Why perform?

I have a small studio of students that I teach music to privately.  I love the one-on-one interaction, the personalities of each student, and the unique opportunity I get to see growth and change in my students each week.  There are many people who pursue the job of private music instructor for the same reasons.  Private music instruction is incredibly beneficial for students in so many ways that I have mentioned in other posts.  Unfortunately many private teachers miss the mark in one essential aspect to musical learning:  performance.

Would an artist work hours on drawings, sculptures, photographs, or paintings only to store them away, never to be seen by anyone else?  The answer is they wouldn’t.  Artists and actors work hard on their work and are validated by sharing it with others.  Music works the same way.  Students who participate in school music programs have many opportunities to perform, but mostly only in large groups.  In these groups individual students tend to get lost among the other students and they often can feel unnecessary.  Providing opportunities for students to perform in small groups or solo gives them the chance to feel important and to realize that their hard work and practice does pay off.

In addition to giving students a sense of accomplishment solo and small ensemble performances encourage students to practice and practice more effectively.  Effective practice is more than just playing exercises and songs from start to finish, it is in depth examination of an exercise or piece as well as examination of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.  These examinations teach students to study better and teach them about themselves in ways that nothing else does.

As private instructors we have a special obligation to provide these unique opportunities to our students.  Private music teachers should take the time to plan and prepare students for at least one recital each year.  Recitals give students a chance to demonstrate the skills they have developed in their lessons and give parents the chance to enjoy the fruits of their expense.  Recitals can be difficult to plan, they take time, organization, and sometimes money, but are always well worth the effort.

Here’s a few tips on how to go about planning for a recital:

  • Try to plan for a time that won’t be stressful for your students.  In other words, don’t plan a recital during the last month of school or near the end of a semester.  Also shoot for scheduling your recitals at a time when people aren’t trying to take vacations.  I try to hold two recitals each year, one in December, usually before the 15, and one in early May or early June.
  • Check with your local city, libraries, schools, and music stores for a venue.  Many cities have community centers with pianos that can be reserved for free or cheap; libraries sometimes have a conference room, but may not have a piano; and schools or music stores have gyms and auditoriums, but these often come at a steeper price.  Make your reservations early, as in months early, since the free spaces fill up quickly.
  • If you are not a strong accompanist arrange for one.  If you don’t run a piano studio, meaning you teach voice, flute, trumpet, or any other solo instrument, find someone who can play piano for your students and pay them.  Sometimes parents or siblings can provide accompaniment, but this should be something parents can enjoy so try not to rely on them too much when possible.
  • Keep recitals short and sweet.  If you have a large studio this means one piece per student.  If you have a smaller studio each student can play a solo and a duet (or other small group piece), or you can combine with another teacher.  I try to keep recitals to an hour, hour and a half max.
  • You should plan to perform as well.  Show your students that you support them, the parents that you are worth what they are paying you, and yourself that you still enjoy your craft by preparing a piece and also performing in the recital.
  • Prepare a program that mom’s can scrapbook, students can use in a portfolio, and guests can use to follow the recital.
  • If you plan a reception after the recital be sure food is allowed in your space and check for allergies.
  • Coach your students in proper recital etiquette.  Teach students to bow, how to introduce their piece, to recognize the accompanist, and to respect their peers by staying for the entire recital and applauding appropriately.
  • Send a note home, an email, or a letter as an invitation for parents.  Also include instructions for attire, the address for the venue, the date and time for the recital, and any other instructions you deem necessary.

Give students and parents a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labors, to be validated for their hours of practice and lessons by providing students with opportunities to perform.  Even if your students participate in school ensembles recitals provide important performance opportunities that students don’t get in large ensembles.


Dear Parents,

The end of the school year is drawing nigh and you are anticipating a great summer.  I bet you have an amazing closedforsummervacation planned, probably a house project or two, sports or church camp, and maybe some summer school for the kids.  I know you want to do what is best for your kids.  You want to spend quality time with them.  You also want them to succeed in their school endeavors and their extracurricular activities, thus you enroll them in summer school and camps.  But have you given private music lessons any thought?

