Miamiflute's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘music

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.

HELLAgoodTIME

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

CODA:

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.

Advertisements

As my 3 year old, Matilda, would say, “I have a secret to tell you.”  I have a serious crush on James Frankel.

Any of you who are reading this, probably already know Jim Frankel. If you don’t know Jim, he’s the Managing Director of Soundtree, author of several books and articles on music education and technology, adjunct professor at Columbia Teachers College, the President of the Association for Technology in Music Instruction (ATMI), the former VP of TI:ME, a past middle-school music teacher, and overall music technology bad-ass. He is everything I admire and respect in my field, rolled up into a very likable 6 foot ball. Because I’m in higher education and fairly entrenched in the conference circuit, I see Jim a few times a year. When I was teaching in Florida, I used to direct my music education undergraduates to all of his sessions. They would always come back beaming and telling me “Dr. K, OMG, he is so cool. Did you know…..”  Yes, actually – I DO know, that’s why I sent you there. So I guess I am also the founder of the Jim Frankel Fan Club, too.

So, why on earth am I telling you this??

Well, because before the days of Twitter Jim Frankel would probably have little to no clue who I am. He’s a nice guy, so I’m sure that he would smile and wave when I go by the Soundtree booth to play with all the new music tech toys. He’d probably also say to himself, “Who is that bizarre woman who comes to the booth at every conference?” But, thanks to Twitter and many other social media, the fields of music technology and music education have been democratized.

According to some information compiled by Kathy Schrock :

  • 26 million people in the US use Twitter.
  • Almost 70% of educators had a Twitter account
  • 87% of responding educators use it to network, keep up and share with the profession.
  • Sadly, 40% of the respondent who do NOT use Twitter reported that they didn’t know how to use it.

Thanks to the Twitterverse, I can now interact with many highly respected professionals in music education on Twitter – including Jim Frankel! Really? No longer was there a situation where one of us was on stage giving a presentation and the other was in the audience; no longer was one person the merchandiser and the other the consumer. We are now both Tweeter: I tweet – he retweets; he tweets – I respond. We both discuss #musiced, and #musictech.

The first time I realized the power of Twitter was September 2009. I was on the 50 yard line in LandShark Stadium dancing for a halftime show for the Miami Dolphins. We were all there because we thought Jimmy was going to play – he didn’t. I felt lame, and let him know.

Later that night, I did receive a tweet back from Jimmy’s camp. He heard me? I had an equal voice? Cool.

Now there are many ways to use Twitter for professional reasons, it is part of my everyday lifestyle. I can control give me most relevant, up-to-date information on a topic of my choosing. My mother was in Hawai’i in February 2010 when – according to NBC – a giant tsunami was coming to decimate the island. According to the Twitterverse – unfiltered and on the ground – it was a beautiful day and the locals enjoyed watching the networks make something out of nothing. It made me feel much better about not being able to get a hold of my mom personally. So, how can you use it effectively? Here are some tips:

  1. Sign-up and start following some great people. You can check out Dr. Joe Pisano’s music education Twitter list.
  2. Spend about 2 minutes to learn the lingo.
  3. Follow hashtags about stuff that is important to you. For example, you can find information regarding #tsunami10 without having to follow individuals. #musiced #musedchat #mpln #edchat are all tags that I follow daily, just in case there is something that my didn’t get tweeted by my peeps.
  4. Engage – or not. You can just read tweets in your field, or you can participate as much as you like. There have been many Tweetups of people who know each other primarily through Twitter when they are together at conferences. It is really nice to finally get to talk face to face with people that you feel you have known for some time.
  5. There are about a zillion ways to engage in twitter with your colleagues. See the resource from Kathy Schrock (and thanks to Bill Bauer’s article in December 2010 Music Educator’s Journal for this)
  6. And finally — have some fun. You will get to know your tweeps and will be able to engage in meaningful dialog with them. Sometimes, it’s fun to banter and communicate with your colleagues from across the state, country, and world. Most of them will have a sense of humor, too….as I hope does Jim Frankel.

Coda: Here are some other blog topics I’m currently considering:

  • Joe Pisano and I are distant, long-lost cousins (hey, I have family in PA, it could happen).
  • My plan to officially adopt Andy Zweibel.
  • My new venture: The Functional Business of Music Babes (The F-BOMBs) with Barbara Freedman.

Dear Christina Aguilera,

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Really. Thank you. So you forgot – or just don’t know – the words. It’s ok — sadly, you a not alone. A 2004  Harris poll found that 2 out of 3 Americans don’t know the words either. That’s right — 61% of your friends will screw up the lyrics, too. More fun facts:

  • Less than 35% can name the author of the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner (Francis Scott Key)
  • 38% of Americans don’t know the official title of the National Anthem (Star Spangled Banner)
  • As few as 15% of American youth can sing the entire anthem from memory.

