Friday, November 18, 2011

Greetings to VMEA 2011

Greetings to all of my new friends at VMEA in Norfolk, VA. Welcome to my blog. This is a great way for me to communicate with my students, parents, colleagues, and friends. I use my blog to write my thoughts on music, education, the arts, teaching, citizenship, and a variety of other topics that are pertinant to my audience.

Thanks for checking it out and please drop me a note if you are looking around the blog. It is a great way to start a dialog and to communicate.

It was really a please to be at VMEA this week. Thanks to all at VASTA and VBODA for your amazing hospitality!

I look forward to hearing from you. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the youtube pages for D'Addario Bowed and NCSSMDistanceEd. Search my name under the uploads and I hope you find some content that you, your students, your students' parents, and others might be able to use. Be sure to check out the music theory lessons on the NCSSMDistanceEd site, too!

Best to all of you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Friend and Colleague, Todd Miller

This article is a reprint from the Cary News (NC) on Oct 18, 2011. It is an interview with my friend and colleague, Todd Miller. He is a real inspiration to me me and many others. You can see a bunch of his guitar pedagogy videos at, a site sponsored by the D'Addario Co. They are fantastic and this is a great tribute to a dedicated teacher.

Education Matters:
Published: Oct 18, 2011 07:15 PM

Music teacher inspires students to follow their passion

by Anne Woodman
I received a great email recently from Apex High School senior Deanna Metivier. After taking teacher Todd Miller's Guitar I, Guitar II and Guitar Ensemble classes, she is now thinking about studying guitar and music in college.

After talking to many teachers over the years, it seems that affecting the life of just one student like Metivier can be incredibly satisfying and is often the reason people teach.

Miller, who teaches not only guitar but also orchestra and music appreciation, agrees. While growing up in Fayetteville, Miller said his band director, Dave Freeman, was a powerful influence.

Q: So Freeman inspired you to be a teacher?

A: I knew I wanted to be a musician at age 13 when I found the guitar. But I never saw myself as a public school music teacher. ... I studied music performance in college, taught private guitar lessons to 40 students, and had gigs three or four nights a week with pop and dance bands. But after having my first child in 1997 and trying to work nights and be a father, things started not to work so well. I got fascinated with the violin, viola, cello and bass and became a middle-school orchestra director. I loved it.

In 2007, I came to Wake County and served as orchestra director at both Apex and Wake Forest/Rolesville... a commute of 32 miles. I loved both, but I really wanted to become full time at one school. (Matthew) Wight (Apex principal) allowed me to start a guitar program and create a curriculum. He wasn't sure we would have enough interest. But that first semester, we had 137 students sign up for Guitar I.

Q: What do you cover in your music appreciation class?

A: In the past, I think music appreciation classes start on a path beginning with medieval music and take each period of music, which can be dry. Our textbook starts with fun pop music to get kids hooked.

I use something I learned in a Psychology of Music class while I was earning my master's degree at UNC Greensboro. I walk in, write on the board, "All peoples in all times in all places have engaged in musical behaviors." I say it, louder and louder, and then I play "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who.

I like a quote I heard, "Reading and math are the 'how' of our lives, but music is the 'why.'"

Q: How much do you use technology in your classroom to share musical concepts?

A: Technology is an incredibly positive tool. I have an iPhone, and it has been amazing. We can listen to recordings of songs we're working on, use it as a metronome or record our performances. Because I'm a floater and don't have my own room, the fact that we have Bluetooth, and I don't have to set something up every time I walk into a different classroom is great. I can set things up in less than a minute.

Q: What are some of the concepts you teach your guitar students?

A: I try to get across to my Guitar I students that if they can read music, it will open doors for them. Many guitarists can't read music, but that ability will help you go far. Part of guitar is accompaniment skills, and the grand finale of Guitar I is to go caroling around the school in groups of four or five.

I tell the students that now they are the family accompanist. Music is meant to be communicated.

Q: In all of the concern about whether we are teaching students enough math and science to be competitive in the global marketplace, is music getting lost?

A: I do feel our orchestra program is in jeopardy. I have no middle-school feeder now, and every child should be able to find out what their passion is and get to experience making great art. For a small percentage, it might even open their eyes and ears to what they want to do. I tell them that there are not enough music teachers. There is still work out there, if that is what they want.

I think people forget the value of liberal arts. You learn so many critical thinking skills. One reason Steve Jobs was so adept was because he understood th artistic part of what he was doing and used critical thinking all the time.

Another thing Mr. Wight and I have discussed is the serendipity that happened with the guitar program. Kids we could not connect with were coming to school. They wanted to come to guitar class. Not everybody gets excited about science and math, and we have to give kids a reason to come to school. I think I was one of those kids. If it hadn't been for jazz band, I wouldn't have come to school.

I have found my dream job; it's a wonderful life, making music every day.
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