Research shows that kids who do not read during the summer struggle when the school year begins (http://www.summerlearning.org/?page=know_the_facts).  When kids are not engaged in learning activities their brains atrophy and when the school year starts up they struggle to regain that lost brain power.  This applies equally to music and other learning activities (sports, bible studies, math, science, etc.).  When kids brains are not engaged in learning they lose some of what they have learned in the past and have a harder time progressing.

Unfortunately, during the summer, private music lessons are the first thing to be dropped in lieu of a sports camp, family vacation, or other activities.  I submit that music should be the among last of these to go.  I’m not saying that these other activities aren’t valuable, only that music lessons can be more cost effective and valuable than other activities.  Music is one of very few activities that engages multiple areas of the brain at once.  Music exercises the sensory cortex (muscles and touch), the occipital lobe (vision), the left frontal lobe (facts and patterns), the auditory cortex (ears), and the right frontal lobe (creativity) (http://www.pianimation.com/2012/07/23/this-is-your-brain-on-music-part-1/).  Can you think of many other activities that involve so many areas of the brain?  Practicing music also helps create stronger connections between areas of the brain, especially the corpus callosum, the part that connects the two lobes, because it involves so many different areas in both lobes of the brain.  Music can exercise skills for nearly every subject in school– language arts can be applied while reading music since music follows many of the same or similar rules as language and note names are the ABC’s, math can be applied when counting the beat, subdividing rhythms, recognizing patterns and counting intervals between notes, history by learning about the composers of the pieces kids are learning, P.E. by applying proper breathing and posture, science by learning about sound waves and intonation, even technology can be incorporated into music learning when students learn to use electronic devices to listen to music and computer programs to generate musical scores and recordings, foreign language skills are gained since most musical notation is in Italian, and, of course, art.  Can you get this much bang for your buck from a spots camp?

If you don’t think you can fit music lessons in to your busy summer schedule think again, most private music teachers are willing to work around a family’s summer schedule if you let them know about plans ahead of time.  Many will offer flexible scheduling at just about any time of the day and be open to rescheduling or cancelling to accommodate vacations and other activities.  Others will offer monthly or weekly group classes in place of or addition to individual lessons.  Some are even comfortable teaching lessons via Skype or face time to work around long vacations.  If weekly lessons through the whole three months of summer don’t feel like a good fit you can try bi-monthly or just monthly lessons, there are music camps put on by local music stores and colleges, high schools often host summer marching bands for parades, and even picking up lessons a few weeks to a month before school starts will help reactivate the brain and increase musical and academic success when the school year begins.

no-money-clipart-money-clipart-for-teachersphilanthropy--with-no-budget---zohra-sarwar-khans-blog-vnkvfabsIf cost is an issue consider this, many sports camps cost $150-$300+ for a week or two of training while music lessons cost far less, ranging in price from $10/half hour lesson (about $40/month)–$25/half hour lesson (about $200/month).  Another consideration is this, often teachers will lower their regular rate during the summer to encourage students to stay on, or are willing to negotiate payment options.  Summer marching band programs with a high school run between $25-$100 for a month or two of musical instruction and physical activity.  Music camps are often comparable to sports camps as far as cost, though duration varies depending on the host.  Finding an option for summer musical activities that fits in you budget is easy with a little bit of research that is well worth the effort.  Local school and music store websites often have lists of summer camps, activities, and teachers in your area, and if they don’t many school music teachers keep a private teacher list handy.

When you consider planning your summer think about music lessons.  Music lessons help keep the brain from atrophying in many areas by activating many different areas of the brain and keeping the mind actively engaged in learning.  Music lessons and camps can be scheduled around other summer activities and can be cheaper and more cost-effective than other summer activities.


a music teacher

ps.  just a little more information about the amazing things a musical education teaches.

Why do private music lessons cost so much?

