3 Simple Words – KEEP AT IT!

How Are You Spending YOUR Time?

 

FoxsFiresides

This is probably the most important message we can share with you during this period of coronavirus self-isolation.

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No matter what this pandemic throws at us, or how long we remain away from close human interaction and participation in our ensembles or classes at the now closed “brick and mortar” schools, let’s keep a focus on maintaining our “chops,” building on our “musical momentum,” and practicing every day.

From an eco-friendly (“save our natural resources”) slant as well as an economist’s perspective, you have invested too much time and money on playing an instrument to give up now! So, nature and the COVID-19 have thrown you a few curve-balls these past seven weeks?

The only way we should respond to the challenge is to meet it head-on!

Take advantage of all of this available “free” stay-at-home time to further your artistic enrichment and make “new and improved” musical goals!

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crying-146425_1280No teacher will have any patience listening to your whining or remarks of “could have,” “would have,” or “should have been” excuses. What have we always wished for? “If only I had enough time to learn that new scale, étude, or song!” “With all of my other academic assignments, sports events, and extracurricular activities, how can I fit in moments for listening to bands, orchestras, or classical virtuoso artists performing on the web?” “When am I ever going to have the chance to compose…” (or “arrange” or “record” or “memorize” or “conduct” or “choreograph”) “…that piece?” “When will I get around to learn this new technique, practice sight-reading, or dive into those drills designed to improve my key literacy, rhythmic precision, tone, intonation, range, form, coordination, embouchure, stick rudiments, or bow control?

The answer is… now only one word: NOW! 

What are you waiting for? You have too much at stake here, and soon, this crisis will pass, and we will all come back together – only much stronger and wiser for making good choices in the use of our time!

SHJOclips

We divided up the SHJO.clips into categories to develop your “well rounded” musicianship:

  • C = Create, invent, explore
  • L = Listen
  • I = Inspire, read, analyze
  • P = Practice, perform
  • S = Share, show others, play for fun

(Download the interactive CLIP JOURNAL here!)

How many of these have you accomplished? In your clip journal, do you show progress in all focus areas? Can you advise SHJO family members and directors on your recommendations on future projects to further our “collective” knowledge, skills, and appreciations in music? (We would LOVE to hear from you!)

Now get out there and learn, create, and share meaningful moments in music!

PKF

 

hi-res logo 2018The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow players.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of this article and the Interactive Clip Journal.

Other “Fox Firesides” are available at https://paulfox.blog/foxs-firesides/.

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

Photo credits from Pixabay.com:

“Campfire Stick Fire Flame Camping” by Free-Photos

“Learn Student Laptop Internet” by geralt

“Crying Smiley Emotion Sad” by OpenClipart-Vectors

Engaging Music Students Online

COVID-19Once the COVID-19 emergency was declared and universally all schools and outside activities were cancelled (for who knows how long?), the 37th spring season of my community youth (of all ages) orchestra was also “clobbered!” Up to this time, the Western PA-based South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO) regularly met on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the school from where I retired: Upper St. Clair High School.

It immediately became apparent I must reach-out to my instrumentalists and keep them “at it” to continue their music practice and artistic enrichment. How should we stimulate our music students and embrace those activities most of us “traditional” music teachers may be less skilled/experienced in approaching:

  • digital
  • virtual
  • remote
  • alternative or
  • distance music learning?

First, using a free-version of Mailchimp, a software tool that helps generate and send out group emails, we messaged our ensemble players, trying to inspire “re-connections” and independent learning, and giving them “pep talks”  like this one on March 30, 2020: https://mailchi.mp/129b1cfdc54e/music-and-artistic-enrichment-3922957.

Then, it was time to research the wonderful world of online music education, such as this huge collection of ideas from “professionals in the know.” (See my last blog-post at https://mailchi.mp/129b1cfdc54e/music-and-artistic-enrichment-3922957  OR this regularly updated link on the PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention website.)

The results of all of this are the following SHJO.clips, being distributed to our SHJO families several times a week. This is an ongoing process, and we welcome YOUR COMMENTS – questions, concerns, and new suggestions, too.

[All of these and future posts are available as PDF files at http://www.shjo.org/clips.]

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CLIP #1

Inspire: Have you ever tried the “experiments” in Chrome Music Lab?

What can you create?

https://musiclab.chromeexperiments.com/Experiments

Listen: Critique this YouTube recording of the Fugue in G Minor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmZURoUJQe0

Questions for self-reflection:

  1. What are a few of the strengths or positive attributes of this performance?
  2. Generally, how were the quarter notes articulated? Legato, marcato, staccato? In your opinion, how should they have been played?
  3. What improvements would you offer for the posture of the performers?
  4. What sections in the music did the ensemble “hang together” and when did they “fall apart?”

Practice: Select and play your favorite major key…

…performing a scale up and down on your instrument:

  1. Long tones (quarter notes), focusing on good tone and intonation. Quarter note = 60
  2. Four eighth notes per pitch in a legato articulation (same tempo).
  3. Two eight notes per pitch (same tempo)
  4. One eighth note per pitch (same tempo)

Every day you practice, change the key (start on a different note).

MusicTechTeacher

CLIP #2

Listen: Easy Guide to Appreciating Classical Music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v11OJNEdIn8

Sit back (wash your hands and pass the popcorn) and enjoy this introductory video for listening to Classical Music.

Did you know the definitions of opus, fugue, subject, recap?

How was the nickname “Moonlight” assigned to Beethoven’s famous Piano Sonata?

How many different periods of Classical music does the moderator mention? Could you name them?

Inspire: Are you a little bored staying home from school?

Just for fun, here are a few online music games your parents would approve of you playing to review terminology, composers, and notation.

Practice: “The Ladder of Music Achievement”

Ever wonder how a music teacher knows what and when to teach a specific musical concept? Here’s the “rubric!” Start at the bottom and work yourself up “step by step.” Take a passage from our music. How high can you go?

  • Level 12: I played expressively.
  • Level 11: I played with self-confidence.
  • Level 10: I played with phrasing.
  • Level 9: I played with the dynamics as marked.
  • Level 8: I played with characteristic tone (with vibrato).
  • Level 7: I played with the correct bowing style (legato/detaché, staccato/martelé, or spiccato).
  • Level 6: I played with the correct articulation (legato, marcato, or staccato).
  • Level 5: I played the bowings (down and up) and slurs correctly.
  • Level 4: I played the pitches with accurate intonation.
  • Level 3: I played the correct fingerings and pitches.
  • Level 2: I played the rhythm accurately.
  • Level 1: I held a steady beat.

 

noteflight

CLIP #3

 

Create: Learning to Hear & Compose Harmony for Our Favorite Theme

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RomMDJmMUUc&fbclid=IwAR1TKISv7ICT7DouuQo5CZsyIQ6z7w_WTtQRoc3s-QykJFHopT8uvv5QARo

Score: https://www.noteflight.com/scores/view/f7c3185d04f2c9307dff1114e7ad6596eb46da3c

Website for Noteflight: https://www.noteflight.com/home

Not sure if SHJO members have access to Noteflight, a free program for generating sheet music, but just watching the video, you can learn a lot about creating harmony. If you are interested in “jumping into” learning Noteflight, go to their website above (ask for permission to sign-up – purchasing the premium version is not needed).

