Review of Learning Strategies for Musical Success by Michael Griffin

Learning Strategies for Musical Success

Michael Griffin has become quite a familiar name for Music Matters Blog readers. Just from the little I’ve been exposed to his work and the little I know about him, Mr. Griffin is a thoroughly impressive music educator and has definitely earned the recognition and promotion he’s received on the blog. Author of Music and Keyboard in the Classroom and developer of Music Education World, Michael Griffin has produced yet another excellent resource for the music community!

I might’ve not agreed with everything in the book, but very rarely do I come away from reviewing a product feeling INSPIRED! While reading the book, I discovered that Natalie uses some of the very same methods that are encouraged for greater musical success-methods that were used to teach me and help me excel in my musical endeavors, particularly the “student-teacher” method Griffin discusses.

“We learn…
10% of what we read
20% of what we hear 
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what is discussed with others
80% of what is experienced personally
95% of what we teach to someone else.”
-William Glasser, American Psychiatrist (found in the book)

Developing this fact-based, informative, well-researched, and personal-perspective book was clearly no walk in the park. I can only imagine the hours that were poured into getting this work published! By the time I finished the book, I was inspired to keep learning and challenging myself; I was inspired to strive more for excellence and be willing to work hard to achieve that. I felt like Mr. Griffin clearly communicated his message-and with a passion: “With a growth-mindset, and repeated and sustained effort, we can substantially improve in our endeavors.” He definitely holds to a similar theory in musical excellence and success as Einstein did in genius: “Genius is 1 % talent and 99% hard work…” I appreciate Mr. Griffin’s desire to re-instill this in people because the mindset to work hard and not take your talents for granted is deteriorating quite rapidly in our society-especially in younger generations.

If you’re a music educator-or maybe even hold another occupation-I believe you will find this book incredibly beneficial and inspiring! Plus, the book is nicely laid out into six chapters with thoughtfully divided sections and includes numerous illustrations, making it very “reference-friendly.” Take a peek inside!:


(Pg. 74, Figure 19: Higher-Order Thinking Skills)

“The self-directed action of doing something for its inherent value, for the sake of self-growth, is characteristically exhilarating, gratifying, uplifting, and enjoyable.”  -David Elliott (This is a quote used on pg. 77, section “Enjoyment”)

“Successful people overcome obstacles and even turn them to their advantage.” (pg. 81, section “Attitude of Mind”)


(Pg. 120, Figure 26: Multiple Intelligences Model)


(Pg. 121, section “Multiple Intelligences Theory”)


(Pg. 124, section “Music and the Brain”)

I loved portions of chapter 3 (“The Soft Skills of Achievement”) and chapter 6 (“Music and Intelligence), and found chapter 6’s, “Music and the Brain” section particularly fascinating!

To find out more about the book and/or get your own copy, click here! And if you’re interested in staying up-to-date on Griffin’s latest musical strategies, hop on over to his blog: Learning Strategies for Musical Success

Enjoy!

 

 

Review of Coffee with Ray by Nick Ambrosino

Coffee with Ray by Nick Ambrosino

In this easy-to-read story, you will follow the journey of Matt, a deeply frustrated piano teacher, who is desperate to find something that will help him enjoy the career he chose over seven years ago because of his love for music. You will also find he likes coffee. You will also find he drives a lot. You will also find Matt meets a man named, Ray. With all these things combined, you will find yourself in the midst of Matt’s quest to discover how to become the piano teacher he wants to be and to see the success he wishes to see in his students as well as himself.

One thing I did appreciate in the story, is that Matt is encouraged to take the responsibility he needs to as the music educator and to look more at what his students accomplish, rather than them being accomplished. Having the vision for students to become well-rounded musicians is something that I believe is hugely important as an educator, but you have to be willing to take one step at a time. I believe this is sometimes overlooked by teachers, parents, and even students-not just in music, but in other fields as well-when it’s something that really needs to be recognized.