Recently a friend shared an article about why haircuts cost so much.  It makes sense.  I’ve never really complained about how much I pay for my haircuts, but then I’ve never really paid exorbitant amounts for my haircuts.  But that got me thinking about a common question I’m asked when I quote my private lesson price to parents, “Why so much?” So let’s break it down.  I’m not going to pretend that I did a bunch of research and know a national average when it comes to these numbers, I’m just going to share my numbers (and the numbers of a few friends).

no-money-clipart-money-clipart-for-teachersphilanthropy--with-no-budget---zohra-sarwar-khans-blog-vnkvfabsLet’s start with education.  I studied music education in college, spent the better part of 5 years doing it, and that is pretty average for music majors.  College isn’t cheap, even when you go to a state school.  Tuition and fees were about $2,500/semester and books were roughly $250/semester.  So let’s add that up, 2 semesters per year, for five years at $2,750 per semester makes $27,500.  Before college, however, I took many years of private music lessons and participated in marching band, band and orchestra classes, community bands, and many musical competitions that all required some kind of monetary investment.

Now let’s look at instruments.  For a music teacher these are as vital as a computer programmer’s computers or a hair stylist’s scissors.  I play the flute, piccolo, and piano and teach all three.  The flute I play on most often cost $3,000, my spare was $200, and my piccolo was $900 plus I have a yearly tune-up done on my personal instrument for $35.  My piano cost about $1,600.  So total instrument value is $5,700 with an annual maintenance cost of $35 plus additional repair expenses that occasionally come up.  (I also own several other instruments, but let’s just factor in the ones that I teach.)  I’ll leave you with this, flutes and piccolos tend to run on the cheaper end of instruments, so my equipment expense is on the low side.

I personally teach out of my home, so I don’t pay any rental for studio space, but others choose to rent a space.  I asked a few friends who rent studio space and the average cost for them is, it runs between $100-$200 per month.

A vital part of musical learning is performance.  Some teachers are lucky enough to have space in their home to host recitals, or to find free recital halls.  Others, however pay for a recital space.  Price for recital spaces varies from $50-$300.

Music teachers also keep LOTS of sheet music and music books on hand that they allow students to use.  If I were to guess how much money I have spent on sheet music and books that my students use I would say that my music library holds at least $700 worth of music.  This doesn’t include the recordings I have purchased that I use to help my students, music software, notebooks that I give my students, metronomes, tuners, and other miscellaneous equipment that I use for private music lessons.  Let’s just say that in all of this miscellaneous equipment I have spent at least another $300.  Also consider that I am continually buying new music books, sheet music, recordings, and other “tools of the trade” to keep up with my students’ needs.

Some of the the best teachers are certified.  To become a certified teacher there are tests, continuing education, and certification fees.  The test I had to take cost $150, licensing fees in my state are $75.  To maintain that certification teachers are required to participate in continuing education and pay license renewal fees every 3-5 years. These classes and the re-certification all cost money too.9c4jLbocE

So let’s add this all up– $34,525 in initial higher education, supplies, technology, and licensing expenses (not including the expense of years of expenses prior to college).  Then at least $535 in annual expenses for studio space, recital halls, license renewal, continuing education, and equipment purchases.  That is why private music lessons cost so much.  You aren’t just paying the teacher for their time, but for their education, equipment, maintenance, licensing, and so much more.  You don’t often question or complain about how much you pay a doctor, dentist, or mechanic for their services.  So next time you’re thinking about private music lessons consider all that the teacher has spent to share their knowledge with you or your child and reconsider questioning the cost.  Also consider that you should expect to pay for what you get, just like with everything else– a better teacher who is certified or studied music in college is going to cost more than a high school kid who is just trying to make a few dollars to support a movie theater habit.

