Posts Tagged ‘boulder piano instruction’

Live Music is Worth It!

February 1, 2017

by Ani Gyulamiryan

Instructor of piano at The Lesson Studio

ani_blog_1 Taiyuan, China

In the piano lessons I teach at the Lesson Studio, I often get a first-hand view of how music takes a hold of us. Western classical music, specifically, has gained a universal appeal since its inception in Europe. Countries like America and China have adopted and even continued in their own right to advance Western Classical music, and music lessons are both a staple of education and cultural inheritance. The concert hall is where our cultures diverge; in the West, the majority of classical concert goers are from the older generations, but the audiences in China are predominantly comprised of young professionals, kids and entire families.

In the summer of 2016, I completed a month long tour across China with the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra. I performed in a multitude of majestic concert halls, which have cost China billions of yuan to build in the past couple decades. In every concert of the fourteen cities we performed at, there was row after row filled with bright, enthusiastic, curious children. And they were part of an audience of young men and women, students, professionals and entire families that attended our concerts in order to be exposed to Western music (performed by an American orchestra). It was very moving to see how receptive and appreciative the near capacity audiences were in every city we toured throughout China.

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Shenyang, China

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Chongqing, China

Colorado has also continued to expand and grow its musical education. There are more music studios in every county than there were just a few years ago. They are doing better each day because of the growing interest in music education and awareness. However, students often seek lessons to become musically aware, instead of becoming proficient in an instrument. Although music lessons can be any student’s introduction to great music, artists and venues, eventually they must grow to become ‘plugged-in’ with the current music scene themselves. As a piano teacher of ten years, I have noticed some trends in the music lessons at private studios and various education centers. One growing trend in private lessons is a focus on music appreciation within the framework of individual lessons that dismisses its importance outside of the lesson and the private teacher’s influence.

As a piano instructor, I often tell my students about the composers they study, their adventurous and rebellious lives, and the intended meanings behind their masterworks. However, it is rare for these students to have experienced live performances of the works they study. The music scene today is vast, and performances at local concert halls offer a great exposure to the masterworks of classical music, but many music students remain largely unaware of these events.

To gain a broader exposure and appreciation of classical music, I encourage students of classical piano, orchestral music, jazz, or any instrument to explore their community and find the best performances in their area. Check the local library for amazing performances coming up, search on university and music schools’ websites for their upcoming concerts, find the season schedule of local orchestras. Attend some of these live concerts in order to develop your own musical taste! Western classical music is more varied in style than the number of different genres of music, so there is much variety to enjoy.

Music appreciation occurs not only in the classroom or during a music lesson, but also outside of it in the ever changing and rich world of the concert and recital hall. Attending a live concert will develop a student’s ear, make them more aware of the musical culture, enable them to become more musically educated, and aid in their personal musical growth. Hopefully every student can remember a concert they attended that made a powerful impression upon them, inspired them to continue, or was possibly the best musical experience in their life so far.

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Yichun, China

 

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Tangshan, China

Photo Credits: Roger L. Powell

 

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Choosing the right teacher for YOU

February 22, 2015

Heidi

by Heidi Ames

There are so many music teachers out there! How do you even begin the process of choosing the right one for you or your child?  If you don’t have any experience in music this part may seem fairly simple. Just call up your local music studio and have them choose one for you or choose one from their online list. Done. Unfortunately many new students don’t know the importance of taking the time to find the right teacher. Here are some helpful DO’s and DONT’s when selecting a teacher:

DO…interview your teacher. Don’t hesitate to ask about a teacher’s background and experience. It is very important to get a solid foundation from someone who can spot and fix tension issues immediately, otherwise bad habits may become ingrained which are then difficult to correct later on. Also, when you progress on your instrument you won’t need to find another teacher later on or be “passed up” to a teacher with more experience.

DO… sit in on a lesson. In many cases teachers are okay with potential students sitting in to observe their teaching style. Don’t be afraid ask!

DO… a trial lesson or two. This way you can get an idea of how you without making a commitment to weekly lessons. Music teachers are used to doing one-time lessons and there are no hard feelings if you decide it’s not the right fit. Good teachers want what is best for you anyway.

