MUSIC 4 LIFE, LLC

Motivating teachers and students in the world of music


Leave a comment

The High School Band Room Rehearsal Experience- The Band Director is the Key Element

As a classically and jazz-trained percussionist with a Doctorate degree in percussion performance, I have spent thousands of hours participating in or observing high school concert band rehearsals–some very good and others less-than-ideal.

So, what elements do-or-do-not make for a stimulating and musically challenging symphonic concert band rehearsal?  Here are some of the most pertinent issues that most directly affects the outcome of a productive rehearsal:

Conduct yourself Properly- Posters for the Band RoomConduct yourself Properly- Posters for the Band Room

&

It all begins with the band director.  During my high school band years in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I had the great fortune of working with the esteemed conductor, Dr. James Croft.  Throughout his tenure teaching high school band for 20 + years in Wisconsin and subsequent years as the principal wind ensemble conductor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, Dr. Croft became one of the world’s pre-eminent symphonic wind ensemble conductors.

Dare I say that it was an honor and a privilege to have been trained by this great musician during my formative years–emphatically, yes!

Dr. Croft was the epitome and embodiment of musical excellence.  Not only was he a great musician, but he possessed that rare trait of inspiring all his students to greatness.  I have rarely found that remarkable gift in many conductors–he was a unique and special man and talent.  He never accepted anything less that your best performance and behavior during his rehearsals and might I say, that they were intense!

When you Inspire you Light the Fire- Music Posters for the ClassroomWhen you Inspire you Light the Fire- Music Posters for the Classroom

&

If you were not prepared to play your individual parts to his satisfaction, you were immediately chastised and challenged to “step up your game!”  If you didn’t take the music seriously, you wouldn’t last long in his band–you’d be demoted and that would have been devastating!

I was the percussion section leader for three years under the direction of Dr. James Croft. He inspired me; motivated me and once chastised me for not having my section prepared to perform at their peak potential–45 years later I still vividly remember that moment…and it never happened again!

If you were a section leader in the Oshkosh High School Concert Band, you were not only a great young musician, but you were held in the highest possible regard by your peers!  It was an honor to assume this position, and all of us took it very seriously.  My allegiance and participation to the band forever set the highest possible standards within me, and for that I am immensely grateful

I’m summation:  if you want a great symphonic concert band experience, you’ll need a great conductor

10 Tips for a Wind Band Conductor

10 traits a symphonic wind ensemble conductor should possess in order to assure a successful musical experience for his or her students

    1. Be a well-trained and insightful conductor that is capable of interpreting the concert score accurately and musically to the students.
    2. Possess high musical standards and demand the same from the students.  Never compromise mutually-collaborative musical standards of excellence!
    3. Preparation is of paramount importance prior to rehearsing.  Never rehearse a composition without having first studied the score in detail.

Preparation Requires Prior Planning - Music posters for band rooms and classroomsPreparation Requires Prior Planning – Music posters for band rooms and classrooms

&

4. Understand and implement effective rehearsal techniques–don’t waste valuable rehearsal time.  Time-management skills are a necessary component for all successful conductors.

5.Command the rehearsal space and set the proper tone during rehearsals, which must carry over into performances.  Don’t tolerate distractions; negative or counter-productive behavior or lack of preparation by the student musicians.

6. Use affirming and inspiring interpersonal skills whenever possible with student musicians.  Although it is essential to have high expectations and to challenge the performers, it can be advantageous to frame one’s commentary with a positive “spin” during your verbal communications.

7. Build collegiality within the band.  The band performs as one unified entity, so encourage a singular consciousness during rehearsals and performances.

8. Be accessible to students during-and-after rehearsals.  Students will invariably have questions regarding the music, so make yourself available to address their questions–preferably without intimidating them.

9. Use your creativity to enhance the musical experience.  This may involve creative approaches to rehearsing certain portions of the score; video or audio taping the rehearsal, etc.

10.A sense-of-humor can work to your advantage when dealing with moments of frustration that may arise periodically within rehearsals.  Try to make the music-making process positive and fun for the entire band…including yourself!

 

Prioritize Your Practice Routine, a Music poster for sale by JW Pepper


Leave a comment

Practice Room Motivation for Musicians of All Ages

How to Motivate Music Students to Practice

One of the primary issues I confront when dealing with students’ music motivation is inertia and its alter-ego, procrastination–the inability to physically enter a practice room facility (too tired; too bored; too busy) with the intention of improving their musical skills and the perpetual postponement of practicing.

&

Students often have “good intentions,” but frequently have poor follow-through as regards committing to their practicing.  In essence, they may walk past the practice room without actually entering the door.  They become immobilized and unable to make the necessary personal commitment to practicing.  As I often say, “If you want to be great, don’t procrastinate!”

Don't Procrastinate Music Poster for ClassroomsDon’t Procrastinate Music Poster for Classrooms

&

What can be done to override this dilemma?