Proper Care and Feeding: Miscellaneous Classroom Equipment

Music classrooms are unique from other classrooms in that they don’t have the standard desks, chairs, and annual textbooks.  Instead they have music stands, risers, posture chairs, sheet music, and various other pieces of equipment that are necessary to provide classroom music education.  This post is intended to provide general information in regards to some of the more common pieces of equipment found in most music classrooms.  Please refer to owners manuals and your particular classroom for more specific care needs. pict01

Music Stands:  My general rule to maintain music stands is to insist that students do nothing to a music stand that they wouldn’t want done to their face.  This includes (but is not limited to) writing on them, spinning them, laying them flat to use as a desk, sword fighting, or using them as dominoes (yes, I have seen all of these).  I highly recommend storage on a stand rack when not in use so students are not tempted to play with them, and a yearly cleaning and blot check.  Cleaning can be done with a general use cleaner, soft cloth, and water, or some kind of cleaning wipe that is not abrasive, on of the best times to do this is at the end of the school year– have students help clean the stands then put them away for the summer.  Also be sure to check the bolt on the bottom of the stand at least once a year and use a proper wrench or socket tool to tighten loose bolts.  These are also the recommendations from the Wenger Company’s music stand owner’s manual.

student-chairPosture Chairs:  Taking good care of posture chairs is similar to that of the music stands.  Chairs should not be used for anything but sitting, and to maintain the caps on the bottom of the feet chairs should not be dragged across the floor.  Chairs should be stacked when not in use, because of the unique construction of posture chairs, however, they can only be stacked about five high, when stacking on the floor.  To conserve space chair racks can hold more in the same space of two stacks of five.  Chairs should also be cleaned yearly with a mild cleaner and soft cloth, also check for gum tucked under the seats.

Risers:  Follow all instructions for storage, assembly and take down in the owners manual.  Students should not be allowed to jump or otherwise rough-house on risers, as much for their own safety as to keep the risers in working order.

Tuners, metronomes, keyboards, etc.:  Label all school equipment in permanent ink and/or with a barcode, this will51dPhgqjjeL help prevent theft.  Check all batteries and cords regularly and replace as necessary.  Roll cords in a manner so that they will not twist, this will extend the life of cords and cables.  Clean items as appropriate with damp cloth, never immerse.

School mouthpieces and mutes:  Label all school items with permanent ink and.or a barcode to prevent theft.  Clean regularly with appropriate cleaners.

10043931Sheet music:  Instead of a textbook that is handed out at the beginning of a term and collected at the end, music teachers hand out sheet music many times every year.  Music is hard to keep track of and can be even more difficult to organize.  One of the best organization systems I have seen was student managed at a high school.  The music was organized alphabetically by ensemble and each part was numbered.  Numbering each piece made it very easy to put music away and made it very obvious when a part was missing.  The best part of this system was that each student was held responsible for their part.  This was done by taking down the number of each part each student had.  This may seem tedious and time consuming, but when it is student managed, supervised by a parent or the teacher, it really is efficient.  By making note of what number part each student has they can be held responsible for lost and/or excessive damage to sheet music, just as they are held responsible for text books in other classrooms.  Finally a computer file is kept of all the pieces so as to record when they have been removed from the library and when they have been returned with additional notes about the piece such as type of ensemble, composer/arranger, performances, missing parts, and conductor’s notes.  Students should be strongly advised to only write on music in pencil and required to erase all marks before turning in any music.  Also, teachers should provide folder for students to store music in, whether these be leather folders, binders, or cardboard folders the music stores hand out doesn’t matter, so much as there is something there to protect this valuable investment.  In the case of copies– students should still be held responsible for caring for copies– if damage and carelessness is allowed because it’s “just a copy” students will become careless about music that isn’t copied.

Upright-PianoPianos and other classroom instruments:  No matter the value of classroom instruments students should be taught to respect them.  Students should not be allowed to abuse any classroom instruments from cheap kazoos and egg shakers up to the grand piano or tympani.  Students should be taught to use cases and covers where applicable, to not store backpacks, books, etc. on top of them, and to only use them for their proper functions.  It is up to individual teachers to set rules in regards to classroom instruments especially large instruments such as pianos. Music classroom equipment should be respected and taken care of as well as, if not better than, equipment found in standard classrooms, as it often represents a more significant expense on the part of the school.  Students should be taught to respect and care for music classroom equipment, and what better way than to allow them to opportunity to help.  When classroom equipment is given proper care and maintenance it will last a long time and be worth the expense.  When students are taught proper care of this special equipment and allowed to help maintain it they realize the value and take more responsibility for its “proper care and feeding .”

