Wednesday, June 5, 2013

new website

[several years later . . .]

I finally got around to building a personal website for myself. I plan to resume blogging on Music Ed and Education-related issues in a limited manner there.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Last Post.

"Glued to the String" seems to have run its course. It's nice to see there are still readers coming here occasionally, and I apologize for not having posted any new content for so long.

At some point, I hope to begin writing further blog posts specific to music education, string teaching, music in the schools, and the like. Not right now, though, and no longer in this forum. This blog was created as a summer project, creative outlet, and writing exercise. I don't see any reason to continue maintaining it. I will leave all of the posts which I feel may be useful or pertinent, but many of the archives will gradually be deleted.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blog recommendation - "Thoughts of a String Educator"

Here's an excellent blog I just ran across, by an orchestra teacher calling himself "orchestra guy" (which is a bit like "batman", except without all the pricey gear)

[quote from Thoughts of a String Educator]
First, we need to encourage or even force our students to be musicians. They need to be scientists in science class. Be mathematicians in math class. Be writers in English class. You get the point. It is not enough to be a music student in an orchestra. You have to be a musician. You have to think like a musician, feel like a musician, listen like a musician, count like a musician, BE a musician. Too often, I think that we expect our students to be music students, not musicians. But, how do we get them to do this?

We have to teach them how a musician thinks. We have to teach them HOW a musician counts, how a musician listens, how a musician moves, how a musician feels. I think that too often, we get so caught up in the facts ("make that C sharp higher, hold your bow this way, etc.) that we forget to teach the thought process. . . .
[end quote]


Monday, February 9, 2009

Sound and Fury: individual practice in group settings?

I'm an experienced school string teacher. I've gone through loads of coursework and professional training over the years, and have seven years of full-time, professional school experience under my belt.

However, I think that being a parent is teaching me more about the processes of teaching and learning than I ever could have grasped through reading, practice, or any pedagogical training. Two of my three children have been studying with good Suzuki studio teachers for some time now (one is playing piano, the other violin), so I have a front row seat in watching the whole process unfold.

Sometimes things become obvious when you change your perspective.

That long introduction was intended to lead into a fairly simple point: one of my daughter's private teachers threw me for a loop a few weeks ago when she advocated for students to practice periodically with lots of distractions. She specifically mentioned playing pieces in one key while someone else in the same room practices an entirely different piece in another key.

This is something I would never allow in my lesson groups. Since the first time I started studio teaching well over a decade ago, I've always instinctively encouraged students to listen hard to what's going on around them. In the opportunities I've had to start or take over school string programs, one of the first things I've always done is to forbid students from practicing individual parts during lesson groups or rehearsals. I always try to have students in group lessons play either in unison or complementary parts - I have always tried to break the habit of students playing without listening.

Now, a very good teacher who I pay to help teach my own children has me thinking I may have done all those students a disservice. Did I discourage them from developing the skill of focusing in the midst of distractions?

Music teachers and musicians: any thoughts?

Here are some of the points that I've thought about. I've obviously come to no conclusions:

-The teacher in question got this idea while hosting Japanese Talent Education teachers and students years ago. As I understand it, Japanese families are used to living in very close quarters and don't share the same need for "personal space" that I do . . . I've noticed that many of my students (who, by and large, come from "inner city" backgrounds) are also accustomed to very close quarters and are not as leery about "close personal contact" as I . . . so, by not allowing them to be noisy or to work on parallel paths, am I "shutting them down"?

- I personally have a very high ability to tune out and focus on singular tasks with lots of noise and distraction when necessary. However, I find it impossible to focus specifically on teaching in the midst of any noise or interruption. So, ultimately, am I silencing the kids just for my own convenience?

- Many of my kids, for a variety of reasons, don't or can't practice outside of school. Should I let them have the time to do it during our scarce group lesson time? Is some better than none? Does anyone have experience integrating practice time into lesson time?

I'm looking forward to getting some input on this one . . .