Rebuild & Renew!

By Patti Drennan

The musical world more or less came to a screeching halt in March 2020. Unsure of the effects a deadly Coronavirus could bring, most churches and businesses shuttered their doors until medical officials could analyze the seriousness and duration of this pandemic. For many months, choirs quit singing in worship and large performances then later members began wearing singers’ mask as they sang, though in much smaller groups. As the median age of our choir members often ranges above age sixty, and with no vaccinations then available, many singers stayed in the safety of their homes, especially if they were immuno-compromised. Creative technology later began to be devised to allow for online worship, even adding music. It was a testimony that music cannot be silenced!

            Even as most choirs have returned to their vital role in worship, some singers are hesitant to resume singing. Health, aging voices, and the convenience of online worship are explanations for their absence. In addition, singers within the congregation may have the gifts to offer in worship but other duties take higher priority than choir membership.

            With the writing of this book, Rebuild and Renew: A 12-Step Program to Fire Up Your Choir, I hope to offer affirmation and encouragement, as well as practical tools a director can select for use in his or her rehearsal and worship service.  Whether it is working to bring back singers to the choral “fold” or acquiring new members, it is part of our ministry work to enliven music and the arts in our church, schools, and community. Rebuild & Renew offers tips, tools, and ideas on how to do just that. 

            I contacted several choral directors and music ministers to ascertain the scope of impact the virus had on their churches and particularly their music ministry. I received quite a bit of affirmation that they, too, have struggled to bring their choirs back to pre-pandemic level of attendance and commitment. Within this book I incorporated their ideas and tips to renew and revive their choirs, plus reach others who had previously not been involved. It is my hope that making directors aware of the fact that their own church is not on an isolated island. Many churches nationwide are struggling with a new image of worship that causes us to brainstorm new and innovative ways to make music and encourage our fellowship of believers.

            As a retired high school choral director and a current church music director, I have brought to light resources and ideas that will help not only the seasoned music minister, but the person new to choral directing. Some you may have used before; others you have not.  This book is designed for novice and seasoned directors alike…to be enlightening, affirming, and inspiring. 

Chapters include The Choir as Community; The Productive Rehearsal; Recruit, Rebuild and “Youth-anize”, and much moreplus choir devotionals, reproducible responsive readings, and suggested easy anthem ideas.

The time is now to truly “rebuild and renew” our church choirs and entire music programs in this new era!  Excellence and excitement always inspire people to get on board.  When that happens, ordinary people can truly do extraordinary things. 

Patti Drennan is a church music director, retired music educator, and active composer/arranger with hundreds of anthems published with all major publishers (and sales of over two million copies).  Patti resides in Oklahoma.

© Copyright 2022 Jubilate Music Group.  All Rights Reserved.

3 Selections To Get Your Choir Back Into The School Year

By Danielle Larrick

As we transition into the Back to School season, many of us are shifting our focus and starting to consider repertoire for the upcoming year. 

While the final choices will come down to you, this is a great way to engage your musicians and get their opinion on the repertoire you’re considering for the upcoming year. Back to School season is the perfect opportunity to have your musicians listen, evaluate, and select their top pics from a list of repertoire. This can take place during the first weeks of school, or even in a Back to School newsletter to musicians!

I did just this with my own singers at the end of the school year. Here were some of their top picks!

Selection 1 – “Winter Wolf” 

This haunting piece in 3/4 offers some wonderful teaching moments especially in terms of part indepence and entrances. The ranges cater to adolescent voices. The text is rich and offers great practice in diction. Overall, it’s a great juxtaposition to the traditional winter repertoire. 

Selection 2 – “Storm”

You can’t go wrong with body percussion! I love it and so do my singers. The challenging rhythms and upbeat tempo are a perfect fit for the feel of the piece. 

Selection 3 – “Stars I Shall FInd”

The long phrases of this piece are simply stunning. The text is a beautiful opportunity to work on vowel shape. It offers much room for expression and features some dissonant harmonies that resolve in a stunning way.

