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    Piano Sales Decline While Research Continues To Prove That Music Benefits The Brain

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    Did you know that Americans buy approximately 35,000 pianos a year?

     

    Sounds good doesn’t it?

     

    Well that figure does not come close to 1909, when U.S. households bought more than 300,000 pianos!

     

    Times have changed, for sure. In 1909, the television had not yet been invented and most American households did not own a telephone. Today, there is television and a lot of other distractions including social media, mobile apps, sports and more.

     

    Apparently, the plunge in sales is causing the closure of piano stores throughout the country. Is the shuttering due to a decline in people playing the piano? While, we’re sure there were a higher percentage of piano players in the early 1900s that is not exactly the problem. According to the Associated Press, lower-priced digital pianos and keyboards are a threat to stores that sell only traditional upright and grand pianos. They are also facing stiff competition from resale stores because older pianos continue to remain in great condition.

     

    But not everything is bad. A Western Massachusetts news station reported that newer pianos integrate technology into their products, which enhance the learning process. Some record what the student is playing so they examine their finger work.

     

    Tony Falcetti, of Falcetti Music told WWLP: “It’s the interaction of apps that helps with the teaching aspect of playing .. so there’s a lot of educational tools that we have today that we didn’t have previously.”

     

    Remember, playing the piano can significantly improve your child’s literacy skills, emotional control and a lot more. It is also an opportunity to bring art in culture in your family’s life at a time when most schools cannot afford to bring these enriching experiences into the classroom.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Listening to Music Can Reduce Pain

    Next time you’re in pain, skip the medicine and slip on some headphones.

     

    A study at Northwestern University followed 60 children (from 9- to 14-year-olds) who were in the hospital following a surgery. Doctors allowed one group of pediatric patients to listen to any music of their choosing (pop, country, rock) while a second group were allowed listen to audio books and a third group sat in silence with noise-cancelling headphones.

     

    The children who listened to at least 30 minutes of music or audiobooks reported feeling less pain while those who listened to nothing experienced no reduction in pain. Given that powerful painkillers can cause breathing problems in young children, the medical community is always in search of ways to alleviate pain for their youngest patients. The latest discovery can be a powerful tool.

     

    Dr. Santhanam Suresh, a professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics told HealthDay News: “There is a certain amount of learning that goes on with pain. The idea is, if you don’t think about it, maybe you won’t experience it as much. We are trying to cheat the brain a little bit. We are trying to refocus mental channels on to something else.”

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    A New Year’s Resolution To Become A Better Music Student

    Happy new year!

     

    We hope you enjoyed the holidays and are looking forward to a new year. As you know, this is the time of year when it is popular to make a resolution, be it losing weight, saving money or, learning a new skill. If you are Music Junction student and want to become a better musician in 2015, we have some tips for you!

     

    Make A Plan: This works for every resolution you may have, including improving your music skills. After you make a resolution to become a better player, devise a plan on how to make it happen. Forbes.com suggests digesting a major goal into actionable steps: “Try mapping out a rough schedule for the year in advance, covering one part of your goal each month …”

     

    After that, use apps or sticky notes to remind yourself to achieve each step and make yourself accountable. If you need help figuring out a monthly goal, talk with your Music Junction teacher.

     

    Practice Every Day: You had a feeling this advice was coming, didn’t you? You know — we know — that practicing every day can help make you a better pianist and/or singer. The last few months have been extra challenging carving out time with holiday parties, shopping and family gatherings. So, let’s re-commit to finding 20 minutes out of your day to practice. If you need some helpful tips for you or your child, read this blog post.

     

    Give Yourself A Pat On The Back: While we’re fans of new year’s resolutions we admit that sometimes they can sound negative. We’re forcing ourselves to learn a new skills out of the assumption we need to improve ourselves. How about congratulating yourself for sticking with lessons and renewing your commitment in 2015 to continue your journey as a musician? So, next time you play a wrong note or get overly frustrated with a new piece, do not wince. Instead, congratulate yourself for keeping at it.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    How To Find The Right Music Teacher For Your Child

     

    If you have given your child the gift of music lessons this holiday season, congratulations! You and your child are in for a rewarding journey that will not only create a lifelong love of music but provide scientifically-proven benefits that will give her an edge in the classroom.

     

    Assuming you have found the perfect piano (if not, we can help you with that too), all you need is to find the ideal teacher. Obviously, we think The Music Junction instructors are all talented and can serve a diverse group of students but we still want to offer some helpful tips.

     

    Research The Instructor: Finding the right teacher is akin to finding the right preschool for your child. You will need to talk to a lot of people —  including friends, parents and music store workers — to find some ideal instructors.  You can also read online reviews such as Yelp (we’re especially proud of our reviews!) for additional insight. Also, read the teacher bios and find out what type of education and professional experience he or she possesses.

