Grownups love music lessons as much as the kids do

BMA was featured as a business profile in the Barrhaven Independent on May 17, 2013. Read the wonderfully written article by reporter Bev Mcrae below, or pick up a copy at the UPS Store in Barrhaven (900 Greenbank Rd) or Ross’ Independent Grocer (Greenbank Dr & Strandherd Ave).

Barrhaven Music Academy opened its doors in July, 2012 and already is as popular with parents as it is with kids. Left to right, Tashi Bernard (voice), Kendra Mathers (piano), Nadia Zaid (voice and piano), Ashley Martyn (acoustic, electric and bass guitar), Corey Taylor (guitar, voice) and Ria Aikat (piano) love teaching music to all ages - from preschoolers to adults.

Barrhaven Music Academy opened its doors in July, 2012 and already is as popular with parents as it is with kids. Left to right, Tashi Bernard (voice), Kendra Mathers (piano), Nadia Zaid (voice and piano), Ashley Martyn (acoustic, electric and bass guitar), Corey Taylor (guitar, voice) and Ria Aikat (piano) love teaching music to all ages – from preschoolers to adults.

Grownups love music lessons as much as the kids do

By Bev McRae

On any given evening you will see adults sitting in the waiting room at Barrhaven Music Academy in the Mulligan Centre on Woodroffe Ave. at Longfields Dr. The thing is, they’re not all waiting for their kids. They may be waiting with their kids.

“We have tons of adult students,” said Ashley Martyn, co-owner of the music school. “We have many in piano, guitar and voice who just love it. In a lot of our families, the mom or the dad will take a lesson while the kid is taking a lesson. It’s really fun. The adults enjoy it as much, if not more than the kids.”

Martyn and her friend Nadia Zaid, who both grew up in Old Barrhaven, opened Barrhaven Music Academy in July 2012, and now, along with seven other music teachers, offer lessons in piano, guitar, bass guitar, voice, violin and drums for students of all ages, even preschoolers.

“The Tuneful Tots program is a music education program designed for three to five year olds, that age where parents may not be sure they want to jump them right into private lessons,” said Martyn. “The students don’t specialize in any one instrument in Tuneful Tots, they get used to rhythms and beats, learning lyrics, learning songs – just getting them excited about music.”

Tuneful Tots is taught by Kendra Mathers, one 45-minute lesson a week of singing, clapping, ear training, making music and moving to it. “We have a box of instruments with maracas, tambourines, shakers, rain sticks,” said Martyn. “Everyone takes an instrument and they create simple rhythm first and then it gets more complex and they learn how to keep a beat together and how the different instruments sound like when they’re played all together. It’s a lot of fun, just hilarious. It’s like playtime for them, but they’re having the love of music instilled in them while they’re playing the song.”

At what age are children ready for private lessons on their favorite instrument is a question Martyn often has to answer. “It really depends on the student,” she said. “If they’re super-motivated and willing to understand the practice that it takes to progress at a steady pace; I’ve had students as young as four.”

And of course, whatever instrument the little one plays has to fit. “There are half size guitars, three-quarter size and full size,” Martyn explained. “A little four year old would play a half size guitar. As long as their fingers can reach the four frets, they can play it.”

Other instruments are too big for little beginners, which is why many parents choose to enrol their children in piano lessons.

“With the piano, you just have to be able to press down a key and that doesn’t take much physical effort, so a lot of our students start on the piano because it’s easier and you can get the sound out right away,” Martyn said.

Piano is the most popular class at Barrhaven Music Academy, and the school has teachers available for all levels from beginner to advanced. The average time for a lesson in one of the school’s five classrooms is 30 minutes for a flat fee of $22. Adults or more advanced students may prefer a 45-minute or one hour session.

The music school also has a Youth Choir for singers age seven to 12, led by I.iz Wardhaugh that rehearses one hour a week on Thursday nights, at a cost of $15 per session.

“Most of the members are our students who are taking voice lessons, but we do have some outside kids who have joined just that program,” Martyn said. “It started in January and their debut performance will be at our summer concert in June. Eventually we’ll get them into competitions like the Kiwanis Music Festival.”

Barrhaven Music Academy presents two concerts a year, one in June, another in December, but last September students and teachers also held a special fundraiser for a young Barrhaven woman, Brynn Mclennan, who needs stem cell treatment for her muscular dystrophy.

“It was an outdoor show in the parking lot where the school is, then we had our big holiday concert in December so we’ve had two shows already,” said Martyn. “It was a lot of fun. The students love it. Performing in a concert inspire them, gives them motivation – and they love to see their teachers on stage.”

Getting a child to practice a music lesson and to enjoy music isn’t as difficult as many parents fear, said Martyn. It’s a combined effort on the part of the teachers and the parents.

