Saturday, January 29, 2011

Replacement Wheels

Number 2 son visited the auction.  '98 Blazer

Mapquest. How do we get there from here?

Alice Joy Lewis presented this Parents as Partners talk, based largely on the book Positive Personality Profiles (R. Rome).

The map
First she talks about needing to know where you are going in order to reach your destination.  In music studies we should be looking at two things: Taking the student to a place of ownership of technical and musical skills (ownership meaning they are easy), and developing in children a happy heart.  Not in a self indulgent sense, but happy from feeling competent, having good self discipline, feeling capable.

How do we get there?  In our journey we discover the route.  We are motivated to do what we like to do. Teachers and parents need to create a climate to motivate. We all know this is different for different students.

Personality profiles
In R. Rome's book, he has a personality chart divided horizontally as outgoing and reserved, and vertically as task oriented and people oriented.  We are all a bit of each, but usually one quadrant is more dominant.

The outgoing/task quadrant is D: Driven, direct, determined. The outgoing/people quadrant is I: Inspired, impressing, interacting.  The reserved/people quadrant is S: Status quo, stable, supportive.  The task/people quadrant is C: Calculating, correct, complete.  (She had many more words, I just chose three of each.)

In order to communicate with our students/children, we need to speak their language in order to maximize their strengths.  What motivates one does not motivate another.  Here are just a few examples.

The D student does well under pressure, they are goal driven and like a challenge, they like to be part of the choice and have freedom to do things their way.  They need to learn boundaries which hold firm. The choices given them needs to fit with what the parent or teacher can live with: "Would you like to practice just before or just after dinner?"

The I student needs recognition and approval. They like prestige, friendly relationships and opportunities to inspire others and a chance to verbalize. We might need to let them talk before the lesson or practice time before they get to work. They will need to learn time management, that tasks must be completed, listening instead of talking, and they have to be accountable. 

The S student needs security, appreciation, assurance. They like to identify with a group, have established work patterns like always practicing everything in the same order, they need to work at their own pace. They need to learn that change can provide opportunities.

The C student needs quality answers, excellence, value.  They like clearly defined tasks and explanations, sufficient time and resources to complete tasks, limited risks.  They are detail oriented.  Needs include detailed orientation, reassurance, an open door policy.  They need to learn that total support is not always necessary, there are deadlines and sometimes you just need to play it.  Calculated risks are sometimes okay, and there are varying degrees of excellence.

What do we do with this?
By paying attention to and working with the student's personality, we are going with their flow, making things easier for them.  It is that ease which motivates.  Don't put them in a box, but learn their personalities.  In the Suzuki triangle of student-teacher-parent you have three personalities which need to work together!  The teacher and parent need to adjust to and learn the language of the student.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


In this Parents as Partners talk, Susan Baer gave several book reports. I will share a bit of one with you here. She said if you are only going to read one of these, it should be The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. Here are my very brief notes based on her notes based on the book. :-)

Talent - not something you are born with, but something you develop.

3 elements common to the lives of all hugely successful people:

Deep practice - 10,000 hours of concentrated effort toward the objective of skill mastery to become an expert in any given field. (e.g. 3 hours a day for 10 years)

Ignition - Person or event which sparks and stokes the passion. Without this, 10,000 hours is not likely to happen.

Master Coaching - Steering development, giving the student what they need at each step of the way.

As a side, I was directed to this book some time ago and shared it on our local homeschool email list like this: - cool website/book/videos/blog about developing talent! This fellow has visited and studied several "talent hotbeds" to see what they do to grow that talent.

Recent Publications on Talent Shared by Susan Baer

Tip: Peruse any of these books by going to Type the title of the book in the Search box.

Colvin, Geoff. Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. New York: Penguin, 2008.

Coyle, Daniel. The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. New York: Bantam, 2009.

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House, 2006.

Dweck, Carol S. “Caution: Praise Can Be Dangerous.” American Educator: Spring 1999.

Gardner, Howard. Five Minds for the Future. Boston: Harvard Business School, 2006.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown, 2008.

Levitin, Daniel J. This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Syed, Matthew. Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

Tharp, Twyla. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

What is Folk Music?