Listen: “Warren Music” series

Although focused on “popular” music and at times a bit repetitious, WARRENMUSIC provides a library of music theory and ear-training (even play-by-ear) lessons, enough to keep you busy for hours! Do you play guitar? You’ll love Warren! See samples below. If you want to “hit the street running,” peruse #5 and then videos #9 on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wAux1hh9wU&list=PLz4ee9SDzhrpJ1v-o5VSqHSyMC3-rXjtP&index=1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWD5-xmSovo&list=PLz4ee9SDzhrpJ1v-o5VSqHSyMC3-rXjtP&index=5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7l6Y6fTPDw&list=PLz4ee9SDzhrpJ1v-o5VSqHSyMC3-rXjtP&index=9

Practice: “The Ladder of Music Achievement – Part 2”

Now let’s assess your practice. Pick out a passage from the SHJO folder or any excerpt (several measures or lines) from other challenging solo/ensemble repertoire.  Play the same section every day for a week. Create a journal with the date, problem solving observations, other comments, and rate your daily achievement using this meter:

  • Level 12: I played expressively. _______________________________________
  • Level 11: I played with self-confidence. _______________________________________
  • Level 10: I played with phrasing. _______________________________________
  • Level 9: I played with the dynamics as marked. _______________________________________
  • Level 8: I played with characteristic tone (with vibrato). _______________________________________
  • Level 7: I played with the correct bowing style (legato/detaché, staccato/martelé, or spiccato). _______________________________________
  • Level 6: I played the correct articulation (legato, marcato, staccato). _______________________________________
  • Level 5: I played bowings (down/up) & slurs correctly. _______________________________________
  • Level 4: I played the pitches with accurate intonation. _______________________________________
  • Level 3:  I played the correct fingerings and pitches. _______________________________________
  • Level 2: I played the rhythm accurately. _______________________________________
  • Level 1: I held a steady beat. _______________________________________

Inspire: 126+ More Musical Games and Quizzes!

http://www.musictechteacher.com/music_quizzes/music_quizzes.htm

Check the above link of MusicTechTeacher’s entire collection! You can review concepts while having fun GAMING!

CLIP #4

Inspire: “A Message from The Foxes’ Favorite Master Motivator”

“Dr. Tim!”

Did you sit down and view “A Message from Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser” we sent out in the last Mailchimp newsletter? If you do nothing else today, this should be your number one priority! (Share this with your family members.)

Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MwWVkBBREw

Think about trying one or two of the things he suggested for helping yourself and others during this break.

Listen: Pittsburgh Symphony “Extraordinary Measures”

We are always looking for more SHJO.clips, and Mackenzie Cloutier researched and found this link of five videos! Even live performances of the PSO have been cancelled, but they are playing “on the web” just for you! Go to:

https://pittsburghsymphony.org/pso_home/web/extraordinary-measures

Practice: “The Wheel of Fortune”

SHJO Practice Spinner

Do you need help deciding on WHAT TO PRACTICE? How about going tech with an online SPINNER to SELECT what you should work on? Mrs. Fox found this cool website: https://pickrandom.com/random-wheel/.

Spin to cover at least 3 categories a day. Use the setting that removes the number after you spin it (no repeats).

  • Zero = WARMUPS
  • One = SCALES
  • Two = ETUDES
  • Three = SOLOS
  • Four = ENSEMBLE MUSIC
  • Five = MEMORIZE A TUNE
  • Six = SIGHT-READ SOMETHING NEW
  • Seven = “OLDIES”
  • Eight = RECORD A SELECTION
  • Nine = PLAY A DUET WITH YOURSELF
  • Ten = PERFORM FOR SOMEONE

Share: We’re looking for more online games…

…that review music theory, history, notation, terms, etc.

Did you try all of these?  http://www.musictechteacher.com/music_quizzes/music_quizzes.htm

Sometimes music learning can be a lot like GAMING! Mr. Fox found another website with which to experiment:

Ultimate List of Online Music Games: https://cornerstoneconfessions.com/2012/08/the-ultimate-list-of-online-music.html

If you find something interesting – any game, recording, or website – share it by emailing Mr. Fox at pfox@shjo.org.

Create: BINGO CARD!

We are also looking for someone to design a fun practice card like this one: https://christina-yunghans.squarespace.com/s/Music-Bingo-Cards-sample.pdf.

Send a single copy to pfox@shjo.org.

Mr. Fox's Music Bingo

CLIP #5

Share: “On the Ear” News Reporter

Broadcast your own music review!

For this activity, you will need a device with voice recording capabilities, and a different device to listen to music selections, such as a radio or a record player, CD player, tape recorder, Music Choice channels on cable TV, or a computer on which you can view a YouTube selection, etc. Listen to an orchestral music selection or a recording of a selection for the instrument you play. (Examples: Bach Fugue in G minor, “The Lesser” or Haydn Trumpet Concerto, and so on.) As you listen to the music on one device, have you voice recorder ready to make running comments, just like a music reviewer or “play by play” sports event reporter. Download all of the instructions here:  http://www.shjo.org/s/Music-Reporter-032620.pdf

Inspire: “The Musicologist”

Free music theory review, courtesy of musictheory.net

We learned a lot last year using our Alfred Music Theory series. How much of it can you recall defining the “fundamentals of music notation?” (You do not have to purchase their Tenuto app as advertised on the website, although it is a reasonably priced option for further study! If you are a serious musician, Mr. Fox recommends it.)

Complimentary online instruction is available at https://www.musictheory.net/lessons.

To test your knowledge, here is the free link: https://www.musictheory.net/exercises.

Listen: “How Bad Can It Get?”

Classical music “fails” – just for fun!

Do you need a good laugh… conductors losing batons, concert disruptions, and much more? If you can get past the hideously out-of-tune and badly played introduction, see if you can find a violist making fun of a cell phone going off during his recital: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPA31kvEUyY

Practice: “Mr. Fox’s Music Bingo”

A few ideas to keep on practicing and “give back” your music!     

If you want to print your own copy of the card or re-arrange the order of the activities, download from this link: https://christina-yunghans.squarespace.com/s/Music-Bingo-Cards-sample.pdf.

Practice: “Mr. Sheehan’s Practice Guide”

If you prefer a more cerebral plan, download/read/apply the excellent manual “What to Do When You Practice” written by the band director from Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School (PA), and the new President-Elect of the National Association for Music Education: http://www.shjo.org/s/What-to-Do-When-You-Practice-Booklet.pdf

Four-a-Day Music Researcher

CLIP #6

Share:Easy Classical Music Games”

Teach a younger sibling or neighbor the “basics of music!”

SHJO has a membership of all ages. Some of these clever activities are pretty easy, so “show your stuff” to a friend or family member: https://www.classicsforkids.com/games.html

Inspire: “Budding Composers: How to Avoid Getting Sued”

Mr. Fox’s latest YouTube video “find!”

How many Classical music themes seemed to be “borrowed” in popular music? A few tips on copyright law, too! Closer to home, do you remember SHJO’s playing of “Aura Lee?” Do you know the origins of the tune, who originally wrote the lyrics and music, and what popular piece/group used the melody? (Hint: Elvis Presley)

“14 Songs That Rip Off Classical Music” from the UK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yknBXOSlFQs

Practice: “Musical Dice”

A roll of the dice can lead to different pathways of music learning.

If you don’t have a dice, use this random number generator:  https://www.random.org/dice/

Start off with a “scavenger hunt” of researching music. First roll is the row, second is the column. (SEE ABOVE GRAPHIC)

Then, try a simpler dice game for individual practice on your instrument, rolling only once:

  1. Major or minor (alternate) scale and arpeggio
  2. A band or orchestra warmup (long tones, tuning, etc.)
  3. Slow lyrical section from your SHJO music (alternate)
  4. Favorite piece (solo, school ensemble, or SHJO)
  5. Fast passage from your SHJO music
  6. Section of a memorized piece (solo, school or SHJO) OR play along with a recording

Create: “Musical Dice II”

This time, YOU create-your-own practice game with the dice!

