There are ways to keep music joyful for your students... and that is to keep it joyful for you. The book Creativity, by Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi writes a section which defines "enjoyment" as an "experience called flow... an almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness." We can can put Csikszentimihalyi's ideas to use by showing our students ways to set small goals for their every day practice as well as clearly explaining what is expected each week for technique and new and old repertoire. Its important to let students see your honest reaction to their playing, singing, etc. It helps them to improve, but should be done right away while the moment is fresh, so problems are understood and praise is appreciated.
I stopped teaching a few months before I had Noah and have not yet started again. I plan to begin again soon. After teaching piano for twelve years and voice for five, I tried to put Csikszentimihalyi's ideas into practice and let me tell you it pays off. Constructive criticism is very useful as well. Done in an encouraging manner it can be very much appreciated for the true music lover.
When a teacher keeps the joy in every lesson, every critique, every practice... the joy is transferred to the student.
There will be no class next Monday due to a staff meeting.
All will go as mentioned in the previous "Chorus II" post except for a Monday rehearsal the week of the final. All rehearsals will be held at 6:00pm. On Wednesday, the night of the final, please be there for one last warm up at 5:45. Keep practicing so that when we get together next it will run smoothly. Know your parts, practice enunciating your words (watch those "r"s and "Lift Him up" not "Lift Tim up"), and use appropriate dynamics. Remember to have a dome shape in the back of your mouth.
Music is very intimate. It is powerful in that it speaks to the deepest part of us. Music can open up doors because it communicates in a totally different way. It speaks to your emotions. Music can be calming, energetic, melancholy, or it can lead you places in the spirit world. Walking into the day spa you hear soft jazz or piano music with nature sounds in the background. In the department store you'll likely hear an energetic pop tune. Have you ever walked by one of those trendy gothic stores with the screaming guitars and painful sounding voices booming out into the mall? Or have you ever looked at the people going in and out of those stores? This music makes people feel oppressed. There are songs that bring you back in time and make you cry or make you laugh because of identifying with it. Now have you ever heard anointed music? No matter the music style, this type of music leads one into the presence of God where they feel uplifted and liberated, where the others cannot. I had a music class in college that admitted business owners actually have an agenda when they decide what music to put in their stores. They understand the sway that music has on their customers. With the power that music possesses, it can be used as an outreach tool in our communities.
I began thinking about this yesterday when I went to Books-a-million (akin to CA's Barnes N Noble or Borders) swarming with people (bookstores are always swarming with people). Allow me to take you there: with an almost immidiate overnight transformation of orange and golds to red and greens, Christmas music, and Santa Clause posing with children outside the door, I thought to myself: "one day I will have a bookstore/cafe with music... live music." As I sat in the cafe with Noah I watched all the different people who had come "into town" for the after Thanksgiving sales. It was pure madness as people rushed here and there (barely smiling). But then I glanced at those seated in the cafe sipping on their caramel apple ciders and pumpkin spiced lattes and most were pleasantly talking in quiet tones with relaxed smiles on their faces. I noticed that the holiday music was better heard above the hustle and bustle in the somewhat secluded cafe where people stopped to listen. Could it be the reason for the relaxing effect it had on people here? I believe so. Only one thing could have made it better... live music. Live music compells people to stop and listen.
This leads me to those live musicians (many times young people) in our churches. Our churches have so many talented musicians. Cornerstone Revival Center alone has many talented musicians including two singers/songwriters (David Brazeel; Zane Isaacson) who have already recorded solo projects. These musicians could come play/sing with the anointing and minister to people's needs... simply put: be used by God. Hence the door to the emotions opens up doors to other venues of their lives. Understand, the city where I live is very God oriented and everyone goes to church. You will not likely meet someone who does not love God... remember this is the Bible belt. So I kept thinking: "Live music (not to mention live anointed music) always makes people stop and listen. What a great tool for outreach." They could "see" us and note the difference that God has performed in our lives as well as be ministered to, etc.... How much more powerful would it be to play songs that people stop and pay attention to (live)? That said, it would be so much fun and fulfilling to have a cafe and hire out or allow aspiring Christian musicians to perform and minister in my store.