For over a decade, Danielle has served as a musician-educator in both urban and suburban settings.  She believes in the value of middle school music as a means of identity, expression, and connection. She focuses on designing practical, innovative, and engaging music curricula for middle school students. Motivated by the ever-changing trends in education, Danielle continues to write, present, and create. She is the author of  “Middle School General Music: A Guide to Navigating the Unknown” (F-flat Books), as well as other resources designed for middle school general music and choir. Along with Jessica Grant, she is the co-founder of The Confident Music Educator. She currently resides in Lancaster, PA with her husband, son, and Boston Terrier. 

Instagram: musicalmiddles

E-mail: musicalmiddles@gmail.com

Website: https://theconfidentmusiceducator.podia.com/

Instagram: theconfidentmusiceducator

Come Back Bigger and Better!

The Top 5 Reasons to Do a Christmas Cantata This Year

By Mark Cabaniss

There’s no question the pandemic changed church choirs.  At least for now.  Maybe forever?  Well, perhaps that’s up to you and us all.  This blog post makes a case to find a way to do a cantata (or musical) this year.  Even if your performing forces aren’t back up to pre-pandemic levels yet.

1. The Event Factor. Since cantatas aren’t performed on a regular basis, whenever they are performed, they’re an event. And events generally bring out more people to see them than a regular worship service (if they’re promoted correctly). They can build excitement and a real positive “buzz” in a church and community.  And nothing says “We’re back!” more than a cantata.

2. Growth. Cantatas offer the opportunity for choirs (and individuals) to grow in a number of ways: musically, numerically, and spiritually. They occasionally attract non-choir members who want to “try out” the choir on a short-term basis (and sometimes, those people become regular choir members). 

3. Bonding. An event tends to “rally” a choir and focus its rehearsals for the period leading up to the presentation. If there are a few extra (“bonus” as I call them) rehearsals to pull the work together, those offer an opportunity for greater bonding between director and choir and among choir members. If there’s a church-wide fellowship or reception following the presentation those events can promote even more bonding and unity among the choir and entire church. 

4. Attract more men and younger members. There’s no question that, in general, many choirs today are lacking in men and younger members. Cantatas often require men to participate in speaking roles (Jesus, the disciples) and with a little creative and gentle arm-twisting, the resourceful director can use a musical to recruit new men to the choir. 

5. Memories. Ask any church or choir member what anthem they sang on a particular Sunday a year ago and they’re likely to scratch their head and draw a blank. But ask them what musical they did when they were in high school, college, or last year in the adult choir and they’ll likely rattle off the title immediately. I’m not saying the weekly anthem isn’t the choir’s bread and butter, but this is further evidence cantatas are worth it. 

Not enough people in your choir to pull one off?  Join forces with a neighboring church(es).  Suddenly, your group has doubled in size. The camaraderie that is developed (and opportunity to perform the work not once by twice at each participating church) is priceless, and unforgettable.  Jubilate Music Group has several easy cantatas that are perfect for smaller and “coming back” choirs, such as There’s a Song in the Air and How Great Our Joy! both by Stan Pethel.  Also, The Gift by Lloyd Larson.

Bottom line: Cantatas – when carefully chosen, prepared, and performed – can create a lasting (and sometimes life-changing) impact on those who experience them.  

Mark Cabaniss is a music publisher, producer, writer, and educator. He is President/CEO of Jubilate Music Group, based in Nashville, Tennessee. www.markcabaniss.com

How To Make Your Choir Inclusive for Trans, GNC and Queer Singers

by Caite Debevec

I failed my first transgender student.

I was in grad school and had never had a trans singer in my choir before. I was rooted in what I knew regarding voice types. I was sure that my priority would be vocal health above all else and I was determined to give the singer the best choral experience I could.

Did you catch my mistake?

Rather than centering my student in their experience, it was all about me. What could I give them? How could I improve their voice? Did I know warmups and exercises to address all their vocal struggles?

In the years since, I have curated a list of reminders for myself and other choral directors who strive to create safe spaces for transgender (trans), gender non-conforming (GNC), and queer singers.

First and foremost: It’s not about you.

This is something I tell myself before every rehearsal. While I may have the degrees and the knowledge, the tricks and tips, my primary responsibility is to serve my singers in the way they need me. This doesn’t mean I bend over backward to acquiesce their every request, but my goals for singers are secondary to the goals and aspirations they have for themselves. Allow your singer to be the captain of their choral experience.