When given the opportunity to help maintain classroom equipment students are more likely to respect it.  Rules should be set an enforced when it comes to the treatment of specialized music classroom equipment.  This will ensure that the investment is worth the expense.

What other specialized equipment do you have in your music classroom and how do you take care of it?

Proper Care and Feeding– Music teachers

At Christmas you send a treat to school for your kids’ teacher(s).  At the end of the year maybe you send a gift too.  But what about all the other days?  Sure, some schools have teacher appreciation week, and that’s great, but that is only one week out of nine months.  Teachers have a lot to do between writing lesson plans, keeping up with grades, parent teacher conferences, any extra curricular activities that they may run, etc., etc.  On top of the regular things many teachers have to do music teachers also have to keep their music library organized, run logistics for concerts, write up concert programs, plan trips and festivals, manage their specialized classroom equipment, and more.  A little “proper care and feeding” can go a LONG way to helping a music teacher. Below find some suggestions of ways you can properly care and feed your music teacher:

  • Create a booster group of parents.  The most effective booster groups I have seen have had a president to delegate responsibilities and the support of vice presidents or committees to run things such as transportation, uniforms, music library, equipment (stands, chairs, amps, tuners, etc.), instruments, chaperones, concert logistics, fundraisers, and anything else the music teacher is willing/able to delegatPiano keys with hande.
  • Volunteer to help with accompaniment.  Choir teachers especially need assistance with this.  It is incredibly difficult to teach from behind a piano.  If your choir teacher is willing to let you help out and you can play the piano volunteer to do so.  It takes a huge load off the teacher  when they don’t have to learn the piano music to performance quality and when they can teach without having to hide behind the piano, it is much easier to manage students when you are directly in front of them
  • Volunteer to chaperone.  Most music programs attend festivals and in high school go on trips or travel with sports teams.  Often school districts require a certain ratio of adults to students and it is incredibly helpful to have a pool of parents to choose from rather than having to hunt down chaperones at the last minute.
  • no-money-clipart-money-clipart-for-teachersphilanthropy--with-no-budget---zohra-sarwar-khans-blog-vnkvfabsHelp with fundraising.  School fundraisers can be obnoxious, who wants another roll of wrapping paper or a giant tin of stale popcorn?  Help your music teacher come up with creative ways to help raise funds whether they be to help your child pay a fee, for a trip, or to purchase new equipment.  Also, be willing to help with any established fund raisers– sit at the football concessions stand, take your kid’s third cookie dough order to work, sell those coupon books to your poker buddies…  It shows the music teacher and your kid that you care.
  • On that note, be an advocate for the music classes in other parent organizations and meetings.  If the PTA has recently put on a fundraiser and is trying to figure out where to use the money, suggest the music program.  Music classrooms almost always need something, instrument repairs, piano tuning, music stands, music, chairs, new instruments… the list goes on.  Advocate for the music program and it will certainly pay off with a better education for your kids.
  • Attend concerts!  If your kid is in a sport you’d do anything in your power to attend their games, you should do the same for performing groups.  Also advertise for concerts, musicals, and other performances, brag to your friends, family, distant relatives, and coworkers about the hard work your kid (and their teachers) have put into this and encourage others to attend.  Lastly, when you do attend be the best audience member you can be– put your cell phone away, applaud loudly, and let the kids and teacher know that you recognize their hard work, no matter how young the kids may be (and how difficult the concert may have been to sit through).  Your kids will thank you and the teacher(s) will too.
  • Get your kids to lessons and rehearsals on time!
  • Enroll your kids in private lessons.  Most music teachers have their hands super full!  Think about it, music classes are often larger than a regular class, plus orchestras and bands put noisemakers into those kids’ hands then ask them to only make noise with them when instructed.  Managing that situation is HARD WORK!  Unfortunately many kids struggle and that one teacher doesn’t have the time or resources to help each kid with their individual struggles, they can address general issues, but that often doesn’t help.  The number one reason kids quit music classes is because they struggled with it, it is hard, they don’t find success, and then it isn’t fun.  Even a once a month one-on-one lesson with someone who specializes in their instrument or voice can make a hug difference in the amount of success a child has in music.  If you think private lessons aren’t something you can afford call a local teacher and talk to them, many are more than willing to work with whatever you can afford or fit into your busy schedule.  (to show their appreciation for you enrolling kids in private lessons most teachers offer some kind of incentive for them, such as extra credit, or letter points)
  • If you have a problem with the teacher take it up with them personally.  So much can be misconstrued over Parent-TeacherConferenceemail or phone.  Set up a meeting with the teacher and keep the meeting.  Be civil and realize that you (most likely) didn’t study music education in college nor are you aware of the specifics of the classroom environment, school and district rules, and other factors.  Don’t accuse a teacher of making mistakes without first investigating the situation or being willing to help come up with a solution.
  • Make your kids practice!  You wouldn’t allow your kids get away without doing their math homework, or science homework, or history homework, so why do you let them get away without studying for their music class?  Having your kids practice tells your music teacher that you appreciate and value the subject and knowledge they are trying to impart to your kids.
  • Visit your music teacher during parent-teacher conferences.  Chances are they don’t have a line because most kids get a decent grade in music and if they aren’t parents just don’t seem to care as much.  But chances also are that the music teacher knows your kid better than their other teachers and can probably give you insight into why your child is failing math or sluffing Spanish, plus it will relieve their boredom.