I thought I'd put some of the videos I post as video of the week on my website here, for those of you who don't follow my website, and for those of you who might miss a week.

I shared this a few weeks ago.  While I had noticed how much British composers use dotted rhythms, I hadn't thought so much before about how music reflects the language of the people. Interesting program with Leonard Bernstein. This is the first 10 minutes of an hour program (in 6 videos). This and the beginning of video 2 are the best for the information, and the very end of 5 and beginning of 6 are the best for music (if you are cello prejudiced like me - Ives Symphony 2 last mvt).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Online Radio

For years I have lamented that living here we do not receive CBC Radio 2 and its classical programs.  I don't know why it has taken me so long to think of listening online.  Online, you can not only listen in real time, but you can pick and choose your programs, or listen to "concerts on demand".

In December I decided to look for a station playing just Christmas music. I discovered Accuradio.  Wow!  What a cool concept!  I could choose my favourite style of Christmas music, or even my favourite song to listen to over and over, performed by everyone who ever recorded it.  And if there was one I really didn't care for, I could choose to "ban" that from the list.

So now that Christmas is past, I have been looking at Accuradio's Classical channels.  You can choose by time period, by composer, by instrument... (Yes! an all cello channel!)  Or if you're in the mood for something other than classical, they have 11 other categories of channels to choose from!

The Value of Repetition

Ability equals knowledge plus 10,000 times. - Suzuki

Susan Baer presented "The Value of Repetition" at Parents as Partners.  After discussing the value, and relating repetition as a way which we also learn the spoken language, she shares some ideas to make those repetitions in music practice easier, more fun, but still effective, rather than just tedious, mindless repeating.

You may find that in one piece there are several problems which need to be addressed - incorrect rhythms, out of tune notes, trouble with a bowing technique, a shift, etc.  Playing through the whole piece, trying to correct everything, is not a very effective way to practice or an efficient use of time. It's much more effective and efficient to practice small units, addressing only one problem at a time.

Even in small units there may be more than one issue.  Break it down to just one thing at a time.  Maybe the notes are out of tune and the rhythm is incorrect, and the bowing technique is difficult.  First you may eliminate the bowing and rhythm just to work on intonation.  Play the notes in a slow, smooth, even way.  Once the notes are consistently in tune, increase the speed.  When it is corrected and becomes easy, work on the rhythm.  But just use one note, such as an open string.  Then try to use that rhythm in a song you already know - Twinkle, anyone?  :-)  And again, use an open string to work on the bowing technique, etc.  Once each individual element is corrected, then you can put them together again.

First you will work towards accuracy.  This may happen in a day or two.  Then you want it to be solid.  It may take a week or more.  Then it will become easy.  In a few months it should be performance ready!

Repetitions are most effective when spread over time.  I know in my experience I can do this kind of small practice, and find much improvement after several repetitions at one practice session.  But if I leave it at that, when I next come back to it, it likely will have slipped back a few steps, and more repetition is needed the next day, and the next, etc. 10,000 times doesn't happen overnight.

Robotic or musical?
In order to keep the repetition from being mindless, and in order to keep the repetitions from only reinforcing the problems, there must be careful attention and brief and frequent feedback!  Getting the child involved in the evaluation will help you to know if the they understand the concepts, lead to more confidence, and be an invaluable tool for later independent practice.

For each repetition, ask a yes-no question.  Is that F# high enough?  If the answer is no more than yes, perhaps a smaller unit of practice is needed. 

Now the fun part
Get creative!  You will want a game appropriate to your child's age and attention span. How do you determine the number of repetitions?  The child's age?  Or maybe take two dice and roll them.  Or more than two!  Or a deck of cards.  The low numbers might have special rules: A= 20 repetitions, 2 = add the next two cards drawn together, 3 = triple the next card drawn, etc.. 

Or maybe the repetitions will be guided by how successful the repetition.  Use two cups and some marbles.  The goal is to get all the marbles moved from one cup to the other.  Use the yes - no questions. Each time the answer is "yes", move a marble to the 2nd cup.  If it is no, no marble is moved.  Or, if it is no, a marble moves back to the first cup.  Again, find something which suits your child's level. 

