As our school year begins, we wanted to talk to our teachers about how things are going in their lessons. Our first teacher to share his story is pianist and drummer Rick Smith.
Jammin' With You!: What do you teach at JWY!?
Rick Smith: I teach Piano, Drum Set and Percussion.
JWY!: What do you like most about teaching students music?
RS: I have wonderful memories of my childhood music teachers. They showed me how wonderful music can be. Today, I strive to have that kind of impact on my students. It also works great for my life as a professional touring musician.
JWY!: What are you looking forward to this year with your students?
RS: As this is my first full year teaching for JWY! I look forward to developing honest and long lasting professional relationships with each family I teach. I want to continue teaching the foundations of proper technique, while exploring the individual wants and needs of each student. At the end of the day we play music because it's FUN! Thats something I always want to come across in my lessons.
JWY!: What are some fun things you have been doing in lessons this fall?
RS: The piano penny trick. Place a penny on top of your hand and play scales up and down WITHOUT dropping the penny. It helps young (and older!) students keep their fingers curved and promotes smooth legato transitions from note to note. For added challenge try both hands with 2 octaves!
As for Drum students who have a lot of coordination problems with one hand, I ask them to spend a day (or more!) switching hands. If your right handed, become left handed! Eating, opening doors, shaking hands, brushing your teeth, everything! This can really help when it comes to balancing out your right and left limbs - most students (and myself) enjoy the challenge.
JWY!: Who inspired you to become a music teacher?
RS: Professor Gervacio Brondial, or Mr. Brondial to me most of my life, was my piano teacher. I started with him when I was 5 years old and continued until he was hired to teach at California State Long Beach when I was about 12 or 13. He started me on the right path, taught me the benefits of proper technique, how to make the most out of my practice, but most importantly, he showed me how to have fun with music! He was the best teacher I ever had.
JWY!: Any fun music teaching stories?
RS: I had the opportunity to teach a few physics and engineering graduate students from Boston University last year. They were beginners so it was really fun talking about drums in such a technical way. I could talk about the different grip fulcrum points and stick height to volume relativity and other really nerdy specific drumming techniques that I don't normally get to talk about.
More recently I've had a blast teaching Stick Control by ear. The book Stick Control, as all you drummers know, is a must-have and industry standard kind of book. The book features numerous different combinations of Left and Right stickings. What I do is have the student learn a page on the snare drum. Then I have him play each limb on a different drum or surface (rim, table, floor, whatever) After that I have the student sing the "melody" the 2 different surfaces make. This way they connect the difficult to follow string of lefts and rights into a tangible and easy to sing melody! I will play different passages from the book in that way and have the student guess which one I'm playing. Its fun, and it's ear-training, something that all good drummers use everyday.
The other week I was teaching a student and I looked over and her posture was all wacky. Her back was curved and she was hovered over the piano. Her legs were lounging forward and not bent and she was sitting sideways. "Oh my" I exclaimed "We need to fix your posture."
Posture is one of the tools that students learn when they first start to learn piano. If you look in any beginning lesson book there is a section on posture in the first few pages. Posture is a very important tool for any instrument, but as musician we tend to forget the correct ways to sit and this causes problems in our playing.
Not sitting correctly with your instrument causes problems with your playing?
Yes! Just like any sport or dance, the postures you use help you perform. Music lessons are just the same. Sometimes when your posture is not correct you make more mistakes because your body is not in the correct postion.
Key things to remember for correct piano posture:
1. Sitting with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Your knees are slightly under the keyboard.
3. Sitting on the front part of the bench
4. Back Straight
5. Loose shoulders
6. Curved Fingers on keys
Remembering this position will make a world of difference in your playing and performing.
Make It Into a Game
Learning piano for the first time takes a lot of practice and can feel tedious at times. However, there are many ways to make it fun! Here are 3 games for the piano that will be sure to bring some smiles to your practice session!