Music teachers are people too!  Just like everyone else they have a lot going on, but unlike most other teachers they have more to manage than lesson plans and a classroom.  Give them a hand and you will see the immense benefits in your child’s musical education and experiences.  There’s always something you can do to help support your child’s musical education, if you don’t know what you can do just ask.

Thank you to all my friends who helped me write this post.  If you are a music teacher and don’t see something that has helped you here share it in the comments!

Let’s talk about sight reading…

I interrupt your regularly scheduled series on “The proper care and feeding of musical equipment” to give you this little post…

Those two dreaded words that pretty much every musician hates.  They make you do it for auditions.  It is part of festivals.  It is a huge part of selecting new music.  Yet we all still HATE it. What is it about sight reading that makes it so dreaded? Sight reading is a scary task.  It requires a musician to play something they have never played before and when done in front of a judge, teacher, or panel it becomes nerve wracking and even terrifying.  I believe that a large part of the reason sight reading is so dreaded is because so many of us have no organization to our method of attempting to sight read. Without realizing we are doing it most musicians begin sight reading a piece by finding what we believe will be the mostconfused-doubting-baby difficult part of the piece and fingering through that part as many times as we can before we are required to perform.  Others just start fingering through the piece from the beginning in the hope that we will make it far enough through for the effort to have been worth the time.  Some just stare at the music until it becomes a blur, not comprehending any of the lines and dots on the page.  These disorganized methods often cause confusion, but may occasionally supply small successes. When I was in a practicum class in college the teacher I was working with assigned me to sight read a piece with his band.  I knew how difficult sight reading a piece for just myself was, I was terrified of sight reading a piece not only by myself, but also guiding a group of sixth and seventh graders through a process that would make it a successful read.  The day before my assignment was to take place this teacher taught me his sight reading method that he uses personally as well as with his students.  I am going to share it with you here.  This sight reading method breaks sight reading down into four basic parts of music that makes sight reading far less intimidating. Steps for sight reading:shutterstock_70014118