Firstly, the student needs to take ownership of his or her musical development. Teachers can motivate and inspire students to certain degrees, but ultimately the student needs to “buy in” to the philosophy that they are controlling their own destiny based upon how devoted they are or are not to becoming an excellent musician.

If and when the student embraces this concept, then the issues of hard work; discipline and determination become self-motivators.  This philosophy also applies to younger students, too.  With constant reinforcement and guidance by their teachers on a daily or weekly basis, they become indoctrinated to this mindset and will achieve beyond their expectations.

Hard Work Motivational Wall PosterHard Work Motivational Wall Poster

&

However, this approach must be reinforced consistently and without excuses or exceptions.  Students will test teachers, but the teacher, much like a parent, must remain resolute and unwavering in their convictions and approach.Secondly, students need to learn how to enjoy the process of making music–be it practicing or performing.  Obviously, practicing is a necessary prerequisite or prelude to a performance.
If you are not properly prepared to perform your musical selections at the highest possible level, then the overall experience is not a positive one.
Practicing is a necessity  and a positive attitude  is of critical importance during the practice regimen.  If it is fun, you will be inclined to want to practice.  Conversely, if you have a poor attitude, practicing will be sheer drudgery.

Attitude is Everything Motivational PosterAttitude is Everything Motivational Poster

&

Ultimately, your mindset is up to  each individual, but it helps if your teacher encourages you to enjoy the practice experience.

Tips for Practicing Music

  1. Incorporate music that is shorter in duration and fun to play into your practice routine.  Not every song has to be overly difficult and long.  Build your repertoire (memorized pieces) with a cross-section of selections that vary in degrees of complexity.  Playing music that you are innately attracted to in various styles and idioms will also motivate you to learn that piece and many others like it.
  2. Pick some songs that enable you to improvise (use your creativity to manipulate the songs harmonic, melodic and rhythmic parameters).  This will also enhance your enjoyment of practicing and making music and may rejuvenate you.
  3. Play some duets with another instrumentalist or vocalist.  Practicing with others can be very invigorating.  Remember: music is a communicative art form that is best shared with others.
  4. Audio or video tape yourself practicing.  It’s not only fun to watch and/or listen to yourself practicing, but it’s also an invaluable educational experience.
Pass this onto fellow teachers and if you have some practice tips please leave your idea below.


Leave a comment

Discipline, Determination, and Dedication

In order to survive and possibly thrive in music, you will need to rely upon your “intestinal fortitude” as the great Vince Lombardi once said to his Green Bay Packers football team.

The field of music, be it performance, teaching, recording, retail, etc., is NOT for the faint of heart. You need to dig down deep within yourself in order to remain creative, progressive and to survive financially.

Discipline, determination and dedication will decide your fate, motivational music themed posters for music teachers and classroomsDiscipline, Determination and Dedication Determines Your Fate

This poster, sold by J. W. Pepper helps all Musician’s remain inspired within their craft, to be realistic and to hopefully maintain a career within music if that is your core desire “in life.” 

At some point in time, our THREE D’S poster may be timely for you or a student you know? It is not only a message for music, but for life and would be appropriate in any classroom or study hall.

It ultimately comes down to YOU and what you have within yourself to make the DAILY COMMITMENT to forge onward and upward in life. 


1 Comment

Music Fundamentals are Mentally Fun

Make Practicing Scales and Fundamentals Fun!

Yes, fun! You heard me, learning music theory can be fun, if the teacher can relate to the student and has the creativity and a sense of humor even the most boring of rout scales can enjoyable.

Music teachers and instructors can instill in a love of learning basic music fundamentals by taking a creative approach learning scales, chords and theory can become enjoyable instead of a drudgery.

Music Fundamentals are Mentally Fun! A reminder for music majors, band students and all musicians. Motivational music poster for teachers available from JW PepperMusic Fundamentals are Mentally Fun Poster

Music fundamentals are essential to the development of all serious-minded musicians. Basic fundamental techniques, concepts and rudimentary information in all areas of music such as performance; theory;composing/arranging; recording; etc., must be mastered prior to functioning at a more advanced level.

For instance practicing scales can be one of the most boring parts of practice. What about making it into a game, or a Skittles reward, at the end of the piano scale run you eat a Skittles (obviously this won’t work for woodwind instruments). Or, what about adding a little style and rhythm to your scales with a few staccatos, jazz it up a bit and those scales will start to play themselves.

What Are You Doing as a Teacher to Make Fundamentals Fun?

Leave a comment below on what you do to encourage building basic music fundamentals and what work for you.

Don’t forget, the poster above is available for sale at J.W. Pepper and would make a great addition to a practice room to remind students that yes, fundamentals are the building blocks to every great musician.


Leave a comment

Attitude is Everything

If you want to succeed in the music business or any business for that matter, make sure that you develop a positive; helpful; flexible and friendly attitude. Remember: people like to work with colleagues that are intrinsically pleasant and cooperative individuals.

So, don’t develop a negative, irritable and arrogant attitude that will ultimately damage your career…and your personal life.

