Miamiflute's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘guitar

Laurie Berkner

In my quest to be the ultimate Rockstar-Supermom, last weekend i took my kids to see Laurie Berkner in concert. If you haven’t heard of Laurie Berkner, she is the undisputed queen of preschool rockers. This is a huge new genre of music that has blossomed over the last 10 years. And truth be told, even though we took the kids to the concert, it was mostly for me.  When I first found out I was pregnant I cringed at the thought of having to listen to icky-sweet Barney songs all day. Someone actually gave me a CD of Metallica songs played as lullabies – I almost puked. But I would listen to Laurie Berkner even if I didn’t have kids, it’s pretty good music.

I sent a photo to my best friend from the concert who immediately texted me back saying “I can SO see you doing that.” Coincidentally, my husband told me the same thing when we attended a profanity-laden singalong at Irish Kevin’s in Key West. [You can make your own assumptions about my ability to lead drunks and young children in song.]

Rockstar Supermom

And you know what, they are both right. I always wanted to be a Rockstar, and I still do. The problem was – when I grew up – your options for music in school were band, orchestra, or choir. Since my mother was a singer, and I had been singing in my church youth choir since I could talk, I chose to play the flute in school. And I was pretty good. But – truth be told – I did not join the band to be an awesome flautist, or to rock out to Bach, Sousa, or Grainger. No, what I really wanted to do was play the music I listened to, and I did. I owned every “Themes of the Movies,” “Today’s Pop Hits,” or other schlock I could get my hands on. I was super jealous of my neighbor who figured out how to play the flute part on “Down Under” by Men at Work. I couldn’t do it – it wasn’t in THE BOOK. I could play the snot out of anything you put in front of me, but playing by ear? That was for jazz musicians – and I was a flute player. After a few years I also gave up singing. That was for choir people – and I was in band. I was good at what I did, and loved playing in all things purely instrumental – marching band, symphonic band, orchestra, flute choir, etc. But there was no Rockstar option that I desperately wanted to study.

Recently, I attended my [cough] 20th year high school reunion. I was amazed at the number of people still involved with music all these years later. I spoke to about a dozen people who played in a band – ranging from a large scale Pink Floyd tribute band – to a local back porch bar kind of group. But the thing that struck me the most – is that NONE of these people participated in school music. No band, orchestra, or chorus people. These were part of that other 80% that do not participate in traditional performance based music classes. In a completely un-scientific poll of my Facebook high school music friends, only 1 of them still participates formally in music – and thats because he is a music teacher, like me. This is pretty typical of the national average that most students do not continue in music after high school (Williams, 2007).

FL Guitar Enrollment

I recently was asked to facilitate a Professional Development Workshop for music teachers in a local county on how to increase enrollment in music classes. I gave them all the relevant data – that nationally the median enrollment in band classes is only 7.5%, and that  on a national level, enrollment in music at the secondary level is declining (Kerstetter, in press). Meanwhile, schools such as Greenwich HS in Connecticut (Freedman, personal e-mail), that offer 4 levels of Electronic Music classes out enroll band, choir, and orchestra combined. That in the state of Florida enrollment in secondary music classes has declined from 14.2% to 11.6% at the secondary level, however enrollment in guitar classes has skyrocketed from 3,000 to nearly 10,000 from the first 10 years of the 21st century. I was given a polite “thank you” when I was finished and got the overarching feeling that this was not what they wanted to hear – they just wanted to push the EASY button to increase enrollment without fundamentally changing anything that they are currently doing. (Thanks to Ed Prasse for enrollment figures in FL).

In her groundbreaking book, How Popular Musicians Learn, Lucy Green investigates what those non-classically trained musicians do. While you may have your prejudices about the pop-music business, few can argue the musical talents of people like Elton John, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Carol King, and His purpleness: Prince. Here are some things we DO know:

  1. Pop musicians learn to play be ear FIRST. To use an Ed Gordon term, they audiate. (coincidentally, Gordon came about his Music Learning Theory by watching how jazz musicians learned their craft – many of whom never studied in a formal school-based large ensemble setting). Because they are learning by ear, they are listening many times – repeatedly – purposefully. They are listening at much deeper level than most any student concentrating on the notes.
  2. Many musicians are motivated because they get to select their own music to be be performed. In a garage band, there is no one demanding that the punk band learn Eleanor Rigby just because someone told them it was a “classic.”
  3. These musicians play several different instruments. Guitar, bass, percussion, whatever is needed for the music. In her follow up book Music, Informal Learning, and the School she illustrates how middle school students would readily pick up and play a recorder/penny whistle if the song needed that sound. This was the same instrument  that was earlier scorned in the same class as an instrument for babies.
  4. Everyone sings. Let me repeat: everyone.
  5. Groups are smaller, and even though natural leaders emerge in a cooperative learning setting, there is no one really “in charge.” No one stands in front of the group just to lead. They lead from inside the group, and a there is a large sense of shared responsibility.


So, what does this all mean for this Rockstar-Supermom.? Well, I now play in a band — even if is mostly a reason to play guitar with good friends, enjoy a few cold ones, and turn faculty meeting scribblings into songs about the ineptitudes of higher adminstration. [When I was in K-12 education, I had a whole book filled with Faculty Meeting Haiku – you should try it next time you want to gauge your eyes out with your “we love testing” pencil]. And as I watch this country struggle with budget woes, I think perhaps this might be the impetus needed to create a few less marching followers and a few more Rockstars of Tomorrow.

Matilda Xmas 2010


You can get your HELLAgoodTIME merchandise here. All proceeds go towards purchasing the aforementioned cold ones. The coffee mugs are awesome…. ;p


Most awesome mug ever.


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