Our students don’t owe us their story.

Your trans, GNC, and queer singers have no obligation to tell you anything about themselves. Accept the information that they provide willingly, and only ask questions if they create the space for you to do so. If they don’t share, you don’t need to know.

Trans and GNC singers reserve the right to enter a choral classroom without divulging their complete medical history.

Singers determine the quality of their own musical experiences.

Choral directors often focus on vocal health, but our concept of health should encompass a singer’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

You may have a transmasculine person who wants to sing in the tenor section, and they can only hit half the notes. Is there a chance they could hurt their vocal mechanism? Yes. Is forcing them to sit in the alto section – which is often predominantly singers who identify as female – the solution? No.

A singer’s mental and social well-being are just as important. While that trans singer may only be able to sing half of the notes, to them it may be the quality musical experience that they are looking for.

And always remember: Every singer’s quality experience will look different. One transfeminine person may want to sing alto, while another wants to sing bass. I find the best way of handling this is to say, “Feel free to join whichever section you feel most comfortable in, switch sections at any time, and let me know if you’d like some support!” This gives singers the opportunity to ask for guidance, but the freedom to explore their voices by themselves.

Accommodations for one singer often benefit the entire ensemble.

A few accommodations that have secret benefits:

  1. A good portion of my alto section is trans women who are singing the alto part an octave lower than written. Not only does that expand the repertoire I can program, but our intonation is greatly influenced by the bolstered low notes.
  2. Exercises that are specifically designed for trans and GNC voices are great warmups for the entire ensemble.
  3. When one section is learning their notes, have the entire ensemble sing along in octaves. Members who are singing an octave higher or lower than written can learn their notes without feeling like they are exposed. This also builds musicianship skills for the ensemble.

Most importantly: Trans and GNC singers are singers.

For many of my singers, their transness is a major part of their identity, but it isn’t the reason they joined my ensemble. While we make accommodations for our trans, GNC, and queer singers, be aware of “othering” them, or unconsciously setting them apart from your cis/het singers. Remember: We are all singers who want a community that makes music together.

For continued reading regarding transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer choral experiences, I recommend The Singing Teacher’s Guide to Transgender Voices by Liz Jackson Hearns and Brian Kremer, and A Queerly Joyful Noise: Choral Musicking for Social Justice by Jules Balèn.

If you would like further reading on vocal health, HRT, and the trans/GNC singing experience, I recommend One Weird Trick: A Users Guide to Transgender Voice by Liz Jackson Hearns, and Voice and Communication Therapy for the Transgender/Gender Diverse Client by Richard K. Adler, Sandy Hirsch, and Jack Pickering.

Caite Debevec is a conductor, composer and educator living and working in Baltimore City. She is currently the music director for the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, the founding music director of the Baltimore Women’s Chorale, Manager of Early Childhood Education at the Maryland Science Center, and an independent voice instructor working with trans, non-binary, and GNC singers. www.caitedebevec.com IG: @baltimoremenschorus@bmorewomen

My 9+ Favorite Elvis Songs From Each Era

By: Bruce Dierbeck – Social Media Manager

Thanks to the new “Elvis” biopic, the world has caught Elvis Presley fever all over again (not to be confused with his cover of “Fever” from the 1973 Aloha From Hawaii special).

Elvis’ music career can really be broken down by 3 distinct eras. There’s the early music, which launched Elvis — if not all of rock and roll — into the stratosphere. There’s his movie music that first kept, but then hurt, his relevance throughout the 60s. And lastly, there are the live performances that kept arenas packed until Elvis left the building one final time in August of 1977.

These are a few of my favorites from each of the Elvis eras, from the biggest hits to the deepest cuts. And while Elvis never performed encores, as a “thank you, thank you very much” I have a bonus for those who read to the end.

EARLY ELVIS

“Hound Dog”

Best spun on a 45, preferably with your dog of choice nearby.

“All Shook Up”

One of our favorites from Elvis’ early years, but we thought we’d shake it up here with a fast-paced rendition from the Comeback Special.

“Are You Lonesome Tonight”

Such a sad, beautiful song. But have you ever heard the “Laughing Version” where Elvis falls into a laughing fit while performing this song live?

