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    Study Finds A Connection Between Rhythm And Grammar

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    Want to evaluate children’s grammar skills? Start by examining their rhythm.

    A unique study by researchers from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Tennessee found a unique connection between the ability to distinguish rhythm and advanced grammar skills.

    Researcher Reyna Gordon gathered a group of 6-year-olds and had them go through a series of tests that asked them to detect if various sets of melodies and beats were different or the same. Then, the children answered questions about photographs that were shown to them and were evaluated by their ability to use past and present tense.

    The children who performed well on one test did well on the other, regardless of their IQ, socioeconomic factors and music experience.

    From an outsider’s perspective, the tests seem unrelated yet Gordon believes there is a strong connection between music and language. It is another reason why music education should be valued.

    “In grammar, children’s minds must sort the sounds they hear into words, phrases and sentences and the rhythm of speech helps them to do so,” according to a Vanderbilt University press release. “In music, rhythmic sequences give structure to musical phrases and help listeners figure out how to move to the beat. Perhaps children who are better at detecting variations in music timing are also better at detecting variations in speech and therefore have an advantage in learning language, she suggested.”

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    Survey Reveals Parents Thoughts on Music and Singing

    A new survey shows that parents overwhelmingly value music education yet we were disappointed how few families incorporate music making into their lives.

    The survey — commissioned by Music Together over the summer — revealed that 31 percent of parents have never sung to their children and only 17 percent sing daily.

    Why don’t parents sing? The survey could not provide insight but based on responses to other survey questions we think it is due to self-consciousness. For instance, 72 percent of parents think people are either born with or without the ability to sing. Given that 31 percent of parents singing every day in the shower and in the car some insecurity may prevent them from singing to their children.

    At The Music Junction, we believe very passionately that singing well is within everyone’s reach and it’s not an innate ability. It just takes professional instruction, practice and some confidence. If you do not have the time or the resources right now for music lessons just keep singing. Sing loud and be happy and don’t worry if you’re out of tune!

    We’re glad that Music Together agrees with us.

    “Some adults feel self-conscious about their own singing and dancing and some may think they need to be a great singer or musician in order to be a good musical role model,” says Kenneth Guilmartin, founder of Music Together. “But, research suggests that even parents who cannot sing in tune can still provide their child with a positive disposition for music-making. In addition, singing and dancing together can be an important way to bond with your child.”

    However, we weren’t completely disappointed with the survey results. Approximately 98 percent of parents believe children need music education and 52 percent believe that it should begin between the ages of 1 to 5 years old.

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    How We Learn

    A new book from a New York Times reporter questions the notion of “good” study habits and may have you rethink how you practice for your voice and piano lessons.

     In “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth about When, Where, and Why It Happens,” Benedict Carey believes we have turned learning into a negative and boring experience. Often, we tell children to study for long hours, alone and in quiet setting, which should come as no surprise why so many hate studying.

    Instead, Carey wants us to reconsider the learning process in a way that respects the brain’s uniqueness and is back by scientific research.

    “The brain is not like a muscle, at least not in any straightforward sense. It is something else altogether, sensitive to mood, to timing, to circadian rhythms, as well as to location, environment. It registers far more than we’re conscious of and often adds previously unnoticed details when revisiting a memory or learned fact …If the brain is a learning machine, then it’s an eccentric one. And it performs best when its quirks are exploited.”

    Here are some tips we thought most appropriate for those taking music lessons:

    1. Taking A Break Is Good: If you’ve hit a wall in the learning process, it is fine to take that 15-minute walk or check out your friends’ updates on social media. Taking a break allows your brain to process information, known as an “incubation” period. During the processing, the brain has time to reflect and provide new insight.

     

    2. Multi-tasking is Good: Focusing on one skill is less beneficial than studying a bunch of related skills at the same time. In terms of music, how many times have you hit a wall with a difficult passage and thought the best solution was to repeat the notes again and again (and again!) until you mastered it?

     

    3. Mistakes Are Good: Making mistakes does not mean that you are not learning correctly. Instead, learning from your errors enhances the learning process.

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    4 Of Our Favorite Ted-Ed Videos

    Regular visitors to this blog know that we love Ted-Ed videos. Not only are they informative but they are brief — no more than 5 minutes long — and animated, which makes learning easy.

     We’ve collected some of our favorite Ted-Ed music education videos to share with you. Just think, in less than a half hour you could gain a better understanding of music. It’s that simple.

     

    1. How To Read Music – Tim Hansen

      

    The video provides essential information for beginning students that addresses beats, notes and rhythm. Although we wish the narrator’s word usage was better suited for our youngest musicians, this video is an excellent complement to your Music Junction lessons.

     

     2. Why we love repetition in music – Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis

    Any student toying with the idea of composing an original tune would benefit from this video. A good chorus repeated again and again and again makes people more apt to like a song thanks to a concept known as the “exposure effect”  Also, the more one listens to a song, the more he or she can dissect and focus on different aspects of the music.

