Category Archives: Teaching

Set for success

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As we settle into fall, and lessons have begun, this is a good time to review the tools that music students need for home practice. Many teachers (myself included) will place bulk orders for their students, so parents can simply buy directly from teachers. This can allow teachers to pass on bulk discounts to families, and ensure that everyone has the correct supplies. Nonetheless, it can be helpful to have an overview and explanation of what your student needs.

1. An instrument

This one is obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that there are a few different ways to acquire one. Many beginning students opt to rent an instrument for the first couple of years, or if they’re lucky, their school will have an instrument for them to borrow or rent. While renting is a convenient and low-commitment solution, it can become quite expensive over time. Once students have played for a couple of years, then I encourage families to consider purchasing an instrument. Beware the ISOs (Instrument-Shaped-Objects) that are often found on eBay, Craigslist, etc. – please consult your private teacher before taking the plunge! Most of us are more than happy to offer advice, try out instruments, etc. Also, before buying an instrument, it’s worth asking relatives and friends if they have anything kicking around in storage. Again, check with your teacher before going ahead with it, but you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

2. An appropriate chair

Students of all ages and instruments benefit from a chair that facilitates good posture, while being relatively comfortable. This is particularly important for horn, since the bell may need to rest on the chair (for small beginning students), or the leg. The ideal chair allows the student to sit with their feet touching the ground, with their knees and hips level (or hips slightly higher than knees) – definitely nothing with wheels, or arms. Piano benches are great if you already have one, but any lightly padded chair of the right height will do.

3. A music stand

Stands are important because they allow the student to maintain good posture while reading the music. Affordable folding stands can be found on Amazon, or better yet at your local music store – ask your teacher for their favorite place to shop. Alternatively, if you have a piano or keyboard at home, the student can practice in front of the piano – it’s not a great option for some instruments, but it works well for horn.

4. Instrument maintenance supplies

For brass players this includes valve oil, slide grease, mouthpiece brush, and a snake. Many rental instruments come with some of these supplies, so check before buying anything to see what you need. Again, a teacher will be happy to recommend their favorite brands, and teach the student how to maintain their instrument.

5. A metronome and tuner

A metronome and tuner are essential to refining musicianship – I use mine daily! There are two basic options available: a stand-alone tuner/metronome, or an app. Each has pros and cons – a stand-alone device is a little more expensive, but it’s easy to use, hard to break, and distraction free! The Korg TM50 is a good basic one. Apps are cheaper, but in order to use one you need to have access to a phone or tablet, as well as plenty of discipline to avoid getting side-traced. I like Tonal Energy Tuner, but there are others as well.

6. A notebook and pencil

These two simple items will take you far in your musical career. Many teachers require their students to have a notebook, which usually contains notes from the week’s lesson, and a practice log for students. Just like in any other subject, a music lessons notebook allows student and teacher to communicate smoothly, and stay organized. A pencil is essential, particularly for ensemble playing. Musicians are expected to mark their parts with any instructions from the conductor, as well as correct mistakes in their private practice.

With these items in hand, and good attitude, students will be well on their way to a great year. Happy practicing!

Calling all wind instrument explorers…

Woodwind and Brass flier

Sign your child up to join me, and many other wonderful faculty at Winchester Community Music School for five afternoons of musical fun!

Designed for students entering grades 4 through 7 next fall, this program is a great opportunity to try a variety of woodwind and brass instruments, letting your child find the one that suits them best. It’s an excellent introduction for those who want to join band next fall! Instruments are provided, and financial aid is available. You can register here, or contact me if you have any questions.

Audition season is here!

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As the days get longer, and (hypothetically) warmer, opportunities for musical growth have also arrived. If you and/or your child are looking for an extra-curricular ensemble for next fall, now is the time to sign up. Here is a list of opportunities available in the Greater Boston area:

Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (formerly known as GBYSO)

BYSO has four large ensembles to choose from for middle and high school students: 3 orchestras (Boston Youth Symphony, Repertory Orchestra, and Junior Repertory Orchestra), and a preparatory wind/brass group. Rehearsals take place on Sundays at the Boston University West campus College of Fine Arts.