Write down and number six musical objectives you have, short school or SHJO sections, technical exercises, or solo pieces you want to learn. Divide up each “goal” into gradually more challenging success levels – focus on different excerpts, more measures, faster speeds, add dynamics, phrasing, articulations, etc.

SHJO Music Exploration graphic

CLIP #7

Listen:YouTube Kids Playlist

Discover new online music videos!

Parents: Did you know you can set up a free account for “completely safe viewings” of YouTube media? Go to  https://www.youtubekids.com/. Mr. Fox took an entire afternoon off perusing these recordings, a little something for everyone (a flute player, cellists, sax quartet, etc. who will “knock your socks off!”) The marble machine is just for fun… one link is a machine, the other a live band. What is “looping?” Registration may be required to access links:

Share: “Whack-a-Note”

Name these notes… fast!

http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/interactives/steprightup/whackanote/

Like “Easy Classical Music Games” in CLIP #6, teach someone basic notation… or just have fun with it yourself.

Create: “Song or Music Writing”

A Few “Basics” for Getting Started with Composing (sample websites)

Inspire: “Music Exploration and Reflections”

Maintain a journal to keep track of your work.

(SEE ABOVE GRAPHIC – Special thanks to the Greeley-Evans Weld County School District 6 for sharing their music grades 6-12 materials.)

First, download the original, full-size two-page document (so that the links will work with “click and go”) from the SHJO.clips page: http://www.shjo.org/clips. (Word file is best so you can write on it;  if needed, this PDF version is also available: SHJO Music Exploration).

The grid on the second page will allow you to write down your progress, time spent, and reflections.

You act as your own music teacher – seeking out ways to enrich yourself with new knowledge of music.

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

Sharing a New Discovery for Band

Here’s my first try at a little musicology! Retired music teachers and those “shut-in” due to COVID-19 (which is almost everyone) can take some of their free time to “dabble” in a review of famous contributors and contributions to our music history…

Quick! Can you name one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, a pupil of Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, who was also instrumental in the development of modern dance?

Hint? Here’s his picture.

John_Cage_(1988)

John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, artist, and philosopher. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. — Greene, David Mason (2007). Greene’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers. p. 1407

Cage was a pioneer of the prepared piano, an acoustic keyboard instrument with its sound altered by objects placed between or on its strings or hammers (see above photo), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces.

What may not be as well known was John Cage’s intense study of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, which led him to focusing on the concept of aleatoric or “chance-controlled music,” which he started composing in 1951.

The I Ching, an ancient Chinese classic text decision-making tool, which uses chance operations to suggest answers to questions one may pose, became Cage’s standard composition tool for the rest of his life. In a 1957 lecture, Experimental Music, he described music as “a purposeless play” which is “an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living.” — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cage and https://johncage.org/

The “Classic” from John Cage’s collection

John Cage 4' 33"

Pianists and musicologists are familiar with the original Peters edition of one of his most notable works, titled 4′ 33″ (for its length), as well as his free use of exploratory and unconventional instrument types, equipment alterations, and groupings. John Cage was indeed most prolific with an exhaustive number of varied compositions to his credit, spanning his 80-year life:

From his Apprenticeship Period 1932-1936

  • Greek Ode for voice and piano (1932)
  • Three Easy Pieces (1. Round in A minor, 2. Duo in G major, 3. Infinite canon in F minor) for piano (1933)
  • Three Songs for voice and piano, (1932–33)
  • Sonata for Clarinet (1933)
  • Three pieces for two flutes (1935)
  • Quartet for any four percussion instruments (1935)
  • Two pieces for piano (1935?, revised 1974)
  • Trio for three percussionists (1936)

From his Modern Dance, Prepared Piano, and Transition to Chance Period 1937-1951

  • Music for Wind Instruments (wind quintet – 1938)
  • Bacchanale for prepared piano (1938)
  • Imaginary Landscape No. 1 for two variable-speed phonograph turntables, frequency recordings, muted piano and cymbal (1939)
  • First Construction (in Metal) for six percussionists and an assistant (1939)
  • Second Construction for four percussionists (1940)
  • Third Construction for four percussionists (1941)
  • The City Wears a Slouch Hat for narrator and six percussionists (1942)
  • Credo in Us for four performers with various objects (1942)
  • She Is Asleep: 1. Quartet for percussion, 2. Duet for voice and prepared piano (1943)
  • Ophelia for piano (1945)
  • Prelude in A minor  for flute, bassoon, trumpet, violin, cello and piano (1946)
  • In a Landscape for piano or harp (1948)
  • Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano (1946–48)
  • Suite for Toy Piano (1948)
  • A Flower for voice and closed piano (1950)

Sample First Chance Works 1951-1958

  • Sixteen Dances for flute, trumpet, 4 percussionists, piano, violin and cello (1950–1951)
  • Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (March No. 2) for 12 radios, 24 performers and a conductor (1951)
  • Music of Changes for piano (1951)
  • Seven Haiku for piano (1951–1952)
  • Waiting for piano (January 7, 1952)
  • Music for Piano 4–19 for any number of pianos (1953)
  • 26’1.1499″ for a string player (1953–55, finished in 1955)
  • Music for Piano 21–36, 37–52 for piano solo or in an ensemble (1955)
  • Speech 1955 for news reader and 5 radios (1955)
  • 27’10.554″ for a percussionist (1956)
  • Radio Music for 1 to 8 performers using radios (1956)
  • Winter Music for piano (1957)
  • For Paul Taylor and Anita Dencks for piano (1957)
  • Fontana Mix for tape (1958)
  • Aria for voice (1958)

Sample Happenings, Theater Music 1959-1968

  • Sounds of Venice for television set (one performer) (1959)
  • Water Walk, a work for a TV show for one performer with a variety of objects (1959)
  • Cartridge Music for amplified sounds (1960)
  • Music for Carillon No. 4 for electronic instrument with accompaniment (1961)
  • Variations II for any number of performers and any kind and number of instruments (1961)
  • Music for Piano 85 for piano and electronics (1962)
  • Variations III for any number of people performing any actions (1962)
  • Electronic Music for solo piano (or any number of pianos) with electronics (1964)
  • Rozart Mix, tape loops (1965)
  • Variations V (1965)
  • Variations VI for a plurality of sound systems (1966)
  • Variations VIII no music or recordings (1967; revised 1978)
  • Assemblage for electronics (1968)

Samples of Return to Composition 1969-1986

  • HPSCHD for 1 to 7 amplified harpsichords and 1 to 51 tapes (1967–69, accompanied with Program (KNOBS) for the listener, an instruction for playing back the recording of the piece)
  • Cheap Imitation for piano (1969; orchestrated 1972, violin version 1977)
  • Bird Cage for 12 tapes (1972)
  • Etcetera for small orchestra, tape and, optionally, 3 conductors (1973)
  • Exercise for an orchestra of soloists (1973, based on Etcetera; second version completed in 1984)
  • Etudes Australes for piano (1974–75)
  • Some of the “Harmony of Maine” for organist and three assistants (1978)
  • Etudes Boreales for cello and/or piano (1978)
  • Hymns and Variations for twelve amplified voices (1979)
  • Ryoanji for double bass, trombone, oboe, voice, percussion, small orchestra (1983; parts added in 1983–85, and an unfinished cello part survives from 1992)
  • Selkus2 (1984)
  • ASLSP for piano or organ (1985)
  • Haikai for gamelan ensemble (1986)

Sample Number Pieces and Other Late Works 1987-1992

  • Twenty-Three for 13 violins, 5 violas and 5 cellos (1988)
  • Five Stone Wind for three performers with clay drums, electronics and unspecified instruments (1988)
  • 1O1 for orchestra (1988)
  • Four for string quartet (1989)
  • One2 for 1 to 4 pianos (1989)
  • Three for three recorders (1989)
  • One7 for any sound-producing object (1990)
  • Scottish Circus for Scottish folk band of any number of musicians and any instruments/voices (1990)
  • Twenty-Six for 26 violins (1991)
  • Twenty-Eight for wind ensemble (1991)
  • Muoyce II (Writing through Ulysses) for speaker and tapes (May 1992)
  • One11 for solo cinematographer (1992)

New “Bandstration” by John Cage

SmartMusic library

We are happy to announce a fairly recent discovery, a unique musical “find” for band directors, the first of which is a new adaptation of his work 4′ 33″ available for middle to high school concert band (full instrumentation, listed below) and a reduced, surprisingly easy-accessible arrangement for elementary band.

