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    Inspiring A Love of Classical Music

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    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?

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

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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.

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

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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?

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

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    What To Do When Your Child Wants to Stop Taking Music Lessons

    For every child who begs his parents to stop taking music lessons there are just as many adults who, years later, regret that their parents let them quit.

    So, what do you do when your child wants to stop? How do you find the balance motivating them to learn something that they might appreciate later in life and not having them dread touching the keys on the piano?

    Like many other parenting issues, the answer is not easy.  Still, here are some tips to dealing with the issue:

     

    Have An Exit Strategy: Talk to any entrepreneur, and chances are she has carefully crafted her exit strategy just as much as she has spent time thinking about her company’s launch.

    Parents also need their own version of an exit strategy for music lessons and communicate it clearly with their young musician.

    When your child approaches you about quitting you should already have an idea about how long you want music lessons to last.  Some parents require a year’s worth of lessons, hoping that the child will understand the fun and benefits of music in that amount of time. Other parents stand firm that music lessons will last throughout high school. Find a length of time that works with your parenting philosophy, your child and your beliefs the power of music education.

     

    Communicate: Does your child want to genuinely end music lessons or is he currently struggling through some difficult passages and techniques? Talk to his educator at The Music Junction and ask about any issues occurring during instruction. Sometimes some extra encouragement or added patience can solve the problem.

     

    Be Honest: As adults, we know the numerous benefits of exercising but that doesn’t mean we’re on the treadmill every day and eagerly sweating it out. Sometimes it is hard to find motivation.

    Your children have the same feelings.

    Acknowledge that practicing can feel tedious and repetitive at times and it’s fine not to love it.  In fact, famed cellist Yo-Yo MA once told the Washington Post about his childhood:  “I hated practicing! I spent more time thinking about practicing and dreading it than actually practicing.”

    As adults we understand that practicing makes us better musicians but children do not intuitively comprehend this concept. Help them make the connection.

    Make Music Fun: At The Music Junction we offer recitals as a way to make music fun and a social experience. Find other ways to achieve this goal. For the young child, that could mean setting up music play dates with children who are also taking lessons. For older children, that may mean finding music summer camps where they can make friends and become better players.

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

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    An Increase in Music Prodigies

    It doesn’t seem possible to refer to musical prodigies as commonplace or 14-year-old virtuosos as over the hill but Newsweek provides some interesting insight about the increase in talented young musicians.

    In its article, “Musical Prodigies Find Plenty of Youthful Company,” Newsweek writes: “Conservatories in Europe and North America report an increasing number of pre-teens who turn up for auditions flawlessly performing repertoire previously considered the domain of 25 year olds.”

    The reason for this increase is uncertain. One person attributed the trend to the Olympic syndrome of wanting to break records and attain fame. Another mentioned the growing Chinese population that typically tends to value music education. It is estimated that there are 30 million young pianists in China.

    Music, however, is not just technical perfection — hitting the right notes and executing difficult passages. It’s also about artistry and creating an emotional connection with the music and to the audience.

    Just ask Gabriela Montero, a Venezuelan pianist and a former a child prodigy who made her musical debut when she was just 8 years old.  She stopped playing piano at 18 years old and lived life outside of the piano. She returned two years later and says the break added meaning to her work.

    “The danger is that we’re creating machines that can play any piece at any speed,” Montero told Newsweek. “As an artist you have to say something to say, but you don’t have anything to say if you’ve spent your life in a practice room.”

    What do you think? Is the increase in young music prodigies good or bad?

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

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    4 Tips To Conquering Nerves At A Recital

    Anyone who has studied at The Music Junction for some length of time has performed at a recital. We think it’s a great way to apply skills learned in class and help our students realize that music-making should be a fun, social act.

    We also know that recitals can make some students — from the young to the old — nervous. We’re here to help!

    Here are 4 Ways to conquer nerves at a recital:

    1. Accept the Fear: The body manifests fear in very specific ways that can affect a musician’s performance. Increased air pressure under the vocal cords can pose a challenge for a singer and stiffening of the body can make a pianist’s fingers less agile. If the fear sets in just before a performance the worst thing to do is ignore the feelings, says Voice Council Magazine:

    “One has to accept the nerves and the physical repercussions, and work within this state rather than trying to push it away. The more you try to block the nerves, the more they will affect you.”

    2. Practice, Practice, Practice: Accepting nerves does not mean they cannot be overcome. Knowing the music goes a long way to feeling confident performing in front of others. In addition to consistent practicing at home, work with your instructor to ensure that the assigned piece is at an appropriate level — something that is challenging but not overly difficult.

    3. Dress Rehearsals are Key: Turn the living room into a performance space and invite mom, dad, sister and brother, even the beloved family pet, to a special performance.  Make the performance as real as possible, including walking on stage and bowing, even wearing the performance outfit, advises NPR.

    4. Wishing you Success: The Music Junction community, and many other music schools, offers a positive community. Realize that everyone in the room wants the best possible performance from every musician and everyone is rooting for each other.

    What do you think of our suggestions? Do you have any tips or routines that work for you?

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

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

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    Are you ready to sign up for lessons? See Our Rates. | Questions? Contact us.

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    Think You’re Not A Good Singer? Science Offers Good News For Those Who Are Out Of Tune

    There is something about using the body’s own musical instrument — your voice — that evokes fears in so many people.