I have spent years trying to get my future music teachers to realize the importance of educating students on the Star Spangled Banner. At my last position we organized a SSB sing-a-long on campus with the School of Music faculty and the CMENC undergraduates. We passed out our own “Fun Fact Sheets” on the song. We did “man on the street” interviews and asked people about the lyrics to the National Anthem. If it wasn’t so sad, they might actually be funny. And if you are sitting there saying “oh not me, not my students – of course WE know all the important things about the SSB”. Really? Go ask your students what a rampart is….come on, I dare you.

So, if you are inspired – like me – by the performance of Ms. Aguilera to take this opportunity to get America singing — CORRECTLY — again, there here are some great ideas.

  1. Visit the National Anthem Project. You will find lots of tools available for your classes and probably learn a thing or two.
  2. Visit the Smithsonian Star Spangled Banner sight.
  3. Play examples of how the Star Spangled Banner should sound. And yes, it can be sung by a pop star correctly. One of my favorite renditions was the Grateful Dead from 1993 at a Giants game. 
  4. Start a National Anthem Day concert in your school or community. With a little planning, you can coordinate some lovely music making with others in your area.
  5. And finally – we would all be remiss if you didn’t visit the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historical Shrine. Ok, call me biased – I grew up in Baltimore. But we should all take time to support our national parks, they are treasures.

And yes, I’ve seen the flag, the view of the harbor, and even stood on the ramparts.


While the rest of the world is looking for snow days that lead to spring flowers, those of us in education get a little less sleep in the spring. It’s not lack of sunshine, but the over emphasis on testing. And this is testing season. Whether you are preparing your students for their annual Music Performance Assessment (MPA), solo and ensembles, college auditions, or just the onslaught of academic tests, the spring can cause some educationally induced anxiety. As educators, parents, and just plain people who care about other people, we can help reduce anxiety by talking to others about it.

Performance anxiety is not unique to musicians! Just look at Ricky Williams. This Heisman Trophy winning professional football player became the poster boy for performance anxiety back in 2003.

To combat adding to performance anxiety in yourself and others, consider a few things.

1. Are you creating a success oriented or failure-threatened atmosphere? 25% of your students will fall into one of these categories — how are you helping create success-oriented students?

2. Does the difficulty of the project/music match the level of the performers? Whether it is a college audition, MPA, or just a fun recruiting concert, does the music show off what the students can do? Highlight their strengths?

3. Who is this for? Anxiety will be highest when you are playing before peers or critics, playing solo, or playing for a very large or higher status of audience. Do you acknowledge this with your students, or sweep it under the rug?

4. Do you use a coping strategy? A moment of silence? Meditation? Deep breathing? Yoga? Positive self-talk? Imagine the audience naked? I have read recently about school systems using yoga to combat test anxiety in students, and organization such as YogaCalm have been create for classroom atmosphere. Master choral teacher Doreen Rao even addresses this in her book Circle of Sound which adds movement and meditation to singing instruction.

5. Some anxiety can be a good thing. That rush you get from performing live on stage – that buzz. I get it. I like it, too — that’s why I’m a performer, speaker, teacher, Supermom-Rockstar. Some level of excitement is needed to get you to the top of your game, to create enthusiasm. Don’t overlook this either. It can be a good thing, too.

Whatever your approach, the point is that you have do something to address the anxiety issue with yourself, your children, and your students. Knowledge is power and nothing is that scary when examined by the light of day.

By all accounts, today was a good day.

I was named on of the Top 100 Music Education people on Twitter.

I received the following e-mail from my editor of an article on Technology:

I’ve had some time to spend with your entry for the encyclopedia project this morning, and I wanted to write again to thank you for submitting such a clearly written and informative piece! I really enjoyed reading it, and I think you did an especially wonderful job with writing in a very accessible way for this particular audience. At this time, I do not have any requests for revisions or edits. [ok, shoot me for adding the emphasis, but if you have EVER worked with an editor you know that this NEVER-EVER-EVER happens]

My fully potty-trained 3 year old dressed herself for bed, and my 20-month old pee-peed in the potty for the first time! Given the total scheme of the world, I’m doing pretty well.

But I feel like a failure — all the time.

I start to wonder about my profession and the demand for perfection always. If you instrumental or choral ensemble are only operating at 90% the result is evident and your concert is a little rough on the ears. Has this demand for perfection in music so resulted in the attitude that your only two options are perfection or failure?

I just returned from the Florida Music Educators’ Association Clinic-Conference. The theme this year was “Music Education: The Industry of Creativity”. There was  a great keynote presentation and wonderful sessions on how music education empowers the creative process. Yet, THERE WAS NOT ONE EXAMPLE OF STUDENT CREATIVITY FEATURED. Instead, we were treated to a virtual onslaught of perfect vocal and instrumental ensembles showcasing students. Really?? How creative was that??