ELVIS MOVIES

“Love Me Tender”

From Elvis’ first motion picture, a tender love song we still can’t get over.

“Jailhouse Rock”

It would be a crime not to include this one.

“Mine”

A deep cut off the “Speedway” soundtrack, which is one of the seemingly five thousand movies in which Elvis played a race car driver. This was a soundtrack song that was never actually featured in the movie. Could it have been as big as “Love Me Tender” had it come out a decade earlier and featured in the film as opposed to being used as filler? We’ll never know. But it’s a favorite of, well, mine.

ELVIS LIVE!

“Suspicious Minds”

You can see why this was a perennial concert favorite in this sprawling 6-minute live rendition from the summer of 1970. Elvis puts his everything into this performance, leaving both the king and the crowd spent.

“Just Pretend”

A beautiful melancholic number that’s a little bit country, a little bit R&B, and therefore a whole lotta bit the kind of song Elvis loved to deliver during this era.

“American Trilogy”

One of the most iconic moments from the “Aloha From Hawaii” special, it also features a jaw-dropping flute-solo one doesn’t see much in rock concerts not featuring Jethro Tull.

BONUS: ELVIS COVERS

Just as Elvis inspired so many artists over the past half-century, Elvis was heavily inspired by his contemporaries and loved covering their music. Here are 3 Elvis covers that TCB in our eyes.

ELVIS x THE BEATLES: “Get Back / Little Sister

Did you know that not only did Elvis and the Beatles spend an evening jamming in his Hollywood living room one night in the late 60s, but that Elvis also covered a few Beatles tracks during his summer of 1970 Vegas shows? His covers of “Yesterday” and “Something” are beautiful, but it’s his mashup of “Get Back” with his own “Little Sister” that was ahead of its time.

ELVIS x THE BEE GEES: “Words

Yes. You read that right. Elvis covered the Bee Gees. And words can’t truly describe how amazing that is.

ELVIS x NEIL DIAMOND: “Sweet Caroline”

The entire planet knows every word to “Sweet Caroline” but very few know that Elvis covered this would-be Neil Diamond classic during the summer of 1970 in Las Vegas. Our thoughts? So good, so good!

Discover Elvis’ legendary catalog of music at sheetmusicplus.com

Bruce is part of the social media team at Sheet Music Plus and lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife and two golden retrievers. He’s a lover of all kinds of music from old school rap and classic country to yacht rock and power pop, as long as it has a catchy beat or can turn a creative lyric. He has an unhealthy knowledge of 1970s Elvis and can tell anything from the year a particular jumpsuit was worn to what night a live performance was from.

10 Favorite Broadway Songs Picked by Sheet Music Plus

We are so excited to watch the Tony Awards this weekend! There is nothing like a great Broadway musical number, and there have been so many over the decades. From classical Broadway hits to modern gems, we love to sing, dance, get sucked into YouTube rabbit holes, and get these tunes stuck in our heads. While it is difficult to narrow down just a few of these standout songs, we’ve collected our favorites from our Sheet Music Plus staff. 

It Takes Two

from Into the Woods

A classic from Stephen Sondheim.  

Seasons of Love

from Rent

An oldie, but a goodie that never gets old.

Wheels of a Dream

from Ragtime

A goosebump-inducing duet with Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell. 

All That Jazz

from Chicago

One of the best opening numbers ever. Chita Rivera understands the assignment.

You’ll Be Back

from Hamilton

Is it bad to admit that the king is one of our favorite characters?

Circle of Life

from The Lion King

Such a powerful opening number. It’s hard to not get chills.

Tonight

from West Side Story

Sondheim and Bernstein crafted some of the most timeless love songs when they created West Side Story.

Wait for Me

from Hadestown

Who would think that ancient Greece would mix so well with New Orleans and soul music?

Springtime for Hitler

from The Producers

“It was outrageous, offensive, and insulting, and I enjoyed every minute.”

Bring Him Home

from Les Miserables

Colm Wilkinson’s performance of this song is a masterclass.

The Music of Turning Red: Finding Cultural Harmony

By: Naoko Maruko – Head of Catalog Product Management at Sheet Music Plus

Think back to the first time you watched a movie and watched a character that made you think, “That’s me!” Remember the feeling of being seen and the excitement of being represented on the big screen? 

