Fox’s Firesides… for Musical Enrichment!

(Photo credit:, photographer Cody Mummau)

I have only the fondest memories of sitting around a fireside with family or friends. On those crisp nights, often roasting marshmallows and engaging in stimulating conversation, these intimate moments were perfect for swapping stories and reminiscing about vacation plans, personal dreams, or even revisiting tales from “the good old days.” Somehow the fire brought us all together, cleared our troubles, and warmed our hearts!

Although I’m too young to have heard them personally, we all know the impact of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s official “fireside chats” during World War II, his interpreting the news, inspiring our hope, giving out assurances, advice, and perspective, while interconnecting the mutual bonds and unity of our citizenry for the common good.

Now that I am happily retired from full-time music teaching, I realize downsizing and eliminating all of the office clutter is absolutely necessary. Cleaning out the file cabinets, I was surprised to see how many articles I wrote specifically for my ensemble members… everything from practicing, goal-setting, and development of leadership skills to selecting a new instrument. When I was teaching in the Upper St. Clair School District, we had online “teacher pages” linked to the school website which allowed me to distribute and archive these “tips and techniques” for students, parents, and colleagues alike.

Relevant today now more than ever, I decided to edit and re-issue these “Fox’s Firesides” for the members of the South Hills Junior Orchestra (SHJO), seriestoshare-logo-01which rehearses on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Upper St. Clair High School Band Room. (Anytime you’re in the area, stop by and bring your instrument: 1825 McLaughlin Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15241).

Hopefully you will find these “gems” helpful. Under the category of “Fox’s Firesides,” this blog-site will warehouse these writings. This is a “Series to Share,” so please feel free to copy and pass them on to other music students, parents, amateur musicians, and teachers “in the trenches.”

SHJO is a nonprofit community orchestra for all ages. New members are welcome to join at any time. Here is our schedule/flier for the SHJO fall season 2019. For more information, go to

Stay tuned for future issues of Fox’s Firesides!


Feel free to download and share these articles:

FOX’S FIRESIDE #1: Practicing Makes Perfect?  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #2: Where Are the Models, Mentors, and Motivators?  PDF file

FOX’s FIRESIDE #3: Goals for the Musical Road to Success  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #4: Pizza, Batting Averages, and the “Ten Times Rule”  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #5: TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #6: Practice Journals Are “Notable” and the “Key” to Making Musical Progress  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #7: Summer or Anytime Music Enrichment  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #8 (TECH TIP #1): Daily Ten Minute Warmups  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #9: Auditions, Adjudications, & Screenings  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #10: Audience Etiquette and Manners Matter!  PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #11 (TECH TIP #2): Conducting an Orchestra   PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #12 Three P’s and One B of Success   PDF file

FOX’s FIRESIDE #13: Life Hacks for Musicians   PDF file

FOX’s FIRESIDE #14: Reference Letters – What to Do   PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #15: Do I Need Ear Plugs?   PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #16: The Gem of Engagement   PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #17: Success = How Many Hours?   PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #18: Tis the Season for Musicals   PDF file

FOX’S FIRESIDE #19: Three Simple Words – KEEP AT IT!   PDF file

FOX’ FIRESIDE #20: SMART Practice  PDF file






certificate image as of 051620

CLIP JOURNAL        Interactive Clip Journal 042820


Online Music Reflections – a better way to record your critiques, practice diaries, listening logs, and clip journals.

Use this form for all reflections

Please continue your “online” musical journey, pursuit of artistic enrichment, and consistent “at home” practice!

Top Ten Excuses

Rhythm Book for Warmups

Twelve-Tone Sudoku

Plan-A-Concert Project

Music in Our Lives INTERVIEW

What Makes This Song Great – Rubric

Practicing with a Plan (attributed to Dan Urbanowicz from Peters Township)

STUDY AT HOME Music Appreciation – 3 week plan – Grades 9 to 12 PDF

STUDY AT HOME Music Appreciation – 3 week plan – Grades 9 to 12 WORD

© 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 by Paul K. Fox

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