Saturday, February 28, 2009

NS Design Blog

Hi all -
I will be posting, from time to time, on the NS Design Electric Violin page. I will post links here when I do. Note that I have also added the NS Design Blog to my Blog List on this page.
Today's post deals with a performance that I am doing this weekend at the Durham Performing Arts Center using NS Design electric violins.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A quick thought on practicing

This will be a quick entry today. We depart at 4:30 the NCMEA Eastern Regional Orchestra Festival. I will be taking 13 of my students from NCSSM. This has been a busy week at school. We just completed the 2nd trimester of the year and all of my students have been taking exams this week. (In fact, I am giving a music theory exam as I write this!)

My students have been trying to prepare for the regional orchestra event in the midst of this busy academic week. So, practice time has been limited. I took a minute a few days ago to look up the three pieces that they are preparing on Youtube and send the link to them. The works are: Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations, Tsiolkovsky's Romeo and Juliet , and Dvorak's Carnival Overture. These are all great, well-known works and easily and quickly available on Youtube. I am amazed at the number of my students that hadn't thought to check out a recording before beginning to prepare the music.

This, to me, ought to be task #1 when preparing a new piece of music. When I am preparing a work that is new to me, I seek out as many recordings as possible. I play them in the car, in my home, when I can study a score, and when I can't. I try to just internalize the work as much as possible. Then, when I have time to practice, I actually know the end-goal.

It took me a long time to learn this. But, after years of experience, I am convinced that listening is the key to achieving real artistry in our playing (and, for me, conducting). It is the same with jazz. How can one aspire to be great without first listening to that studying the greats? Yet, millions of folks try to learn to play jazz without ever hearing John Coltrane, Miles Davis, etc. Weird.

Additionally, it just saves time! You won't be fighting with figuring out notes and rhythms. It is so much easier when you have that aural reference. I know that my students didn't have time for that this week. So, if that edge is available, why not take advantage of it?

So, to my students, and anyone else that may be reading this, put on a recording!! It will change the way your approach your instrument and preparation. And, it just might save you some time in the process.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another Great Youth Orchestra Performance by Gustavo Dudamel and the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra

Another Great Youth Orchestra Performance by Gustavo Dudamel and the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra
I am sure that many of you have seen some the incredible YouTube videos of this great conductor and group. I just never get tired of the incredible musicianship and spirit of their performances. I encourage you all to check this one out. Simply magnificent and a wonderful example of what orchestral music should be. The personal investment of the conductor and musicians is inspirational. And, when you add on the background of the youth orchestra and the kids involved in this program, it truly inspires. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I like lists.

They are clean and clear. They give us a plan of action. They are organized. To me, they make sense. I often say that I live my life in outline form. I constantly make "to do" lists, prioritize my day and actions, develop short and long range goals for my day, for my rehearsals, for my classes. Maybe it is a blessing. Maybe it is a curse. I am not sure. Regardless, lists seem to make the world a bit more clear for me.

If you have been reading my blog for any time, you will note that one of my first entries was with regard to a list of suggestions for becoming a "positive deviant" from the book, Better, A Surgeon's Notes on Performance. More recently, I posted a list of the eight norms of the Net Generation from Grown Up Digital. I even posted a list of things for my students to consider when auditioning for an honors orchestra event.

I was traveling over the past weekend and had a chance to finish up reading Grown up Digital and was struck by another list that I would like to share with you. This list, by Don Tapscott is called "The School 2.0 - Seven Tips for Educators. I will give you the list and briefly remark on each of his points. They are strategies that are designed to help teachers to improve their work in this new digital age.

The List:
Don't throw technology into the classroom and hope for good things. How many times have se see this? Thousand of dollars are spent on technology and we give it a try in the traditional classroom, only to be frustrated and compelled to go back to the old way of doing things. We have to be willing to change the pedagogy. I am seeing this in my Audio Recording and Digital Music Production courses this year. We have so many new sources of information and unlimited opportunities for discovery based learning at NCSSM. I need to force myself out of the old mold of teacher-lecturer and into a new era of student-focused, customized environment. It is for that reason exactly that I am moving these courses into a direction of discovery based learning. Class will be more like a lab next year. kids can get the information from textbooks, Youtube, my online content, Powerpoints, etc. They will even take exams online. The real meat of the class will be the discovery that occurs during class time. I am still working out the details, but am excited for the potential results.

Cut back on lecturing
Simple enough. Let's discuss stuff. Let's DO stuff. I plan to set up class in more of a round-table fashion. As stated earlier, class needs to look more like a lab. I have always started my courses with the statement, "I don't have all of the answers." Now, I am going to put my money where my mouth is.

Empower the students to collaborate

Again, class needs to look like lab. Students can work together and bring their individual experiences and talents to the table. It is not that hard to do.