  1. Road map:  When you are planning a trip you try to familiarize yourself with the route you will have to take.  You decide which highways to use, which stops to make, and may even investigate speed limits to find the quickest way.  Sight reading music should be the same, you should look at the direction of the piece and look for anything that is going to start, stop, slow, speed, or turn you around while you play.  This includes ritardando, fermata, tempo, repeats, D.C., coda, signs, etc.  Take note of all these, trace the road map with your finger quickly, and maybe even ask if you will be required to play all the repeats.  This step does not include changes in rhythm, changes in time signature, changes in key, dynamics, style, etc.
  2. Rhythm:  Correct rhythm is vital to music, without it everything with the same notes and keys would sound the same and we would have run out of new music a long time ago.  When sight reading you should scan the piece for essential rhythmic notation.  Check the time signature, look for any changes to it, and find any rhythms that look unfamiliar or difficult, check out any ties, and don’t forget the rests.  Clap or play difficult rhythms, if you can write on the music write the counting in (IN PENCIL!).  This step does not include notes that you may not know fingerings for or have to count ledger lines to figure out, dynamics, articulation, key signature, or anything in the road map step.
  3. Notes: Now you finally get to investigate the key signature and the notes.  Notes come third because if you are in ayToe4dnjc time crunch this is something that should come easier than road mapping and unfamiliar rhythms.  When you get to investigating the notes first check out the key and make sure you know all the flats and/or sharps.  Next, look for notes that you are unfamiliar with, count ledger lines, check fingerings, and maybe even write note names in (IN PENCIL!).  Last, but not least, check for accidentals, make note of them and where they happen, remember the accidental rule (if a note is marked at the beginning of the measure the accidental applies to the whole measure and it goes back to normal at the bar-line).  This step does not include articulation, dynamics, rhythms, or anything in the road map.  (Choir teachers can use this step to discus pronunciation, especially when singing in a foreign language.)
  4. Anything else:  If you have time you can now look at any of the other lines, dots, and words that make the music really interesting.  Check dynamics, articulations, style, and any of those other nitty-gritty things that are often at the back of the mind when sight reading.  This step is last because these are some of the less important components when sight reading, judges and juries take into account that sight reading isn’t going to be perfect and likely won’t involve a lot of the more detailed parts of music performance.

I have been using and teaching this method for 4 years, both to private student and classrooms.  It takes some time to get used to, but after a few tries students start to really understand the benefits of these steps and start to apply them without instruction.  If you struggle the first time around, don’t give up!  Try it a few more times, and really take your time.  Allow students the chance to participate by finding each of the components to each step themselves.  Correct students when they associate rhythms with the road map, remind them that you are only talking about rhythm when they ask for a fingering during step two, and teach them about new concepts during step four. Another tip is to sight read with the kids.  Choose a piece that you are unfamiliar with.  Take a short look at it before handing it to your class to determine if it is appropriate for their level, then put it away until you are ready to read it with the students.  When students see that sight reading is something that you are willing to do with them they feel less frightened of it. When sight reading is broken down into more manageable pieces it becomes less intimidating and more manageable for students.  When a task is less intimidating students find greater levels of success.  When students find success teachers find success.  When teachers and students are successful music is fun and everybody is happy. This method can be done quickly as needed or can be done in a classroom more slowly so as to really understand the music before reading it.  Student do well with this method because it helps them break the music down into more manageable pieces.