The Pennies Game
Objective: Learn the notes on the keyboard and staff
Step 1: Place stickers on pennies with each of the note names (A through G)
Step 2: Put the pennies face down on the notes they belong to (don't put them in order)
Step 3: Say the note before you turn over the penny, do it until you get them all right!
Draw your own large staff paper with the spaces between the lines big enough for the pennies. Place the pennies on the staff to write your own song!
The Safari Game
Objective: Quickly recognize different keys on the piano (in preparation for sight-reading)
Step 1: Buy 2 plastic animals at your local toy store.
Step 2: Start with the two animals placed 5-8 white keys apart from each other.
Step 3: Tell your student which keys the animals need to run to not to get caught by the other one (in this case we will use a rabbit and jaguar) i.e "The rabbit is going to run up to the key Ab to get away, but now the jaguar is going to jump to the key B to try and get him."
This game can be quite fun and help with quick recognition of the piano keys!
The Tip-Toe Game
Objective: Recognize different tempos and learn to feel the beat in your body
Step 1: Either at the piano or on a CD player, play very fast music and have your student jump around the room at the beat of the music.
Step 2: Without warning, switch to slow music and have your student quietly tip-toe around the room to the tempo of the music.
Step 3: Vary the tempos and have your student recognize the changes. Fall down at the end!
Please post your favorite beginner's music games!
Music lessons normally run September to June, right along with the school calendar. When students are off from school normally music education takes a break too. But does it have to? Here are some cool things for kids to do around the school breaks to make sure they still have music everyday.
Winter is filled with holiday parties, traveling, gift buying and more traveling. Who has time for anything else?
Simple ways to keep music around:
- Have your kids learn holiday songs to sing and play for the family.
- Sing and play special songs as a family.
- Go to your schools holiday concert.
- Play in a winter concert
Just these simple steps help your child still stay excited about music over the break from school. They now have a special job around the holidays and playing for family becomes a tradition.
Winter and Spring Break-
Sometimes we travel during our February and April break and it is hard to still practice when we are in different places. There are still some great ways to make sure that music is a part of vacation.
-Find local concerts where you are traveling. These don't need to be big names or even expensive tickets. Listen to the music on the streets or see if any museums have any kids concerts.
JWY! Recommends: Musical Instrument Museum
- Sing songs the child has learned or is working on with their music teacher.
-If your traveling out of the country, maybe find some examples of music from that new culture and play these songs for your children. Ask them questions like:
* What kind of instruments do you hear?
* What sounds the same? What sounds different?
* Is this music you would like to learn?
During your vacation, your child may hear a song or an instrument that they would like to learn. Your vacations can be relaxing and inspiring.
Normally every school or private lesson teacher has an end of the year concert. These concerts are a great way for your child to show off what they have learned since September. Every musician should perform and a school setting is a great way to learn.
-Participate in end of the year recitals and concerts.
-Find a cool summer concert to take the whole family to.
JWY! Recommends: Life Is Good Festival
- Sign up for a camp. Most camps have a music program in them and your child may have a chance to play a new instrument and learn new songs. There are also speciality music camps that give your child a chance to spend the summer learning more about music.
JWY! Recommends: Beaver Summer Programs
Music is such a great and important part of life for kids. Help them keep exploring and enjoying music all through the year.
Jammin' With You! teams up with the LoVE Foundation to auction off two amazing tickets to the Dave Matthews Band concert on 11/09/2010 at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, MA. The tickets also come with VIP hospitality lounge passes, and an author-signed copy of the soon-to-be-released Dave Matthews Band book. To read more about this event, please click here: www.jamminwithyou.com/dmbdonation
To go straight to the auction to bid, click here: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180579259457
Ten songs in no particular order to rock out with your kids! Check them out!