     How many times have you seen people at church or a baseball games mouth the words to a song instead of singing it out loud? How many times have people avoided singing publicly by calling themselves a “shower singer”?

    Here at The Music Junction,  we firmly believe that a mixture of training and confidence can make any person a good singer. It just take times and practice.

    Still, if you’re in need of an extra confidence boost, we have some news to inspire you. It’s called the vocal generosity effect.

    According to a scientific study, people are more forgiving of singing errors compared to other musical instruments including the violin. Researcher Sean Hutchins asked test subjects to listen to a melody from a violin and one from a singer. They were then asked to determine if the last note was in tune or out of tune. When a singer was a semitone off — in other words, singing the wrong note — less than 50 percent of the subjects noticed. When a violin player was a semitone off nearly 75 percent of the people noticed. The laxness in judging the human voice also applies to those with music training. Although people with musical training were more apt to notice a note out of tune, the study found that they also favored the singer over the violinist.

    What is the reasoning behind this? No one, including researchers, are quite sure.

    However, PsychCentral reported that the researchers had one theory: “One possibility is that when we hear a human voice, our perceptual system moves in to a ‘vocal mode’ that pays less attention to pitch.”

    You can listen to some samples of violin and vocal melodies that are in tune and out of tune. Go ahead and test yourself!

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

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    Music is a Gift

    So much discussion about music today is focused on how it benefits the individual. Music makes us smarter. Music makes us less stressed.

    Yet, music is also a gift.

    We were touched to read a story in the Boston Globe of two 13-year-old middle school students who teach homeless girls how to play the violin. The teens — Sophia Spungen and Emily Swearingen — visit the shelter once a week and give one-hour lessons to three young girls who range in age from 8 to 10. The older girls plan the lessons themselves and successfully raised money to buy their students starter violins.

    The collaboration began in June and Spungen and Swearengin show no signs of stopping their outreach. The girls, who have been playing the violin for several years, try to engage their students by picking popular songs including a tune from “Frozen”  as well as standards such as “Bile ’Em Cabbage Down.” Every lesson ends in a compliment from the teachers.

    Giving the gift of music is something the mothers of the young students appreciate.

    “Our kids need more than food; they need music, they need art, they need to be kids for a while,” one mother told the Boston Globe.

    We couldn’t agree more.

    The next time you’re thinking about giving back to your community, consider your music education as a gift. Helping others learn to play the piano or singing to them could brighten their day.

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

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    4 Ways to Get Your Child to Practice Music

    The study of music provides so many benefits it just makes sense to bring voice and piano lessons into your child’s life. So, you select the right teacher — ideally someone from The Music Junction — as well as buy or rent a piano.

    Your job, however, is not done. The day will come when your child has to practice and doesn’t want to. We’ve all been there. At some point every young musician will throw a tantrum or give attitude about practicing at home. The allure of toys and cartoons can sometimes overpower the wonderful ivory keys on a piano.

    Don’t give up. We have some advice:

     

    1.  Practice Regularly — Get your child in the habit early that practice should happen every day or every weekday, says Baltimore Symphony Orchestra violinist and mother Ellen Pendleton Troyer.  Eventually, this will feel like a normal routine, just like brushing their teeth and getting dressed. Troyer also recommends experimenting with morning, afternoon and evening practice sessions to see the time of day that works best for your child.

     

    2.  Don’t Put The Instrument Away — Keep the fall board up and leave the music sheets out, says NPR. You might be surprised to see your child play a few notes, even when it’s not time to practice. Your young musician may not be practicing music assigned by the instructor but he will be improvising and learning something truly important, that music can be fun.

     

    3. Make It Positive — Granted, it’s not always easy to figure out what is fun and positive for your child. Sometimes, it’s receiving praise from learning a song and other times it’s being rewarded for practicing a certain amount of hours. Some parents have found success in breaking up the monotony of rehearsing with some silliness ( i.e. have them practice while will standing on one leg) and others have realized that their children are more engaged when they have a say in music selection. Find the tactic that works best with your parenting philosophy and your child’s personality.

     

    4. Be Involved — Even if you don’t know how to play or sing music, there are many ways you can be involved. Keep your young musician company as he or she practices. Also, offer words of support when your child becomes overly frustrated with a difficult passage and be there to congratulate her when she successfully finishes a song.

     

    Have you found a successful tactic? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments section.

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

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    Kid Friendly Places to Listen to Live Music in Los Angeles

    At The Music Junction, we encourage our young students to see live musical performances as much as possible. Not only is listening to live music fun but it helps our performers aspire to be better. And maybe, just maybe, it will give them a little motivation to keep practicing.

    A great perk of living in the Los Angeles area is access to great cultural attractions, especially for kids. We just wrapped up some great summer music including world music at Hollywood Bowl’s Summer Sounds and free music at Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena and MacArthur Park.

    Recently, we were excited to discover that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has been offering kid-friendly performances for the past few years at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The program — Toyota Symphonies for Youth  — offers art workshops and live music for children 5 to 11 years old in the fall, winter and spring. The first performance in this four-series program begins October 18 and is adorably named “What Do French Fries Sound Like.” The performance will feature the concert hall’s unique organ that children often refer to as french fries. Other performances include jazz music, Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” and Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

    Sometimes in the fall, the focus turns to other fun activities including school, pumpkin patches and trick-or-treating. It’s not always easy to find opportunities to listen to live music. Where do you go in the fall? We would love to learn of some other great venues!

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

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