The music can be ordered from number of publishing houses, including C.F. Peters Corp., Sheet Music Plus, and J.W. Pepper.

Cage arrangement for band in SmartMusic

Smartmusic (MakeMusic, Inc.) added the newest edition of 4′ 33″ to its music library, labeling it “concert” and “contest” genre at the “medium easy” level with options to practice, perform, and assess individual instruments from within the score, including:

  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • Bassoon
  • Clarinet
  • Bass Clarinet
  • Alto Saxophone
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • French Horn
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone
  • Euphonium T.C.
  • Euphonium B.C.
  • Tuba
  • Mallet Percussion
  • Percussion
  • Timpani

John Cage printed band arrangement

An even more simplistic elementary band version, with a recommended two minutes performance time, is published by Classical Arrangements for Young Bands.

Take time to explore the amazing life and music of John Cage. You won’t be sorry!

PKF

 

Bibliography

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

Virtual/Remote/Alternative Music Ed

Resources for Teaching Music Online During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19

The dreaded messages came to almost every educator:

EMERGENCY ALERT:

Out of an abundance of caution relating to the prevention of spreading the coronavirus, beginning on _____, all after-school, extra-curricular, and outside group meetings and rehearsals are postponed until further notice.

* * *

Dear Students, Parents, and Staff:

All ______ school programs such as sports, band and jazz concert, spring musical, choir festival, dance and voice recitals, booster meetings and fund-raisers, and the music department adjudication trip, are cancelled.

* * *

Important announcement:

The spring concert scheduled for March 28 at the Performance Hall will not take place. A decision about whether to cancel this performance or postpone it to another date will be made as the community health situation continues to evolve.

And then, the Governor closed the schools for two to eight weeks (or more?).

Governor Wolf
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

Dear Families,

Thanks for your patience as we work through the events that have been occurring and planning for what lies ahead. We hope you and your family are staying well, and we know that many of you are looking forward to a Virtual Learning experience for your child.

We want to share some important information with all of you as we prepare this transition. While we do not know how long our buildings will be closed, we want to be prepared for ______ Virtual Learning for as long as it is necessary.

The immediate effect? Suddenly, our kids were sent home for an extra-early spring break, hopefully remembering to bring their instruments and music! Trying to “embrace” this world emergency (from a safe distance, of course), no one had a “crystal ball” to predict or even imagine the far-reaching effects, many of which we are still awaiting answers!

  • When will we be able to go back to school?
  • How can we collaborate, grow, and share our music learning, personal progress, repertoire and skills learned over the past year?
  • What will happen to everything all of us were forced to leave unscheduled, unfinished, or “in production?”
  • Will commencement be cancelled, too?
  • Worst yet, will our seniors fail to graduate, receive their diplomas, and start college on time next fall?

Every music teacher I know cried out, “How can I reach-out to my students to help them find alternative avenues to making music? The challenge is now thrust upon us to find ways to inspire our students to continue building on their “musical momentum” in daily practice, as well as stimulate other sources of artistic enrichment and the self-motivation to create new music goals.

My first act as a community youth director was to “fire up” my orchestra’s website and Facebook page. We regularly send out Fox’s Firesides of articles on practice tips, music problem-solving techniques, goal-setting, keeping a journal, developing teamwork, learning to conduct, acquiring college references, showing concert etiquette, etc. and other notices to the members and parents using a free-version of Mailchimp.

SHJOclips

In addition, we launched something called SHJO.clips, low-tech but hopefully effective in “exciting” future music enrichment and exploration: online music games, worksheets, sample recordings and videos, practice excerpts, music theory exercises, sight-reading and ear training assignments, and much more… a treasure chest of FUN things-to-do or c.l.i.p.s. to do ON THEIR OWN: Create, Listen, Inspire, Practice, Share.

Archives of both Fox’s Firesides and SHJO.clips are available by clicking the menu at the top or visiting http://www.shjo.org/ (look under “resources”).

Are we permitted access to our students and classes online during the official closures? Does your school use Canvas or other virtual educational environments to hold digital classes, post learning activities, make assignments, provide feedback, and/or assess your students’ achievement? (Are you even allowed to do so? I cannot answer this essential question because I do not know school law and I retired from the public schools in 2013.)

smartmusic and musicfirst

Are you one of the “lucky ones” who had previously set-up either the Smartmusic or MusicFirst online platforms (and the students know how to use the it) and can continue encouraging your band instrumentalists, string players, or vocalists to sight-read, practice, explore new literature, perform, record, and assess themselves?

Do you and your students need cheering up with a “pep-talk” by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, the famous “music educator’s guru,” guest speaker and expert motivator often presented as the kick-off keynote session at music conferences. “Dr. Tim” challenges us all to focus on what’s important and how we can put our time to good use:

“Life is about 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

The pessimist sees the challenge in every opportunity, but the optimist sees the opportunity in every challenge.”

 

Set aside 17 minutes to recharge with this video. Then, share it with your students!

I am proud to admit that, in a single act, our profession has so far risen to the occasion. In an effort to help our “stranded” programs and motivate music educators and their students, so many tech experts jumped into the fray to post their recommendations and resources. At the end of this blog-post is a (very long) list of links from them, at least active as of today, for distance learning strategies and virtual music education.

logo 2
https://www.pmea.net/council-for-ttrr/

We have taken the time to compile many of these suggestions and warehouse them on the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association State Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention website here. Look under the heading “Virtual Music Learning – Engaging Students During the Break.” This is the impetus for this article. The samples provided below (probably only the “tip of the iceberg” and already out-of-date) are by no means all-comprising and fully comprehensive. With every minute of the day dragging on during this crisis and we are still “shut in” our homes away from our music students, new solutions are being posted to Facebook groups like Music Educators Creating Online Learning.

Click here if you would like a printable PDF file of this revision of resources.

Take the time to research what might work for you. At the very least, pass on the music games and puzzles offered at sites like Music Tech Teacher or Cornerstone Confessions. Venture into learning new apps like Zoom.com for webinar/meeting management.

Music does make a difference in all of our lives… and we need to keep our musicians and singers “at it” even during this catastrophe!

Best wishes to you and yours. Stay safe and healthy! Thank you for your dedication and contributions to music education!

(Editor’s Note: We have continued adding many more updates to the list below at the website of the PMEA Council for Teacher Training, Recruitment, and Retention accessible from this link.)

PKF

 

 

Sources of Online Music Media and Instruction

Photo credit from Pixabay.com: “child-play-game-technology-3264751” by ExplorerBob

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

Tis the Season for Musicals

Support and Participate in Your School Productions!

And now… a non-paid advertisement in support of MS/HS music drama programs… also perfect for celebrating “Music in Our Schools’ Month!” Please pass this on!