A side note: I remember as a teenager, a few of the young people went to a cafe in Stockton, CA where a family from Christian Life Center (the Hogues) owned a cafe where they played live music on a certain night every week and it was used as a major outreach tool. I only went one time but enjoyed it thorouhly and it seemed very successful in its outreach. I also did some research on the internet and found this idea to be not so novel. There are many Christian based cafes springing up all over the US that invite contemporary guest artists. Check out Edge64 Cafe in Nebraska, Fishlocker Cafe in Maine, and New Hope Cafe on Staten Island.
Whether or not this dream ever comes to pass, I find it very exciting. This may come about in a studio, a concert at the park, or some other place God may lay on my heart. Of course music is not going to save someone's soul but it (praise and worship) is definitely a powerful tool that confuses the enemy.
Since its the Thanksgiving week, I figured I could add some humor with the "all-serious" classical music genre. I have so many things to be thankful for and I will share them with you: God, family my husband and son, friends, freedom, health, provision, food, warmth from cold, cold in warmth, being able to touch, see, hear, taste, think, play the piano, sing for Him, a Republican president, Hunan Garden's Sesame chicken, Thai chili's chicken curry, Jamba juice, Dollar General, Target, prepared baby food, , disposable diapers, exedrin, filet mignon, Murphys Oil Soap, electricity, computers, airplanes, memory foam pillows, baby boutiques, fire places, Gyros... (sounds like I'm hungry.. haha but I just ate. lol). I guess I'm extra thankful for good food. I am especially thankful for my brother Steve's gourmet chicken pasta that he makes every Thanksgiving (which I will not partake of this year =( ), and also my brother Brent's chicken gumbo that he makes at Christmas time (and whenever I request it =). I have definitely been blessed and I am truly thankful. Have a blessed Thanksgiving. Brent and Steve, I don't just miss your food I miss you too. Love you all. (I wish I had the pictures to show you who and what I'm talking about... this is a lot of it, but doesn't cover half.)
Now on to the serious topic of classical music (smiles)... I wish I would have had access to this website while I was in college. musicalion.com allows you to listen to classical music and download the sheet music for it. All they require is your library card. They have choral and instrumental music from all eras. If by chance they don't have what you're looking for there is a bulletin where you can request it and they can get it for you... just like the library.
A few composers birthdays have recently come upon us... Vincenzo Bellini - November 3, 1801
Friedrich Burgmuller - December 4, 1806
But today we have a birthday: Martin Blummer - November 21,1827
This musical library that I mentioned earlier states this: "Martin Traugott Blumner (1827-1901) was a German composer and music theorist. He studied music as a child and later also studied theology, philosophy and natural sciences in Berlin. He decided for a musical career upon being accepted into the Sing-Akademie in Berlin. From 1827 he studied composition and counterpoint. Around 1850 he took over the position of assistant director of the Singakademie and in 1876 became its director. He was also a member (after 1875) of the Berlin Royal Academy of the Arts and took over the chairmanship of the music department in 1885. Around 1890 he was appointed director of the composition masterclass. He was influential in making sure that the music of Bach, Händel and Haydn, but also of Friedrich Kiel, Albert Becker and Georg Vierling (members of the "Berlin Academics") was performed."
Happy Thanksgiving - no class this Thursday (Nov.22)
Thursday (Nov.29) - no class (teachers in CA)
Monday (Dec.3) - CLASS WILL BE HELD at 6:30 (Be prepared for your solo projects.)
Thursday (Dec.6) - Class held at normal time (Be prepared for solo and ensemble projects. This is the last rehearsal).
Monday (Dec.10) - available for solo rehearsals starting at 5:00pm. Will work on a first sign up- first serve basis. Keep in mind Ladies prayer begins at 7:00pm.
Wednesday (Dec.12) - FINAL Be at class at 5:45pm. We will review ensemble material only.
Thursday (Dec.13) - CLASS NO LONGER IN SESSION!!!!!