     

    3. A Different Way To Visualize Rhythm – John Varney

    This video is better suited for intermediate music students who already have a grasp of different types of beats. Instead of showing rhythm on a music bar, the educator visualizes rhythm on a wheel that emphasizes main beats, secondary beats and off beats.

     

     4. BeatBoxing 101 – Mike Chervony, Ms. Chervony, James Kim, Kaila Mullady, Chesney Snow


    While we’re not sure if this video will make you a better music student, we guarantee you will have a lot of fun watching it! The instructors made beatboxing so accessible that we were performing right along with them and showing friends our new talent.

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    Sharing a Love of Music, Thanks to John Lennon

    If there was anything that would make the most recalcitrant music student excited about practicing, we think the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus would be it.

    Children who visit the bus have an opportunity to write, compose, record and sound engineer original songs as well as shoot and edit an accompanying music video and documentary — all in one day! The bus houses more than $3 million in state-of-the art equipment and is staffed with engineers who are more than happy to educate students. Every song is posted on the tour bus’ website and we were particularly impressed with a group of kids from Milwaukee who seamlessly intertwined English and Spanish lyrics while others played the trumpet, violin, drums and more. It’s definitely worth watching!

    As adults, we wish we could have access to the instruments, technology and knowledge that the tour bus provides. It makes us wish we were in grade school again!

    The bus visits approximately 250,000 children a year and worked with Pomona elementary school children a few months ago. It doesn’t look like there will be another California stop for the remainder for 2014, but the tour bus accepts visit requests on its website.

    The tours bus has been in existence since 1998 with the blessing of Yoko Ono, the widow of music legend and Beatle John Lennon.  CBS News recently interviewed Ono about the tour bus and we were struck by one part of the conversation:

    “CBS asked Ono: ‘You probably get asked all the time to lend your support and your name and John’s name to all kinds of projects. Why did you decide to support this one?’

    ‘I think this is one of the most important ones, because the educational situation is not so good and all that,” said Ono. “So, we have to add something that’s really positive.’”

    We agree.

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    Singing Ability Is Within Everyone’s Reach

    For every Carrie Underwood who shoots to fame after wowing audiences and judges on “American Idol” there is a William Hung who is laughed at on YouTube and is unfortunately associated with the worst the television show has to offer.

     For every “Glee” that celebrates music talent there is television sitcom “The Goldbergs” that laughs at the musical ambitions of a young, out-of-tune boy named Adam.

    If we were to believe Hollywood, singing ability is clearly divided into the haves and have nots. You either have the talent or you do not.

    We don’t know how this myth came into existence. No one would claim that the talents of a pianist, basketball player or accountant were based on innate talents. So, why do people who do not sing very well think taking lessons is a futile act?

    With some training anyone, including Hung and Adam (yes, we know he is a fictional character) could become great singers. A great example on the accessibility of musical talent can, ironically, be found among Hollywood’s top actresses. Although they did not grow up taking singing lessons, Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line” and Gywenth Paltrow in “Country Strong” impressed critics and moveigoers with their abilities.

    In an ABC news article, Roger Love, a veteran vocal coach in Hollywood, explained that people who love music and who like to sing — in the car, in the show and while walking — begun their music education years ago.

    “’Singing along to recorded vocal music is like having a mini-singing lesson,’ Love said. ‘I could tell from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Country Music Awards performance that she’s obviously a person who grew up exposed to music and enjoyed her own private time singing,’ he said. ‘I could hear from her pitch and rhythm that she has a history of putting her voice close enough to where it’s supposed to go.’ … If the actress has a considerable amount of non-professional singing time under her belt, Love said, it’s often just a matter of teaching her vocal and breathing techniques to go along with her natural talent.”

    At the Music Junction, we’re firm believers that the right instruction coupled with some hard work can make anyone a good singer. If you have every wanted to sing to your children, at church, or just feel comfortable belting out tunes in front of other people, we can help!

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    Inspiring A Love of Classical Music

    The British Broadcasting Corporation is concerned that children do not know enough about classical music. Now, they’re trying to fix that problem with a massive outreach program.

    The program, referred to as Ten Pieces, focuses on 10 classical works that range from Beethoven to Handel to Stravinsky. To add a modern touch, John Williams’ “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” and Anna Meredith’s edgier “Connect It” are also among the Ten Pieces.

    “Historically there has been this whole issue around classical music being elite and our role is to break down that barrier,” says Suzanne Hay, head of partnerships and learning at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

    BBC created a 50-minute film and attempts to explain the music through visuals. From sophisticated digital effects to scenes from outer space, there is a serious attempt to engage children. Fortunately, schools seem to be embracing the project. In one week, 100,00 students visited the movie theater to watch the BBC film.