DO…ask yourself what you would like to get out of lessons and express them to your teacher. Having realistic goals in mind before getting started is essential to your success. Music lessons are one of the best investments you can make so spend some time getting clear on what you would like to get out of them. If a teacher doesn’t feel they can get you where you want to be they will tell you, but only if you ask!

DON’T… stay with a teacher with whom you do not feel comfortable. You should feel that you can communicate freely with him/her and not afraid or embarrassed to make mistakes for fear of how they will react. Your teacher should be able to make you laugh at least once during your lesson!

DON’T….study with a teacher who does not have training in the musical style you are interested in studying. If you want to be a jazz pianist and your teacher only knows how to play Beethoven you might run into some problems. There are specialized methods for jazz/rock training that many classical musicians have never studied. However, many of the best teachers in any musical style do have a foundation in classical training.

DON’T….stay with a teacher if you are not learning from them. You should be able to see some results in your playing within a couple of months and feel inspired to practice. Your teacher should be genuinely interested in your success and it will be reflected in your playing.

I hope you found this list helpful! Of course there are many factors involved in selecting a teacher and this list is only a starting point. If you have any more ideas, please comment below.

Heidi Ames teaches piano and voice at The Lesson Studio.

Signs You Might Be Cut Out for a Career as a Musician – or signs your child might be cut out for a career as a musician

November 4, 2013

By Hugh Lobel, piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

Hugh Lobel , The Lesson Studio

Hugh Lobel, Piano

1.     You enjoy practicing. This first one might seem obvious, but it’s critical to pursuing a career as a musician. Regardless of whether you want to be a folk singer, a rock drummer, or a classical pianist, you’ll need the chops when you hit the stage and there’s only one way to get there. Professionals spend hours a day practicing their instrument, maybe even seven days a week, and if you don’t honestly enjoy the act of sitting in a practice room working out the finer points of your technique and your music, trying to be a world-class musician can feel like a real slog. That doesn’t mean that you will enjoy every moment you spend in a practice room; to the contrary you’ll often find yourself practicing out of necessity more than desire. But if you don’t enjoy it at any point, the constant effort might not be worth it.

2.      You’re a night person. By this I don’t mean the kind of person that sits up until 2 a.m. playing Farmville on the weekend. No, a musician is someone who doesn’t mind WORKING late into the night. Remember that gigs (see also concerts) almost always occur in the evening, and may start as late as midnight or even later! Don’t forget that the concert might be late, but your job doesn’t end when the gig ends.  There are people to meet, there’s equipment and stage material to strike, and after-parties to attend. If you’re a classical musician these after parties are often formal, and might be necessary to help inspire those donors to keep on giving! If you like the idea of making late nights a regular thing, the world of music might just be right for you.

3.      You’re patient. Very VERY patient. Astronomically patient. If you want to be a world-class musician you have to think long-term. No one becomes a success over night, and for that matter, no one masters a difficult piece of music in a day! There will be goals that can be achieved in a day, such as getting a certain scale a little bit faster, but some goals will take a week, a month… possibly even years! Making it to fame could take decades, and often does! But for the true musicians amongst us, these things don’t matter as much. We can keep working away in those practice rooms, taking those gigs, enjoying our successes where we get them and keep pushing forward. There’s always something bigger to achieve, but the day-to-day achievements are important steps. Keep your eyes out for those, and that patience won’t be so hard to find.

4.      You’re a perfectionist.  Remember how I mentioned that you’d be in a practice room a lot, and that patience is important? Here’s where those two things come together. A musician greatly benefits from perfectionist tendencies. You’ll be in that practice room a lot, working out some incredibly difficult techniques and figures, and it helps to really want each moment of a piece to be exquisite. After all, what’s the point of running through the first three beats of that one measure two hundred and thirty six times if you don’t really care whether you hit each of those notes at just the right time with just the right amount of volume and just the right intonation? Perfectionists have to deal with extra stress: we worry that everyone hears every microscopic imperfection that comes out when we play in public and judges us for it. We bite our nails, grind our teeth, and pull our hair out over what other people think of a three minute song (and no this is not healthy,) but we also find nobility in striving for something outstandingly good, and nothing satisfies an audience quite like a performance that blows them away.