Grading Criteria for Solo project: Posture Proper use of dynamics Vertical shape (not horizontal) Breath support Balance Presence Memorization Pitch Sings according to room size Covers mistakes well (if made)
Grading Criteria for Ensemble project: same as above and: Does not stand out Blends well with other parts
For those of you asking about Noah, he went to the Doctor yesterday and we found out he has a bronchial infection and an ear infection. He is a happy boy though. Thank God we went when we did. I have had him into the DR. 4 times this month due to upper respiratory problems. Every time we've been in they've given us allergy medicine or recommended nasal drops, etc. He's been sick for a month and he was out of his allergy medicine (which contained antihistamine, and decongestant) so in order for them to refill his Rx they wanted to see him again. I told the Dr I felt so silly because this is the 4th time I've been in this month. But she told me she was glad we came because we caught the ear infection before it got out of control. God is soooooo good. Now we have the proper medication for him and he's on an antibiotic. Here's a picture of him in the Dr's office having a blast with the bed paper.
I just read this in Yahoo news. The headline reads, "Companies fail to block music threat." If you download music from the internet to your computer or are on any network type websites, read this article.
LONDON (Reuters) - Most companies do not stop staff from downloading music from the Internet, despite the risks posed to work computers, a survey has found.
Two-thirds of IT managers polled said they do not block employees from taking music off the Web, even though they named it as the biggest threat.
In a poll of more than 1,000 computer managers by ICM, music came top of the list of perceived threats.
More than half said they feared that music files and other security threats could spread viruses that may lead to fraud or damage corporate computer networks.
Other top 5 threats included staff visiting popular social networking Web sites such as Bebo, MySpace and Facebook.
Internet security firm McAfee, which commissioned the survey, said bosses have the tricky task of protecting computers and stopping time-wasting, while upholding staff morale.
"Ultimately, those polled believe this could have a significant financial risk," McAfee said in a statement.
(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Steve Addison)
On a side note: here are some very intense music instructors Christmas shopping.
Tonight quite a few students were absent from Chorus II class. There's a lot of sickness going around right now. One student decided to show up although he was obviously not well. I want to stress how important it is to not abuse your voice when you have nasal drainage, a soar throat, or a cold that's effecting your voice. I'd like to post a list from The Voice Center at Eastern Virginia Medical School on maintaining a healthy voice.
General Recommendations: -Discontinue smoking/tobacco use. Avoid secondhand smoke. -Caffiene dehydrates the vocal folds, which can increase vocal fold damage. If you use these substances do so in moderation; increase your water intake to compensate. -Keep your vocal folds moist. Drink six - to - eight 8oz. glasses of water daily. (One or two glasses of juice may be counted in this.) -Monitor medication. Some medications, such as antihistamines, taken for common colds and allergies, work well in the ailment, but dry vocal tissue. Drink extra water to compensate for the medicine's drying effect. -Watch what you eat. Frequent heartburn and a sour taste in your mouth may mean stomach acids are spilling over into your larynx (voice box), which may irritate or damage vocal tissue. Avoid acidic and spicy foods, eating late at night, caffeine, and overeating at mealtime. (Ask your Speech Pathologist for a list of other reflux precautions).
Voice Recommendations: -Progress toward healing your voice disorder. Avoid loud talking when a quieter voice can be heard easily. -Avoid frequent throat clearing and coughing, as these may damage vocal fold tissues. Frequent throat clearing is often a sign of poor vocal habits and/or dehydration. Increase you water intake and sip on water or swallow when you feel the urge to clear your throat. -Avoid yelling or screaming as this kind of forceful voice use can increase hoarseness. Use a legato (linking words) speaking style and avoid hard attacks on vowels. (This may be demonstrated for you by your speech pathologist). -Increase inflection, that is letting your voice rise and fall. -Don't try to speak without adequate air. Decrease your rapid speaking rate and breathe more frequently. Be sure to take deep, abdominal breaths and speak SLOWLY. -Avoid speaking or singing when your voice feels impaired or fatigued, as this increases the risk of injury. Reducing your talking or simply being quiet will often help renew a tired voice. -Use a "forward" -- "hummy" voice placement. Feel your voice flow freely toward the front of your face. - Warm up your voice well prior to singing or speaking in large groups where there is no amplification. (Note: A sound check is not a warm-up. You may wish to ask your speech pathologist about suitable warm up exercises.) -Project your voice properly. Projecting does not mean shouting. To make your voice heard in noisy situations, use deep (abdominal) breathing and do not tighten your throat and neck muscles. Try to use amplification when presenting to large groups.