Well, I don’t. 

I was an Asian American girl who spoke with no Asian accent, only spoke English (and some basic French), and did no martial art. We did not exist in movies in the 80s and 90s and as such, we weren’t really thought to exist at all.

That’s why I was excited to see the movie Turning Red! It’s a movie about a flute-playing, high achieving, confident, Chinese Canadian 13-year-old girl named Meilin (Mei for short) Lee. Granted, I was a cello-playing, high achieving, less confident, Japanese American 13-year-old girl, but in an industry that has so little representation, East Asian folks tend to rally behind any East Asian character whenever they exist. It’s exciting to have any non-stereotypical visibility even when it is not direct representation.

Upon watching Turning Red for a second time, I realized how the movie’s music captures the journey of finding harmony between the many different facets of identity. For this movie, it is the struggle not only of growing up but balancing eastern and western cultural expectations along with showing respect for tradition in a modern societal construct.

In the opening self-introduction, Mei walks and talks over a new jack swing soundtrack. This sound is a quintessentially western sound (specifically Black-created music, with influences of hip hop, soul, R&B, funk, jazz, blues, etc.). On top of this is a melody played by a modern western flute, representing the western side of Mei. It’s used whenever she is at school, with her friends, or walking around in Toronto.

© Disney

This is juxtaposed with Mei’s familial traditional eastern influences. As Mei rushes home to be with her family, the western flute melody changes to a dizi (笛子), a Chinese bamboo flute. Traditional Chinese instruments and music styles come up frequently whenever Mei is with her family, not only representing the more traditional viewpoints but also her Chinese culture. Her mother, Ming, represents that more traditional and eastern viewpoint and is thusly represented by the more traditional and eastern instrument: the guzheng (古箏), a plucked Chinese string instrument. 

Mei discovers that she has a long family history of turning into a red panda whenever feeling a strong emotion, thanks to a wish made by her ancestor. When she initially transforms and is panicking, an erhu enters the soundtrack, often accompanied by synth. An erhu, a Chinese bowed string instrument, is rarely heard in mainstream music, much less with a modern synth accompaniment, so I found these two together to be an interesting play on east and west; traditional and more modern.

In fact, the traditional Chinese instruments often play alongside western musical entities in this movie. We get combinations of dizi and full orchestra. Guzheng and synth. Big band and dizi. It is a blended cohesive sound that incorporates both eastern and western instruments and various styles that foreshadows the peace that Mei will find with her various identities.

© Disney

At the climax of Turning Red, Mei walks away from her need for her mother’s approval and toward her friends at a 4*Town concert. Hijinx ensues and everyone ends up needing to open a door to the astral plane and deal with a big red panda situation. A ritual is performed where “The door will only open if we sing from our hearts”. For Mei’s grandma and aunties, that is a traditional-sounding Cantonese chant. 4*Town is singing and doing their boy band thing. Mei’s friends are beatboxing. The supporting music is a combination of full orchestra, Chinese orchestra, dizi, and synth. It’s the culmination of all of Mei’s identities so that she can emerge her true self.

There is often the perception that East Asian people living in non-Asian countries just arrived. The “perpetual foreigner” concept means that we are always seen as “other” as opposed to part of the societal “norm”. It is why I’ve been asked, “Where are you from? But where are you really from? But originally?” hundreds of times.

Turning Red is unique because Mei is not treated as an Other. The movie seamlessly has her belonging, which in turn normalizes her belonging. More importantly, she belongs without having to give up her cultural heritage and instead has her heritage celebrated. Mei and Mei’s music showcases how you do not need to choose sides; you do not need to be 100% something (eastern, western, traditional, modern, etc.) nor do you need to be 0% something else, because your true self may be a harmonious amalgamation of many influences. You do not need to fully assimilate and leave your culture behind to gain acceptance. You also do not need to fully live by the traditional values and expectations of a generation and/or culture. All these influences can instead co-exist and come together to create something special and lovely.

In the end, Turning Red is the soundtrack for the journey of finding cultural and generational harmony and finding peace in authentic identity. It’s also an opportunity to shine a spotlight and bring visibility to not only East Asian characters but East Asian people as we celebrate both what makes us unique and our belonging. 

