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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Some Kind of (Wonderful) Spark

Documentaries about music education are a rare find – though when you stumble across one, they have a way of tugging on your heartstrings.

Music, unlike other academic subjects (I’m thinking of you, mathematics), has such a universal, emotional appeal. Anyone and everyone can sense a connection to music. You don’t need formal training or years on the road or in the studio to have such deep appreciation for the world’s most beautiful language.

Enter Director and Producer Ben Niles, creator of ‘Some Kind of Spark’, a film documenting the lives of seven inner-city children attending a special music program at Julliard in New York City. (Mr Niles is no stranger to making movies – his latest film, ‘Note By Note (The Making of Steinway L1037)’ won top honors at the Sarasota Film Festival and was screened in over 30 countries in 5 different languages.)

‘Some Kind of Spark’  features the personal stories of these children and their teachers, shot over a two year period, beginning in 2010. It shows the powerful impact music can create, regardless of who you are and where you come from. It follows these kids inside the classroom, in their homes, and on stage.

The film also acts as a chilling reminder about the decline of money invested in music education in US schools over the past quarter century.  (It’s not much different here in Canada, unfortunately) This trend, Niles notes, is not looking good for future generations:

[It’s] compromising our children’s education and jeopardizing our culture. Low-income children-children who also tend to be from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the performing arts-are missing out on the immense value of music training on a child’s development. Children who study music do better on standardized tests in both math and reading and are more likely to go to college. And music programs are proven to be an effective tool in keeping kids off the streets and preventing teen violence. Through music study they learn many life skills such as problem-solving, self-discipline, creativity, empathy, compassion, and the value of hard work. Not to mention that many students-including the poor, the disadvantaged, and the emotionally disturbed-who might otherwise be unreachable can often be taught through the inspiring power of music. (http://www.somekindofspark.com/)

As an independent film, the film’s producers will not take money from Julliard to help fund post-production costs, citing that it is not meant to be a promotional tool for the world-renowned school. It’s aim is to squarely raise awareness about the powerful influence music can have on our children’s lives.

To raise money for this project, Niles’ team has put in place a few online campaigns to garner support. One is backed by Women Make Movies, which allows any donation to be tax-deductible. There’s also an online campaigned featured on  Kickstarter.com.

So, music friends, if you are in a position to donate, please do! Any amount is appreciated. It’s a project we can all feel good about.

Happy New Year! Why learning music should be your resolution for 2013

This time of year is often a period of reflection and looking upon new horizons; deciding  what didn’t work last year and what to improve, or start, in the next twelve months. Joining a gym, spending more time with loved ones, or pushing yourself up the career ladder are all common resolutions heard around the water cooler. Another popular one? Learning how to play a musical instrument.

Interest in learning music often peaks at this time of year, as people seek to expand their skill set or start something new. No matter what age, learning a new skill can have great benefits, both cognitviely and emotionally. As neuroscientist Nina Kraus discovered recently, learning about music can facilitate getting better at other things, and in ways that can last a long, long time.

A number of her studies conclude that:

Musical experience has a pervasive effect on the nervous system. Our recent articles show that lifelong musical experience enhances neural encoding of speech as well as music, and heightens audiovisual interaction. Our work suggests that musicians have a specialized neural system for processing sight and sound in the brainstem, the neural gateway to the brain. This evolutionarily ancient part of the brain was previously thought to be relatively unmalleable; however, our studies indicate that music, a high-order cognitive process, affects automatic processing that occurs early in the processing stream, and fundamentally shapes subcortical sensory circuitry.

So, go ahead and pick up that instrument that you’ve always wanted to learn — its never too late — and as you can see, the benefits may be more than just becoming a better or happier or more fulfilled person. There is no better time than now to take on something new. 

Happy New Year!

(Source: http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/projects/music/index.php)

‘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.

 

The importance of rhythm – and why all students should master it!

What is Rhythm?

The word ‘rhythm’ stems from the Greek word rhythmos, meaning “any regular recurring motion, or symmetry”. In music, rhythm is about when notes, chords, and other musical sounds begin and end. As a result, rhythm is the essential ingredient in all music.

No matter what instrument a student is learning, everyone needs good rhythmic foundation. Melodies, scales and chord patterns are all dependent on a piece’s rhythm. The importance of developing a strong sense of pulse or rhythm is a crucial element when learning to play – and being taught the basics of rhythm starts in the very first lesson.