The coming springtime brings birds, flowers, bees, and… the magic of live theater! Lasting from early March to late May, the season of school musicals is now upon us! Here’s a friendly reminder from a retired public-school musical director/producer to attend one or more of your local shows! I guarantee it: You won’t be sorry! (For singers and instrumentalists already in a youth, church, or community ensemble, this is message is probably “singing to the choir!”)

dance-430553_1920_ bigter choiThe school musical allows all of the Fine and Performing Arts the chance to collaborate, create, communicate, and “come together” in the presentation of a new transformed art form… everything from acting, dancing, choral, chamber, and solo singing, and instrumental accompaniment… to costumes, make-up, sets, props, lighting, sound, and special-effects. The music and stage crafts “make the magic” to stir your imagination for an evening or matinee of wonderful entertainment and enlightenment!

Many of our local high school musicals secure the rights for the same licensed productions that you see in downtown professional productions (like Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and PNC Broadway series in my area) – one might say “professional grade” intended to be performed by seasoned professionals and not “watered down.” But, regardless of the incredibly challenging vocal ranges, dance steps and athleticism, virtuoso musical passages, and instant scene changes, the students always “rise to the occasion,” and perform amazingly artistic, realistic, funny, serious, romantic, thought-provoking, and inspiring numbers, providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share with your entire family!

supercharge the musical box
https://paulfox.blog/2015/08/18/52-creative-tips-to-supercharge-the-school-musical/

The scripts and scores for each show provide only the barest information on how to put everything together. The directors, choreographers, and set designers have to determine the selection and placement of the cast on the stage (defining their blocking and all entrances/exits) as well as the kind of backdrops, props, and platforms to build, position, and move (in and out) from scene to scene. Because of this, I can offer you the assurance that no two presentations of a single production will ever be the same. In addition, no two shows performed at different sites will even be remotely similar. The variety and unique talents of the leads, chorus, dancers, pit orchestra, and production crews, as well as the vision and leadership of the artistic staff, will assure that the audience will experience many surprises and excitement every time they come to the theater!

Support your talented musicians, singers, dancers, and production-crew members. Buy a ticket. Invite other members of your extended family, coworkers, and neighbors to escape their wintry doldrums and enjoy an outing. Do you love theater? Consider volunteering to help the musical, assisting in the peripheral such as sewing costumes, distributing posters, selling tickets, building sets, painting the scenery, buying a program advertisement or well-wisher announcement, or chaperoning the parties. Contact the school’s musical director or Performing Arts chairperson to find out additional ways to help “make a difference” in your school’s Performing Arts.

ShrekThe school district at which I am proud to have served for 33 years as music teacher, 30 years as HS producer, and 7 years as Performing Arts Curriculum Leader is putting on SHREK – The Musical. Their “grand opening” for two weeks of shows is March 6, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. in the Upper St. Clair HS Theater, 1825 McLaughlin Run Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15241.

What else is happening in our southwestern PA area? At the time of this blog-post, we learned of a few of these upcoming HS musicals. (Be sure to check in with your local district to find out what is playing, dates, and times, and how to reserve show tickets. If all else fails and you cannot find the announcement on their school website, call the building principal’s secretary who usually knows “what’s going on!”)

Sampling of High School Spring Musicals

(Southwestern Pennsylvania from March 5 to May 9, 2020)

  • Ringgold HS: Thoroughly Modern Millie on March 5-7, 2020
  • Upper St. Clair HS: Shrek – The Musical! on March 6-8, 12-14
  • Thomas Jefferson HS Disney’s Newsies! on March 12-15
  • Bethel Park HS: Guys and Dolls on March 18-21
  • Bentworth HS: Shrek – The Musical on March 19-21
  • Peters Township HS: Big Fish on March 19-22
  • Chartiers Houston HS: Beauty and the Beast on March 20-22
  • West Allegheny HS: 9 to 5: The Musical on March 20-22, 27-28
  • West Mifflin HS: The Addams Family on March 26-29
  • South Park HS: Chicago: High School Edition on March 26-29
  • Baldwin HS: The Addams Family on April 1-4
  • Burgettstown MSHS: The Music Man, Jr. on April 2-4
  • Brentwood HS: Annie on April 2-4
  • Elizabeth Forward HS: Drowsy Chaperone on April 2-5
  • Mt. Lebanon HS: Once Upon a Mattress on May 7-9

PKF

 

hi-res logo 2018The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair HS in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow players.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of Tis the Season for Musicals.

Other “Fox Firesides” are available at https://paulfox.blog/foxs-firesides/.

 

© 2020 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credits from Pixabay.com: “Staging” by Mauricio Keller and “Dance” by bigter choi

Success = How Many Hours?

Fox’s Fireside article for adult learners

 

What Does It Take to Master Your Craft?

Practice with your fingers and you need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much in 1 1/2 hours. — Leopold Auer

Mastering music is more than learning technical skills. Practicing is about quality, not quantity. Some days I practice for hours; other days it will be just a few minutes. Practicing is not only playing your instrument, either by yourself or rehearsing with others — it also includes imagining yourself practicing. Your brain forms the same neural connections and muscle memory whether you are imagining the task or actually doing it. — Yo-Yo Ma

If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, the critics know it. And if I don’t practice for three days, the public knows it. — Louis Armstrong

It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied. — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

 

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How much practice is enough? 2 hours? 4 hours? More or less? What constitutes too much practicing?

To grasp this essential question, a tug-a-war of time vs. attentiveness, Noa Kageyama quotes Arthur Rubinstein, Leopold Auer, Jascha Heifetz, Donald Weilerstein and others in his article “How Many Hours a Day Should I Practice?” He centers around the basic premise that deliberate practice is more efficient, engaging, and builds self-confidence.

When it comes to understanding expertise and expert performance, psychologist Dr. K. Anders Ericsson is perhaps the world’s leading authority. His research is the basis for the “ten-year rule” and “10,000-hour rule” which suggest that it requires at least ten years and/or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve an expert level of performance in any given domain — and in the case of musicians, often closer to 25 years in order to attain an elite international level. Note that the real key here is not the amount of practice required (as the exact number of hours is debatable) but the type of practice required to attain an expert level of performance. In other words, just practicing any old way doesn’t cut it.Kageyama

recycle-1000785_1920_johnhainThe famous “10,000 Hour Rule” was described in the book Outliers: The Story of Success written by Malcolm Gladwell, Based on studies in elite performance, Gladwell contended that it’s “an extraordinarily consistent answer in an incredible number of fields… you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.”

Gladwell’s message — “people aren’t born geniuses, they get there through effort” — was seized upon by popular culture.

There is a lot of confusion about the 10,000 rule that I talk about in Outliers. It doesn’t apply to sports. And practice isn’t a SUFFICIENT condition for success. I could play chess for 100 years and I’ll never be a grand-master. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest. Unfortunately, sometimes complex ideas get oversimplified in translation.Gladwell

View his explanation on YouTube about his “metaphor for the extent of commitment that’s necessary for cognitive-complex fields” (how long mastery takes) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uB5PUpGzeY.

nikola_tesla_napoleon-sarony-public-domain-via-wikimedia-commonsThe 10,000 hour rule was also cited in a book by Sean Patrick: Nikola Tesla – Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century:

The rule’s premise is that, regardless of whether one has an innate aptitude for an activity or not, mastery of it takes around ten thousand hours of focused, intentional practice. Analyzing the lives of geniuses in a wide range of intellectual, artistic, and athletic pursuits confirms this concept. From Mozart to Bobby Fischer to Bill Gates to the Beatles, their diverse journeys from nothing toward excellence in their respective fields shared a common denominator: the accumulation of ten thousand hours of unwavering “exercise” of their crafts. — Patrick

 

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To be fair, many have taken exception to the 10,000 hour rule, in articles like “The Great Practice Myth: Debunking the 10,000 Hour Rule” by Michael Miller.