Amateurs practice until they get it right.  Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong!

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.   - Aristotle

Monday, January 24, 2011

Snow on snow on snow

Do you compost in the winter?  Some years I've decided to just forget it, because I'm so bad about taking the compost out: going out in the cold, trekking through knee-deep snow, the lid being frozen on the bin...  But this year I decided to try something different.  I decided to keep a mini-bin outside the basement door where it can remain in frozen state until emptied into the larger bin (where it will start truly composting in the spring).  This would mean fewer trips to the Earth Machine, and make taking out the compost a pretty easy task. 

Surprisingly (?) the compost still sits on the counter longer than it ought to. And I think I need a larger mini-bin.
Because it's full, and, well, WHERE is the real compost bin?

One more picture, since I named the blog Raspberry Cello.  Here are my raspberry canes.  They volunteered along the chain link fence. When our house was built our neighbours had raspberries on the other side, instead of the cedar trees there now.  I thought I'd move the volunteers to a proper row, so I could pick from both sides.  You can see them between those posts.  But I never could dig out all the ones along the fence, and some which were moved didn't live long and prosper.  So we now have a little here and a little there. They don't look like much now, but just wait. We are due for a large crop of Spartan apples from that tree in October, too.
I took these pictures yesterday.  Today it is snowing again.  Maybe I'll just start a second winter bin outside the basement door.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One Minute Pointers

From Parents as Partners - a few little gems from the One Minute Pointers.

  • Do everything in your power to keep your child playing their instrument.
  • Practice every day for consistent progress.  No one enjoys doing what they are not good at.
  • Don't underestimate the social value of music.  Participate in groups. Music friends will help keep your child grounded through the teen years.
  • You are helping to nurture beautiful tone, and the beautiful hearts that our world needs.
  • Enjoy the process. Don't push.
  • Play persistently and positively when you practice with your child. That is, PLAY in the fun and games sense!
  • TTT = Things Take Time.
  • Listen to your child, listen to the lesson, listen to music together and talk about it.
  • Communicate with your child's teacher.
  • This time with your child is precious - love it, value it, rise to it.
  • Keep a healthy sense of perspective.  Don't compare your child to others.  Music is not a race.
  • Mistakes are a natural part of the journey. Celebrate what your child does well and view mistakes as a chance to grow.
  • Do exactly what the teacher instructs - no more, no less. This gives you the best value for your music lesson dollar.  Your teacher has a long-term plan.  Trust their expertise.
  • Enjoy this time with your child.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Listening Maniacs!

The Suzuki Association is having an online conference program called "Parents as Partners".  I have just watched my first video and am very excited about all we can learn from these experienced teachers and parents.  As a teacher I was able to sign up myself, and add 5 parents for free.  I chose the parents of my youngest students.  If there are others interested it is $45/individual for non SAA members, $25 for members.  The deadline is 6:00 AM Monday morning if they don't fill up before that, so get moving if you want to join in!  

How easy is this?
The first video is called "Listening Like a Maniac" by Michelle Horner.  Listening is an integral part of the Suzuki method.  Dr. Suzuki believed children could learn music the same way they learn to speak, by hearing the "mother tongue".  So Suzuki includes CDs as well as books.  (When I was learning violin I had to check out cassettes and a player from my school library!)

Michelle shares the story of her daughter and herself, who were doing all the Suzuki violin stuff, including listening to the CD, but progress was slow and frustrating.  But then she learned a new idea about listening.  She tried it with her daughter, and saw progress speed up.  But it's not just about learning more songs faster.  The process became smoother and more joyful.  Then she introduced this new listening idea to her own guitar students.  More success!
 Here's the scoop:  If you want to progress faster in your music studies, and to make the learning process smoother, listen to the music "like a maniac"!   Not a crazy person, but a real enthusiast!  What she did was to burn new CDs, with the current and the next two pieces to be learned repeated 10 times each.  One of her student's parents, though, told her this was just too much work.  She wanted a magic button.  And she found one!  It was "Repeat 1" on the CD player!  Rather than count repetitions, she would have one song repeat for one hour, then switch pieces and repeat the upcoming song for the next hour, and then the NEXT song for the third hour.