I look at this blog – not updated for a VERY long time now. I wonder if the reason I haven’t done it is because of the constant demand for perfection. Somehow, I feel that if my blog post is not some Pulitzer Prize winning manifesto then it must not be worth writing at all. And I worry [ok, I’m terrified] about how this will effect my children. I really need to learn from them that it will all be ok, and a C effort is not failure — it truly is satisfactory.

And that blog posts don’t have to be perfect, either.

There has been a lot of ear talk in my family lately. My son, Lane, who is 9 months old, I think has been born with a perpetual ear infection. We’ve been to the doctor three times since January, and each time the doctors says the same thing: “he has a LOT of ear wax, it got infected, his eardrum perforated and is oozing puss, take some antibiotics.”

If you’re like me, and most musicians I know – you didn’t read anything past “eardrum perforated”. You’re probably touching your ears right now and thinking how much they hurt,  in some sort of empathic bonding experience. Not even counting the number of sleepless nights we have had in our house in the last month, this has been an emotionally draining experience. How do I protect my sons ears – infections or hearing damage? We take both kids to LOTS of concerts and sporting events, and even though I have not brought either of them into a Wind Ensemble or Marching Band rehearsal, we certainly have been in loud places. Will the very essence of my career be damaging to my children?

Baby Brees

I ran across this article in last week in the NY Times about Drew Brees’ son wearing hearing protection at the SuperBowl. I remember watching the game with my husband, who asked “What’s with the headset? Brees think he can coach the game, too?” [a wonderfully sensitive man, my hubby.] Without even thinking about my own children I said “probably to protect his hearing”  – not even registering what had just come out of my mouth. We live 7 miles from the stadium where the SuperBowl was hosted, and our kids have been to many Miami Hurricane and Florida Marlins’  games there. I never thought much about protecting their ears from sporting events, only loud, indoor marching bands.

So I’ve put together a list of preventative measures to help everyone try to protect their – and their kids – ears.

1. Know the danger. Being aware of the damage that noises can do to hearing is a large step. The damage that is done is invisible – you won’t need crutches or a band-aide, so it is easy to overlook. Any situation that results in more than 90 dB will damage hearing, per OSHA guidelines. But be knowledgeable, other standards out there list anything over 85 dB.

2. Give ears a rest. Whether you are teaching lessons, practicing with your band in the garage, or going to the big game, be sure to factor in quiet times to help give your ears time to recover.

3. Model hearing protection. That’s right, put your money where you mouth is and put in your own ear plugs. Kids will do what you do, and as a parent you are always a teacher.

4. Make adjustments to your practice space to reduce the volume. Singing in the bathroom may make you sound like the next Idol, but the resulting acoustics may not be the best in the long run. If you teach lessons out of your house, be sure to find ample space. Minimal space requirements are 17 cubic meters per person/student, with a reverberation time between 1.0-2.0 seconds.

5. Find more – and be – a source of information. As musicians we are probably best to beat the drum about hearing protection. Make is part of you discussions with other parents, and with those in your family. It make it relevant to them, so that they will embrace the information. It wasn’t until I mentioned to my hubby that Lane will not be able to hear an “audible” at the line of scrimmage during his oft dreamed about NFL career that he took this information to heart. ;p

My husband and my children, Matilda and Lane, are endless sources of inspiration to me – and in the most unusual ways. While this blog is not about them, per se, their actions inspire me to investigate, think, and sometimes change the way I look at or do something.

So, this morning when Matilda got out of bed she was in, what us Mom’s like to call, a ‘snit’. No potty, no breakfast, no changing clothes – you get it. My idea to sit down and watch the Wiggles while I got her brother dressed was immediately, and adamantly dismissed. I offered up Mickey Mouse – which was also shot down. For those of you who are still sleeping at 6:30 a.m. – these are pretty much your only choices for toddler TV.  Out of desperation I finally just asked her, “What DO you want to watch???!!!?”.

Calmly, she replied, “Sprout”. And then proceeded to walk over to my husband’s desk, open his laptop, and grab the mouse.

Did I mention she’s two?

We had shown her videos from the Sprout Channel on the laptop before, so she knows they are out there. Always on, always out there. So, then it dawned on me – the absolute power of instant media access. Does this power diminish the value music? Movies?  A live performance experience? If it is broadcast live to world, or available forever on You Tube is it worth less than it used to be? Matilda has had no choice other than to live in a world of immediacy, so she will never know what it was like to wait for a TV show to be available. Just as you and I will never know what it is like to live in a world without cars – they have always been there, and are part of our language. We can think about what it was like when there were no cars, but we will really never know.

As music educators, how do we communicate the value of music if it is always available? Or the value of attending a concert live, in person? I often have visions of people pushing wheelbarrows full of Confederacy Dollars or German Deutschmarks to buy a loaf of bread after they became worthless to the government. Will our students feel the same way about their musical education? Will they be pushing wheelbarrows full of CDs to trade for computer gadgets? Will live performances continue to become fewer while live-streamed or archived events become the norm?

I encourage your thoughts on how – or if – we can continue to keep these experiences valuable in music education.