According to Ryan Branstetter in his November 2019 “The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Habits of Mind,” creating or reforming “patterns of thinking” and habits may instead take anywhere from 21 days to a year:

Have you ever heard someone tell you that it takes 21 days to form (or break) a habit? Well, scientific studies have found that to be unfounded. When it comes to something easy, such as grabbing a coffee at your local Starbucks on your way to school, it might take only a few days for a habit to form. But if it is a habit that is challenging, studies have shown that the 21-day myth may actually more like 66 days. Or for very challenging habits, it could take up to a year!Branstetter

drummers-642540_1920_skeeze2.jpg

How about translating this prescription of 1-10 years to a weekly figure of five hours? With reading being the major focus for any stellar success in a profession, review the blog-post by Michael Simmons in Accelerated Intelligence: “Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Oprah All Use the 5-Hour Rule”

If 10,000 hours isn’t an absolute rule that applies across fields, what does it really take to become world class in the world of work?

…I’ve explored the personal history of many widely-admired business leaders like Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg in order to understand how they apply the principles of deliberate practice.

…Many of these leaders, despite being extremely busy, set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) over their entire career for activities that could be classified as deliberate practice or learning. Simmons

piano-286036_1920_crystalleHere are the “three buckets” (principles) of Simmon’s 5-hour rule:

  1. Read
  2. Reflect
  3. Experiment

Specific to number one above, apparently billionaire entrepreneurs like to read a lot, quantities of time, frequency, and number of sources (quoted in the article):

guitar-869217_1920_RyanMcGuire

By the way, how many books do YOU read a month? What publications do you have sitting on the coffee table or bed stand awaiting to be started/finished? A quick glance at my own collection of recent nonfiction acquisitions includes these titles:

  • Fewer Things Better – The Courage to Focus on What Matters Most by Angela Watson (Due Season Press and Educational Services, 2019)
  • UnSelfie – Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borna (Touchstone, 2016)
  • The 100-Year Life – Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott (Bloomsbury, 2016)
  • The Microbiome Solution – A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out by Robyn Chutkan (Penguin Random House, 2015)
  • The Weekend Effect – The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Time Off and Challenging the Cult of Overwork by Katrina Onstad (Harper Collins Publishers, 2017)

(You see, I do not exclusively survey the current best-sellers or today’s fads/trends… ideas, insights, and innovations can come from anywhere and any time frame. Now that I am retired, I can “catch-up!”)

singer-1047531_1920_quimuns

Back to musical preparation. You may have heard that saying “practice makes perfect,” generally debunked in several of my “Fox’s Firesides” for music students. I revise this concept to “perfect practice makes perfect performance” promoting “the ten times rule” in applying focus, problem solving, and repetitive drill. Check these out:

Finally, citing the initial reference in this blog-post by Noa Kageyama, here are five tips for deliberate practice by which we should all abide:

  1. Keep practicing limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused.
  2. Utilize times during the day when you tend to have the most energy.
  3. Write down and keep track of your performance goals and what you discover during your practice sessions.
  4. Work smarter, not harder.
  5. Apply various techniques of problem-solving to practicing.

He also recommends this 6-step general “problem-solving model” as adapted from various problem solving processes online:

  1. problem solving chart
    asq.org

    Define the problem (what do I want this note/phrase to sound like?)

  2. Analyze the problem (what is causing it to sound like this?)
  3. Identify potential solutions (what can I tweak to make it sound more like I want?)
  4. Test the potential solutions to select the most effective one (what tweaks seem to work best?)
  5. Implement the best solution (make these changes permanent)
  6. Monitor implementation (do these changes continue to produce the results I’m looking for?)

More ideas can be researched by reading The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle or The Practice of Practice by Andrew Mason, or visit these links for further study:

saxophone-546303_1280_schuetz-mediendesign

The bottom line? Working “brainlessly” does not promote significant improvement. However, use of sufficient repetition, exploration, problem solving, and mindful and deliberate practice will stimulate your success in the pursuit of anything worthwhile… especially the self-realization of creative self-expression.

PKF

 

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com:

wooden-train-2066492_1920_

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Cultivating a Precious Gem: Engagement

What do SHJO, Gerardo Parra and the “Baby Shark” theme, and the concepts of collaboration and teamwork have in common?

 

FoxsFiresides

[Artistic Director’s message spoken at the fall concert of the South Hills Junior Orchestra on November 10, 2019… appropriate to all performers, teachers, and parents.]

 

Have you had a reason to ask yourself recently, “What am I thankful for?”

Hopefully you can reflect on many things… Your family, friends, health, success, and happiness may instantly come to mind.

How about the privilege of membership in a “musical team” – valuable enrichment provided by both your school program (in which all of our pre-college students should participate) and community groups, like the South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO).

One does not have to look far to confirm the benefits of music education and fulfillment of personal creative self-expression. Numerous articles and statistics point to the rewards of “making music” and regular collaboration in a performing ensemble:

I even tried “wrapping my arms” around a definition of this “calling” (one that I have spent my entire life sharing) in a blog-post which features a community TV interview of me by SHJO musician Sam D’Addieco: https://paulfox.blog/2019/06/16/the-importance-of-music-education/.

I do feel thankful! I am grateful to have been granted this opportunity of conducting SHJO and interacting, teaching, and learning alongside our gifted and enthusiastic instrumentalists! These experiences and memories are “priceless” and “fragile,” just like a rare jewel or crystal. I complain for more members (we’re small and turnout has not always been good), but I am also reminded of a comment from my own inspirational school orchestra and string teacher, Mr. Eugene Reichenfeld, who was often heard to say: “Our orchestra may be small, but it is precious – just like a diamond!”

I say, we must cultivate the future of this special musical experience!

Don’t take it for granted! This unique “mosaic of members and music, where all musicians learn, grow, and lead” will only continue if YOU commit consistent time, focus, attendance, and practice. Success relies on your full engagement to SHJO. We need the players, booster officers, parents, and other adult volunteers to join forces!

CBS Good MorningThe other day, I watched on CBS This Morning an interview of World Series Champion Washington National’s star outfielder Gerardo Parra (https://www.cbsnews.com/video/gerardo-parra-on-how-baby-shark-became-the-nationals-anthem/) who is credited for helping to turn things around for the team. Although he may be remembered more for giving the Nationals a new anthem, “Baby Shark,” (chosen by his baby daughter), Parra discussed why he was concerned that the other players on the team did not seem “engaged” and stay afterwards in the clubhouse (some paraphrased below):

  • Parra: “Wow, what a team we have,” and referring to the regular season, “But, even after we won, no one was there to celebrate in the clubhouse.”
  • Anthony Mason: “A lot of people credited you for turning around the team culture.”
  • Parra: “It’s more important for my team that we start in the clubhouse… we dance in the clubhouse.”
  • Gayle King: “But you started that hurrah. You said everybody used to leave and then you said no, everybody, let’s stay! One person came, then one person came, and another person came…”
  • Parra: “Everybody like family. We’re one team, not 25 men.”

When he joined the team in May, Washington was a team with a losing record of 33-38 and 8½ games out of first place in the National League East. Parra himself was mired in a 0-for-22 slump. That’s when he chose “Baby Shark” and got his team motivated! In their last 100 games, the Nationals won 75. Sure, they have amazingly gifted and hardworking players, but what was the cornerstone of their victory? Their teamwork, “power of collaboration,” empathy for each other, and unified sense of purpose! This is just what the doctor ordered for the 37th season of SHJO, and all similar youth or community groups. We need to develop more teamwork, collaboration, and engagement, too!

