Archives for May 2015

How to Cultivate a Great Beginner Band

GLUwtmTCCuymZ-ImL3JqYVUFF54n48w7FHRF9OID26M,SsOsKpCO0m_f_GjT9aQOxcJgVrZOERC4a8DkH3yD3uI,aDh-zytmUFgt4EklOL-nshUU2gshh2awOxatmVvJHcI,rJ5omtAhpErjL8r6YKOx5T8DqhfhQfarzQ0D1O87C4AI spent a decade teaching band in a middle school classroom in Brooklyn, NY.  I started students on band instruments, from scratch, in a group of 100 — no small group lessons.  By 8th grade, the students were performing high school and college level music at a very high level.

I wish I could say I walked into the job knowing how to accomplish what I did, but that was not the case.  I was a professional musician with no degree in education; I couldn’t put a flute together, let alone teach it; and worse — I had a low expectation of what kids were capable of doing musically (especially in an urban setting).

Although I am ashamed to say those things, I am proud to say that I was wrong, and I spent all my life energy seeking to find ways to help all students reach their full musical potential.  I also found that, if I taught every class as if it was a large private lesson — a “perfect practice session”, of sorts — instead of teaching to the concert, my students improved in leaps and bounds.

Here are some ideas to maximize your large ensemble rehearsals and create great musicians — and people — in the process:

[Read more…]

Why Performance Practice Should Be Part of Every Young Musician’s Practice Routine

This is a guest post by performance psychologist Dr. Noa Kageyama.  Noa is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and teaches performing artists how to utilize sport psychology principles and more consistently perform up to their full abilities under pressure. For more tips on effective practicing, learning, and performing, visit his blog, The Bulletproof Musician


Kinhaven 2014-214My mom likes to tell the story of the time I once walked out on stage, turned to the pianist to tune, and then forgot to turn back around, performing the entire piece with my back to the audience.

In hindsight, I’m sure it was pretty cute, but in the moment, my mom was mortified and resolved to make sure I wouldn’t forget something so obvious the next time.

So, throughout my early formative years, the week leading up to every performance contained lots and lots of performance practice. Where I would put on my concert clothes, pretend to walk out on stage, smile, bow, tune, pretend to shake the conductor’s hand – the whole nine yards. No matter how seemingly trivial the detail, the idea was to make every step of the performance a deeply-ingrained habit that I didn’t have to think about, to ensure that when I walked out on stage, everything would go smoothly.

Indeed, things went swimmingly from then on, but as I grew older, I started taking on more of the responsibility for practicing and naturally drifted away from some of these mom-initiated strategies that I thought I had outgrown.

[Read more…]

Instrumental Music Education and the Power of Play in Our Schools

Kinhaven 2014-163I have spent many years visiting public schools throughout our nation, and most times I see the same thing:  students hard at work.  There is always lots of work going on in our schools, and with the increased emphasis on meeting national and state standards there is more work coming.  My Kindergarten-bound daughter will get right to work when she goes to school next year on what used to be a 1st grade curriculum.  As a matter of fact, my wife and I had to search quite a bit for pre-schools that were play-based as opposed to a more structured elementary school-ish routine.  The less play our children experience during the school day, the more adult-assigned tasks they will receive — that’s not the roadmap to independent and creative thinking.

But when I visit music classes in schools, I see something different.

I see students playing.

[Read more…]

4 Ways Parents Can Ensure Their Child Sticks with Instrumental Music When They Graduate to Middle School

_AO71105Graduating from one to school to the next is both an exciting and crazy time, to say the least.  The changes that are occurring biologically, socially, and academically in children are enough to make parents’ heads spin.  With a change in school comes a  lot of unanswered questions:  What will the schedule be like?  Will there be a ton of homework?  What classes are my child’s friends taking?  How do I set up my child to do well academically?

Middle school years, especially, are a time of amazing growth — music can (and should) play a huge part in this.  Quite often, however, music falls by the wayside when students graduate from elementary school to attend middle school — and again when students graduate middle school to high school.

[Read more…]

The Music Education (or Creativity) Achievement Gap in America, and How We Can Begin to Fix It

Kinhaven 2014-248Our nation has been deeply committed to closing the achievement gap that exists in our education system for almost 15 years. Achievement gaps occur when one group of students outperforms another group and the difference in average scores for the two groups is statistically significant. Most school systems use Hispanic-White and Black-White scores in mathematics and reading to determine the gap for these groups and to illuminate patterns and changes in these gaps over time.  This gap is only based on test scores and has nothing to do with any other area of school curricula (or life, in general).  I believe that this misguided view of test scores defining “achievement” has stunted both our children’s growth and our growth as a nation that values education.

Another achievement gap exists when instrumental music education enters a school’s curriculum.  When students receive their instruments for the first time, they are divided into “haves” and “have-nots” immediately, and for different reasons.  I call this the Creativity Achievement Gap.  If left unaddressed, I believe this gap not only has serious consequences for students’ creative potential, but also for their personal progress and true achievement in life beyond school walls.

What causes this immediate handicapping of students’ potential as musicians and creative people?

[Read more…]