Registration begins in mid-March, with auditions taking place during the last two weeks in May. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements
  • Scales from memory. See page 6 of this year’s audition brochure for details.
  • Selected orchestral excerpts, available shortly here.
  • Sight reading

Chamber music is also available either separately, or in addition to large ensembles.

New England Conservatory Preparatory School

NEC Prep has eight large ensembles for students in grade 7 and up: 4 orchestras (Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, Youth Symphony Orchestra, Youth Repertory Orchestra, and Junior Repertory Orchestra), 3 wind ensembles (Senior Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble, Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble Concert Band, and Junior Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble), and a Youth Brass Ensemble. Rehearsals generally take place on Saturday, and are held in the downtown area between Symphony Hall and NEC.

Registration begins in March, with auditions taking place in mid-May (except for Brass Ensemble, which auditions in September). The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements: grades 6-10 at the Junior District Level, grades 10-12 at All-State Level
  • Scales – requirements differ depending on the ensemble being auditioned for
  • Excerpts – only for the senior orchestras (YPO and YS)
  • Sight-reading

Note that auditions for the different types of ensembles are scheduled separately. Chamber music is also available either separately, or in addition to large ensembles.

Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra

BPYO is for students ages 12 to 21 (with an emphasis on high school and above for the winds and brass). It is a tuition-free ensemble, with rehearsals on Saturdays in the downtown area near Symphony Hall and NEC.

Registration begins in March, with auditions taking place in mid-May (except for Brass Ensemble, which auditions in September). The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements of the highest level that showcase musical and technical abilities
  • Excerpts
  • Auditions also include an informal interview

The Rivers School Conservatory

Rivers has two ensembles for high school students: the Rivers Youth Orchestra, and the Rivers Youth Wind Ensemble. Orchestra rehearsals are Fridays from 4-5:30pm, and Wind Ensemble rehearsals are Mondays from 7-9pm, both at The Rivers School in Weston.

Auditions take place from mid-May to mid-June. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements of a larger work at the Senior District Level
  • Full range chromatic scale and 2 octave major scales up to 4 sharps and 4 flats
  • Sight-reading

Tufts University Community Music Program

The Tufts Youth Philharmonic is a relatively new ensemble, open to students aged 13 and up. Rehearsals are Fridays from 4-6:30pm at the Granoff Music Center on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus.

Auditions are held in mid-May, but are also accepted via YouTube link or DVD. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting solo pieces of your choice that demonstrate musical and technical ability
  • 2 octave scales, up to four sharps and four flats

Powers Music School

Powers is home to the Massachusetts Youth Symphony Project, a chamber orchestra for students aged 12-18. Rehearsals are on Saturdays from 3-5pm at the music school in Belmont.

Auditions are held in late May. The requirements are:

  • 2 octave major scale through 4 sharps and 4 flats
  • 3 octave minor scale of your choice
  • 2 contrasting pieces or movements
  • Sight-reading

Winchester Community Music School

WCMS offers an excellent chamber music program for students of all ages. Rehearsal dates and times are arranged according to the schedules of participants and coaches, and are held at the music school.

Placement auditions are generally held in the spring and fall. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting works (or one larger work with contrasting sections
  • Sight reading

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Summer Programs

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Though it’s hard to believe, summer is right around the corner! June through August is the perfect time for students to expand their musical horizons. It can be challenging to practice by yourself for three months – participating in a summer program helps to keep students motivated, while enjoying all the good things summer has to offer! Listed below are a variety of opportunities across MA and New England for students in middle school and high school. There are many more programs located across the country, and abroad – more resources are listed below the table.