Thanks, kudos, and bravos go to all musical caregivers and participants for caring, giving, and sharing, and especially uniting together as a team. What really matters to me the most? As I told Sam in the interview, I truly cherish those “ah-ha” moments of realization we see in our musicians’ eyes when they “get it” and reach a new pinnacle of success or mastery of their artistry! I also love observing many peers-helping-peers, multi-generational teamwork, partnerships of musical leaders and followers in the ensemble, and numerous “random acts of kindness” every Saturday morning.

“My” SHJO remains the single most motivating and meaningful event of my week!

Let’s all celebrate a Happy Thanksgiving!

PKF

 

hi-res logo 2018The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow players.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of Cultivating a Precious Gem – Engagement.

Other “Fox Firesides” are available at https://paulfox.blog/foxs-firesides/.

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Photo credit from Pixabay.com: “Pumpkin” by Lolame

Do I Need Ear Plugs?

foxsfiresides

What do the following famous artists all have in common?

  • seriestoshare-logo-01Pete Townshend
  • Roger Daltrey
  • Neil Young
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Eric Clapton
  • John Densmore
  • Anthony Kiedis
  • Ozzy Osbourne

Answer? According to AARP (see this article), all of the above celebrities have serious hearing loss, audio difficulties, or been diagnosed with “tinnitus” or “buzzing in the ears.”

Music students, teachers, musicians, or family members who go to music performances: Have you ever noticed humming in your ears? Did you recently attend a rock concert or had a indoor rehearsal of your school’s marching band? This could mean you were recently exposed to excessive levels of loud sound (musical or noise) which may eventually lead to future, long-term, and permanent damage to your hearing!

This article is a comprehensive look at “hearing conservation” for all practitioners of the Performing Arts… “food for thought” to review and reflect on your own “safe habits” of sound consumption!

abstract-2027962_1280_GDJ

First, I would like to reprint a portion of an “ear-opening” flier thankfully shared by an expert in the field:  Dr. Catherine Palmer of the UPMC Musicians’ Hearing Center (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).

Hearing Protection for Young Musicians

UPMCWe would not consider allowing our youth to play football without a helmet, work in chemistry lab or shop class without eye protectors. Yet everyday, we allow our children to participate in school-sponsored instrumental music activities without hearing protection.

Loud sounds are the number one cause of permanent hearing loss and this type of hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. The result of noise exposure is ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and permanent hearing loss. By the time people realize that they have permanent hearing loss, they have significant damage to the inner ear. Hearing loss impacts individuals across life activities – social, school, work, and home. School age children are the fastest growing population of noise-exposed individuals suffering permanent hearing loss.

Background

Day in and day out, music students (e.g., band and orchestra members) and their instructors are being exposed to potentially damaging levels of noise during practices and performances. Hearing loss is a function of exposure time, the average noise level, and peak level of very loud sounds. The chart below illustrates the levels of sound produced by the various instruments played in schools. Alone or together, musicians often are exceeding safe limits of noise during practice and performance.

Musical Levels

Musical Levels

I recommend perusing the entire website of the UPMC Musicians’ Hearing Center here and view Dr. Palmer’s video on noise-induced hearing loss.

trumpeters-921709_1920_skeeze

After a few additional online searches, I found numerous quotes from supportive research, articles, and links.

Surveys of universities reveal that more than 60% of band members suffer from tinnitus, or ringing in their ears, and more than 50% suffer from Noise-induced hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization, loss of hearing has escalated over the past 20 years and shows no sign of slowing down.

Band members have an increased risk for hearing loss as they have spent a majority of their young lives playing loud instruments near each other and during this time they have been exposed to horribly dangerous and irresponsible decibel levels without being warned about the lifelong pain and discomfort that they may potentially face due to playing in the band. Most musical instruments used in marching bands produce sound levels ranging from 92 – 126 dB as shown below will if unregulated or protected against cause irreparable hearing loss and may have already caused you tinnitus (rdistortioninging in the ears).  — Big Ear (#9)

As I understand it, the problem is two-fold: exceeding the safe decibel-levels of sound and the length of time you are exposed to these dangerous dosages without protection.

According to NIOSH, any level higher than 85 decibels (dB) for a cumulative period of 8 hours is damaging to the hearing mechanism and requires hearing protection. As the decibel level increases, the safe duration decreases. This means that a jazz band playing at 100 dB is safe for about 15 minutes before hearing damage ensues. —  BandDirectorsTalkShop (#10)

symphony-orchestra-183608_1920_takazart

Professional musicians may be at significant risk, according to many research studies, including one documented by the University of Toronto and the National Ballet Orchestra of Canada.

For the study published this month in the [January 2011] journal Noise and Health, a team from the University of Toronto’s sensory communications group attached microphones to the musicians’ shoulders — as close to their ears as possible — with a wire connecting them to a bulky box at their waist that recorded the “dose” of noise. To avoid under-estimating the risk, they chose performances of Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, the loudest ballet the company performs, then extrapolated the results across the full season of shows and rehearsals.

Some of the National Ballet musicians were exposed to levels as high as 94 decibels, equivalent to the sound of an electric drill. Interestingly, the flute and piccolo players absorbed the loudest noise, followed by brass instruments, and the double bass. The violins had the quietest experience, according to the study. —  National Post (#7)

For young musicians, I have recommended the specially discounted Etymotic’s ER-20 ear plugs, which seem to offer a practical way to help protect hearing during rehearsals and performances. The company that makes them offers an interesting article about their “adopt a band” program here and a “slide rule” tool (pictured below) to help predict measurements of dangerous levels and time exposures to loud sounds here.

Know the Risk

There seems to be some debate about sound distortion with the use of these ear plugs. The cheap yellow foam plugs may cause alteration of the music’s intensity and timbre. Personally, I have noticed few problems with the ER-20s, although you may “hear” of conflicting viewpoints on hearing/comfort/distortion issues in the media.

This is the chasm between audiologists and musicians. We [Etymotic] think we’ve found the answer and the technology, and the musicians are telling us, no, not yet. This outlines the importance of collaboration between audiologists, hearing health care providers, and musicians to find what works. —  Ascent Hearing (#11)

The bottom line, if you want to protect your hearing, you will have to use them regularly.

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Also from the University of South Carolina Marching Band and Big Ear (#11), here are a few tips on conserving your hearing in a band rehearsal. Starting right now, you can “monitor and adjust” any excessively high sound exposure and dangers to your health!

  1. If you feel any sensation in your ears, speak up. Your section leaders and band directors are across-the-board caring people with a healthy appreciation for music and those who make it, so don’t ever feel like you are being bothersome if you talk to them about pain in your ears.
  2. Notice the times of your rehearsal when the music peaks and prepare yourself by having a cheap pair of foam earplugs to stick in for that overwhelmingly loud duration.
  3. Distance yourself from an unruly player. If there is a member of your band who is known to let off an extra loud trumpet, piccolo, alto sax, or drum solo after you finish a song, try to distance yourself from the blast zone and be aware of your surroundings.
  4. Hand-in-hand with tip number 3, talk to that person about their habit and politely ask them to be mindful of their fellow musicians around them.
  5. If you are taking any medication, talk to your doctor or school nurse about the specific medications interaction with decibel levels as there are hundreds of medications that can damage your inner ear hair cells and cause you permanent hearing damage.
  6. In the same light, if you hear the word ototoxic followed by the name of a medication you are taking, speak to your doctor and band director immediately.
  7. If you hear for any reason at all ringing in your ears, address the sensation immediately with your section leader or band director.

The final authority on noise-induced hearing loss comes from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, a good online resource posted here.

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For our South Hills Junior Orchestra players, we are selling the ETY-20 ear plugs (discounted by UPMC for only $6/pair). Last year (2018-2019), I made sure my piccolo players had a set, and will strongly encourage the purchase of these by all of my brass and percussion instrumentalists, especially those who participate in their school marching band programs.