1. Head and Shoulders - Fox and Branch
Get you and and your family moving with this spin on the traditional Head and Shoulders song! This song tells you different actions to do instead of just touching you head and shoulders. “Throw the Ball”, “Milk the Cow”, “Flip the Pancake” and “ Walk the dog” are all fun movements that you and your family will laugh along with!
2. All Around the Kitchen - Dan Zanes
Another great movement song! Dance around with your family in the kitchen and all over the house. Dan Zanes again writes a fun and silly song that will get stuck in your head for days. But lets be honest, what kid song doesn’t get stuck in your head for days? This song is also a very easy song on the guitar and you can get by just playing an A minor chord.
Check it out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKSnyS-vmkg
3. Fee Fi Fo Fun- Ralph’s World
It looks like we are starting off this list with many songs that instruct you to move your body. Here at JWY!, we have no problems with songs that make you dance! This song tells you to jump up and down, twist and shout and clap your hands! This song is guaranteed to get your feet moving and everyone singing!
4. What Kind of Cat Are You?! - Billy Jonas
I have to be honest, I always sing this song. Billy Jonas wrote this very clever song asking questions like, “What kind of cat has the first name of Tom? TOM CAT” and “What kinda cat is a candy? KIT KAT!” But look out the questions get harder in the thrid verse that really make you think, so “put on your thinking cap!”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2apMXm7NwX0&feature=related Please excuse the barking dogs at the begging
5. Old Macdonald Had A Farm, Pt. 2 - Rufus Thomas
Old Macdonald is a classic kids song, everyone knows it and how could you make it rock you may ask? Well just talk to Rufus Thomas who gave this song a funky groove. This song is off the album Sing Along with Putamayo and one of the gems of the album. Rufus can really sing!
6. Hot Chocolate- Recess Monkey
I found this song recently. I love it. I have even snuck it in at family parties and no one thinks it’s kids song! Good job Recess Monkey! This is a fun song to groove to as you drive.
7. Party In My Tummy - Yo Gabba Gabba
This song is from the popular kids show Yo Gabba Gabba. This song is just silly but it teaches children how to eat the correct foods. Maybe not rockin’, but it will make you want to move and sing along.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMUqM12W0i4 crazy yet amazing
8. Bananaphone- Rhonda Vincent
This is a song I teach with often. It’s a nice spin on Raffi’s original Bananaphone. Rhonda adds a great sounding banjo and fun vocals. I played this song at camp this summer and when a camper was describing it to another camper she said, “Don’t worry, this song is SO awesome”
9. Take Me Home, Country Roads- Toots & The Maytals
This is a great spin off of the John Denver original but with a Regge feel. Instead of “ to the place I belong West Virginia” its changed to “ to the place I belong West Jamaica”. This is another song that parents and kids will enjoy.
10. Be Part of the Band- The Verve Pipe
Do you remember The Verve Pipe from the 90’s? They sang The Freshman. Well now they have an album out called “A Family Album.” As a music teacher I feel like this should be any music students anthem. Don’t worry parents, most of the Jammin’ With You! teachers were or are in bands, and we turned out OK!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eq9AKlTFhPg Kicks in at .54
Comment if you know of any other great rockin' kids songs! We would love to learn and sing some more!
Photo by: Crsan
Kids Music- Top 10 Cutest Songs Ever
Here are some of the cutest kids songs I have heard! In no particular order.
Bear to the Left - Billy Jonas
A very clever song about using animal names to give directions. It’s a very easy song to sing together and my students love it. This would be a great song to learn as a family and sing together all you need is a leader to remember the words. This song will surely be a family favorite to “Horse Around” with!
Billy Jonas: http://www.billyjonas.com/
All I Really Need - Raffi
Such a beautiful song about the basics that we need in our life, “song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family.” Sometimes we get caught up in what we “need”.“Mom, I need that new toy”, “I really need a vacation” , “I really need, a new car” but this song reminds us that we really need love, music and food to survive. I think this is a great song to sing together as a family.