There are more signs I could go over… possibly in a future post, but these are all requirements for a career as a musician. If you don’t find that you fit all of these requirements, DON’T SWEAT IT! You can still learn an instrument beautifully, and play to your heart’s content for family and friends. You can carry your skills with you through your entire life and share your love of music with everyone around you. But if you are thinking of making a career out of being a musician, think about these necessities, and talk to your teacher more about what it takes. You just might be cut out for it after all!

Increase Practice Productivity by Warming Up!

March 1, 2012

By Paul Perry, Voice & Piano, Instructor at The Lesson Studio

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Greetings!

Everyone who plays piano needs to take incredible and meticulous care of their hands. It is important to create a pre-warm-up routine with both stretches and scales before intense practice sessions.

Release the tendons and muscles of your hands, arms, and shoulders by doing some simple stretching before you actually start to practice playing the piano. There are many simple things you do with a tennis ball, including placing it against the forearm and gently massaging up and down the length of your arm (both topside and underside of your arm!) with as much intensity as feels good to you. Also, grip the ball in the palm of your hand, flexing and releasing the muscles, four or five times in each hand. Gently stretch your fingers, roll the shoulders front and back, and find a routine that serves you and your practice!

Play a variety of scales or simple melodic passages before moving on to repertoire.  Be mindful that your forearm is in alignment with your wrist and that your hand does not move as you strike the keys—only the fingers are moving. Avoid twisting your hand as you play, and notice if your palm is excessively lifting up, or is arched down. These habits can overstretch the tendons in your hands—No es bueno! Equalize the strength of your fingers with scales—in particular, the ring finger and pinky are traditionally weak. My right ring finger, for instance, is built just a bit differently than the rest of my fingers. I really need to stay focused on balancing the weight between my fingers in my right hand.  Hopefully after developing a quick pre-practice routine, you will notice that you can practice for longer, more productive periods of time, and without fatigue!

Joyful playing!

Paul

The Piano: A One Man Band Instrument

December 12, 2011

by Robyn Yamada, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Robyn Yamada, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Robyn Yamada

The improvisational pianist is a complete combo.  For example, inside the heart of every improvisational pianist lies a versatile bassist.  It is  imperative that one is always thinking about where the structural line is going and leading the rest of the “combo” through the changes.  There are endless possibilities in creating a good bass line – the structural foundation, really.  The mid-range of the piano (middle C to high C) becomes the guitarist, i.e. mainly used for comping chord changes over the bass line and creating a basic rhythm.  It’s what I like to think of as the jello that holds everything together.  Also, the drum section happens in the mid range.  The comping of the changes is very percussive in nature and sets the rhythm and tempo of the piece.  The upper register of the piano is used for the color instruments (lead guitar, fiddle, flute, horns).  In short, leads should not be played in the mid-range but above high C.  Lead lines played in the mid-range have a tendency to get muddy.  The melody of the piece should be in the mid-range, with fills and solos moved up for clarity and distinction from the main melody.  This concept remains consistent when working with a vocalist.

In summation, the piano as a solo instrument, when approached with a combo in mind, can be used very effectively.  The bass remains below middle C, the rhythm instruments should be played between middle C and high C, and the color instruments belong above high C.

Musical Family Gathering

October 4, 2011

by Denise McCoy, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Denise McCoy, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Leson Studio

Denise McCoy

Welcome back The Lesson Studio students! I hope your summer was relaxing and musical! The fall is the start of many music seasons in theaters and concert halls in the Denver Metro Area, as well as local venues, such as the University of Colorado. It is really important for the students and the parents of students to be involved in seeing live performances because not only does it enrich the growing musicians education, it is fun and can be done as a family. Parents who are involved in their child’s musical education are more likely to create positive views towards their study of music and encourage the student to practice. By bringing your child to live concerts, the student can see what it’s like to perform music live. They can see that live performance may have more to offer than recorded music, and the student can see first hand the work that goes into putting together a concert. Practice, hard work and love for music is what makes a performance successful.