Ann Cyptar, M.S./CCC-SLP (Assistant Director of the Voice and Swallowing Center)
Leap Frog!!!!! Yeah!! Noah loves his leap frog from Mimi (that's Grandma Bertram). We hung it on his carseat and when you squeeze the frog he sings the alphabet and giggles at the end. It is so cute and it captivates Noah. When he got the package in the mail (picture above),I think he might have been more interested in the box it came in than the actual toy. But that only lasted until he heard the frog begin to sing. This is a terrific toy that encourages learning and exploration. Not only can a baby explore through sight and touch, but also in sound (the alphabet music). Its a fact that babies love music. Everytime I turn on a cd or the radio he begins to dance (albeit he's stationary in his baby einstein exersaucer). It is a great tool to introduce a baby to music where he can learn melody and rhythm... and a little later on memorization.
I had the most bittersweet experience last month. I didn't forget about it I just didn't think about posting it to the blog. But as I began learning how to post pictures to my blog I saw one of Tishauna holding Noah when she and her daughet, LaNae came to Alabama for Noah's birth in May. Well, she came out again last month with LaNae and her husband, Matt. I got to sing with my long time friend, pal, buddy, confidante... you name it.... We used to play together as kids and then we began singing together at church when we got older. We recruited Matt (who became her husband)and formed a group called MTV which stood for Matt Tishauna & Von de Leigh. LOL. Normally I would sing alto while Tishauna could hit all the high soprano notes and Matt sang tenor of course. Back to the story... Matt found a song we used to sing called "Adonai" by Avalon, and we sang here at Cornerstone Revival Center in Alabama last month. It felt so good to sing with them because we had achieved this vocal blending that only comes from many years of practicing together. As I mentioned earlier it was bittersweet because I got to sing with them knowing I wouldn't have many opportunities to do so again in the future.
Yanni fans listen to "The Storm" from his latest recording entitled "Yanni Live! The Concert Event." It is incredible. The violinist Samvel Yervinyan astonishes the audience with his musical virtuosity. Also honorable mention is the Paraguayan harpist, Victor Espinola. I have never heard a harp being played on this wise. This piece is so exciting and energetic and normally a harp is calm and soothing. It will shock you. Go check out more from his website: yanni.com or you can listen and see "The Storm" on youtube.com.
More Yanni news. Word has it that Yanni has been in the studio composing over 80 new pieces since his Live Concert Event last year. I have noticed that Yanni's three live albums (Live at the Acropolis, Tribute, and Yanni Live! The Concert Event) far outshine his other recordings. Although his others are good, they seem to carry on as themes and variations on a similar melody. He says this new venture he's spoken of that has kept him in the studio composing is taking his music in a new direction. We'll see. However, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for his music.
Hello again. I just posted an essay I wrote in college a few years back on the piano's history. I jumped ahead I believe.... I know the blog seems very unorganized right now but I am new at this and learning how (trying to learn how) to arrange posts in a systematic and orderly manner. I'd also like to add photos from google.com and from my phone and digital camera but seem to be learning rather slowly. If anyone has tips I'll gladly welcome them. I want to better the blog so not just my students, but also the community will find it informative and interesting.
For those of you in Chorus II, I would like to comment on your essay "Ensemble Singing." Most of you did really well and addressed what ensemble singing really is. When I had you sum up in one short phrase what it was, I was proud that your very concise answer was "one voice." Keep studying and practicing. I'd like to post the highest scoring essay on the blog. I'll return them to you tomorrow night and let you look over them.
Author of The Piano, Jeremy Siepmann, states: "It was for the piano that Mozart wrote his twenty-seven concertos, most of which are held to be his finest instrumental music; that Beethoven wrote his epoch-making sonatas; that Schubert wrote his beautiful waltzes and impromptus; that Chopin and Liszt wrote music which opened up a whole new world of sound and raised virtuosity to heights never before imagined; that Mendelssohn wrote his "Song Without Words", and that Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Wolf wrote arguably the greatest songs with words ever written" (Siepmann 1). The story of the piano is one of a Hollywood actor or actress; of a certain age, many have undergone their share of facelifts and implants. Thus, in order to fully appreciate the pianoforte and the music it brings to the ears and the soul, it is helpful to study the pianoforte's evolutionary process.
