Share It!

There is now an option to “share” these posts on your Facebook profile at the bottom of each one.  If you think your friends may be interested in what I have to say, please pass it along!  Except this post…this one’s boring.

All the best,



A Thirst Which Will Last For a Lifetime

On Monday I embark upon my second year of teaching Elementary Music at Logos School.  Last year’s experience was extremely rewarding and enjoyable, even though I was simultaneously relearning so much of what I thought I knew about musical instruction.  Each week I planned out my lessons about a day in advance because it was the first time I’d ever taught classroom music.  I know I botched a lot of things and that there is a lot to improve upon this coming year. But what made the year overall very satisfying was seeing how much the children looked forward to music class every week.  And as we all know, when students love a subject or class, they are much more likely to succeed in it.  Therefore, despite my inexperience, each and every student progressed in significant ways in only 30 minutes a week.  That’s what makes me want to go back this year…next week even!

What makes the children love music class so much?  Isn’t music as a school subject something only “musical” kids enjoy? Isn’t it a bunch of boring theory worksheets and tedious choral exercises?  Zoltan Kodaly, a Hungarian composer and music teacher, says NO.  I took a year-long class on Koldaly’s (pronounced “KOH-dayh”) philosophy of music education and the method of teaching that complements it, and that’s why I said above that so many preconceptions about teaching music were being challenged and changed.  For the good.

Kodaly believed that children were to be educated in such a way as to develop them into:

1) Performers (that is, people who make and share music)

2) Stewards of musical and cultural heritage

3) Critical thinkers

4) Creative human beings

5) Listeners

In order to achieve the #1 objective, that children be performers, he fittingly stresses the importance of singing.  He said, “There is a well-known saying of Bulows: He who cannot sing, be his voice good or bad, should not play the piano either.  What did Bulow mean by this?  He did not mean that every movement and part of a Beethoven sonata should be sung before it is played.  But that nobody can play it well if he does not feel and know where the essence of the melody is, and if he cannot bring it to life with his voice whatever his voice may be like” (Kodaly, “Who is a Good Musician,” in Bonis, The Selected Writings, 193).

Singing has a way of internalizing music that hours of practice on no instrument can compete with.  Children ought to learn, then, to play their own instruments first, which are themselves.  If they learn to sing in tune and locate, feel and understand the melody in any given piece of music, taking up a new instrument becomes a mere branching out from what they already know, rather than a huge new chore that is disconnected with anything they’ve done before.

Furthermore, as far as music is concerned, a voice is the only thing about a child that he is sure to have in common with the rest of the class (and humanity, for that matter).  Singing then becomes the most logical and natural place from which to begin instruction, since the teacher makes use of the one thing already in place in every single child.  Then, singing makes single children into one whole, as they grow and learn to listen to and control their pitch so that they each match one another.  For the educational method associated with Kodaly, this first step happens in Kindergarten…and in the following years, all the magic happens.

I will come back to this topic several times.  So far I’ve listed the five main goals for students of music and delved a bit into the first.  For now, here is a memorable quote from Kodaly that reveals why children learning under this philosophy can’t get enough of music class and also why it is essential that music be taught as a subject at school along with English, History, Math, etc.:

“Teach music and singing at school in such a way that is not a torture but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst which will last for a lifetime.  Music must not be approached from its intellectual, rational side, nor should it be conveyed to the child as a system of algebraic symbols, or as the secret writing of a language with which he has no connection.  The way should be paved for direct intuition.  If the child is not filled at least once by the life-giving stream of music during the most susceptible period – between his sixth and sixteenth years – it will hardly be any use to him later on.  Often a single experience will open the young soul to music for a whole lifetime.  This experience cannot be left to chance, it is the duty of the school to provide it” (“Children’s Choirs,” in Bonis, The Selected Writings, 130).

All the best,


Handwriting Sample Instructions

This is for those of you who would like me to analyze your handwriting – they’re instructions as to what should be included in your sample for the best results in analysis.

For best results, the sample should be:

Written in cursive (even if you haven’t done this in years, the analysis will be much more accurate if you force yourself to connect letters)

Written in print (if you don’t normally write cursive, give me both cursive and print)

Signed (your signature also has a lot to say about you)

On unlined paper

Written in pen

At least a paragraph in length, if not two

Sample must include:

Your phone number and e-mail address

The fee we have agreed upon (checks are great, or cash if you hand-deliver it)

If you would like me to analyze other family members or friends, include those samples as well and the normal fee times however many samples you give me.  Even children’s writing is worth analyzing and can give a lot of insight into their personality, behavior, fears, defenses, and thinking patterns.  These things can be extremely helpful to know in school settings and elsewhere.

