You know him as one of the world’s preeminent choral composers and conductors, as well as a former member of the King’s Singers, but like so many of us, even Bob Chilcott was forced to put down his baton this year and find other ways to make music.
Chilcott focused his musical attention on teaching piano and theory to his eleven-year-old daughter, Becky, and her friend, and ended up also writing a set of three short jazz-style pieces for the piano to help show his students and other early intermediate learners explore the technical building blocks of music and develop their musical instincts in a way that would also be fun.
The results, A Little Jazz Piano, is a short piano suite featuring Chilcott’s celebrated jazz style in three movements: “Bobbing along,” “Becky’s Song” and “Walking with Ollie.”
Those of us who teach beginners have specific challenges. Not only do we have to acquaint our students with new instruments, but we also have to begin to acquaint them with musical notation and theory, help them develop good practice habits, and be on the lookout for improper techniques that can turn into major challenges in the years ahead. If our students are very young, we have extra work to help them develop their motor skills, and if we teach ensembles like bands and orchestras, we have the added challenge of attempting to do all of this for many students at the same time.
On Habits Universal, students can watch videos of professionals introduce and play each exercise on each instrument. This helps them learn how music notation translates to the sounds they make, exposes them to what their instruments can sound like with proper technique and tons of practice, and gives them models to strive toward. This is especially critical for students who don’t have access to private lessons, masterclasses or high-level live performances.
Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician also addresses individual instrument techniques that many other methods ignore entirely, which are especially helpful for instruments that a lot of band directors find a bit trickier. Among these topics are:
The oboe F dilemma: Did you know that the oboe has three different ways to play an F? Many directors don’t even realize that there are three options! Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician indicates which F an oboist should use throughout most of the book.
Bassoon flicking: The best way to initiate sound on the bassoon for an A, B-flat, B, C or D is to flick on the C key. Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician describes what this means and how to do it, and employs the degree sign, the universal sign for bassoonists to flick, throughout the book.
This level of detail extends to other instruments with such features as left and right indicators for clarinets, thorough sticking for mallets, and chromatic fingering indicators.
Teacher Tips & Resources
Each exercise in Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician comes with tips for the teacher: how to approach an exercise with their students, what to watch out for in various instrument sections, and suggestions for how to help students master it. Below is an example:
On Habits Universal Interactive, students can play along with backing tracks and listen to real audio models of their lines. They can also video record themselves playing their lines and get automatic graded feedback on their performance. While this feature is especially helpful for remote instruction, it’s also incredibly valuable for students who can be shy about playing in front of their peers.
Notably, the assessment software scores pitch, rhythm and length separately, and tracks errors alongside the notated line, so that a student can go note by note and see exactly where they need to improve. (The teacher still has the option to change final scores on assignments and to add comments.)
As a note, grades can be integrated with virtually any software (e.g., Schoology, Canvas, PowerSchool) that a school uses to report grades via a simple export.
Written by band directors with decades of experience under their belts, Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician confronts the classic difficulty of getting kids out of what author Scott Rush calls the “B-flat/E-flat/A-flat Club,” where kids are only comfortable playing in B-flat Major and E-flat Major with some momentary departures into F Major. Rather than, as in other methods, playing in the B-flat pentascale 95% of the time, Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician quickly moves up a step to the C pentascale to get kids used to reading and playing in keys with naturals and sharps, opening up a larger portion of the literature to them by the time they get to middle school and high school.
With so much focus on specific tactics and features, it’s crucial to mention that what is perhaps the most important part of Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician is that its primary goal is to help students fall in love with music. Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician offers teachers developmentally appropriate language for teaching musical concepts so that even beginner band students can start to build musicality into their playing from the early days.
Guest post by Linda Hawken, MD of Edition Peters Europe, and Kathryn Knight, President of C.F. Peters, USA
Being a music publisher in the 21st century presents many different challenges to those faced by publishers at the beginning of the industry 200 years ago. Nowhere is this better illustrated than at Edition Peters, founded in Leipzig in 1800 – a time when the idea of music copyright was only just starting to be thought about, with no laws in place to protect the composer. Instead, a successful publishing relationship depended solely on a close and ongoing collaboration with the composer.
Edition Peters’ unique history tells one of the most extraordinary stories of the music-publishing world. The roster of composers with whom Edition Peters worked directly across the 19th century is dizzying, from Beethoven to Grieg and Mahler.
Edition Peters created the first editions of some of the most famous compositions of all time, with those editions being proofread and corrected by the composers themselves long before the concept of “Urtext” was conceived. Yet despite the provenance of these important editions, it became fashionable in the later 20th century to disregard them – and the unique value of the composer’s direct input – in favor of Urtext “interpretations” by musicologists.
The concept of the Urtext only emerged in the early 1930s, devised by musicologists who aimed to get closer to “the composer’s intentions” by reviewing multiple sources. Indeed it was Edition Peters who released one of the very first Urtext editions with its 1933 edition of J. S. Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias. After the Second World War, other publishers took on this concept, producing their own Urtext editions. However, this led to much confusion about the meaning and significance of the editions, and whether they reflected the composer’s true intentions.