David Grover states: "The idea of fitting a keyboard to an instrument with strings, which started to vibrate when struck by hammers, was conceived probably in the fourteenth and certainly in the fifteenth century. For the next two hundred and fifty years, however, the harpsichord with plucked, rather than struck, strings, held undoubted sway. The clavichord also, had its adherents and within its severe limitations was responsive to gradations of finger touch, its strings stuck by miniature tangents" (Grover 1).
Just as it is hard to determine the first man or woman to inhabit the earth, it is also difficult to determine the true genesis of the pianoforte; both go back thousands (some would argue millions) of years before Common Era. The origins of the modern piano are found in the string family as well as the percussion family of long ago. Its "garden of Eden" birth may be a drum or a lyre, and next, an oppurtunity to mysteriously combine the two. An educated guess would deduct that this combination was a consummation of African percussion with the Greek and Roman lyre; thus, the idea to become the Dulcimer somehow made its birthing room in Iran (Heaton 2). This ancestor originated shortly after the Common Era. The dulcimer illustrates the basics of the piano; the hammer strikes multiple strings tuned over a flat soundboard. The dulcimer player uses two light sticks that end with broad blades to strike the strings.
As the dulcimer made its way to other parts of the world, it evolved into new instruments that allowed more use of dynamics. Donald Grout, author of the textbook, A History of Western Music notes some offspring of the dulcimer. The earliest keyboard instruments were of the clavichord and harpsichord type (Grout 120), although they were invented in the fourteenth century, they were not commonly used until the fifteenth. The clavichord was not popular until three centuries after its construction due largely to Bach's utilization of it (Gibson 2). The Gibson Study notes that when the clavichord key is pressed, a vertical brass strip is lifted toward a pair of strings, remaining in contact with it (Grout 207). This instrument has a typically quieter tone, but within narrow boundaries the craftsmjanship allows for some control of dynamics as well as vibrato (2). Similarly, the harpsichord reached its peak during the time of the composers, Bach and Handel (2). The harpsichord form displays keys that are in line with the strings. The harpsichords came in various shapes and sizes and thus were named accordingly: virginal, spinet, clavecin, and clavicembalo, and others (Grout 207). By varying the sizes and shapes, Grout states that the builder could achieve "different timbres and degrees of loudness by adding a second mechanism, which allowed coupling with another string, usually tuned an octave higher" (207). Some harpsichords were plucked with a quill, while others were built in the form of the modern grand to produce individually desired dynamic effects. The clavichord was used more for solo performances in small rooms where dynamics could be heard more easily, and the harpsichord was used for both solo and ensemble playing in larger spaces due to its natural strength in dynamic. By listening to the dynamics (the personality), emotions or souls have been stirred with recognition and/ or personal relation to the piece.
Through each evolution, a growing interest in dynamic control by touch also evolved. Instruments were built with specific attention given to dynamics by how soft or hard the key was pressed (Gibson 1). Originally built in Italy, the Spinet was "perfected" by the English in the late seventeenth century (2). Its "jack mechanism" plucks the strings just as the virginal, but the shape (wing-shape) permits longer strings, expanding both the volume and range (2).
In the late seventeenth century, the realization of broader melodies, phrases growing louder rather than softer, and accentuation was apparent. Bartolommeo Cristofori is credited with building the first piano, between about 1709 and 1711. He called his instrument the "gravicembalo col piano e forte," or harpsichord, although it differed in its action mechanism (Grover 1). Grover notes how deer leather struck the strings of the pianoforte and a "primitive escapement or 'set off' was employed, enabling the hammer to escape from the string, rather than to block on it, thereby smothering the vibrations the hammer itself had originated" (Grover 1). By the 1720s, Cristofori had experimented with twenty "gravicembali" and added a "padded check to catch the hammer on the rebound..." (1). The check would be used further in the next century to vary the speedy repetition desired by the "dazzling pianists" (2). Cristofori discovered problems and created the solutions for this primitive piano. Although there were advancements, it still sounded very weak and was yet comparable to the harpsichord.
During the 1730s, more progress on Cristofori's piano was conducted as harpsichord and organ builders from Saxony and Bavaria began experimentations as well. Grover states, "Gottfried Silbermann was the best known of this group"; for he is well known as the one who attempted to interest J.S. Bach with his new instrument.