Raffi Singing on Broadway! Who knew Raffi was on Broadway?
Red Red Robin - Rosie Flores
Red Red Robin is an older song, but Roise Flores puts a country, rockabilly feel to it. It makes this song upbeat and fun! I love the mix of the guitar and her vocals. I found this song off of the album Sing Along With Putumayo. Rosie Flores is a fantastic artist and her new album “Girl of the Century” is worth a look!
Check Out Putumayo: http://www.putumayo.com/
Rosie Flores: http://www.rosieflores.com/index_2.html
Me Singing Red Red Robin: http://www.youtube.com/user/BethPacione#p/u/3/sz_b0KN9u2o
Be Kind To Your Parents - Pete Seeger
So the first line may not seem so cute to parents “Be kind to your parents, though they don’t deserve it...” but this song is very cute. This song helps children remember parents once were kids too! I had a student sing this at this years SuperJam and it went over very well with our audience. I really enjoy the last line, “Someday you may wake up and find your a parent too!”
Sunny Side of the Street - Fox and Branch
“Grab your coat and grab your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep now, direct your feet to the sunny side of the street” What a positive message this old classic song sings! Fox and Branch give it a fun groove using such instruments as the washboard, spoons and a kazoo. This song makes me smile everytime!
Smile Smile Smile - Dan Zanes
Speaking of smiling... “Every time I think of you I smile for a while, that’s the one thing you always do is smile smile smile” What a great message to any family member or friend. “Your big heart circles the world every time you smile!” This song fills your head of fun and crazy things we do together like singing broadway songs and passing the baton as we run. Another song that just makes my heart grow every time I hear it!
Smile, Smile,Smile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9RXgP1nAk8 SO CUTE
Belly Button Song - Music For AArdvarks & Other Mammals
How fun is this guys voice as he is singing about Belly Buttons! Enough Said!
Music for Aardvarks: http://www.musicforaardvarks.com/
If You Wanna Sing Out, Sing Out- Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem
Originally written by Cat Stevens, this version is a bit more upbeat and still sings the positivity of the original. The vocals are clear and harmonize lovely together. This is the first track on their album Racky Tacky which also has alot of other great tunes!
I Will Be Your Friend- Guy Davis
Very cute friendship song! This song is all about taking care of one another and reminding each other of our love. What a great message for anyone at any age.
Make sure to send this to the friend that takes care of you.
Sunflower - Flooky & the Beans
Local Boston kids band Flooky & the Beans has many great songs, and their shows are great fun for all! This one is about beautiful Sunflowers. It is a very soothing song. The harmonies that the band really helps you enjoy the lyrics. “Add a little sunshine, grow so high, add a little rain, grow so high, add a little food, grow so high, add a little love, grow so high” Oh and that is Josh Shriber, our Director singing! Go Josh!
Please post some of your cutest kids songs too! We would love to hear from you and learn some more great tunes!
Photos by: HLIT & epSOS.de
Summer has arrived! And this summer we would like to take a moment to interview our teachers and see what their summer fun includes! First up Rob Morrison!
Jammin' With You!: What do you teach at JWY!
Rob Morrison: Guitar, piano, theory + voice (plus life experience)
JWY!: What have you learned from teaching lessons to JWY! students?
RM: I have learned that there are many learning styles and personalities and therefore there must be alternative teaching methods to accomodate each student.
RM: The student is generally more comfortable learning at home, but the teacher has to work harder to keep their attention.
JWY!: What do you think is different about teaching in a studio vs. in-home music lessons?
RM: I feel like I have broadened the horizons of my students by introducing them to improvisation and songwriting at early stages of their musical education. My students have taught me the untrained ear has a lot to offer musically and can produce fresh ideas without the impedence of too much conventional wisdom.
JWY!: How have you influenced kids while teaching? AND How have they influenced you?
RM: Here Comes The Sun by the Beatles
JWY!: What is your favorite summer tune to Jam out to?