“Now Winter Nights” by British composer and baritone Roderick Williams uses an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as its text, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds onto.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas are among the most famous works of chamber music history and represent, together with Mozart’s works for this instrument duo, the core of violin repertoire from the Viennese Classicist period.
Though composed in a short span in Beethoven’s creative life (nine of the ten were written between 1798 and 1803, with the final one appearing in 1812), these sonatas bear all the marks of Beethoven’s compositional innovation: the breaking of formal tradition, a vast emotional scope, skillful musical manipulation, and, of course, the trademark urgency and power.
The new Bärenreiter edition of the violin sonatas — or, as more appropriately titled by Beethoven himself, sonatas for the pianoforte and violin — offers a revolutionary editorial approach to the music that does more than simply hand down the text.
These new volumes, edited by historical performing practice expert Dr. Clive Brown, present an approach to performance that is quite different from what most of today’s musicians are accustomed to. This approach not only falls much more in line with what Beethoven would have expected, but also imbues the music with a renewed vigor and offers musicians an incredible array of opportunities for creativity.
Here violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Alasdair Beatson demonstrate some of their most illuminating discoveries from the “Spring” Sonata (Op. 24) and show us why they’re excited to work with these new editions:
The Editorial Approach
Dr. Brown’s new editions of the Beethoven violin sonatas combine a traditional scholarly Urtext approach with a wealth of information on historical performing practice informed by the thorough study of recordings and editions made by 19th-century musicians, many of whom had direct contact with Beethoven himself or with others that did.
These historical sources reveal a striking discrepancy between performance and notation. Composers in Beethoven’s era, including Beethoven himself, simply did not write down a large swath of the expressive gestures that they would have expected musicians to make, including rhythmic and tempo flexibility, piano arpeggiation and asynchrony, portamento, cadenzas, and ornamental, rather than continuous, vibrato effects.
By not including these details in the text, composers created a space bursting with potential for the creative performer to exploit in what could and, most importantly, would be wildly distinctive and thrillingly emotional performances. In many respects, it was a creative freedom much more akin to jazz than to today’s renditions of classical music.
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Focusing on our mission to make the world’s music more playable, we’ve doubled our catalog in the last five years by forging critical relationships with sheet music publishers, creating pathways to sell and ship editions worldwide and aggressively expanding into digital sheet music available for instant download and printing.
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I have fond memories of playing through the duets in the Album of Flute Duets with my amazing flute teacher, Patty Lazzara. Making music together with others has brought me joy throughout my life.
While teaching at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1991 to 2002, Ghanaian American pianist William Chapman Nyaho was struck by the utter lack of available piano scores by composers of African descent. To the extent that he could find any at all, they were mostly out of print or in manuscript form.
Shortly thereafter Nyaho found himself wandering the exhibition hall at an MTNA conference. He asked publisher after publisher for music by Florence Price. Publisher after publisher responded, “Who’s that?” Nyaho told them that she was an African-American composer and was told time and time again, “We only have Scott Joplin,” with the excuse being that there didn’t seem to be any demand for Price’s music. Nyaho replied, “The chicken or the egg: which comes first?”
While this coincidence might seem puzzling or even contradictory at first, it is exactly what lends Sikora’s approach the nuance and balance to successfully bridge the gap between theory and practice. InJazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach, Sikora sets out to mold musicians who can adapt to anything, regardless of how novel and unexpected it may be. To achieve this, he establishes a close relationship between theory, the ear and our instrument, forging a dialogue between theory and spontaneity that helps musicians connect with music both intuitively and analytically.
Editions Marc Reift, founded in 1983 by noted trombonist and conductor Marc Reift and offering a wide selection of music for bands, orchestras and solo instrumentalists, has two series of repertoire books with accompaniment CDs that are designed for young musicians.
The new Melodies for Beginners collection from Editions Marc Reift allows young beginners to build up a small repertoire of short, simple pieces. Arranged into several volumes for both solo instrumentalists and small ensembles, these Level 1 books are useful for small concerts or auditions.
Have you noticed how grumpy many people are today? I sure have. I believe with all of my heart, that is in part because no one has been to the symphony, seen a broadway show, sang in their church choir or rang in a handbell festival in months and months. Our souls are crying out to be part of a musical experience again.
There are so many challenges facing us today. We need to keep the safety of our communities as our top priority. With that being said, I believe that we also need to consider our spiritual and emotional health as well. Where and when it is possible to do so safely, let’s begin to ring again. It may look different from what we “normally” do. But, what would it look like to ring today? Ringers wearing masks, each ringer at their own table or music stand at a safe distance from one another, no shared equipment. Perhaps ringing outside?? What are the possibilities?
Martha Lynn Thompson adds another set of six settings to her highly successful series of Ring with 6 collections. Each arrangement uses 14-22 bells and is easily playable by six ringers. Three pieces have optional handchimes. A “Bells Used Chart” for each piece provides suggested assignments. No four-in-hand ringing is required but, because some ringers have more than two bells, it is necessary to have a table or a place to put the additional bells. Three of the hymns are suitable for general occasions, one is appropriate for either Palm Sunday or Advent, and rounding out the collection is Natalie Sleeth’s beautiful “Were You There on That Christmas Night?”