     

    Set Expectations: If piano or vocal lessons will be one of many activities your child is involved than it is best to not pair him with a demanding instructor. Likewise, if you are on a limited budget do not enroll your aspiring musician with an instructor who requires additional theory classes and/or practicing on a “real” piano (as opposed to a digital piano). When interviewing potential teachers, it is best to be honest with your expectations and limitations and see how she or he reacts. If the teacher is unwilling to work with your circumstances, it is time to move on.

     

    Attend a Recital: A recital can be a great way to observe an instructor’s demeanor and how well he or she connects with students. Unlike an interview, where everyone knows the “right” things to say to get the gig, a recital can reveal a teacher’s true approach to music education. Also, pay close attention to the general age of the other students, the music selection and the general mood of the students and audience.

     

    Agree on a Break-Up: We agree with National Public Radio; music lessons are too much of a financial investment for the parent and child to be unhappy. If the personalities between the teacher and child are not meshing, then find a new instructor. NPR states: “It’s better to make a change sooner rather than later, especially if you feel like a teacher’s experience, energy or approach just isn’t right for your child. Sure, that will probably be an uncomfortable conversation, but isn’t that preferable to wasting money, time and your kid’s initial enthusiasm?” Be sure you find an instructor who understands a good working relationship is paramount and will not make you feel guilty for leaving.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    How Music Can Make Us Better People

    We know that music provides so many benefits to the brain but we were touched by one story about how music can make us better people.

     

    A newspaper from Everett, Washington talks about 19-year-old Brandon Gelo and his school’s commitment to offering a percussion ensemble for special education students. By integrating band for students of all learning abilities, the high school’s culture has transformed.

     

    Gelo began his life with many challenges. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome that doctors said would limit his ability to walk, talk and respond to people. Born from a mother who was a victim of domestic violence and who was homeless during pregnancy, Gelo was part of the foster system from birth. His adoptive parents believed he could surpass doctors’ expectations and encouraged him to flourish.

     

    By the time Gelo was a freshman in high school, he joined the school band. At first, he found the high school environment over-stimulating and would curl up in the fetal position to cope. However, band director Lesley Moffat worked with him until he could join the other players in the percussion ensemble. He now plays by ear the guitar, banjo and piano. He has since been hired as a teaching assistant for the school’s concert band.

     

    Since Gelo’s inclusion into the band, more than a dozen special ed students have joined the percussion ensemble.

     

    The Herald reporter wrote: “With more special and general education students making friends, Moffat said, she and other educators have noticed changes at school. Students are sitting together at lunch, exchanging high-fives in the hallways and helping each other. Brandan’s bandmates, for example, signal him when it’s time to play. ‘They’re not just being nice because he has special needs,’ Moffat said. ‘They’ve built genuine friendships.’”

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Holidays Tunes Help With Literacy Skills

    By now it should be no surprise to our readers how much we love this time of year with the music, live performances and general goodwill.

    Yet, we understand why others may not be fans. We know that the same 15 songs get played over and over and over again, which is enough to drive some people crazy. So, if you’re about to hear “Sleigh Ride” for the 30th time, try your best not to run away. Southern California Public Radio and other organizations suggest that holiday music may be good for your child’s development.

    Here are a few reasons why:

     

    • Singing Helps With Reading Skills: There is a good reason why early education is filled with songs and nursery rhymes. Singing builds vocabulary and sound discrimination, which are essential elements to reading.

     

    • Song Repetition Is Good: As we previously mentioned, this time of year tends to play the same songs again and again.  SCPR talked with Susan Canizares, the chief academic officer Learning Care Group, who says repetition is good for young children. “By singing those songs over and over again, they’re beginning to listen to the different sounds that are in words,” she says.

     

    • Improvisation is Important: One way to have an old song sound new again is to insert your own lyrics. Children especially love when their names are mentioned in lyrics and you can encourage them to let their imaginations run wild with new phrases and storylines for the song. And, improvising lyrics is yet another useful way to encourage literacy.

     

    • Use as Family Bonding Time: Singing and dancing with your child can strengthen “emotional bonding” and creates a positive home environment, something that is essential for learning.

     

    So, start singing before the season ends! If you do not know the words to some popular songs, visit this website.

    Happy holidays!

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    2014: A Year That Showed The Many Benefits of Music Instruction

    This year has proven to be an eventful one in discovering the benefits of playing music. Music.Mic listed the top 12 stories of 2014 and we’re proud that we’ve covered so many of these issues already in this blog included how music lessons can improve executive function, help with literacy and close the achievement gap.

     

    Here are some of our favorite stories from Music.Mic, ranging from the insightful to the humorous. What is your favorite story of 2014?

     

    •  Sounds Quality Affects Enjoyment. Rack up a point for vinyl lovers. Researchers found that the sound quality of music  impacts our emotional response to it. Volunteers were divided into two groups — one listened to a standard stereo 96-kbps sound and the other heard a song in 256-kbps audio format. The people who listened to the higher kpbs audio were 66 percent more likely to register pleasurable responses to what they heard. Vinyl records, on the other hand, plays at 1,000 kbps so start pulling out your old vinyls!

