Happy Thanksgiving!

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

As we are all gathering with those we love, may our hearts swell with gratitude and praise to the Lord for his never failing faithfulness and everlasting love. This is what Thanksgiving is all about. 

Thankfulness: Gratitude to God for what He does.
Praise: Gratitude to God for Who He Is.

Admit it. Beneath the comfort of smiling faces, warm hugs, delectable smells, and cozy coffee cups swarming around plates of pumpkin pie, are hearts with needs. In some cases, hearts that are aching badly with hurts and pain unseen and unknown. The flip side of the rejoicing we are enjoying is still there and is, in some cases, very dark. 

But there is a Light that can pierce through the most difficult situation, warming and illuminating the darkest, coldest heart, resulting in growth and eventually, fruit.

This Light is Jesus. He is Emmanuel. God with us. God with us. God with us.

We have so much to be grateful for. Yes, family, friends, food, warm houses, soft lights, soothing atmospheres, sweet relationships, are all gifts for which we ought to return thanks to our Lord everyday. But there’s more, so much more that we are prone to overlook in the dazzling delights of temporal pleasures. 

We who have trusted in Christ as our Savior are assured a perfect standing before the God of Heaven (Romans 8:1). If this were not enough, when we come to the Father in Jesus’ Name, we receive the spirit of adoption whereby we cry “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). He is Christ’s Father, and our Father, Christ’s God, and our God (John 20:17). There are unspeakable gifts laid up in store for those who love God (1 Corinthians 2:9). For those who are faithful unto death in the midst of crisis, persecution, or even just “ordinary” trials, are reserved crowns of life (Revelation 2:10, James 1:12). Time would fail us to speak of grace sufficient for every need (2 Corinthians 12:9), guaranteed rewards for perseverance (Galatians 6:9), comforts found only in the never-ending presence of God (Hebrews 13:5), life and peace that comes from spiritual-mindedness (Romans 8:6), the assurance that those who ask, will receive (Matthew 7:8), the truth that all of God’s promises are true (2 Corinthians 1:20), and the list could go on for pages. These are things God does for us through Christ. Let us now consider some of who God Is. 

He is, first of all, the I AM God (Exodus 3:14). He is our Shepherd (Psalm 23, John 10:11). He is our Sun and Shield (Psalm 84:11). He is our Strength (Psalm 28:8). He is our Song (Exodus 15:2). He is our Father (Galatians 4:6). He is our Blesser (Ephesians 1:3). He is our Director (Proverbs 16:9). He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He is our Refuge (Psalm 9:9). He is our Fortress (Psalm 91:2). He is the Creator (Genesis 1:1). He is the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 22:13). Here again, the list is endless, for God is infinite (Psalm 145:3).

It doesn’t matter where you find yourself this holiday season, whether on the mountain tops of rejoicing or struggling to keep the tears from spilling over into the mashed potatoes you are about to serve: God is enough for your need. He makes all the riches of glory available to you through Christ (Ephesians 1:3), and whoever comes to Christ will in no wise be cast out (John 6:37).

This Thanksgiving, let us all focus our hearts to seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1). We have so much for which to be grateful. May we raise continually a voice of Thanksgiving for what God has done for us, and a voice of Praise for Who God Is. 

Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.
While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:
Which executeth judgement for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:
The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and wido: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.
The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

~Psalm 146 

NEW Children’s Carol | A Child at Christmas Time

The Christmas season is just around the corner. If you are like us, then you are busily preparing this year’s special music for church events, nursing home ministries, and more. It is special to bring everyone together to sing at Christmas time. What would Christmas be without the sound of children’s voices ringing through our lives? If you have a group of children you are working to prepare for the Christmas season of music ministry, then you will want to check out this new, gentle carol written just for children and that touches the hearts of young and old alike. We are excited to announce the release of A Child at Christmas Time. It is simply set for children’s choir and features an optional child’s solo, as well as optional obbligatos for viola and cello.

Click here to preview and purchase the digital sheet music.

Massive Holiday Sale on Confederate Candles

We are excited to be running our biggest sale ever on Confederate Candles. The future of Confederate Candles by The Neely Team holds great change for the company, and we need your help to clear out our inventory. Don’t worry – our superior quality candles will remain the same on the inside, but the outside…. well, wait and see.