BIO

Naoko Maruko is the Head of Catalog Product Management at Sheet Music Plus. She is also a professional cellist and has played with musicians such as Michael Bublé, the Trans Siberian Orchestra, and Disturbed. You can find her multi-track cello arrangements on www.youtube.com/onenaoko She is from Fresno, California. Originally.

AAPI Month Composer Highlight: Naoko Ikeda

Naoko Ikeda lives in Sapporo, Hokkaido in northern Japan, and is passionate about introducing the world to her country’s essence through music. Influenced by classical music, jazz and pop, as well as the piano works of William Gillock, her own music reflects her diverse tastes with beauty, elegance, and humor. Ms. Ikeda holds a piano performance degree from Yamaguchi College of Arts in Japan and currently maintains an energetic schedule as both teacher and composer.

Was there a moment you knew your career path would be a musical one?

Before starting piano lessons at age 6, I took voice lessons! I discovered that even as a child I loved adding lyrics to melodies, and knew that I wanted career in music at age 5. I began more serious music study when I was in junior high.

How has your heritage influenced your music career? What does your heritage mean to you?

I was born and raised in Hokkaido. Japan is an island nation and does not share borders with other countries, so it has its own unique traditions, culture, and aesthetics. The Japanese value the four seasons, and I too feel close to the signs hidden in nature and its changing seasons. Our society places a high importance on our history and our art. In fact, traditions were passed down through the generations by artists and scribes carefully copying works of art into books, paintings, music, textiles, and other mediums. My compositions aim to reflect my culture but I also interpolate those sounds with my own impressions of the world.

Do you have a favorite music piece that you like to perform? Who is your favorite musician?

I love William Gillock’s “Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style.” The collection was what started my interest in piano composition as a teenager. I love performing Debussy and Mozart. It’s tough to pick a favorite musician as it depends on the genre, but I’ve been listening to the vocal group Take 6 ever since their debut, and love their exquisite harmonies!

Music connects us no matter where we are, what language we speak, or our belief system – being comforted by music is a unique sensation that we feel in our hearts. That feeling or sensation is a big step in wanting to understand different cultures and ways of thinking.

How important do you think musical experiences are in bridging cultures?

Because of Covid-19, many musicians around the world shared live performances virtually. We were able to encourage each other through the gift of music. Music connects us no matter where we are, what language we speak, or our belief system – being comforted by music is a unique sensation that we feel in our hearts. That feeling or sensation is a big step in wanting to understand different cultures and ways of thinking.

Naoko Ikeda‘s Recent Publications:

How to Keep Your Music Students Sharp Over the Summer

While summer is a great time to relax and enjoy the vacation, it can also be a great time for music students to improve their skills and become even more proficient musicians. Below are some tips and advice for music teachers wanting to help their students practice music over the summer.

Offer a summer music program

If you’re able to keep working with your students throughout the summer (or if you know other teachers who might be), let your students know that they can continue taking lessons over the break. And if you can’t do lessons yourself, consider offering a summer music camp or other similar programs where they can keep up with their practice and their peers.

Use social media to keep your students connected to each other and to you

Not only will your students stay connected over social media, but they’ll also be able to access a wealth of resources that can improve their playing skills. Facebook groups can be private or public, and you can use them to share practice tips and videos.

You could even create a private group for your current students and alumni so that former students can offer advice on how to overcome technical challenges or share musical ideas. You might also consider creating an online course that your students would have access to all summer long.

This course could include weekly mini-lessons on topics like sight-reading, ear training, improvisation, or music theory. This is an especially great option if you have multiple levels of experience throughout your studio or if some of your students will be traveling this summer.

Encourage students to listen to music in the car and around the house

One way to keep students engaged with music during the summer is to encourage them to listen while going about their regular lives. While they’re riding their bikes, playing outside, or waiting at the doctor’s office, they can listen to their favorite songs. This will keep their musical ideas flowing even when they’re away from the instrument.

It will also help them familiarize themselves with new songs—if you have a student who has learned a new piece of music, they may have trouble remembering it. Still, if they hear it a lot over the summer (either because you gave them a copy beforehand or because they listen to videos on YouTube), they’ll be more likely to retain it when you get together again in the fall.

