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    Super Bowl 2016. What a showdown!

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    The 50th celebration of the NFL Super Bowl boasted one of the most epic half time shows to date. Some fans eagerly awaited the football action on the field while the rest of us were anticipating the half time show featuring Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and Beyoncé.

    There was a little something for everyone in this performance; a little rock and roll, hip hop, r&b, classical music, and lots of dancing. It was completely mesmerizing to watch.

    The show featured some very lucky young musicians. There were young singers, violin players, a drum line, and a marching band. Every one of them solidifying their bragging rights for years to come. Who would imagine that all those hours spent in music lessons and band rehearsal could lead to a performance in front of millions of viewers and on stage alongside three of the biggest performers in the world. Anything is possible!

    Oh! And Congratulations to the Denver Broncos on their big win. Ahh yes, a football game did also take place.

     

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    Inspiring Your Teen To Continue With Music

    We’ve discovered that American parents aren’t the only ones who struggle to get their older kids to play music. We came across an article in the Irish Times that offers parents advice on how to motivate older children to continue with their music making.

     

    While parents see the value of music lessons– from enhanced brain development to better emotional control to improved test-taking skills — teens might not see much benefit as they get older. At this point in their lives, students are pulled in different directions — homework and other extracurricular activities, mixed in with a burgeoning social life.

     

    As their commitments increase, their commitment to music can decrease. This trend, however, baffles Nigel Flegg, head of education at the National Concert Hall.

     

    “It’s very ironic that this fall-off in music in the early teenage years coincides with when most teenagers are becoming passionately interested in music,” says Flegg to the Irish Times. “You have this situation where people are giving up the instruments they played for so long, but suddenly they’re passionate about playing music in bands.”

     

    So, what can do parents and educators do to keep the spark alive?

     

    Make the music they play relevant to their lives and current musical interests, the Irish Times says. Although there is a deep value in learning classical music, encourage your child to play a variety of music including jazz and pop. You also might be surprised to discover how many pop bands have sheet music. Check out Arcade Fire and Beck’s song book (it was mentioned in our holiday gift post).

     

    What do you think? How do you keep your teen engaged in music lessons?

     

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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.

     

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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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    Keep A Journal Of Your Music Lessons

    Do you keep a journal of your music lessons?

    Chances are a teacher from The Music Junction has recommended it because chronicling your practice can inspire you about the progress you’ve made. It can also help you figure out how long it takes to master a piece of music, which can be useful when preparing for recitals.

    Any notebook will work or, if you want something more specific, you can download a music log here.

    If you need some additional inspiration for keeping a journal, read this New Yorker story by Jeremy Denk, a professional pianist who has played with Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and London. It is cutely titled “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and discusses how Denk rediscovered his music journal that dates back as far as 1981. Each page is filled with suggestions for improvement by various instructors as well as his insecurities. It also serves as a diary of his life and the important role instructors have played in his life.

    Denk wrote: “There’s a labyrinth of voices inside your head, a counterpoint of self-awareness and the remembered sayings of your guides and mentors, who don’t always agree. Sometimes you wish you could go back and ask your teachers again to guide you; but up there onstage, exactly where they always wanted you to be, you must simply find your way. They have given all the help they can; the only person who can solve the labyrinth of yourself is you.”

    We agree.

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

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    Student Learns The Violin As War and Violence Are Nearby

    Sometimes the power of music can transcend a person from time and place and make him forget about all the worries and fears happening in day-to-day life.

    And sometimes, rather tragically, the cruel realities of the world are too overpowering.

    We were moved by a Los Angeles Times story of a Beverly Hills music instructor who gave music lessons to a student living in the semi-autonomous region in Iraq known as Kurdistan. They met through Jonathan Hollander who connects dance and music instructors to students living in conflict zones.

    If you have been following the news you know the region well. It is a hotbed of activity with the Kurds trying to fend off jihadists groups (i.e. ISIS, Islamic State). Last summer, President Barack Obama issued airstrikes over the summer in an effort to repel jihadists and protect American oil interests.

    Yet, with such political instability and Kurds seeking refuge in a mountaintop, teacher Constance Meyer taught student Mustafa (a fictional name to protect his identity) how to play the violin via Skype. The Internet connection would sometimes be unpredictable but they continued, bonded by their love of music.  Meyer introduced him to Vivalvdi’s “The Four Season” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and enjoyed see Mustafa’s eyes light up when he heard the music.

    At that moment, where people live, their political or religious views are irrelevant. The love of music is all that matters.