To give you the best deal ever from now until January 5, 2019, we have three special offers for different quantities of candles. Keep reading!

Buy 1 candle and receive 30% off

Buy 5 or more candles and receive 40% off

Buy 12 or more candles and receive 50% off

Stop by the candle shop to browse the fragrance options. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Click on the applicable coupon at checkout to redeem these offers.

 

Teaching Metronome Use {in a nutshell}

Using the metronome is a relieving way to make sure that all rhythmic values are placed exactly as they ought to be in their interlocking system. But often we as teachers assume that students know how to use a metronome effectively in their practice, when in reality, they do not understand at all.

There is (almost) nothing that can raise a teacher’s blood pressure faster than having the metronome turned on and the student not staying with it. And it’s not just frustrating for the teacher (I was a student once…).

Teaching students to use a metronome is one of the most rewarding elements of practice to pass on. I like to start them with it early in a lot of cases, and always simply. Scales are an excellent tool for teaching metronome use. Teach your student a basic one octave C scale with just one hand (two hands for students who can handle it –but we’re taking the most basic approach possible). After they are comfortable and confident with the fingerings and notes of the scale, then have them play with the metronome, giving one note per click. 60 BPM is a good speed usually, but if it’s too fast, slow it down. The goal is to have each note played exactly with the click.

Eventually, you can teach the fingerings for a two octave scale, and then add the metronome to that. Now the student will be playing eighth notes and will have two notes per click. Ideally, the metronome will be on your original speed but again, slow it down if necessary.

The ultimate goal with rhythmic attention is to internalize rhythm so that it can be “felt.” Often, the best way to internalize something is to externalize it first. Encourage your student to nod their head with each metronome click. Foot tapping is another way to externalize, or counting out loud. Vocalizing a non-word syllable (da-da-da or something else) is also helpful. Do not encourage externalizing by extra hand motion such as bouncing the wrists, as this distracts from hand and arm technique and is not useful in the long run, and could also cause unnecessary tension.

There are many variations to this sort of practice work, so be creative and tailor these ideas to meet your and your student’s needs. Also, it usually isn’t imperative that a student master metronome work or perfect rhythm in all of their current music at one time. It’s a process, so set reasonable goals that can be achieved relatively easily.

 

From one of our favorite series for beginners who desire to play in church: check out Keyboard Treasury Vol. 2! This series is excellent, reinforcing technique and developing a taste for artistically arranged sacred music.

Cover tiny file look inside Keyboard Treasury, Vol. 2 A Graded Hymn Anthology elementary piano solos. Composed by Peter Davis. Sacred. SoundForth #110221. Published by SoundForth (S2.110221).

 

If you found this post helpful, please consider leaving feedback in the comment section below. Also, check out other posts on music pedagogy here.

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Teacher’s Resource | Masterwork Practice & Performance

Many times through the course of my years teaching, I have had questions such as:

  • How picky should I be?
  • How many weeks on one piece is too long?
  • Should I expect my beginners to play their pieces to the same degree of perfection as that of an intermediate or advanced student?
  • If I only have time to work on a few techniques or ideas during the lesson, on what should I spend the time and how do I prioritize the material so as to evenly develop their skills?

While there are no perfect answers to these questions, there are tools we can employ to help us find case-by-case solutions. There are solutions to the innumerable student weaknesses a teacher encounters in a week, and some of them can be mind-boggling, especially for young teachers.

Of course, the goal is to be adept at seeing a problem, identifying where exactly it lies, and having ten different perfect solutions lying ready at your fingertips. But you really need this built-in resource long before it will have had time to accumulate from experience. So what is a young teacher to do? Or maybe you have much experience teaching, but have a hard time keeping up each student’s individual needs and weekly progress. (If you have more than 5 students, this is very likely!)

I recently came across this sister-resource to the Masterwork Classics series by Jane Magrath. The Practice & Performance series boasts “A student practice guide that accompanies the Masterwork Classics. Invaluable notes on technique, style and listening activities for every piece in the Masterwork Classics books, plus teacher’s notes and short lesson guides for each piece.”

These are designed to be used as a consumable practice guide with each student having their own, but I have found that owning my own copy instead works well. I can then study up on what they are going to be working on, and be better prepared to teach the material aurally. This way, I am able to break the information down and customize it to each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Also, it removes the need to hand a young student a relatively deep practice-guide that they may have a difficult time understanding and applying on their own.