    Once children leave the theater there are many ways to continue fostering a love of classical music. For example, brief videos on the Ten Pieces website explains the meaning of the music composition as well as provide facts about the composer. Children are also encouraged to respond to the music through art, dance, poetry and their own music making.

    Although the Ten Pieces website is accessible throughout the world, the videos on BBC iPlayer are not. BBC uses geo-IP technology to limit users outside of the BBC viewing area, which is disappointing. We think children around the world would benefit learning more about classical music.

    What do you think of the project? Could Ten Pieces be brought to the United States?

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    Stopping the Spread of Ebola Through Music

    Like many of you, we have been saddened by reports of the Ebola epidemic striking West Africa and other parts of the world that have caused 4,000 deaths. However, we were encouraged by an NPR report about the role music is playing in containing the deadly virus.

    Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has commissioned musical artists to provide information on Ebola as part of its outreach plans. Given that the adult literacy rate in Libreria is 43 percent and there is a deep mistrust of the government stemming from a long civil war in the country, it makes sense to provide information through songs that can be played over the radio and not seen as government propaganda tool.

    The first attempt to educate people through music failed because the lyrics scared people.

    Now, the tide is turning. The most popular song on the radio “Ebola Is Real” by F.A. and Soul Fresh that provides an upbeat, danceable tune set to a hook that says “It’s real/Ebola is here/ It’s time to protect yourself.” The song then encourages people to wash their hands, stay away from monkeys as well as offer advice on how to perform traditional burial rites of Ebola victims without further spreading the disease.

    We are glad that the power of music is helping to save lives. We’re also impressed that the artists were able to provide such useful information in such a likable and danceable song.  It’s not any easy easy feat.

    We also look forward to the day when Ebola is not causing any more deaths. Let’s hope that is soon.

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    Are Voice Lessons The Most Cost-Effective Type of Music Instruction?

    When you think about music education do you think of children playing the piano or violin or do picture children singing do-re-mi?

    Chances are it’s the former.

    It’s an unexplained bias in Western culture that a solid music education must include a musical instrument.

    British music journalist Helen Wallace noticed this too and wonders why, in an era of reduced budgets for art instruction, so many people are advocating for the most expensive type of music instruction.

    “The fact is that every child already has an instrument, cost-free: their own voice,” Wallace writes in Classical-music.com, an online publication of BBC Music Magazine. “If half the meagre resources currently available were spent on expertly-led choral singing in primary schools, every single child could experience music of a quality, variety and sophistication impossible to achieve with a motley collection of instruments played by children in the early stages of mastering them.”

    Wallace has a valid point about cost.  Musical instruments designed for beginning learners cost at least a few hundred dollars. Parents eagerly scour Craigslist for pianos hoping to find a deal and, in another country, people work tirelessly to create instruments from landfill materials.

    We’ve researched and tried to discern if there are unique benefits of instrumental instruction as opposed to vocal education but we could not find any information. It appears that any type of music instruction offers great benefits to children.

    We offer piano and voice lessons at The Music Junction and see the benefits in both types of education. We also think that the most valuable type music instruction is the one that inspires you and makes you excited to practice be it voice or piano.

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    What Flying Pianos Teach Us About Listening to Music

    Daria van den Bercken loves classical music and will do just about anything to make sure you like it too.

     She’s played the music of George Frideric Handel in the air, hoisted 25 feet above fans in Brazil.

    She’s played in parks and banks in Amsterdam.

    She has even invited strangers into her apartment to listen to Handel in an intimate setting.

    Why?

    Well, Bercken is inspired by Handel’s music. During a TED Talks presentation the musician said she felt “pure, unprejudiced amazement” when she listened to his work.  She was struck by the complicated emotions in Handel’s compositions — the melancholy mixed with tenderness and the sadness coupled with energy.

    “You can feel each small pain and wish,” she told Spotify about his music.

    Yet, as a professional performer she realized that younger children felt the “pure amazement” but older children, even adults, had a harder time hearing the music. Bercken decided to recreate that juvenile sense of wonder by playing Handel’s music outside of concert halls and in the most unusual places.  By doing so, she is introducing Handel to millions of people who wouldn’t normally listen to classical music.

    “I’ve given a lot of children’s concerts for children of seven and eight years old, and whatever I play, whether it’s Bach, Beethoven, even Stockhausen, or some jazzy music, they are open to hear it, really willing to listen, and they are comfortable doing so,” she said in her TED presentation. “And when classes come in with children who are just a few years older, 11, 12, I felt that I sometimes already had trouble in reaching them like that .. But the young ones, they don’t question their own opinion. They are in this constant state of wonder, and I do firmly believe that we can keep listening like these seven-year-old children, even when growing up. And that is why I have played not only in the concert hall but also on the street, online, in the air: to feel that state of wonder, to truly listen, and to listen without prejudice.”

    It is an interesting concept that we hear things more purely as young children. Do you think that these stunts help people understand the wonders and joys of classical music?

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