     

    •  Music Can Help Treat ADHD. Scientists from the University of Graz in Austria report that children who play music have significantly thicker grey matter in brain areas linked to attention and concentration. These areas in the brain are the same regions that are lacking in the brain scan of children living with ADHD.  Researchers hope that taking music lessons can increase grey matter for those living with this disorder.

     

    • Music Can Affect Your Alcohol Consumption.  Researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Pittsburgh found that teens who like “songs with explicit alcohol references are two to three times more likely to engage in binge drinking than teenagers who aren’t familiar with booze-addled pop.” Changing a teen’s behavior may be difficult given the prevalence of alcohol references in today’s pop music. In fact, teens listen to an verage of 2.5 hours of music a day and, in that time frame, are exposed to eight references of alcohol brands. The study’s author was right:  “Our music is giving us drinking problems.”

     

    What’s in store of 2015 for music and science? We cannot wait to find out more benefts of music lessons.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Playing Music Reaps Many Benefits For The Brain

    Attending a baseball game doesn’t make you fit and neither does watching a legal thriller make you lawyer. The same thinking applies to music. Do not expect your brain to benefit from music simply by listening to Mozart.

     

    In order to reap the benefits of music — from improved memory to enhanced communication skills to better executive function — one has to play an instrument and be engaged, according to a recent Northwestern University study led by researcher Nina Kraus.

     

    “Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain,” Kraus told Time magazine.

     

    So, the bottom line is that listening to classical music and going to the Hollywood Bowl are great cultural experiences but they are not enough. Yet, the answer is not forcing an unwilling child to take lessons because there’s a good chance she will not pay attention and not practice.

     

    Ideally, children need express their opinions about music lessons. Even if she is not initially keen on the idea, let her pick the instrument and spend time together finding the right instructor, someone who is knowledgeable and can get her excited about making music.

     

    Adds Krause: “Making music should be something that children enjoy and will want to keep doing for many years!”

     

    We agree!

     

    If you would like to learn more about Kraus’ research or how the brain benefits from playing music, consider attending KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum that will discuss this subject in depth.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Live Holiday Entertainment for the Family

    There are so many reasons to love the winter holidays: the twinkling lights on houses, a free excuse to drink hot chocolate (regardless of LA temps) and the music. As an added bonus to families, this is also the best time to go to the theater. We’ve picked some local productions that intersperse art and music that we think you will like.

     

     

    SLEEPING BEAUTY and Her Winter Knight — Pasadena Playhouse from Dec. 10 – Jan. 4

    With a live pony, Pharrell’s “Happy” playing the background and Xena, Warrior Princess making an appearance, this is not your ordinary play. This kid-friendly production offers a unique take on the fairy tale classic in the style of British Panto, which means you should expect comedy, audience participation and lots of physicality …just what young kids love!

    Before every performance, the playhouse offers crafts, activities, even an appearance from Santa Claus.

     

    Rogue Family Series — Atwater Village Theatre from Dec. 20-21

    This series has two shows — Zen Shorts and The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone — which offers puppets, original music and video projections that are sure to keep the youngest theater-goer on her toes. At $10 a show (or $15 to see both), it is also one of the more affordable holiday theater outings. Between shows, children can decorate cookies and participate in other activities.

     

     

    Nutcracker— The  Bob Baker Marionette Theater,  now until Feb. 1

    Everything about this show is like taking a step back in time. The marionettes, which seem to magically come to life with just a few wrist movements from their puppeteers, are unlike most puppets you see today. The theater which is red and ornate is also something to be treasured. This is a very kid-focused production in which the chairs are only in the back for adults. The kids sit up front, all the better to view these magical puppets.

     

     

    A Christmas Carol — Glendale Centre Theatre, now until Dec. 24

    For a more traditional theater experience see this Charles Dickens classic that is mean to renew the human spirit. The production sold out its first weekend so get tickets as soon as you can!

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Holiday Music For Beginning Students

    By now, you know we love this time of year with all of the holiday music and special live performances but this is also a great time to be a beginning music student.

     

    Not only are “Jingle Bells,” “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” as well as “I Have A Little Dreidel” familiar to young children they are also relatively easy to play on the piano. In fact, the youngest musicians don’t have to know how to read music — what is known as the pre-reading stage — they can play by numbers. These songs are also good for beginning students because they stay within a five note range.

     

    “That’s important because a student can play all the notes with one hand without moving their hand position, so it keeps things very simple,” says teacher Charissa Vaughn-Wheeler.

     

    Teacher Brad Hubisz assigns similar music during the holidays and other familiar favorites — “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and “Yankee Doodle” — during the rest of the year.

     

    “It gives them a sense of accomplishment very early on, being able to play something they recognize without yet having to read notation,” he says.

     

    If you would like to expand your selection of holiday music, there are many beginner Christmas piano books for sale including this one and this one. The number of Chanukah books is not as vast but this is an option. The more advanced students can also pick any song through the iReal Pro app that we recently blogged about.

     

    So, start practicing and maybe your family can have some live music during the holidays!

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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