Here are a few suggestions for concerts this fall:

Colorado Symphony has a wide range of genres that are performed in an acoustical setting. Here students are more likely to see their instrument performed in an ensemble. This season there are contemporary concerts with performers such as Patti Lupone, Ozomatli, and Jim Brickman. The symphony is also putting together a multimedia performance called “The Planets: an HD Odyssey.” This type of performance integrates different forms of art, to express a theme. On the classical end, Beethoven’s 7th is being performed, as well as Faure’s Requiem, and an all Dvorak program, just to name a few. Renee Fleming, who in my opinion in a famous, real life opera star, will be performing in March. For any young singer, this is definitely not a concert to miss!

http://www.coloradosymphony.org/

If you want to find concerts that are a little more wallet friendly, Colorado University offers a wide variety of concerts throughout the school year. There are student recitals, which are free and can be instrument specific, that are great for a young musician to attend.

http://music.colorado.edu/

The Denver Center offers a massive, and impressive variety of shows that is great for any musician to see. A few to mention are, The Lion King, A Christmas Carol, Wicked, and Hair.  I recommend a concert at the Denver Center, purely because of the wide range of interest that they cater to.

http://www.denvercenter.org/home.aspx

I hope you can take advantage of all this area has to offer musically. There are a lot of talented musicians in the area. I am sure they would like your support and I am sure your kids can really learn from them, and further enjoy music and what it has to offer.

Musical Happenings

April 20, 2011

By Denise McCoy, Piano, Voice and Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Denise McCoy, Piano, Voice and Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Denise McCoy

Summer is just around the corner, let the fun begin! Every summer, musicians from all types of genres play for their audience. Boulder has some great venues that are worth checking out with your kids!

Starting May 7th, Chautauqua’s online box office is open, and tickets can be ordered either by calling their number (featured on their website below). On May 9th, the actual box office opens and tickets can be purchased on site. http://www.chautauqua.com/pdf/cca_calendar2011_apr-may.pdf On this website, you can view their entire summer concert season! The tickets are pretty inexpensive, but it’s generally suggested to order tickets in advance in case the event sells out.

In Denver, there is the Denver Center for Performing Arts. At this art center, there is a wide variety of shows to see. Traveling Broadway shows come through this DCPA, and quite a few in the summer. This is a good opportunity to get to see come acting, singing, dancing and the instruments that play in the pit! Tickets can be ordered in advance and be picked up the same day as the performance. If you stick around the side stage door after performance, you might even be able to meet a cast member! http://www.denvercenter.org/home.aspx

Colorado Symphony Orchestra offers many concerts towards the beginning of the summer that is perfect for the family! Some concerts are geared towards kids and their families and some concerts have an “inside the score” where music students and audience members can learn a little about the piece of music that is being performed.  For those looking for something a bit more contemporary, Boyz II Men and Pink Martini are playing in June.

The summer is the perfect time to enrich your child’s music education. It’s a great way to get the family together and enjoy a concert!

Carrie Newcomer

October 24, 2010
Kristin Vredevoogd, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Kristin Vredevoogd

By Kristin Vredevoogd, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

I had the wonderful opportunity this past Saturday to attend the concert of an artist I’ve recently been introduced to.  Carrie Newcomer is a Quaker folk singer, songwriter, and guitarist.  She has twelve albums out, the most recent one called Before and After.

Carrie Newcomer has a warm, relaxed, and smooth voice.  What truly impressed me about Carrie is the authenticity of her voice.  She’s putting herself out there, not at all trying to sound like anyone other than herself.

Carrie’s also an inspirational songwriter. Carrie also gave a writer’s workshop the afternoon of the concert.  I wish that I had the forethought to have gone to that.  Her concert and music definitely inspired me to do more songwriting of my own.

The subjects of her songs are about every day joys and challenges we all face.  Her music is very natural, flows beautifully, and is easy to relate to.  At the concert I bought her album titled The Gathering of Spirits.  The track I’ll Go Too is my favorite.

I had the opportunity to speak to Carrie after the concert.  What an approachable and genuine person.  I look forward to listening to and collecting all of her c.d.’s.

If you’re looking for a refreshing sound and a new artist, I recommend Carrie Newcomer.  Check out her website at http://www.carrienewcomer.com to listen to some of her music, find lyrics and choral arrangements of some of her songs, and to see her travel and workshop schedule.