“We’ve designed the program for every instrument to keep it fresh, keep it interesting, to make sure they’re not always playing the same kind of piece from the same book,” said Martyn. “We like to change it up, maybe throw in not just practical stuff, but some theory, ear training or games just to liven it up and keep their minds going.”

It’s important for parents to understand that a rigorous, hourly marathon of scales every day is not mandatory, a good five minutes is plenty for a beginner. “When they start, that’s all they really need. Just to get into the routine of doing it,” said Martyn.

“It’s quality over quantity when it comes to practicing. A good quality five or ten minutes every day is better than forcing them to practice for two hours on a Saturday when they really want to be playing outside.”

Both owners of the Barrhaven Music Academy have loved music since they were little, growing up in Old Barrhaven and attending John McCrae Secondary School, although Nadia is three years older than Ashley.

“I think I pretty much stole the guitar my mother had lying around the house,” laughed Ashley. “We always had music going on in our house. I did piano when I was growing up and I did trumpet in middle school so I always had music going on in my life. It was never very far out of reach.” Martyn has studied a world of genres and styles, including rock, pop, blues, jazz & classical, most notably under the Canadian guitar guru Anders Drerup.

Zaid has a Bachelor of Music degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Education from Ottawa University. Martyn has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Music with honours (2008) from University of Ottawa. Zaid has been teaching for ten years, Martyn for seven, both privately and at another music school. Both love music, and love teaching.

“We actually met working at another music school,” said Martyn, “but we wanted to teach music differently, to put our own stamp on it. In some schools it’s all about exam marks or how fast they can get through a method book. We want the students to really love music. We really want them to succeed so they will love music.”

The Barrhaven Music Academy is located in the Mulligan Centre at 2900 Woodroffe Ave. in Barrhaven The school is open Monday to Friday from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Phone (613) 459-6027, e-mail info@barrhavenmusicacademy.com or visit the website at www.barrhavenmusicacademy.com for more information.

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What’s the point of music lessons if my child won’t practice?

From time to time, parents of beginner (and more often than not, young) music students face a tough challenge: their child’s motivation to learn wanes to a gradual standstill. They no longer want to practice and it becomes a daily struggle just to get them to open up their music book that sits atop the piano collecting dust. Alas, dragging them to their weekly music lessons is as easy as drawing blood from a stone.

As a music teacher, I admit my bias when I say that quitting lessons, no matter the age, instrument or level of the student, is probably the last thing you’d want to encourage. Like anything worth achieving in life, it is important to keep children, or even teenagers, in music through the good times and the bad.

But, as some parents say, what if my child is just too young? Surely it would be better to wait until they are older, so they understand the importance of practicing and a good work ethic.  The answer may surprise you – it’s actually better if children start music at an early age.  In fact, the younger the student, the easier it is: “You can put the study of science on hold, but not with piano,” says renowned musician and instructor Ernesto Lejano, who teaches one of Canada’s best known pianists, Angela Cheng. Not to mention the cognitive and developmental benefits that has been attributed to learning music early on in life.

Even still, parents are often anxious to keep their children in music out of fear they may kill their child’s love for the art forever. Not true, says psychologist and author Dr. Susan Bartell of New York.  “Children often give up quickly when success isn’t easy or immediate,” Dr. Bartell explains. And, because music is just like any other academic subject, some students won’t be successful right from the start. Like in math or science class, children should learn to push past the frustration of not being instantaneously good at something – the reward of success will be much more appreciated once they accomplish their goal!

Dr. Bartell continues: “If you allow your child to give in to uncomfortable feelings that make him want to quit, you communicate that hard work and perseverance aren’t important. In fact, by not pushing your child, you deny him the opportunity to learn to cope with frustration, and eventually he will stop trying at anything.”

In other words, to allow a child to quit is to communicate to them that they are not capable of succeeding. Dr. Bartell suggests that if quitting is imminent, parents should continue with the activity until it reaches a “natural conclusion”, such as the end of a school year or term.

So, you’ve decided it may not be time to end lessons just yet. How can you encourage your child to keep going without forcing their interest?

Be patient

Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day, and Mozart didn’t become a virtuoso overnight! It may take some time for kids understand what practicing is and how it will make them a better player,  so don’t be too quick to assume that your child isn’t fit for music if they start losing interest after 4 or 5 weeks. The ebb and flow of enthusiasm will vary week by week; it’s important for parents to stay positive and encouraging even during those times where the student’s progress has stalled or hit a plateau.

Music students, especially young beginners, will need to gradually get into the routine of practicing their instrument. It may take 3 to 6 months for them to get settled into lessons. Don’t overwhelm them by asking for too much practicing – even 5 minutes a day is enough to build a good foundation of musical knowledge.