Proper Care and Feeding– Low Brass

Chris Lyon is my awesome guest poster for this post. i-W8MZvq4-LChris is an Assistant Director and Low Brass Instructor with the Bingham Marching “Miner” Band and has served in this position since the fall of 2010. He is currently the Director of Bands at Elk Ridge Middle School. He has taught band in the classroom for eight years, with the last five being at his current position. Mr. Lyon has a Masters of Education from SUU, a Bachelors of Music from BYU, an Associate of Arts from Snow College, and is currently working on his School Administration endorsement. While in college, Mr. Lyon studied bass trombone performance and has performed across the Salt Lake, Utah valley with groups including the Utah Symphony, various Broadway musicals, and in several big bands.  Mr. Lyon resides in West Jordan with his beautiful wife, his two amazing daughters, and his awesome son. He is an active member of his local church organization, is a leader in his community, and speaks fluent Portuguese. In his free time, Mr. Lyon enjoys playing and watching soccer, spending time with his wife, and playing with his children. imageMain_7_16Low Brass maintenance is an interesting thing to think about because, unlike the woodwinds, we don’t swab out the inside of our instrument after we play. Because of that, preventative maintenance is so important. It is vital that we remember that whatever is in our mouth will end up in our instrument. What that means is that oral hygiene is critical for maintaining your low brass instrument. There is a condition called trombone lung, in which a lung becomes infected from the fungi and other cultures grown inside a low brass instrument. I consulted with a dear friend and mentor, Victor Neves (tuba player, band director, and owner of the business/website bandtek.com) in preparing for this article and we were able to come up with the following suggestions. Cleaning your instrument: It is important to keep our instruments clean. Keeping the outside of our instrument shiny is easy because we can always 51jttzZOIBL._SY355_see it, but it is easy to neglect the inside of our instruments. My recommendation is to bathe your instrument monthly or every other month (depending on how much you use the instrument). To bathe your instrument, fill your bath tub with enough lukewarm water (NO SOAP) to completely immerse the instrument. Take your instrument apart and set it in the water and let it soak for a few hours. This gives the water time to break down the gunk in your horn. DO NOT put piston valves in the water because it will water-log the felt inside the valve mechanism. After the instrument has had time to soak get a cleaning snake and run it through all of the tubing. If you play trombone get a cleaning rod, wrap a non-shedding cleaning cloth around it (make sure it won’t get stuck in the slide), and run it through both the inner and outer slides. To clean the gunk off of the tuning slides get a scotch-brite pad from the local grocery store and scrub the part that goes inside the horn. Be careful not to let it touch the lacquer of the instrument because it will rub off. This pad can also be used to clean the shank of the mouthpiece. Do not clean your instrument right before a performance. As an instrument gets dirty, air resistance will build. If you clean it right before a performance you mess with the resistance that you are used to which can have a negative impact on your performance. Another reason to avoid cleaning right before a performance is because, if something goes wrong, you don’t have time to get it fixed (trust me, I’ve learned from experience…). Lubricating your instrument: The best valve oil for piston valve instruments is All Cass, it’s not terribly expensive, works very well, and doesn’t leave much of a residue on the valve. Rotor valves are made differently and require two different types of oil. For the internal mechanism any rotor oil will suffice (one repair tech told me that pure candle oil is the same thing), but for the outer mechanism use “air tool oil”. Lubricating your trombone slide is crucial to keeping your slide in working condition. If you hear grinding while you play, your trombone is past the need of lubrication. I used “Slide-o-mix” on my trombone for years and it always served me well. Lately I have been using a cream called “Trombotine” and I have been pleased with the results. “Superslick” is another popular brand. Whenever you lube your slide, first wipe off the old gunk with a rag. Then apply the lubricant. Once that’s worked in the slide, get a small spray bottle and spray the inner slide with water. Oil and water don’t mix, so the water beads up on the slide creating ball bearings for the slide to glide on. When the slide slows down, just add more water. Tuning slide grease serves two purposes. First, it allows the slides to be adjusted with ease. Second, it creates a seal keeping air from leaking out of the instrument. There are many options to lubricate your tuning slide and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Some use tuning slide grease, others use cork grease, others use scentless Vaseline, and others use air tool oil. Use whatever you feel comfortable with. Just keep your tuning slides well lubricated. They should stay put when not touched, but should also be easily adjusted. Dents:2452090_orig Dents can be your worst nightmare! Be careful to make sure that your valve casings, trombone slides, and tuning slides remain dent free. Even the smallest dent can put your instrument out of commission and even after it’s fixed, your instrument will never be the same. If you get a dent, take it to your local repair tech and get it pounded out as soon as you can. The longer you play with a dent on those components; the more damage will be done to the instrument and the more costly the repair will become. Valve Guides anvalveguided Felts: Instruments with piston valves have valve guides to keep the valves aligned with the tubing and felts to keep the valves from clanking while playing. Keep an eye on those and replace them as needed. Your local repairman will charge an arm and a leg to replace these, but you can do it for yourself in minutes. All you need to do is purchase the right replacement part. Low Brass is the best! If you get good it can pay for college, but if you don’t take care of your horn, it won’t take care of you.