The Square Grand Piano originated when "German builders (especially Johannes Socher in 1742) tried to adapt Cristofori's pianoforte to the traditional rectangular shape of the clavichord" (Grover 3). Grover notes how the square piano was popular until around 1900.
The Seven Years War of 1756-1763 saw production decline for the instrument as well as most everything. There was a small number known as the "twelve apostles" who migrated to England to carry on the production. In London, Johann Zumpe was first of the twelve to set up his own shop of small square pianofortes in 1766. His pianofortes were comparable to Cristofori's, which had been refined by Silbermann (2). The square pianos were crude, yet a novelty and desired in the home as well as public. Paris also found favor with these crude pianos. Thus, Silbermann soon made sure Paris produced also.
The piano's square design was enlarged by John Broadwood in 1771 (2). This change made way for greater resonance. Broadwood and John Geib "separately contributed to the elaboration of the square piano action" (2). With this progress, Grover adds, "the square proved reasonably satisfactory, so that it was readily accepted in the first half of the nineteenth century, making its way into far more homes of modest and not so modest pretensions, than did its wing-shaped horizontal rival, first named "grand" in 1777" (2).
Another ancestor of the pianoforte is the Upright. The upright piano's design was already being used for harpsichords in the sixteenth century, but in the eighteenth century, many piano builders (notably in Germany) tried to apply the form to the pianoforte. In 1800, Grover notes the "first satisfactory uprights were invented" (3).
Much credit is due to Broadwood for his contributions in developing the grand. A separate bass bridge was introduced, he changed the hammer's striking ratio to one ninth of its "speaking length", he incorporated higher string tensions, he expanded range in treble and bass clefs and added heavier string, and he added a sustain peddle. All of these improvements enabled powerful dynamics and maximum tone from the instrument, putting England as world leader in production quality and quantity (3). These are the characteristics of what became known as the "English-action" (3).
During the nineteenth century, the piano became more "powerful and responsive," Grover notes (3). Double-repetition action of Sebastien Erard (Paris 1821), and the full cast-iron frame of Alphaeus Babcock (Boston 1825) were the major improvements that are the basis for today's extended keyboard (3).
Today's grand piano includes the best qualities of the ealier keyboard instruments. Grover says, "cross stringing -- a way to achieve greater richness of tone by passing more strings over the center of the soundboard -- was invented by Alphaeus Babcock in 1830, but was not used in the grand until the second half of the nineteenth century" (3). Also, the sostenuto (middle peddle), introduced in the late nineteenth century, permitted greater musical coloring.
Every evolution revealed substantially more and more interest in expressing dynamics and being able to relate with the listeners. Each modification was more obsessed with the control of sound being produced by the player. It is imperative that each offspring of the first piano be appreciated for its individual achievements to better understand and embrace the piano music produced today.
Works Cited: Gibson.www.baldwinpiano.com/learn/phistory.html Grout, Donald J., Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music. London: W.W.Norton & Company, Inc. 6th ed. 2001. Grover, David S. A History of the Piano from 1709 to 1980. Omicron Publishing, 1976. Heaton, Barrie. The U.K. Piano Pages. Association of Blind Piano Tuners. 2002. Siepmann, Jeremy. The Piano. London: Carlton Books Limited, 1996.
I can't believe the Fall semester is halfway over. I gave my students the option of having a big concert recital plus their solo song for the final or splitting up the work between now and then with a midterm and then a final. Everyone seemed keyed up on the biggy final. Many are really nervous about the solo project they have to perform. They have a checklist to practice by so if they do all that's on the list, no matter how nervous they are they will pass. I have made up the checklist from the book I'm reading by Meribeth Bunch anc Cynthia Vaughn. The checklist includes things like: posture, balance, breath support, correct pitch, correct pronunciation, memorization, use of dynamics and such like. We encourage creativity. "We" are: Kristi Isaacson, Tiffany Wells, and myself. We are the teachers of this course. I taught alone last semester but I didn't have a baby. This semester I couldn't have taught without their help. Our sweet baby boy was born at the end of last semester (May 1st) so that enabled me to complete the semester. This semester we are having a lot of fun learning gospel songs by Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, and Indiana Bible College. I'll keep you updated on our progress as the semester draws to a close.