Encourage your students to enlist a fun practice partner

The summer months can be difficult for students to continue learning—a friend or a buddy can help keep them engaged! Try partnering up student by instrument and the neighborhood they live in. Next, have them take turns picking out music to practice together, or create a music bucket list for students to choose from all summer (bonus points if they practice all the pieces on your list!).

Give your students a chance to reflect on their music and improve their playing this summer!

Now that you’ve got the tools and a clear picture of the benefits of summer practice, it’s time to take action and make the most of your summer! The best part about these tips is that they’re not just for your students—they’re can apply to you, too. No matter the experience level, everyone will benefit from keeping up with their playing through the summer months.

Even if they don’t have time to practice every day, they’ll retain more information and advance more quickly if they keep up with practicing regularly. More than anything else, you want them to enjoy playing music and making progress on their instrument so that they’ll continue in the future. At Sheet Music Plus, we provide the world’s largest sheet music selection for all abilities, styles, genres, and instruments.

The Power of Growth Mindset in Music

By Celia Zhang

“I can’t do it!” “It’s too hard!” “I’m not good at it!”

Parents and teachers – odds are, you or your student have probably said one of these phrases in the midst of a challenge, and I absolutely empathize with you. The feeling of missing the target, especially on repeat, is truly exasperating.

However, experience has shown that a shift in expectations toward a growth mindset mentality can do wonders. No, I am not talking about lowering expectations, but instead, of altering the perspective. Switch from aiming for a target task to observing a sensation, mentality or effort. Change “fix this rhythm” to “sustain full concentration as you subdivide” for a minute. Alter “use full bow” into “observe the sensation of your upper forearm stretching”. Pivot “fix your posture” to “maintain this feeling of openness in your spine”. Now – why does all this matter?

I am not talking about lowering expectations, but instead, of altering the perspective. Switch from aiming for a target task to observing a sensation, mentality or effort.

The concept of “growth mindset” is exemplified by the Harvard Business Review as when “individuals … believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others)”. This, as opposed to a “fixed mindset” (where a person’s capabilities are preset by nature), provides the student with not only limitless possibility, but correlates results with the associated effort and learning process put in, rather than a predetermined concept of “I’m not good at it, so why bother trying?”.

In all honesty, the idea that a person may be predisposed to musical talent for whatever reason – their parent plays an instrument, they have perfect pitch, they can carry a tune – is truly insignificant if the developed work ethic cannot support this “talent”. Unfortunately, it is also this version which is most commonly sensationalized in the news, on social media and online – the idea of the rarity from birth. On the flip side of the same coin, those who may not have any reason to succeed at a musical instrument, but has a rigorous and thoughtful work ethic can often find success not only in music, but also in whatever field they choose to apply themselves. This is likely the reason for the phrase, “those who are ‘talented’ are often ‘multitalented’” – though the common error here is that “talent” becomes a misnomer for an innate ability rather than the cultivated work and learning which honed the abilities in the first place.

A fantastic anecdote which my former teacher, Kurt Sassmannshaus (Founder of ViolinMasterClass.com, and prominent violin pedagogue) once shared with me was of a conversation he once had with his own former teacher, the eminent Dorothy Delay. He asked Ms. Delay – “I see some students who can spend hours and hours on a technique or section or whatnot, and not accomplish what they set out for, while others can do it in a matter of minutes. Why? What is ‘Talent?’” Apparently, Ms. Delay gave her usual sweet smile and replied, “it’s just a mood”.

Parents and teachers, growth mindset is the key to cultivate this mood.

Celia Zhang is the Founder and Director of the Village Youth Conservatory in Boston, MA. After earning her performance degrees from the Juilliard School and Yale School of Music, Zhang continued her performance and teaching career in Boston, where her students have gone on to win top performance prizes throughout the state and solo in Carnegie Hall. Learn more at VillageYouthConservatory.com.

Follow Celia:
Instagram: @VillageYouthConservatory, @CeliaWZhang
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VillageYouthConservatory 
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDGvJDRmGgNshKG20uXhR4A

Source: https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means


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