 

Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Practice & Performance, Level 1-2 Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection. Masterwork Practice & Performance. Masterwork. Book. 64 pages. Alfred Music #00-6582. Published by Alfred Music (AP.6582).
Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Practice & Performance Level 3. Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection. Masterwork Practice & Performance. Masterwork. Book. 88 pages. Alfred Music #00-167. Published by Alfred Music (AP.167).
Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Practice & Performance, Level 4 Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection. Masterwork Practice & Performance. Masterwork. Book. 80 pages. Alfred Music #00-169. Published by Alfred Music (AP.169).

 

If you found this post helpful, please consider leaving feedback in the comment section below. Also, read previous articles on music pedagogy here.

 

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Posture

A musician’s posture is one of the most important physical aspects of their playing. It affects every part of an instrumentalists ability to relax (hopefully preventing injuries), articulate, breath, and play effectively. It can also have an influence on the musician’s longevity as an active musician.

Here is a tried and true exercise to insure good posture in yourself and your students. This has been proven effective for vocalists, as well!

Stand straight and stretch your arms up toward the ceiling. Then wiggle your fingertips – this is really important because it helps reduce unnecessary tension in the arms. Slowly begin to lower the arms straight out to the sides, and make sure the elbows do not bend. Keep wiggling the fingers!  Continue bringing your arms down until they are hanging at your sides. Your shoulders should now be in the “perfect posture” position.

This method works really well in helping teach young children, and is far more effective than merely saying “stand/sit up straight,” or “put your shoulders back,” or other common directives.

 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving feedback in the comment section below. Also, read other posts on music pedagogy here.

Check out our favorite book for elementary violin students. This makes a wonderful start prior to launching into the Suzuki books.

Cover tiny file look inside Essential Elements for Strings – Book 1 with EEi Essential Elements. Instructional, Methods and Play Along. Softcover Media Online. 48 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.868049).

 

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Composers

Composers. That word sounds a little technical, if you ask me. Maybe it just feels technical. Or maybe it isn’t really technical at all. Maybe it’s just too historical for musicians like us who would rather sit with a violin under our chins or a keyboard under our fingers than with our noses in a history book.

Whatever the case, the subject of music composers is an important one for anyone who wishes to play music, not to mention those who are in teaching positions. But really, how do you teach about this, and does it really affect our playing?

Let me answer the second question first. Yes, it does really affect our playing, in more ways than one. I’m not talking about merely having random facts stored in our brain like some kind of mental timeline stocked with stickers from over the centuries highlighting important events and dates, but about really knowing and understanding more about the people behind the music we play.

Did you know that Bach had twenty children? That’s an encouraging fact when you are practicing amid the noise of 3 other instruments and other unnamed chaos. Or that, in spite of the fact that most people today use much of his music for keyboard and strings, Bach’s primary instrument was organ. It is also interesting to note that the Baroque era of music ended the same year as Bach’s death (no, everyone didn’t awaken sounding like Mozart the day after Bach’s funeral, but that is the recognized date marking the change in music styles).

Speaking of Mozart, did you know that he began composing at the age of 5 years, having already become proficient at both violin and piano? Or that he was interested in chords at the piano at the age of 3 years when watching his 7 year-old sister, Nannerl, study piano with their father?

Nannerl wrote the following after Wolfgang’s death at the age of 35 years:

“He often spent much time at the clavier, picking out thirds, which he was ever striking, and his pleasure showed that it sounded good… In the fourth year of his age his father, for a game as it were, began to teach him a few minuets and pieces at the clavier… He could play it faultlessly and with the greatest delicacy, and keeping exactly in time… At the age of five, he was already composing little pieces, which he played to his father who wrote them down.”*

How about Beethoven? He is one of the few (if not the only) composers who spanned two eras: he composed repertoire in both the Classical era as well as the Romantic era. Time would fail to speak of Debussy’s extraordinary abilities that were recognized in his youth though criticized for the unusual innovations they led him to produce, or of how Haydn married a woman who disliked music and used his manuscripts for hair rollers, or of Vivaldi’s fire red hair and work with orphans, or of how Beethoven and Haydn met and on Haydn’s advice, Beethoven moved to Vienna for the remainder of his life, or of Haydn’s creative genius in the composition of the Farewell Symphony…

The point is, we ought to become acquainted with these people as we endeavor to play their music. They were real. As we learn more about them, they will cease to be in our minds and the minds of our students as known yet unknown geniuses of the past for whom we have no personal appreciation. And better still, when we teach their music to our students, we can talk about them with the warmth and appreciation we have for other great historical figures who have impacted us for good under the sovereign hand of God.