Because of the underlying philosophy that is expressed and adopted in the book, and the use of some cuss words/phrases, I can’t recommend this product as a whole. But if you’d like to find out more about Coffee with Ray or its author, check out the links below:

Coffee with Ray
About Nick Ambrosino

Overview of Go for the Gold! Recorder by Kevin Babuder

Go for the Gold! Recorder is a multi-touch book created for a Mac or iPad and can be purchased through iTunes to read and enjoy in your iBooks. This is a beginner edition and from what I’ve read, to take full advantage of the interactive aspects the book offers, it’s best to use an iPad.

Not only will readers learn the basics of playing the recorder, but they will learn about different sports as well as some fun facts about different countries’ geography, culture, and music. This book has somewhat of an “Olympic” theme to it!

I love it when multiple subjects are incorporated into one resource because, at least from my own experience, when events, historical figures, and/or subjects are correlated, I tend to retain that information a lot longer. I’m not sure why exactly this is, but it seems like our brains naturally gravitate toward retaining pieces of information that relate to each other-especially when they’ve been learned at the same time. The ability God’s given our mind and memory is incredible!

According to the website, it appears that when you purchase the interactive book, the student receives a one-year subscription and it’s not a one time purchase. That detail is pretty unclear if you’re just looking at the product in iTunes. On the website, it shows that Go for the Gold! Recorder has some competition involved and that there’s also a “teacher” subscription you can purchase. Check out the website for more details about these things!
To view on iTunes:

Review of The Songs of Hollywood by Philip Furia & Laurie Patterson

The Songs of Hollywood

I can’t think of any other title that would be more appropriate for this book. It might be a plain and simple name, but let me tell you, this book is chock-full of “songs of Hollywood”!

Personally, I love some of those old classic songs and dance numbers that Hollywood incorporated into their 20th century movies (especially “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”). And even though the music style in movies has greatly changed since the “golden age,” I still really enjoy and gravitate toward music/dance movies that are well done and artistic.

Although I didn’t read this book cover to cover, from what I did read, I could tell the authors put many hours of hard work into this project because of the careful attention to detail and timeline. The book includes many, many lyric excerpts  as well as thumbnail pictures off to the side of certain movies-which I believe kept it more intriguing and visually appealing. Along with excerpts and pictures, each chapter includes lots of historical notes about songs, artists, song writers’ perspectives, the movie, the time period, or the entertainment industry itself. The book does reference some not so “golden” incidents from history, so just be aware of that if you pick it up to read.

Songs of Hollywood did delve into some songs and movies that followed the 1920-1950’s era, such as “Mary Poppins” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” but it primarily seemed to track the progression of songs that hit the limelight during the “golden age.”

Like I said, I didn’t read this all the way through, but I enjoyed what I did read and getting a history lesson in one of the biggest industries of our society! If you’re in need of a helpful resource to prepare for a workshop, group class, or are just interested in the evolution of 20th century Hollywood music, The Songs of Hollywood would be a great place to start. At the back, the book has several pages of chapter references, a credits section, a general index, and a song index.

After writing my review, I found this endorsement on the back of the book and wished I had seen it earlier because it would’ve saved me from having to write anything:

The Songs of Hollywood is a brilliantly researched, highly entertaining cornucopia of facts, tracing and defining the evolution of the use of songs in film. It’s a fascinating read, bursting with information about the great songwriters, performers, producers and directors who transformed a novelty gimmick into an art form.”
-Richard M. Sherman, Composer/Lyricist of Marry Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Jungle Book

Review of Madge’s Notebook: A Piano Tribute to the Hunger Games by Rebekah Maxner

(This book is not licensed or endorsed by Suzanne Collins or Lions Gate Entertainment.)