Be encouraging

Parents need to keep in mind that their positivity will inspire their children to be positive themselves. Be sure to use encouraging words and phrases during your child’s home practices. If you are sitting alongside them, avoid criticizing or giving negative feedback. If you feel your child just isn’t getting one part of a certain piece, scale or riff, explain to them the benefit of trying again and how they will become better after repetition.  Never assume or say they can’t do it.

Create the right environment

Along with creating a positive music education experience, it’s important to help create a supportive environment of inspiring peers and mentors where this student can turn to if they need help. If that environment or support network is not there, one doesn’t have much of a chance of getting through the (potentially tough) first months of learning the fundamentals! Additionally, make sure the physical setting where the student practices at home is warm, inviting and well-lit. Students will be more encouraged to practice at a piano that lives around a main part of the house (like a family room or living room) then one that hides in a dark basement or is tucked away in a spare bedroom.

Talk to your teacher

To get the most of music lessons, communication with the student’s teacher is key. If you find it’s a struggle to get your child to practice, mention it in the next lesson, and ask for advice on how to best motivate them. Chances are the teacher will be more than happy to offer a handful of tools – practice charts, games, prizes, etc. – that will help encourage practice time at home. Letting your teacher know of a student’s struggles at home will allow them to tweak their approach to how they instruct so they can get the most out of each lesson.

‘Tis the season for holiday recitals: A preparation checklist for students

 

Make sure you're ready for your holiday recital this year!

Make sure you’re ready for your holiday recital this year!

Recital prep 101! Helpful pointers for students working towards a performance this holiday season

Annual or biannual recitals are often a chief component of music schools’ curriculum no matter where you go. And, as a music teacher, I agree that student recitals and concerts are a great way to showcase students’ hard work and give them an extra little push to excel at their instrument.

Regardless of all the benefits of performing, students will get nervous when it comes time to play in front of a crowd. Some don’t worry too much, or they use their anxiety as a way to adrenalize themselves when on stage. For others, their nerves can get the best them, sometimes with catastrophic consequences to their self-esteem once the show is over and curtain is drawn.

The best advice for these nerve-wracked students? Be prepared! Here are a few things to remember in the weeks leading up to your big performance:

Do mock concerts: Have as many little “mock” or mini-concerts in front of a small group of family and friends as you can. It’s often said that it’s easier to be in front of a room full of people you don’t know, than in front of a handful of those you do. If you can get through your piece fluidly in front of your parents, siblings, fellow students or friends, it’s a good indication you’ll be fine playing for a bigger, more anonymous group!

Record yourself: Playing while recording is a good simulation of what it feels like to play for an audience. Additionally, the benefit of hearing yourself played back allows you to correct the mistakes you never may have realized you often make, and add some polish – a touch of rhythm here or sprinkle of dynamics there – to create an even better sounding piece.

Practice mentally: Not all preparation involves playing over and over again! (Though this is never discouraged…) It often helps to mentally prepare as well. Close your eyes and visualize your hands on your instrument as you play, or how you would  breathe and say lyrics as you sing. Visualize the music in front of you, line by line; see what the notes look like and hear what they sound like. Mental preparation is more effective than students think, and will make you more confident in what you’re getting ready to play.

Know the notes: Make sure you know your song, inside and out. Notes, rhythms and finger patterns or positioning should be close to second nature in the week leading up to your performance.

Practice daily: Even if just for 10 or 15 minutes, it is essential for students to practice their piece(s) every day when preparing for an upcoming recital.  Daily repetition will help in memorizing and becoming completely comfortable with the song. For vocalists, it will help to memorize lyrics. Ideally, singers will want to be able to recite their lyrics out loud, just by speaking them as if reading a poem, without any melody.

So you’ve practiced your song for weeks now. You’re ready to go! With the big performance day finally here, what’s left to do? Some tricks to settling any day-of anxieties when you take centre stage:

  • Don’t think you have to start playing right away! Take your time, get comfortable. Adjust your seat, get your music ready, take a deep breath and then begin.
  • If you make a mistake, keep going! A few wrong notes or chords here and there will not be obvious to your audience; if you stop playing completely to starting over, however, it will be noticeable.
  • Try to keep a steady pace. We tend to rush through things when we’re nervous, which increases the chance of making a mistake.
  • Remember you’re up there to showcase your hard work, and your teacher, parents and friends are proud of you! Try to turn your nerves into excitement.
  • Smile, enjoy your time up there, and have fun! Chances are you’ll think it went by too fast when it’s all over.

With these tricks in hand, I hope students will make the most of their recital days. It truly is a fun experience once the nerves are gone and encouragement is there!