Attitude is Everything Poster

This sounds easy and really it is when you think about it, but it cooperation takes practice and a concerted effort.  You must bring these traits in the room with you each time you work with others

Flexible Can Do Attitude: bring to any conversation or business dialog a can do attitude, don’t let obstacles get in your way, but  be the person who can find solutions to the bumps in the road

Care Attitude: truly care about your work, the people around you and the project. If you don’t care the project will not be a success

Friendly & Cheerful Attitude: smile, no one likes to work with people who complain, whine, or show up to the Monday morning meeting with a chip on their shoulder

Honesty Attitude: be honest and sincere in what you do, be truthful and don’t have hidden agendas.

Helpful Attitude: be willing to help others succeed, give assistance, and be the first to offer assistance

Classroom Teaching Moment

Teachers: Use this poster to start discussions about attitude in your class and tie this into the Character Counts lessons at your school.

Band Directors: In so many instances could this poster be used for musical moments and trying times in the band room

  • Marching band horn section is whining and complaining it’s too cold to march outside
  • The students in the Monday morning don’t really want to be in class and therefore play their instrument with little effort

Can you think of others opportunities to use this poster in your classroom, or an attitude problem that could be addressed with a change of attitude? Add them below in the comment section.


Leave a comment

Musical Focus is No Hocus-Pocus

One skill musicians need to learn is how to focus. In every facet of life learning to focus on one task, or prioritizing high payoff activities is a challenge, especially in the social media world in which we live.  Our lives are surrounded by technology, cell phones, instant Facebook notifications, tweets, beeps, and this overload of stimulation makes it a  challenge to stay focused.

Research done by Scientific Reports has proven that listening to music you like actually improves focus. It is ironic that the same trait which make musicians creative individuals also work against us in our struggle to FOCUS. Yes, I said it, musicians and artists have a higher incidence of ADD (attention deficit disorder), but does that really surprise you?

Musical Focus is no Hocus Pocus, Inspiring and motivating posters for music teachers and educators from JW PepperMusical Focus is No Hocus Pocus

Importance of Musical Focus

Musicians tend to fall into one of the following two categories:

  1. Those that maintain their musical focus.
  2. Those that lose their musical focus.

Musicians that possess a bona fide ability to maintain their focus when performing are inclined to play accurately and maintain a high level of musical excellence. These musicians remain poised, relaxed and confident throughout their execution of the music, because they rely upon their training, preparation, composure and ability to remain focused as they navigate comfortably throughout the entirety of the composition.

Alternatively, musicians who for one reason or another have not developed the ability to remain focused during a performance, tend to play inaccurately and are prone to losing their place within the music.

Moreover, when they perform, they are very susceptible to the infamous “crash-and-burn syndrome,” which can totally derail their performance with catastrophic results–something to be avoided at all costs!

In some instances, musicians that fall into this latter category can overcome their lack-of-focus, which often results in performance anxiety and other musical insecurities, with proper training from a skilled professional musician.

In addition to developing more consistent musical focus with the input from an esteemed professional in their field, they need lots of experience performing in front of people in a variety of contexts and venues in order to better solidify this technique.


14 Comments

When You Memorize Music

When You Memorize Music, You Mesmerize the Audience

Memorizing music enables you to play and interpret music in a more confident, creative and relaxed manner. When you perform, a music stand is no longer a visual barrier between you and your audience. This enables better communication and interaction to occur between the performer and the audience.

Memorize Music, Mesmerize the Audience Poster

This message is not only true of for music students memorizing a piece for a recital or concert but it is essential for any professional musician. Think about it, how often do you ever see a rock concert, or performer with sheet music on the piano or in front of them? Rarely, if not ever. It is part of the mystic and magic of musical performers, just how do they do that? It is how they mesmerize their audience.

Memorizing music for many is not easy, for others it just comes natural, but it does take time. Once you obtain this skill you are one step further in advancing your journey as a musician. Below are some tips to help you memorize music.

Techniques in Memorizing Music

  1. Break the music down into small increments such as one- and two measure segments.  Don’t go on until they are solidified.  Keep progressing in a similar manner.
  2. Visualize the music.  Don’t just memorize with muscle memory as that is an imperfect system by itself.
  3. Memorize the harmonic (chordal) progression as well as the melody.
  4. Simulate performing the music technically without actually playing your instrument.  The music must be secured within the mind above all.
  5. Sing the music to yourself before actually playing it.  Then repeat the process as often as necessary.
  6. Audio-and videotape yourself performing the music.  Then study it and retain it.
  7. Consider memorizing in reverse order.  Work backwards.
  8. Maintain the memorized music by playing it often enough to keep it fresh and current within your repertoire.  Don’t be forced to relearn what you’ve already learned.
  9. Once memorized, don’t allow yourself to ever use a music stand as a “crutch.”  That’s a cop out and it invalidates all your hard memorizing preparation.
  10. Play the memorized music with distractions–TV on; people talking; etc.  It may help you remain focused during problematic moments within a concert.

Do you have any tips that have worked for you? If so please add them below to add to the list.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,820 other followers