Let’s say you want a new piano book for your intermediate/late intermediate student. But not just any book. You want one that’s going to get them pumped, kindles an interest in classical music, and integrates movie-like themes, yet is challenging all at the same time. If that’s what you want, then Madge’s Notebook: A Piano Tribute to the Hunger Games is the way to go!

I have only seen The Hunger Games movies, but from what I gather, Miss Maxner seems to be quite versed in The Hunger Games series. She has used that knowledge to put together a very creative and unique music book containing songs that capture the series’ setting and story really well, while tastefully interweaving snippets of famous pieces (“Ave Maria”, “Imagine”, etc). At the back of the book you can find what themes she incorporated into her songs.

When I was younger (and even now) I loved playing chilling soundtrack songs! I got goose bumps everywhere when I could finally play Pirates of the Carribean, but you know what was so great? I loved the feeling of playing something that sounded grand and elaborate, something that you could listen to on a CD. I believe some students will feel similar about Madge’s Notebook. Even though Madge’s Notebook isn’t a motion picture score, it’s well done “inspired by” music; and a motivated and hard working student will grow a lot from learning these songs. More than that, they’ll be one step closer to being able to play the original versions of historical pieces and pop songs they love!

Just as a side note, there are some pretty tricky rhythms and notations, and I found hearing some of the songs played on Rebekah Maxner’s YouTube channel quite helpful.

Rebekah Maxner’s YouTube Channel

To get your own copy…
Notekidds Website

Review of Tito Puente-Mambo King by Monica Brown

I was halfway through the illustrated children’s book when all of a sudden I thought, This doesn’t sound like a fictional story. Sure enough, once I got to the end of little Tito’s musical journey I discovered he was no fictional character!

Tito Puente – Mambo King by: Monica Brown

In fact, the reader experiences quite a fascinating ride following the life of musician, Ernest Anthony Puente Jr. “King of the Mambo”, with the book’s energy-filled pages and bilingual aspect. (When I first started reading the book and flipped to the first page, I thought it was only in Spanish and had no idea how I was going to review it! …then I saw the English text above the Spanish.)

Tito Puente-Mambo King is very vibrant, faster paced, and quite colorful-wonderful components to keeping a reader (especially a child) engaged in an illustrated story. If it’s artfully done, like this one, I say the more for a child to look at, the better! Plus, on top of it just being a story, you get a music and general history lesson.

At the back of the book, there’s a short biography of Puente Jr. that you can read and learn all sorts of facts about him. And if you’re bilingual, you can even read the biography twice!

I have to say, in spite of not being particularly fond of bilingual children’s books or this style of illustration, my hat is off to Miss Brown for creating such a fun and enjoyable book. It was well done.

Review of The Piano Bench Mag

Karen Gibson, publisher of The Piano Bench Mag, has established an “on the go” music magazine for teachers! Whether waiting for an appointment or just sitting at home, you’ll find a plethora of different ideas in her monthly publication.

The magazine has a specific topic for each month. December focused on Practice, January was Games, February takes a look at Students, and the most recent focuses on Technique. I really like how Gibson includes a variety of articles, as well as resources and helpful tidbit pages. I am much more inclined to look through an entire magazine if I can acquire information apart from just reading articles. Each monthly issue seems to be pretty substantial, too, so you’re pretty well guaranteed a good amount of information and ideas!

If you’d like to purchase an issue or subscribe to The Piano Bench Mag – providing resources and inspiration for piano teachers, it’s available for mobile devices through Apple Newsstand and Google Play (for Android). You can also find The Piano Bench Mag on Facebook.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-piano-bench-mag/id712098279?ls=1&mt=8

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bdhjefeedd.gfcbdhjefeedd

https://www.facebook.com/PianoBenchMag

To try it out, I downloaded it to my iPhone Newsstand (which I have never used before) and I could navigate it pretty well, but from what I could tell, the formatting for the iPad version looked nicer.

If you want a free 3 month subscription, be one of the first three to comment “subscribe me” and the free subscription will be yours!