 

For more ideas on teaching about eras and composers of music, read here

 

Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Classics Level 8. By perf. Scott Price. Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection. Masterwork Classics. Masterwork. Book; CD. 56 pages. Alfred Music #00-16741. Published by Alfred Music (AP.16741).

*Excerpt taken from Wikipedia.com

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Teaching Practice Techniques

Teaching practice techniques is one of the most rewarding things a teacher can do (or at least, that’s my opinion :)). When you teach a student how to practice, your teaching is no longer limited to the music he/she is learning. Suddenly, their potential to grow and strengthen outside of the lesson time is escalated to hitherto unknown levels.

There are two main things a teacher can do when teaching practice techniques and they are both increased in effectiveness when you use them together.

  1. Demonstrate
  2. Explain

Most of us learn best by example, so demonstration is an incredible tool to have at your fingertips. This can take a little bit of extra work on the teacher’s part, because now, instead of saying “work on measures 7-8 and make the notes even,” we have to work through exactly how to get those stubborn sixteenths even. There are scores of good techniques for learning various skills in each of the different instruments, so work to have these ready to use at a moment’s notice.

I find it helpful to demonstrate a technique a time or two, depending on the situation. Then, I’ll demonstrate it again step by step, talking about exactly what I’m doing and how. I don’t usually like to let a student leave a lesson until they have tried and succeeded at mastering at least one facet of what we talked about, so after I have demonstrated with explanation, I let them try. I usually have them work on a smaller section than my original demonstration: maybe just two measures instead of eight, or sometimes half a measure instead of 2 whole lines – this just needs discretion because you want them to succeed at whatever you give them to do.

The student’s work will probably need to be alternated with more demonstration and explanation, but that’s okay! A big point here is to not leave a subject until there is a thorough understanding of what is desired as a goal, clearly defined steps to get there, and some (usually small for lack of time) level of success accomplished. Once they have mastered it on a small area, you may desire to repeat the process on a larger section or just on another section. In some cases, it is equally effective to just verbally apply it for their reference at home.

Depending on the maturity of the student, the distance of time between lessons, and their track record for being able to remember what you say :), writing down the practice technique(s) in detailed instructions can be very helpful. See also “Forgetful Students” for more tips on taking notes in a memorable way.

Don’t be afraid of taking lots of time to make sure your point is carried. If you spend half of the lesson discussing how to practice one phrase, your time is not wasted. Every technique you instill into your student is an investment into their ability to practice well in the future, which is actually an investment into their being able to continue progressing into the boundless levels of advanced repertoire.

 

Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Technical Skills Level 1-2. Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection; Technique Musicianship. Technical Skills. Masterwork. Book. 24 pages. Alfred Music #00-6583. Published by Alfred Music (AP.6583).
Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Technical Skills Level 3. Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection; Technique Musicianship. Technical Skills. Masterwork. Book. 32 pages. Alfred Music #00-6584. Published by Alfred Music (AP.6584).
Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Technical Skills Level 4. Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection; Technique Musicianship. Technical Skills. Masterwork. Book. 32 pages. Alfred Music #00-6585. Published by Alfred Music (AP.6585).

 

If you found this post helpful, please consider leaving feedback in the comment section below. Also, read other posts on music pedagogy here.

 

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2019 Planner Pages | Coming Soon!

Stay tuned for the official release! We’re excited to be able to offer another free download of calendar pages for 2019!

Features will include:

 

  • a month-at-a-glance calendar, with spaces to write a verse, your list of projects, and contacts that need to be made
  • a cover for each month where you can conveniently write important reminders like errands, gifts, and events
  • weekly pages, for those who need detailed planning of more than just the monthly overview

P.S. If you downloaded the 2018 planner pages, we would love to hear your feedback!