 2sakshy

I get to talk about and research composers and performers like Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Steve Reich, James Brown, Bjork and Hip-Hop artist/DJ’s of the late 80’s and early 90’s. There is potential for students to learn more about my personality through this unit.

Venn Diagram for next unitThe only way to express this for me is a venn diagram and these Youtube videos. Gonna be fun…at least for me.

Punched by Gravity

Some statements are meant to be heard at certain times in your existence. I had one such moment recently and it felt like I got punched in the brain. The very words stayed with me all day and I couldn’t shake them. They remained like a fragmented echo of a melody heard once, however in this scenario you were only moved by the smallest portion of the melody.

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The subject was gravity on the latest episode of Star Talk with Neil deGrasse Tyson. In it he was describing the relationship between Matter and Space; Dr. Tyson uses a quote by physicist John Wheeler.

Matter tells space how to curve…Space tells matter how to move.”

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I found this statement to be incredibly poetic. However, in a flash I thought of curves, movement, dance, motion, weight and space. It was about so many thing at that precise moment. Who knew I’d like getting punched.

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Still Nervous

I don’t claim to be the kind of person that has it all together. In fact anyone that really knows me, understand that the confidence they see is just a facade. So it may come as a surprise to many that even though I perform music often, I still get quite nervous.

Most performers or public speakers understand the kind of nervous I am referring to. The kind of uncomfortable that comes every once in a while, when you are put into an unfamiliar situation. Or worst, when you know exactly the position you will be in and you know it’s not going to be good. What ends up happening to some is well known as “The Shakes”.

There are ways of combatting this problem. First, is knowing what happening to you. Understanding that your body is flooding with adrenaline as part of your fight or flight reaction to stressful encounters. Second (at least for me) is to breathe, while the voice in my head is going through the task in front of me step by step. Third is understanding that I need to have experiences working in these environments to help reduce or cope with this kind of reaction. So try to put yourself in that position more often than you’d like, to teach yourself how to deal with the anxiety. The last option is to use medication.

Many people use propranolol to help deal with the physical aspects of performance anxiety. These beta blockers can be used to chemically resist our adrenaline from causing performers to shake uncontrollably. The New York Times has an article titled “Better Playing Through Chemistry” on the subject and WQXR also did a set of  radio interviews. Check them out, they give a wide perspective on the reasons for the use of medication for performers.

Please comment if you have other thoughts and suggestions. I think it’s a discussion we should not be afraid to have.

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