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    Watch TED Talk on “How I beat stage fright”

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    All performers grapple with the anxieties of stage fright.  This is a Ted Talk tale of how one musician, Joe Kowan, found a remedy for his.

    Joe Kowan is a Boston-based musician and graphic designer who has been struggling with stage fright since he first started writing songs at age 27. Despite his adorably expressed fears, he charms audiences with his own style of quirky folk and acoustic hip-hop, by turns poignant, salacious and comical. In 2009 he released the gangsta’ arts and crafts video for his original song “Crafty,” and in 2011 he was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition.

    At the Music Junction, we coach our students to work through their stage fright in our two yearly recitals.  Joe is an adult who had never performed before he was 30, but we have the advantage of introducing young children to the idea of being on stage in front of people while they are young enough not to have imagined all of the adult fears that contribute to stage fright.  Encouraging your child to perform in front of an audience will integrate the experience into their development so that it feels more natural to them when they become adults.  Everyone still experiences stage fright no matter how used to performing they are, but it can be managed.

    The core reasons for stage fright are your inner fears – fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of being vulnerable – so the main work for a performer is to address these fears.  First of all, practice, practice, practice!  If you know you’re extremely prepared, you’ll feel less likely to fail – and if you do, you’ll still know that you did your best.  Second, stop worrying about what other people think!  It’s a good idea to perform in settings where you know the audience has no expectations, so that you don’t feel pressured to be amazing right off the bat – like an open mic night, or a class or workshop.  You can even try performing in a small group before going on your own to ease yourself into the experience.  Lastly, perform often!  You need to prove to yourself that you can be successful on stage, and then you’ll know that there is nothing to fear – that takes time and lots of opportunities to succeed.

    We encourage all of our students, kids and adults alike, to participate in our Winter & Spring recitals.  We appreciate it when parents get on board with prioritizing the recitals and encourage their young family musicians to be prepared and excited for the experience.  Kids who have performance experience are learning a life skill that will help them in so many other ways – school presentations & leadership roles – and later, business presentations & job interviews.

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    Watch Sophia Grace & Rosie Perform ‘Girl on Fire’

    This is a favorite performance of Girl on Fire in a string of regular appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” made by Sophia Grace and Rosie, the pint-sized British child duo.  Sophia Grace has a very developed voice for her age, and the confidence to belt it out even in front of a large intimidating audience.  That’s partly due to her best friend Rosie, according to Sophia, who performs along side her to provide moral support and great dance moves.

    In this performance of Girl on Fire, Sophia Grace shows a lot of vocal control.  The fast vocal riffs and runs are impressive in a child her age.  Although once in a while the runs slur together, mostly the pitch changes are very pronounced.  It’s rare to hear runs executed so clearly at this age.  Sophia also has a very focused, clear tone, without the “breathy” quality of most young singers.

    This kind of vocal development is definitely possibly for a 7-8 year old student who is taking regular weekly voice lessons, but there are different factors at play that can affect how long the development takes:

    1) How does the child speak?  If the child has a very soft and breathy speaking voice, then that vocal quality will be the initial sound of the singing voice when beginning lessons.  If the child has a very nasal quality – where the back of the tongue normally rests almost as high as the “ng” (as in “ring”) sound when they speak – then that will be the particular starting place for the singing voice when beginning lessons.   So these natural tendencies will create differences in what the focus of study should be in the voice lesson, and how long it takes to develop an impressive, mature tone.

    2)How focused is the child?  If the student has a hard time concentrating, it can take sometimes as much as 3 times longer, or more, to make achievements in each vocal concept.  It’s important to be a good listener to be able to understand what vocal concepts are being addressed, and to continue concentrating on the concept while trying it out.  It’s possible for the voice teacher to focus on vocal exercises that need less explanation, and that automatically give vocal benefts when executed, but it still will always improve the lesson if the student is focused on the purpose of each exercise as they execute it.

    3)How physically self aware is the child? Children develop at different rates, so one student may not be able to feel how to create specific movements with their mouth or their breath as well as another student.  A young voice student who will learn quickly has a lot of control over things like: being able to relax the jaw, relaxing the lips, exhaling at a steady rate, controlling how much air pressure to use to support a note, enunciating words, being able to adjust the tongue, etc.

    4)How verbal is the child?  Children who speak articulately and with confidence will have an advantage in their voice lessons.  This skill will affect the student’s ability to memorize words to a song and enunciate them well.  Students who are shy and soft-spoken, who do not often speak in full sentences, or possibly mispronounce words,  may find it more difficult to learn the words to a song.  This is not a reason to forgo voice lessons – to the contrary – in this type of situation, voice lessons are an excellent tool to improving speech skills.  Often, young students feel empowered when they are given words to say, when they might feel more insecure being as verbal on their own.

    Regardless of how fast or slow a child shows vocal development from their voice lessons, it is still an extremely beneficial activity for any type of student.  Students who need more development in the areas mentioned above, will be able to practicing developing those skills in their lessons.  Every student should compare their progress against themselves, not against others, because the point is to find improvement in yourself, not compete against the improvements of others.

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    Watch Elias Phoenix – A 7yo Piano Prodigy – on the Ellen Show!

    Ellen DeGeneres had 7-year-old Elias Phoenix on her show Friday, in one of the best interviews a 7-year-old has ever given.  Even Ellen, after the interview, tweeted “Just finished taping 1 of the most memorable interviews I’ve ever done, with a 7-yr-old. Airs tomorrow. You have to see it to believe it.” I would agree that this is one of the most memorable interviews Ellen has done.

    Elias is totally comfortable on stage – he doesn’t seem to be intimidated at all by how many people are in the audience.   He says that his two life-long dreams were to perform in Carnegie Hall, and to be on the Ellen show, and now he has achieved both!  Not surprising when you see how talented this young piano prodigy is.  But his vibrancy is equally as impressive – his amazing “Hollywood” dance is so endearing, and his hands-on approach to Ellen seems to disarm her and the audience alike.  He seems to be one of Ellen’s biggest fans, lavishing compliments and touching her hair to find out that it is “so soft.”  He is so excited to be there he can hardly stay in his seat, and it’s entertainment alone just to watch his animated personality in action.  This is one special kid!

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    Music Enhances Kids’ Language and Social Skills

    There are many ways that music can aid in the development of our youngsters, and one of the major benefits is enhanced language skills, reports PBS.org.  Young musicians’ brains become hard-wired differently, findings show:

    “When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation.  While children come into the world ready to decode sounds and words, music education helps enhance those natural abilities. “Growing up in a musically rich environment is often advantageous for children’s language development,” she says. But Luehrisen adds that those inborn capacities need to be “reinforced, practiced, celebrated,” which can be done at home or in a more formal music education setting.

    According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

    This relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children. “The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician. “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”

    A study on music and the brain in regards to language skills was published on December 12, 2012, by authors J. Chobert, C. François, J.L. Velay, and M. Besson.  Showed how “Musical training has been shown to positively influence linguistic abilities.” —

    “…we conducted a longitudinal study over 2 school years with nonmusician children randomly assigned to music or to painting training…While no between-group differences were found before training, enhanced preattentive processing was found after 12 months of training in the music group only. These results demonstrate neuroplasticity in the child brain and suggest that active musical training (rather than innate predispositions for music) yielded the improvements in musically trained children. These results…support the importance of music-based training programs for children’s education and open new remediation strategies for children with language-based learning impairments.”

    So not only is learning music fun, it promotes huge benefits to kids for language improvement, which affects all aspects of their lives!

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