PKF

 

References

  1. “Teen Musicians: ‘Uncool’ Earplugs May Save Your Hearing” https://www.seattletimes.com/life/wellness/teen-musicians-uncool-earplugs-may-save-your-hearing/
  2. “Musicians in an Orchestra May Be Exposed to Unhealthy Sound Levels” https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/have-you-heard/orchestra-musicians-unhealthy-sound-levels
  3. “Protect Your Hearing When You Play a Musical Instrument” https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/have-you-heard/musicians-face-higher-risk-of-hearing-loss
  4. “Incidence and Relative Risk of Hearing Disorders in professional Musicians” https://oem.bmj.com/content/oemed/71/7/472.full.pdf
  5. “School Band Performances Causing Hearing Loss” https://www.hearhereindy.com/school-bands
  6. “Musicians and Hearing Loss: What You Need to Know” https://www.signiausa.com/blog/musicians-hearing-loss/
  7. “Orchestral Musicians Face Unhealthy Sounds: Study” https://nationalpost.com/news/orchestral-musicians-face-unhealthy-sound-levels-study#ixzz1ApNlDV42
  8. “Turn It Up? Musicians Run Far Higher Risk of Hearing Loss” https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/turn-it-musicians-run-far-higher-risk-hearing-loss-n93981
  9. “Why Do I Need Hearing Protection?” https://www.bigearinc.com/university-of-south-carolina-marching-band-hearing-protection/
  10. “Conserving Your Earsight” — https://banddirectorstalkshop.com/2017/11/24/hearing-protection-for-band-directors/
  11. “Musicians, from School Bands to Symphonies, Risk Hearing Loss” — https://www.ascenthearingsimivalley.com/musicians-from-school-bands-to-symphonies-risk-hearing-loss/
  12. “Noise-Induced Hearing Loss” — https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss
  13. “List of Rockers with Hearing Loss Grows” — https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2018/musicians-hearing-loss.html
  14. “Musicians’ Hearing Center” — https://www.upmc.com/services/ear-nose-throat/services/hearing-and-balance/audiology/musicians-hearing

 

hi-res logo 2018The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow members.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

All Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of Do I Need Earplugs?

Other “Fox’s Firesides” are available at https://paulfox.blog/foxs-firesides/.

Photo credits (in order) from Pixabay.com

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Reference Letters: What To Do?

Reprinted from “A View from the Podium” (Upper St. Clair High School, 2015) for current South Hills Junior Orchestra members and other students seeking recommendation letters from their music teachers.

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If you are requesting a letter of recommendation from any teaching staff member, administrator, minister, coach, or activity sponsor for college entrance, scholarships, awards, or job placement, please follow the instructions of your school counselor AND review/complete the steps below.

Do you have an updated “me-file” on your computer’s desktop? Maintain a bulleted list of accomplishments with dates. Scan archives of awards, programs, commendations, special honors, and significant assessments. This will become the basis for the creation of résumés or portfolios, and background for your college or employment essays.

In person, ask the teacher from whom you want the letter if he/she is willing to do this. This should be an adult in whom you have a great deal of trust and with whom you have had frequent contact. If you have any doubt or misgivings like “Does this professional like me?” or “Will he/she give me a fair rating?” – then you should ask someone else. If you are a current member of SHJO, anyone asking Mr. Fox should have no fear. He will tell you immediately if there is any problem in writing a positive letter.

In my opinion, if you choose the right person to do your letter, you can sign-off your rights to see it before submission to the institution. A student checking “yes” to waiving his/her access to/examination of the reference may look better to the evaluator. Although not required, some may send you a copy of it for your files. That is my standard practice.

Know your deadlines. BY WHEN do you need the reference letters or common app teacher recommendations?

seriestoshare-logo-01As a courtesy to the writer (and modeling good preparation on your part), give at least two to three weeks’ notice (more is better). Remember: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on the teacher’s part.” It would also be polite to “gently remind” the staff member about the final deadline of the recommendation (at least one weekend’s notice). For SHJO, one Saturday ahead of the final deadline would be ideal.

Unless it is an online application or digital reference, the individual requesting the recommendation should provide in advance a pre-stamped self-addressed envelope to be signed, sealed, and mailed directly to any school or organization.

To facilitate “anecdotal references” and confirm accurate data/details, email a mini-résumé of your achievements, particularly those things that can be mentioned in the letter. Try to complete as many of these as possible:

  1. When did you first begin your musical (or other academic specialty) study? When did you join SHJO or other music group?
  2. What classes, ensembles, and/or productions have you participated at school?
  3. What music or academic leadership positions have you served (give specific dates)?
  4. What are your outside activities?
  5. What have you done as community service?
  6. How are you unique? Describe yourself in three to five words.
  7. What qualities or strengths have you exhibited that the staff member, from working with you, could corroborate in the letter?
  8. Can you remember any funny or significant class or rehearsal anecdote that demonstrated growth in your musical technique, expressiveness, student leadership, “team” or ensemble building, or the 21st Century learning skills of creativity, communications, critical thinking, collaboration, and global understanding?
  9. What is your planned major or minor in college, and how did your association with the staff member (his/her classes or activities) help you gain the experience, insight, or confidence to go into this field?

Good luck! PKF  Revised 3/18/19

hi-res logo 2018

The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow members.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of Reference Letters: What to Do?

Other “Fox Firesides” are available at https://paulfox.blog/foxs-firesides/.

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

 

Photo credit from Pixabay.com: “Fireside” by pixeldust

 

Life Hacks for Musicians

The Laws of Practicing & More Tips on Preparing Music

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Many of the early South Hills Junior Orchestra “Fox’s Firesides” are about developing new techniques to solve musical problems, dispelling the myth that all you need to do is put in the time. Is there any truth in “practice makes perfect?” Not really. It is more critical that all instrumentalists set-up a regular schedule for focused practice, limiting all distractions, defining and working on goals, and then the truer adage can be modeled: “perfect practice develops perfect playing.”

Perhaps since January is the first month of The New Year, this would be a good time to review the different practice techniques we have already published at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/foxs-firesides/, especially #1, #4, and #8.

Here are a few more ideas, “borrowed” from my former place of employment – the Upper St. Clair School District Performing Arts Department.

 

THE LAWS OF PRACTICING

The 24-Hour Law – It takes 24 hours for yesterday’s lesson to be learned.

The Perfect Attendance Law – Practicing a little every day always beats cramming.

The Three Musketeers Law – Never practice without a metronome, tuner, or recording device to hear how you sound.

The “Elephant in the Room” Law – One must “face the music,” specifically, the musical passage with which they are struggling the most.

The Sloth Law – When in doubt, play it slower.

 

LIFE HACKS (Practice Edition)

Sloth Hack – Playing slower, to the point that it is impossible to mess up.

Jaws Hack – Slur a passage with which you are struggling.

seriestoshare-logo-01Karaoke Hack – Play the passage in conjunction with your favorite recording of the piece.

Time Trial Hack – Put a timer on for a few minutes and see how much you can accomplish in a short amount of time.

Drop the Bass Hack – If a passage is too high, play it down an octave.

Cheat Code Hack – Simplify a rhythm if you are struggling to learn it.

Here are several additional websites with excellent “hack” recommendations for developing better practice skills, but don’t forget to ask your school music director and private teacher for more advice!

 

Keep up your commitment to and PRACTICE towards real self-improvement, creative self-expression, making beautiful music, and participating in your school and community bands and orchestras!

PKF

hi-res logo 2018

 

The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow members.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of LIFE HACKS for Musicians

Other “Fox Firesides” are available at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/foxs-firesides/.

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Photo credit from Pixabay.com: “Fireplace” by judenicholson