    Yet, those magical moments were short-lived.

    Meyer wrote: “As a violin teacher, I’d never thought at the end of a lesson that I might not see a student again. At his third lesson, on Sept. 3, Mustafa told me that he was prepared to join the Peshmerga (armed Kurdish fighters). While military service in Kurdistan is voluntary and he’d never served, he said: ‘I can go to fighting. They not conquer my country.’ …A week or so later, Hollander emailed me. ‘Have you seen Mustafa’s latest Facebook photos?’ There he was in military fatigues and boots, surrounded by other recruits, draped in the flag of Kurdistan, the violin nowhere to be seen. He canceled his fourth lesson. ‘Very busy,’ he emailed.”

     They still have not resumed lessons. We hope that wherever Mustafa is right now that “The Four Seasons” is bringing him comfort.

    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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    Baby Got Class – New Viral Video Reminds Us That Music Is Fun

    The Holderness family has had us laughing for a while. Last year, they wore matching pajamas for a Christmas video that became a viral sensation on the Internet and we’ve quickly become big fans of their latest video.

    Their “Baby Got Class” video pokes fun of the back to school season, a time of the year when restless kids stock up on an ever-growing list of school supplies and tired parents can once again enjoy a quiet house. The song is a parody of rap classic “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A Lot and we were impressed with how well the words of the parody song matched the syllables and rhythm of the original tune.

    “I like them big and round, backpacks for my kids,” father Penn Holdernesss raps in one verse. “They got to weigh a ton ‘cuz this shopping list is not fun.”

    The benefits of music lessons are well documented. Taking music lessons can enhance children’s math and reading skills, improve their memory and fosters creativity.  However, at its core music should be fun. It should be expressive, a shared experience and, sometimes, silly.

    Just like the Holderness family.

    Are you ready to start making music and having fun? The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call today to learn more.

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    When To Begin Music Lessons? Now.

    Parents frequently ask Music Junction teachers about the ideal age to begin music education. Given the investment in time and resources, we understand why this is a common question.

    We offer voice and piano lessons to children as young as 4 years old but, after reading this article, we favor PBS’s response: music education should happen from the time children are born.

    This doesn’t mean that a newborn who still has clenched fists should be pressing the keys of the piano. Nor does it mean a baby should study vocal ranges when his or her main form of communication is crying. Singing songs to your baby as you sway from side-to-side is a form of music education. Clapping your hands and stomping your feet to the rhythm is another. Sometimes, we do these activities so naturally it doesn’t feel like a lesson but your child is already learning from you.

    Immersed in a culture of song and movement, your child will have a smoother, and positive, transition to formal music lessons. We tell our clients that children should not go past the age of 6 without music training based on our years of experience teaching young musicians.

    The PBS article agrees with us but offers a wider gap of 6 to 9 years old.

    “There is a growing (and convincing) body of research that indicates a ‘window of opportunity’ from birth to age nine for developing a musical sensibility within children,” the article states. “During this time, the mental structures and mechanisms associated with processing and understanding music are in the prime stages of development, making it of utmost importance to expose children in this age range to music.”

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations staffed with educators who know how to inspire and motivate young children. Call us today to learn more.

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    Music Benefits Language Development of Children ages 2-9

    A child’s brain is going through constant stages of development, so parents want to find the best activities to have a positive impact on these developmental years.  The pressure is on, because being able to enhance brain development can have a lifetime impact on the child.

    Research shows 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.  Having enhanced language skills gives a child the advantage of being able to read and understand speech more easily – which has an enormous impact on their ability to learn.  This means music education is an invaluable benefit to a child’s development – enhancing the brain in a way that will put them ahead for years to come.  This makes music lessons an attractive option for parents who want to expose their children to activities that benefit the mind.

    In 2008, a study done with 32 nonmusician children over 9 months showed the affect of music education on speech and reading abilities.  The students were assigned to music or to painting training for 6 months.  Those who studied music showed enhanced reading and pitch discrimination abilities in speech.  Only 6 months of training significantly influenced the development of those neural processes in the brain.   The abstract of the study records how “These results reveal positive transfer from music to speech and highlight the influence of musical training. Finally, they demonstrate brain plasticity in showing that relatively short periods of training have strong consequences on the functional organization of the children’s brain.”

    According to an article by PBS.org, “Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds.  Additionally, this relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children.  According to 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.”

    So exposing a child to music lessons does more than provide a great activity and build an appreciation for music, it also changes the course of their brain development to provide enhancements that will affect them the rest of their lives.

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