JWY!: What was the best summer concert you went to?
RM: This year, it was Jethro Tull at the Bank of America Pavillion.
RM: I'm taking little vacations to Martha's Vineyard, Vermont, the Cape and Montreal.
JWY!: Is there anything exciting that you are doing over the summer?
JWY!: Where is your favorite place to play music during the summer?
RM: Anywhere outside. Last year my band, Stroamata, played the outdoor festival Harpoon Summer Session, but this summer, you might find me busking (musician-speak for playing for tips in the street) in the public parks of downtown Boston before or after lessons. Barbeques, pool parties or roofdecks are just as good.
Practice makes perfect.
Practice if you were the worst and perform if you were the best!
Practice, Practice, Practice!!!!
As SuperJams aproach we are all telling our students to practice their pieces. Some students are focusing all of their practice energy on making their performance piece absoulutly perfect.
But can you be practicing too much!? Could too much practice actually damage your playing?
If a student already has compleated his/her performance piece and everything is perfect, he/she should still practice, but maybe not everyday. When playing the piece there still needs to be an element of "freshness" in the student's sound, touch and feel of the song.
So as your student practices keep these few tips in mind:
1. Before playing the whole piece, play the trouble spots
2. If the piece you are playing is perfect and you are ready to play at the recital, only practice every other day or take off few days of playing it. This helps to keep it fresh.
3. Sometimes instead of playing at your instrument, visualize the music or try to hum or sing the song in your head.
4. Try playing the piece in front of family and friends just like you would at the recital.
Use these few tips to help your student stay fresh and excited about their recital piece. Remember to keep on encouraging him/her and helping him/her feel excited and ready to play on the big day.
Photo: Maxwell GS
As spring concerts, recitals and shows start filling our calendars your child may start getting a case of the dreaded nerves. When I first started playing at recitals, I would be so nervous everything I learned from my piano lessons went out the window. I would seem to forget everything, including how to sit at the piano to how to play.But when I learned some easy ways to get rid of my nerves I started playing my best.
Here are 5 ways to help your child calm down and rock out at their performance!
Accept and redirect:
When we are nervous it normally shows that we care about what we are about to do. We don't want to mess up because we have worked hard and are ready to show the world our talent! Instead of thinking of nerves in a negative light, look at them in a positive light.
*nerves mean you care
*nerves give you a little adrenaline that keeps you alert
*nerves are natural and you can get through them
When a person is nervous they tend to clench their jaw, wring their hands or move their legs quickly. Anxiety causes tension. Do a few simple stretches to relax and get the blood flowing.
*Shrug your shoulders toward your ears and rolling your head from side to side
*Bring one arm across your body and pull and do the same with the other side.
*Rotate your ankles and stretch your legs
* Shake your hands like you have just washed them and their isn't a towel around to dry them.
Silently Sing or Play:
Mentally review what piece you are playing or singing. You can even pretend you have the instrument in your hand and practice the motions. Doing this will allow your mind to relax and take focus to the task at hand.
Don't Go Bananas!:
Whenever you feel like you are going to get upset start to focus on your breathing and think happy thoughts. Say phrases to yourself like:
* It's OK to be upset, but I am in control
* I am great at what I do!
* I am going to conquer this
You can also think about a time where you did really well at something or a time when you where very relaxed. Close your eyes, take a breath and imagine you are there.
*Also, speaking of bananas, eat a banana, it helps lower anxiety.
Show off those teeth. Smiling helps relieve tension in our jaw and overall makes us feel happier. When we smile we are shrugging off the nerves and showing a confident exterior which will slowly come to the interior.
Remember "When your smiling, the whole world smiles with you."
So before your child starts to worry about how they will sound at their recital remind them that they are great, smile at them, rub their shoulders and hand them a banana! They are going to be wonderful this recital season and I am sure many people await to hear their talent!