December 21, 2010

Movie Director Debut

Check out Samuel's debut as movie director!
He and his friends made the movie for a project and won the "Academy Award" for Best Film.
Congratulations, Samuel!

December 11, 2010

Theory Tests - Fall 2010

Congratulations to Caleb who received a Gold Medal for his score of 98.5 on the Texas Music Teachers Association Student Affiliate State Theory Examination, Grade Level 6.

Congratulations to William who received a Silver Medal for his score of 97.75 on the Texas Music Teachers Association Student Affiliate State Theory Examination, Grade Level 6.

Congratulations to Samuel who received a Gold Medal for his score of 98 on the Texas Music Teachers Association Student Affiliate State Theory Examination, Grade Level 9.

September 17, 2010

Bach Panther

An interesting interview with pianist/composer St├ęphane Delplace and the art and complexity of the fugue. 

For more about St├ęphane Delplace, click here.

July 18, 2010

What's a Pedal Piano?

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann. Almost every pianist has played one of his many pieces written for piano. He also wrote some pieces for a pedal piano. This is a piano that has pedals, similar to an organ, for playing bass lines. A company in Italy (Borgato) currently makes pedal pianos. Take a look at these two videos to see it in action and the Borgato homepage.

Silvio Celeghin plays Brahms on Pedal Piano
Mirco Bruson plays Bach on Pedal Piano

Borgato Homepage

July 8, 2010

Diminution of a Minor

If you can laugh at these puns, then you have progressed far in your theoretical understandings of music - Congratulations!   If you don't understand what is funny, wait a few years and then you will.

C, an E-flat, and G go into a bar. The bartender says: "Sorry, but we don't serve minors." So, the E-flat leaves, and the C and the G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished: the G is out flat.  
An F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. A D comes into the bar and heads straight for the bathroom saying, "Excuse me, I'll just be a second."  
An A comes into the bar, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor. Then the bartender notices a B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and exclaims: "Get out now! You're the seventh minor I've found in this bar tonight." The E-flat, not easily deflated, comes back to the bar the next night in a 3-piece suit with nicely shined shoes.  
The bartender (who used to have a nice corporate job until his company downsized) says: "You're looking sharp tonight, come on in! This could be a major development." This proves to be the case, as the E-flat takes off the suit and stands there au natural. Eventually, the C sobers up and realizes in horror that he's under a rest. The C is brought to trial, is found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of DS without Coda at an upscale correctional facility.  
On appeal, however, the C is found innocent of any wrongdoing, even accidental, and that all accusations to the contrary are bassless. The bartender decides, however, that since he's only had tenor so patrons, the soprano out in the bathroom, and everything has become alto much treble, he needs a rest and closes the bar.

June 20, 2010

Understanding Mental Practice

The most important organ of your body in piano practicing is your brain.  Whenever you practice, you actually create neural pathways in the brain.  With each repetition, the pathway is strengthened.  A strengthened pathway is one in which the neurons move faster along the nerve to the next nerve.  At a certain point, whatever you have practiced will be produced without you having to give much thought to it.

An illustration of this is walking.  When you walk, you are in auto-mode.  You don't have to think about:

  • shifting your weight from one leg to the next
  • moving your leg forward
  • coordinating the weight transfer with foot movement

All these things happen without conscious thought.

Practicing accurately to construct a correct neural pathway is crucial. If your allow mistakes in your practice, then that is what will come out when you are in auto-mode. Perhaps you have experienced trying to correct or change some notes or some phrasing after you have learned it one way.  You think you have corrected it. But when you are under stress with performing in public or at a piano lesson, the old way resurfaces.  This occurs because the new way is not as secure and established in your brain as the old way.  It takes a lot of correct and accurate playings to make the new way of playing stronger than the old.

Once you have learned a piece or a few measures, you can mentally practice. That means you can imagine the feeling of your muscles, fingers, arms, hands, wrists, elbow, etc while hearing the sounds in your head.  If you do this, you will find that your memorization of the piece becomes more secure. This is a great way to practice when you don't have access to a piano.

February 23, 2010

Music and Beauty

Music is the ball, life is the playing field, the teacher is the coach, and the student is participant. Moving the ball requires knowledge of musicianship which in turn promotes character development and life skills for the participants. The teacher enables the student to discover the music that resides within the heart, as the student experiences making music and develops listening skills. Ultimately, music will prepare the student to live life with a greater depth of meaning and understanding.

The analogy may seem far-fetched to the pragmatist and materialist. Yet the unseen forces of music in human lives are visible every day. We encounter music everywhere - radios, iPods, mp3 players, CDs, video games, television, shopping malls, stores, movies, advertisements – and music essential to their existence.2 From brain learning research, the complexity of processing music in the brain demonstrates a remarkably high level of neurological activity. In fact, the healing professions recognize and utilize the healing elements of music. In math, science, and English, brain learning is enhanced and stimulated by the making of and participation in music.

The disciplines employed in musicianship have intrinsic rewards. Self-growth, self-knowledge, self-confidence, self-control, and personal enjoyment are inherent in the process of acquiring the skills of musicianship. Beauty calls to beauty. The beauty of music calls forth the beauty that resides in the souls of the music-makers and the music-listeners. In the playing field of life, music may display many facets of beauty, as a diamond when rotated under intense light. And more than just an enhancement to our lives, music can enrich and give dignity to our humanness.

Music shares the quality of beauty with other academics. Not all instructors see the beauty of their disciplines, but those who have mastery of their fields will speak of the beauty of an equation, hypothesis, words, or sounds. And though many walk right past beauty in their everyday lives, without giving it a thought or glance, young children seem particularly aware of beauty all around them. Though, a person’s perception of beauty may become dulled over time, music continues to put forth its call in hopes of awakening a student's slumbering awareness of beauty once again.

- Allen Long

February 20, 2010

Passion, Ability Drive Young Piano Prodigy

This article is by Dawn Redig - the neighborsgo section editor for Rockwall, Rowlett, Heath and RoyseCity. Posted 2/16/2010.

For 10-year-old William Lord of Rowlett, names such as Shubert, Rachmaninoff, Kuhlau and Beethoven are household words.

So are “ni hao” and “zai jian,” which in Mandarin, mean “hello” and “goodbye.”

Not only can the fifth-grader speak the language of his grandparents, who live in Beijing, but he can recite the biography of Ludwig van Beethoven. He scores close to perfection in math at KimberlinAcademy in Garland, where he’s in the gifted and talented program. And, every other Sunday, he’s the featured pianist at Highland Park Cafeteria, where he captivates connoisseurs of classical music while feeding his passion to play.

To read more click here.