Here is a sample paragraph that has a good array of analyzable letters in it that you may start from if you like:

“My funny faces make playful dogs and monkeys laugh, and you and I notice that the chimp told jokes too.  I am [your name], and I want to be analyzed!  Welcome to my life.  Now go get to it!”

I’m looking forward to talking with you!!

All the best,


Pianos of London

While I was wandering around and waiting to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral in London a little over a month ago, this guy sat down at one of the outdoor pianos placed around the city.  Each of the pianos is supplied with a small booklet of music chained to it.  But he didn’t need this.  From memory, he played a beautiful medley of several extremely difficult classical pieces, including a Schubert Impromptu and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor (one of my favorites).  He was incredibly skilled, and it was just one of the many amazing moments I just happened upon while in England.

Later on, I came across another piano, and though I knew myself to be quite inferior to the performer above, I used the provided music and sightread a bit of Chopin and a couple of others.  Lots of fun!  Now I want a piano of my own for outdoor use…

What Does Your Handwriting Say About You??

Hello all!

Having been recently certified in handwriting analysis, I’m itching to study some more samples and talk to people!  I normally charge $20 for a 20-minute phone conversation in which I tell you about your personality and explain what in your handwriting tipped me off…HOWEVER, to the first ten people who submit their writing after reading this post, I will charge only $15.  You may either mail a sample to me (please e-mail to get my home address) or attach a photo or scanned copy of it in an e-mail to me.  Please include your phone number so that I can give you a call in a timely manner.

Just to relieve any doubt about whether or not you should do it because you’re not quite on board with the whole handwriting analysis thing, let me say that if after our conversation you consider the analysis to be inaccurate, I will charge you nothing.  What have you got to lose?

All the best,


TraitTracks Handwriting Analysis

The 11-Year-Old and Piano Lessons

In my years of being both a piano student and piano teacher, I’ve noticed a pattern.  Around age eleven, it is very typical for piano students, especially boys, to beg and plead to quit lessons.  I personally went through this phase around this age.  I decided I was done – it was too hard, it took too much time, it wasn’t fun anymore, the list goes on.  My mother, wise woman as she was and is, simply said ‘no.’  Unfortunately, many parents are saddened by their child’s decision to give up on music at this age, but often do not put their foot down.  And so their son (or daughter), after only a few years’ exposure to the character-forming and brain-exercising joys of music, drifts away from musical instruction and usually does not come back since their lessons ended on a bad note (no pun intended…).  Since my 11-year-old ‘decision’, I have regularly thanked my mom for refusing to let me give up.  After the generally awkward years of 10-12 or so, kids take whatever they’ve grown good at and begin to really love and pursue it.  Not only have I seen this with myself, but also with several of my students.  Some are wisely pushed through to the other side, but others easily get out of lessons and usually regret it later.

So basically, this is an exhortation, at the beginning of a new school year, to parents (and students) to keep on a-goin’ with music lessons.  If your child is complaining about it, don’t just let it go this year and assume that the kid isn’t ‘musical’ after all.  Treat lessons like schoolwork (you don’t just keep your child home from school because it’s ‘hard’, do you?), because, in all honesty, they are just as important in the child’s growth and maturity as math and history.  Explain to them that this 11-year-old (or 10- or 12-year-old) mindset of theirs is completely normal and that you think it best to get over this hill and out into the next area of life, which will be broadened and enriched considerably by their continued piano (or guitar or violin or flute or voice, etc.) lessons.  They’ll thank you later!

What It’s Like to Be a 5-Year-Old

Ever experiment using your weaker hand to do things against its day-to-day vocation?   I remember getting a kick out of trying to brush my teeth with my left hand when I was younger – it was ridiculous how hard it was to perform such a simple task!  Well, these days I’ve been practicing writing with my left hand, and let’s just say I now know part of what it’s like to be a 5-year-old learning to write for the first time, something we tend to forget about.  The lack of coordination is shameful and rather humiliating.  The reason I’m putting myself through all of this trouble is because I am taking the advice of one of the faculty members at the recent Handwriting University conference.  He said that teaching yourself to be able to write with either hand stirs into action parts of your brain that are mushy and rarely used.  It increases your versatility, adaptability and mind-power…or so I’m told. :) I figure it’s worth trying – what have I got to lose?  Besides almost 20 years off my age by the look of my handwriting…