UltraMusician

In a world of advancing technological capabilities, I love discovering new inventions that create more efficient ways to do things or provide another outlet to learn.

Even though I have not personally tried UltraMusician, I like the approach that David Mann has developed for people to learn music on the site. UltraMusician teaches full music comprehension by using 4 of the most essential skills (instrument, theory, sound, and notation) to become a well-rounded musician.

The program is designed with a game-like interface that moves from one skill to another so that everything remains cohesive. And it’s not just designed for youngsters but anyone wanting to learn music.

Below is a video giving further detail about this total music comprehension site and how it works, as well as introducing their desire to launch development of the “UltraMusician Mobile App”.

If you’d like to support UltraMusician’s App Project, head on over to their Kickstarter page before their campaign ends March 2.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1538038397/the-ultimate-mobile-app-for-learning-music?ref=search

You can also check out UltraMusician for yourself by going to their website:

http://www.ultramusician.com

 

Piano Safari: The Journey Begins…

I remember sitting at a restaurant in Austin, TX with a group of fellow MTNA conference attendees in 2006. Julie Knerr and Katie Fisher were among the group, and I sat with rapt attention as they flipped through pages of hand-drawn illustrations and notes while explaining the concept behind the new piano method they were creating. Little did I know that my own journey over the next six years would so perfectly prepare me for the official launch of Piano Safari!

I nearly leaped for joy when I read these two sentences in the Teacher’s Guide for Piano Safari: “In my use of various piano method series, I have come to believe that the main goal of most piano method series is not necessarily to teach children to play the piano. Instead, the goal of many method books is to teach children to read music notation at the piano.”

Ever since my epiphany at the conclusion of the Pattern Play Intensive and my subsequent experience at the Creative Life conference, I’ve been striving to teach in a way that reflects my desire to move away from a strictly literature-based approach to teaching, and adopt more of an experiential playing-based model of learning. In a sense, for the first 15 years of my teaching, I taught as though learning was the path to playing. But after experiencing a paradigm shift, I would now posit that the reverse is true: playing is the path to learning.

Piano Safari is the only method I know of that is based on this experiential and playing-based philosophy. Instead of reading music notation being the core, students are taught to develop beautiful technique, a sense of musicality, freedom to explore, discover, and create, an internal rhythmic pulse, and proficient sight-reading through a rich musical selection of rote pieces, improvisation experiences, guided compositions, and excellently sequenced reading skills.

The books are beautifully designed, with creative piece titles, memorable lyrics, and engaging music that is fun to play. I love that my students are learning eighth note rhythms right off the bat and getting to play music that sounds really cool. Learning by rote gives them freedom to focus on technique and explore lots of creative variations. They also learn to memorize quickly, and by the time they get to the end of the book, they have dozens of songs they can play by memory.

Piano Safari has revolutionized the way I teach and given me a framework to work within to provide a comprehensive and musically rich learning experience for beginning piano students. I am so grateful to Julie and Katie for creating this amazing method and providing myriad articles, videos, and other resources to help teachers successfully guide students onto a lifelong path as musicians. My students and I are loving the journey!

Review of Prodigy Short Film


Within this short 7-minute film a pretty accurate picture is painted depicting the great hopes and expectations many parents have for their children. It also shows how many parents might have a dream for a child, but don’t recognize the fact that it takes time and investment from both themselves and the child (if they’re interested) to accomplish dreams, and how an understanding teacher can have an incredible impact when they shed light on that fact. The small film group that produced this did an admirable job of getting their point across with a tastefully done story and interesting aspects in such a short amount of time.

Even though there are a few stilted moments and the image quality is a ways from being professional, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall flow of the film and the acting quality of the small cast. The little girl receiving a violin lesson is pretty adorable, too!

I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a wonderful teaching resource, but it is an enlightening reminder to be willing to be patient and not expect too much too soon in any endeavor whether we are a teacher, a student, or a parent.