Regional Summer Programs
Program Name Location Area of Focus Age Range
MASSACHUSETTS
Atlantic Brass Quintet Seminar Somerville, MA Brass Quintet HS and up
Berklee/Boston Conservatory Brass Program Boston, MA Brass Comprehensive ages 15 and up
Berkshire Summer Music Brass Great Barrington, MA Brass Comprehensive HS and up
Boston University Tanglewood Institute Lenox, MA Comprehensive ages 14-19
Camp Jobey at Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA Brass Comprehensive ages 11-18
Greenwood Music Camp Cummington, MA Comprehensive ages 10-18
Hornithology Ensemble Foxborough, MA Horn Ensemble MS and up
NEC Festival Youth Orchestra Boston, MA Orchestral ages 13-18
Rivers Conservatory Weston, MA Comprehensive grades 3-12
WCMS Wind and Brass Fest Winchester, MA Exploratory ages 9-12
NEW ENGLAND
Apple Hill Center Nelson, NH Chamber Music age 12 and up
Encore Coda Sweden, ME Comprehensive grades 3-11
Kendall Betts Horn Camp Lyman, NH Comprehensive age 14 and up
Killington Music Festival Killington, VT Chamber Music HS and up
Kinhaven Music School Weston, VT Comprehensive grade 4 and up
New England Music Camp Sydney, ME Comprehensive ages 11-18
Summer Youth Music School Durham, NH Comprehensive grades 6-12

To explore more on your own, there are excellent lists here, and here.

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Setting up a practice space

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For my students, September means back to school, lessons, and a brand new schedule. Finding the time to practice can be challenging for everyone (myself included!), and though the quantity of our practice matters, the quality is even more important. So how do we set ourselves up for success?

The picture above is from my practice space – it’s in an unfinished basement, but it has the perfect corner that I’ve personalized. Having a dedicated place to practice keeps me motivated and focused. It inspires me, even when I might not feel like practicing in that moment. I’ve displayed thank you cards from students, running medals – anything that cheers me up, and makes my practice space a desirable destination.

Even if it’s not an entire room, having a dedicated practice space helps to focus our mental energy on creativity, and music-making. It’s also a great way to invest directly in our own success, and works for everyone from youngest beginners through adults.

An ideal practice space:

  • is relatively free of distractions (TV, computer, siblings, pets, etc.)
  • has a good chair and music stand
  • has all the tools we need (notebook, music, metronome, tuner, recording device, etc.)
  • allows us to play as loud as we want without disturbing our family and neighbors 🙂
  • is personalized in a way that is motivational and inspiring. Whatever works for you: pictures of concert halls, famous musicians or athletes, cute animals, inspirational quotes… the sky’s the limit.

Have fun creating your space, and happy practicing!

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WCMS Woodwind and Brass Festival

I’m excited to be on faculty for the WCMS inaugural summer festival for brass and winds! A week-long program designed for students ages 9-12, there are two levels available: beginner/1 year of experience, and two years of experience or more. It’s a great opportunity to try a new instrument, or build existing skills. On Tuesday June 28th I’ll be giving a presentation all about the horn, and breathing – don’t miss out!

Woodwind and Brass Summer 2016 flyer

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“I love playing horn in school… now what?”

I’ve been approached by several students and parents this spring asking about extra-curricular ensemble opportunities. In Greater Boston we’re lucky to have an abundance of programs for intermediate to advanced students, and while this is not a comprehensive list, here a few of the highlights:

MMEA Festival Ensembles

The Massachusetts Music Educators Association runs three sets of 3 day festivals every year – Junior Districts, Senior Districts, and All-State. Students audition for placement into these honors ensembles based on their grade, and where they live. The state is broken down into 5 different districts; for example, students in Wellesley are in the Eastern District, and students in Winchester are in the Northeastern District. Junior Districts are for students in grades 7-9, and Senior Districts are for grades 9-12. If a Senior District student receives a score above a certain threshold, they are eligible to audition for All-State.

Senior District Auditions take place in mid-November, with the festival in mid-January. All-State Auditions are held in the third week of January, with the festival in mid-March. Junior District Auditions take place in late January, with the festival in late March.