Focus on lifelong learning and not teaching to the test
I think that this has been a strength of mine over the years. I am an inquisitive guy and like to know how things work. I encourage my students to do the same. As a music teacher at the NC School of Science and Math, I know that most of my students aren't looking to become music majors. They want their lives to be enriched. I'll bet your students do, too!

Use technology to get to know your students
Kids are themselves online. It is their environment. By devoloping online opportunities for collaboration, such as Wikis, Ning sites, and other collaborative online opportunities, kids will feel like you are you are part of their world.

Design educational programs according to the Eight Norms
See my previous post on the Eight Norms

Reinvent yourself as a teacher, professor, or educator.

I am in the midst of this process right now. It is an exciting time in education and I look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead. This afternoon, I will be filming some music theory lessons for my guitar and Piano courses. They will be online and available 24 hours a day. Yes, I am reinventing myself even today!

I hope that this was enlightening in some way for you. I love my lists!! This one, like many others, sheds some light on the task at hand for all educators today. One step at a time. We will all get there and find new and meaningful ways to connect with and inspire the students of the Net Generation.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Teacher's Guide to Music, Media, and Copyright Law

Today is my last day in San Antonio and it was a good one. I gave my 2nd seminar at the TMEA Conference today. The session is "Science and Math in the Orchestra Classroom." It was well attended and the attendees were all really into the topic and seemed to get a good deal from the session. All seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the presentation. That was great.

After my session, I had the opportunity to stop by the Soundtree (Korg) booth to say hi to James Frankel. He is the author of the Music Technology in Education blog that I have linked to this page. I really just stopped by to say hi and to connect with a fellow music technology and education blogger. As part of our conversation, he told me about his new book, "The Teacher's Guide to Music, Media, and Copyright Law. All of you that are music educators should pickup a copy of this book for yourself and your school. (Hal Leonard Publishing)

I had a book that was very similar to this by Jay Althouse entitled "Copyright, The Complete guide for Music Educators" that was published about 10 years ago. I have used this book as a resource MANY times. The reality is that lots has changed in the last 10 years and this new publication is the perfect update for the Althouse book. It is easy to read and should be n every music educators office.

I think that we all want to do the right thing as it relates to copyright and intellectual property, but we don't always understand the rules. This book has the answers to your questions.

James and I had a great conversation and I look forward to many more discussions on Music, Technology, and teaching with him in the future. For now, I am thrilled to have this book and will share it with my school when I return on Monday. It is important stuff!


Friday, February 13, 2009

TI:ME in San Antonio

Hi all -
This week, I am in San Antonio at the TI:ME (Technology Institute for Music Education) Conference at TMEA. I am giving two sessions this week. One is called "Effective Effects" and is an overview of effects processing for electric violins and exactly what is happening with each of the common special effects that are found in multi-effects processors. So, we will be looking at Reverbs, Chorus, Flangers, Phasers, Wah Wahs, Distortions, etc. I will try to give practical applications for all of these special effects as part of the session. My other session is "Science and Math in the Orchestra Classroom." It deals with many of the possible topics that can be covered in an orchestra class that deal with scientific and mathematical topics. We will look at a variety of topics including frequencies, harmonics and overtones, intervals and scales, kinetic energy and bowing, time signatures and division, compositional techniques, and hearing perception. All of my sessions are sponsored by D'Addario Strings.

Yesterday was a great day and I particularly enjoyed the Keynote session for the TI:ME show. The speaker/performer was Jordan Rudess, the keyboardist for the great band, Dream Theater. First, let me say that I have admired Dream Theater for probably 15 years and I think I have all of their albums. They are a progressive rock band that is amazingly virtuosic and musical at every level. Their music speaks to me in many ways and have been a huge influence in my own music and the music of my friends and musical collaborators, Believer.

In his session, Rudess performed on a Korg Oasis synthesizer with magnificent virtuosity. He then went on to discuss his upbringing as a musician, experiences as a child at Julliard, and musical progression. He also discussed synthesis and his approach to programming his synthesizer to achieve his musical goals. He showed how he could set the syths velocity to achieve a variety of sounds with varied weight on the keys and how this has helped him develop his piano technique. He also showed the audience how he splits the keyboard to achieve his desired effects. His main point, I think, was that as musicians, we need to REALLY learn the technology that we have in front of us. too many of us just"use the presents" and think that is all that our technology offers. We really need to learn the instrument and utilize the programmability of the technology that is at our fingertips in a real way. Then, we can do the homework and customize our instruments to do the things that we desire to achieve our musical goals. I could have listened to him play all day. It was great to see and hear him in person. I was in the front row, about 5 feet from his keyboard. Very cool!

It is great to be here and I look forward to writing another post after Friday's activities.