The kids (or other family members) don't always want to listen to the same song over and over and over (and over and over and over and over and over and over and over), but you really have to get the family on board. Think of it this way: it means fewer repetitions - full of mistakes - by your child. Michelle's daughter, who is now 14, also shares on this video and encourages parents to ask their kids, if they start to complain, if they want to go back to the slower learning?  Putting the music on for listening has to be the parents' responsibility up to about age 12.  Michelle's daughter at 14 is still a listening maniac, but now she takes this on by herself - she knows it works!

If you wanted to learn a new language, would you be able to do so by only listening to it for 15 minutes a day?  Or only hearing the words - even if it is two hours worth - only once a day?  Don't just listen to your CDs straight through; repeat the songs you are learning.  Over and over - at least 10 times a day.  Even if your children (or you, adult learners) are eating, or playing, or falling asleep, the repetition will eventually work the music into their (your) heads, and the music lessons can then be about technique, musicality, etc. and not just correcting notes.

My own experience
I was just talking about this last night with my husband.  When I was about 19 [edit: I think it was actually closer to 22, now that I think about it] I had my first opportunity to play Handel's Messiah.  Back up a bit.  I first heard the Hallelujah Chorus performed when I was 11.  I loved it, and asked for a recording of it for Christmas.  That was my first LP.  (You know, kids, those "really big CDs" which your parents have in the basement from years gone by.)  Lo and behold, Messiah was a lot more than one chorus! My first LP, my ONLY LP.  AND my sister and I received a turntable for our bedroom!! Yahoo!!  It was listened to a LOT.

So, back to my first chance to PLAY Handel's Messiah.  Most of it came pretty easily, but there was one aria which was a real bear.  Why?  Because it was one that was omitted on my recording!  While all the other movements were familiar, as though I had been playing them a long time, this one was a total foreign language to me.  It didn't help that it was full of accidentals (accidents waiting to happen!). I'll revisit that in another post. My point here is that just LISTENING made playing the rest of it so much easier.

So fast forward almost 30 years and I have another opportunity to play Handel's Messiah. (An unusually long period from most cellists' perspective!)  This time, I pull out that same aria and it flows under my fingers.  Yes, I should be a better player, and hopefully should have retained something from having played it before, but I really am convinced it's mostly because in the mean time we have a different recording (on CD) which has been listened to over the years, which includes "The People that Walked in Darkness". 

Why not try it yourself?
So, students and parents, are you up for the CHALLENGE???  How about for the next week you listen to your current piece and the next two, at least 10 times in a row each day?  Become a Listening MANIAC!  Just see if you don't learn that piece faster than usual.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Website updated

I try to update my website Studio News column once a week, at some time over the weekend, with a new "student of the week" and "video of the week".  I also feature a website link of the week and practice tips, though I don't update those EVERY week.  These are for my cello students but free to whoever wants to take a look. :-)  (More content on my website is only for paying students after they log in.) There is a link to my website under Cello Lessons in the right column, but I'll share it again here, too:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Snow + Young Driver + Old Driver

Equals a 3 vehicle MVI.  :-(  Thankfully, everyone is okay.  But that first car number 2 son bought 3 months ago?  Not okay.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Celtic Cello

I'm enjoying listening to the Celtic cello sound samples at this site.  (link fixed)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cello Hygiene

Beginning of the new year seems like a good time for a reminder on keeping the cello clean. Here's how and WHY...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Cactus New Year's Day

(chalk effect)

Christmas Cactus

On Christmas I looked at the cactus next to the sink (where it gets the most sun in the winter), and noted no sign of blooms in spite of the name "Christmas Cactus".  But then I saw it!  One modest bud at the back.  Modest not because it was small, but because it was at the back, not demanding any attention, only noticeable when you are looking for it.  I've heard that moving a Christmas cactus results in blossoms dropping, so I haven't touched it.  A week later I managed to manipulate the camera to an angle which could catch its beauty as it begins to open. (pencil effect by MS Picture It!)