Audition requirements vary according to district and level, and are released several months before the auditions:

All-State participants can also be considered for All-Eastern and All-National ensembles, run by the National Association for Music Educators. In addition to any audition materials, students must be recommended by their band or orchestra teacher to be considered.

New England Conservatory Preparatory School

NEC Prep has eight large ensembles for students in grade 7 and up: 4 orchestras (Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, Youth Symphony Orchestra, Youth Repertory Orchestra, and Junior Repertory Orchestra), 3 wind ensembles (Senior Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble, Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble Concert Band, and Junior Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble), and a Youth Brass Ensemble. Rehearsals generally take place on Saturday, and are held in the downtown area between Symphony Hall and NEC.

Registration begins in March, with auditions taking place in mid-May. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements: grades 6-10 at the Junior District Level, grades 10-12 at All-State Level
  • Scales – requirements differ depending on the ensemble being auditioned for
  • Sight-reading

Note that auditions for orchestra, wind ensemble, and brass ensemble are scheduled separately. Chamber music is also available either separately, or in addition to large ensembles.

Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (formerly known as GBYSO)

BYSO has four large ensembles to choose from for middle and high school students: 3 orchestras (Boston Youth Orchestra, Repertory Orchestra, and Junior Repertory Orchestra), and a preparatory wind/brass group. Rehearsals take place on Sundays at the Boston University West campus College of Fine Arts.

Registration begins in mid-March, with auditions taking place during the last two weeks in May. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements
  • Scales from memory. See page 6 of this year’s audition brochure for details.
  • Selected orchestral excerpts. Here are this year’s selections.
  • Sight reading

Chamber music is also available either separately, or in addition to large ensembles.

The Rivers School Conservatory

Rivers has two ensembles for high school students: the Rivers Youth Orchestra, and the Rivers Youth Wind Ensemble. Orchestra rehearsals are Fridays from 4-5:30pm, and Wind Ensemble rehearsals are Mondays from 7-9pm, both at The Rivers School in Weston.

Auditions take place from mid-May to mid-June. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements of a larger work at the Senior District Level
  • Full range chromatic scale and 2 octave major scales up to 4 sharps and 4 flats
  • Sight-reading

Tufts University Community Music Program

The Tufts Youth Philharmonic is a relatively new ensemble, open to students aged 13 and up. Rehearsals are Fridays from 4-6:30pm at the Granoff Music Center on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus.

Auditions are held in mid-May, but are also accepted via YouTube link or DVD. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting solo pieces of your choice that demonstrate musical and technical ability
  • 2 octave scales, up to four sharps and four flats

Powers Music School

Powers is home to the Massachusetts Youth Symphony Project, a chamber orchestra for students aged 12-18. Rehearsals are on Saturdays from 3-5pm at the music school in Belmont.

Auditions are held in late May. The requirements are:

  • 2 octave major scale through 4 sharps and 4 flats
  • 3 octave minor scale of your choice
  • 2 contrasting pieces or movements
  • Sight-reading

Winchester Community Music School

WCMS offers an excellent chamber music program for students of all ages. Rehearsal dates and times are arranged according to the schedules of participants and coaches, and are held at the music school.

Placement auditions are generally held in the spring and fall. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting works (or one larger work with contrasting sections
  • Sight reading

 

WCMS Masterclass – Breathing & Posture

Our instruments are extensions of our bodies, so we make music more beautifully when we’re standing tall, and breathing well. Join me at Winchester Community Music School on Saturday October 24th at 3:30pm for a 90 minute session dedicated to breathing and posture. Free for current WCMS students, admission is just $10 for the general public. Hope to see you there!

Breathing & Posture Workshop 2015

Winchester Community Music School

Since September 2013, I’ve had the pleasure of being on faculty as a teacher and chamber coach at Winchester Community Music School. Their facilities are excellent (modern amenities in a beautiful, historic mansion), the staff and faculty are friendly – in short, I’m proud to be a part of it!
Winchester Community Music School
I’m looking to expand my studio – students of all ages and ability are welcome. For more information, please visit their website, or feel free to contact me directly.