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Those in the Ottawa area are welcome to join Barrhaven Music Academy’s annual Holiday Concert, coming up on Saturday, December 22, starting at 12:00pm, at 30 Clearly Ave. Admission is free, but donations of non-perishable items will be gladly accepted for the Ottawa Food Bank. For more information, visit www.barrhavenmusicacademy.com.

 

Hate learning theory? There’s an app for that

Attention students and teachers! Understand & improve your music theory knowledge with this handy app

A colleague of mine, Tashi, introduced a very clever music app to our teaching staff the other day. Tashi, a vocal teacher (and all-around musician – she also plays piano, guitar and violin!), mentioned that she not only recommends this app to each and every one of her growing list of students, but encourages other teachers to take a peek as well.

Called ‘Music Theory Pro’, and available for download off the iTunes App Store, it was developed by Dr. Joel Clifft, a professor of music at Azusa Pacific University and the University of Southern California. It’s used by teachers and students alike on many university and college campuses throughout the US.

So what can you do with it?

The reason why this app is so awesome probably lies in the fact that it is a toolbox full of music theory exercises, games and quizzes, and useful for beginners, intermediate and advance students.

For example, you can:

  • Practice naming notes on the piano and on the staff;
  • Learn key signatures;
  • Get better at intervals, including major, minor, diminished and augmented;
  • Look up chords and inversions;
  • Do ear training, from easy to challenging for the more advanced student;
  • Identify anything from seventh chords and to modal scales;
  • Take quizzes to identify tempos and beats per minute;
  • Complete various exercises in all of the above to sharpen your overall theory skills.

This app is handy because any student can benefit from it; if you are training to be a classical pianist or contemporary singer, or just want to understand the basic rudiments, Music Theory Pro is chock-full of goodies to help anyone desiring to become a better musician.

And, I think most teachers will agree, learning the theory side of things should be a component in all music training! Having an app of this nature right in your pocket is a great way to motivate students by having an easy-to-understand structure and entertaining learning platform…much more entertaining than scribbling notes in a theory book.

Download it here for $0.99: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/music-theory-pro/id390788573?mt=8

9th Annual Kiwanis Idol auditions done, Top 20 to be announced soon

This past Sunday marked the deadline to enter the 9th Annual Kiwanis Idol competition in the National Capital Region.  Contestants between the ages of 13 and 21 came out to perform their two best songs, one a capella and one with accompaniment, in front of a panel of three judges.

“Everyone has done a superb job today. Just getting up on stage in front of a crowd is an accomplishment in itself, especially for those who have never performed before,” explained one of Sunday’s judges, Nadia Zaid,  owner of a local music school and teacher who specializes in piano and vocal training.

The Kiwanis club hosted this year’s auditions at Merivale Mall. Four rounds of tryouts were held over one weekend in late July and again on August 11 and 12. Over a hundred hopefuls came out vying for a spot in the Top 20 that will be selected to move on to the next round.  Each day, tryouts lasted  from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

With the last round of auditions coming to a close, the judges have the tough task of selecting the best ones for the Kiwanis Top 20 Showcase, performed live at the Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre on August 25.

Kiwanis Idol judging panel, (from left to right) Nadia Zaid, Jenna Taggart and Diana Lynn Kyd.

The Showcase, which will not be judged or scored,  gives contestants an opportunity to sing a new set of songs in front of a live audience before the next round of the competition begins.

The top 20 finalists will return to the stage once more at the Orleans shopping centre on September 1, 2012,  to narrow the field down to the Top 10. Those who make the cut will have one last chance to perform, on September 2, before they crown the winner.

For more information on Idol and all the latest updates, check out  www.kiwanisidol.org.

The Top 20 is scheduled to be announced shortly, according to organizer Eldon Fox’s Facebook page. Good luck to all those who auditioned!

Save the date! Music 4 Brynn coming September 22, 2012

I’m more than happy to announce a little event I’m helping to organize for good friend Brynn Mclennan this fall.

Music 4 Brynn will aim to raise awareness for Brynn’s stem cells treatments and all those who battle Muscular Dystrophy across Canada.

To learn more about Brynn’s story, visit www.stemcellsforbrynn.com.

So what’s all the excitement about??

  • We’ll be rockin’ a stage with full audio from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm at 2900 Woodroffe Ave in Barrhaven;
  • Our amazing students and teachers will each perform a set of their favorite songs for family and friends;
  • We’ll have food, treats and other goodies to share; and,
  • Brynn and friends will be there to meet and greet everyone as they enjoy the show!

More details to come! In the meantime, mark your calendars!

Another successful June Concert

Amidst all the rain, we wrapped up another great June Concert last Sunday! All of our participants did a fantastic job and should be very proud of their performances.

Take a peek at one of our vocal students, Sarah, and her superb rendition of “Skinny Love”. Great work Sarah! Just one example of how talented our students are.

Congrats again to everyone, and thank you to parents and friends for your support!