Why music education needs to stay in our schools

I had my first piano lesson when I was three years old. Notwithstanding my stubborn impatience at the time, I believe my parents had good intentions introducing me to music at such an early age. Years later, as part of my grade 6 to 8 school curriculum, I was fortunate enough to learn trumpet; I participated in senior and jazz bands which took me across the province for a number of competitions and workshops.

As I grew up, I really wanted to learn guitar. My wish came true, on my birthday one year, when I received my first acoustic six string. Years of private lessons coupled with John McCrae Secondary School’s music program allowed me to continue my musical education throughout high school. Finally, during my time at the University of Ottawa, I started giving lessons to my own handful of keen students.

Becoming a music teacher makes you see the impact and importance of music education from a renewed perspective. It certainly opens your eyes to the limited amount of resources we have, whether it’s properly qualified teachers or well-invested music programs in our schools, and how we ought to protect those resources from becoming even scarcer in the future.

In 2010, the Coalition for Music Education Canada commissioned a survey to study the state of music education in 1,204 schools across the country. Looking at Ontario specifically, their findings were unwelcoming: funding decreased more (26%) than it improved (18%) over the past two or three years; the number of specialist teachers decreased (20%), as well as did schools’ participation in festivals (25%). Nevertheless, there were some promising changes in our province: 36% of Ontario schools had an increase in artist visits, while 35% saw improvements in music-related technology.

It cannot be emphasized enough how important music education is to the development of a child’s academic and expressive well-being. Simply put, music makes us smarter; it sharpens the senses, enhances emotional intellect and the ability to focus, while increasing the capacity for learning new languages. Research exists that claims continuous musical study into adulthood can help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Recent announcements surrounding the 2012 provincial budget warn that more school closures are coming. School board grants and incentives will be cut to help slay the deficit. Will public music education be affected? Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has repeated that music programs have returned to curriculums under his government’s tenure and “our goal is to protect that.”

With the budget being passed last Tuesday, I hope, for the sake of current and prospective music students, it’s a promise Mr. Duncan is willing to keep.

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In the Studio with BMA’s Tashi Bernard

We spent the day laying down some vocal tracks at Fat Dog Productions with one of BMA’s vocal teachers, Tashi Bernard. She will be teaching out of our new location once it’s officially open in July.

Tashi recorded a version of one of her favorite tunes, Etta James’ At Last. Click here to listen to the finished product!

Six Tips for Choosing the Right Music Teacher

Looking for a new music teacher but don’t know where to start? Here are some key things to think about to get you on your way:

1. Get Referrals.
Talk to friends and family who have children enrolled in music lessons. Talk to the band, orchestra and choir teachers at your school and ask for any recommendations they may have. If you have a teacher already in mind, ask them if you can contact a few of their existing clients to get an idea of their teaching style.

2. Know What You Want.
Before you start your search, ask yourself exactly what you, or your child, want to acheive. By knowing what you want before starting to look around, your search will be much easier and you can narrow in on a teacher who will tailor lessons to your needs. Consider the following:

  • What are your short and long term musical goals?
  • What are your musical tastes and styles? Is this what you want to learn to play?
  • How much time to you intend to invest in practicing?

3. Attend a Recital.
Again, if you have zeroed in on a particular teacher or school, attend one of their recitals. You’ll get a very good idea of their students’ levels, styles and overall versatility and musically. Talk to other parents in the audience about their child’s lessons to get an idea if you or your child would be a good fit as well.

4. Style.
If you are looking to learn a particular musical style, such as jazz or classical, make sure the teacher in question is qualified and open to teach it. Some teachers and musicians choose one style to master throughout their career and may not be comfortable crossing into another. Similarly, if you are looking to get a feel for a handful of genres, look for a more well-rounded teacher with a comprehensive, diverse repertoire.

5. Look at Credentials.
Performance experience and music degrees do not necessarily define an excellent or ideal teacher. More likely that not, however, having a Bachelor of Music or an RCM diploma is a good indicator of this; given that it shows a range of experience, dedication and pedagogy. Experience in performing can also point to a great teacher, as it demonstrates an ability to work with other musicians and develop a sense of creativity. Years of teaching experience, in addition, will also help determine how comfortable an instructor will be in passing on their knowledge of their craft. These three factors should all be taken into account when browsing around.

6. Go With Your Gut.
Most importantly, go with your instincts when meeting or talking to a teacher for the first time. Did they make you comfortable (or tense?) right off the bat? Do you feel you (or your child) could connect well with the teacher? By analyzing your first interaction with a potential teacher it will be easier to predict if you are compatible and able to build a solid, long-lasting teacher-student relationship.

Overall, the best strategy for finding a suitable teacher is to gather as much information as you can. As long as you feel you have all the necessary facts and relevant details, you will feel confident in your decision and be ready to start your musical journey.

Top Pop Tunes from 2011 – Free Sheet Music

Here we have some sheet music for a handful of VERY popular tunes from 2011. Perfect for beginner and intermediate piano and guitar students, or any instrument reading treble clef notation.

Adele – Someone Like You – A Major

Katy Perry – Firework – C Major

Coldplay – Viva La Vida – Db Major

Bruno Mars – Grenade – D Minor

Justin Bieber – Baby – C Major

Enjoy!