And, as students’ progress, it will become easier for them to understand why something doesn’t sound exactly as it should – more often than not, it is rhythm which needs work or changing. By developing a good sense of rhythm students will be able to better identify when the pulse or beat is off.

Mastering rhythm is essential for many “rhythm section” instruments:  bass, drums, and rhythm guitar and piano. Even melodic parts, like vocals or lead guitar, need to understand the rhythm in order to play fluidly with accompaniment.

Learning Rhythm

Rhythm exercises should be a part of a student’s daily practice regimen.  Mix rhythm exercises together with scales, arpeggios, songs, and various techniques.

Here are some tips to develop rhythm:

1.    Use a metronome

While playing with metronomes will no doubt make everything tougher, it is a great way to get used to playing with an outside beat. Sometimes, when students tap the beat themselves, or count aloud, they unknowingly slow down in the harder spots, or speed up towards the end of a piece. Using a metronome will allow practicing with a steady, constant beat.

2.     Practice rhythmic exercises

Start out simple and work your way through more complex patterns. Clapping and counting rhythms out loud is a great way to become more comfortable with rhythms, especially for students who learn best through auditory methods. For visual learning, write in the rhythm (1 + 2 + 3 + 4+…) in before playing or clapping.

3.     Understand the time signature

Rhythm is expressed, stated, and describe with a time signature, which defines the note duration and time relationship. A rhythm in 4/4 time will be different than one in 6/8 time, so make sure you understand these values first, before counting or playing.

4.     Watch out for rests, ties and dotted notes

More complex rhythms will have these components which will increase difficulty.  Make sure to spot these tricky parts and work on them separately at first!

5.     Start slow

Any new rhythm should be practiced slowly, giving full value to all notes, rests and any other markings in between. Start as slow as needed so there are no unwanted pauses between sections or phrases – and challenge yourself to go faster once you have mastered a lower speed.

6.     Listen and play along

Listening to the piece before attempting to count, clap or play it will help your ear identify if you are doing it correctly or not. For another challenge, try playing along with the recording and see if you can match the rhythm, once you have a good grasp on it!

Not sure where to begin with your rhythm practice? Download the exercises below!

Exercise 1: Rhythms – Beginner

Exercise 2: Rhythms – Intermediate

Exercise 3: Sixteenth Notes

Exercise 4: Triplets

Exercise 5: Dotted Rhythms

Exercise 6: Syncopation

Is your child ready for music lessons? 5 signs to look for

As a music teacher, one of the most common questions I am asked is “What age should my child start music lessons?”

Surprisingly enough, kids can actually start formal music training as early as age 3, when their brain circuits start to mature and are ripe for learning music. Studies have shown that learning music as young as this can increase brain development and cognitive power.

No matter, you have to take each child and situation on a case-by-case basis, as all children have different learning styles, interests and goals. Here are a few things to look out for when deciding if your child is old enough to take the plunge into formal music training:

Actions speak louder

Observe and listen to your child attentively. Could they be displaying an interest in music that they don’t yet know or how to verbally express? Are they running around the house dancing, singing or creating rhythms on their own? A full-sized instrument (such as piano) may be too intimidating for them; your child may be comfortable with creating sounds and rhythms using familiar object and toys. This could be an indication that they enjoy music and would appreciate lessons.

Is there interest?

Young children who display a natural fascination for music will soak up lessons faster than those who display no interest at all. Look for signals that your child enjoys listening, dancing and creating music on their own. Do they talk about music? Do they ask questions about sounds, make comments about different tones, pitches and timbres? The more they display an inclination to music, the better suited they will be for classes.

Talk about it

Talk to your child! Discuss with them how music lessons work, what is involved and what they need to put in. Explain the benefit and necessity of consistent practice and how it will make them better over time. A lot of young students love making music and hearing sounds, but they can fail to understand that music lessons, like regular school, require a little bit of effort to make it enjoyable and beneficial in the long run. If your child is okay with putting in the effort to learn, they may be ready to go!

Be supportive

Even if, as a parent, you have no background in music or the arts, it is important to lend support and encouragement to your child if they are keen on taking lessons. Even when a child doubts their own abilities, stay supportive and remain positive; explain that hard work is necessary but the benefits far outweigh the costs. If they do well, praise them! Let them know you are proud. It is important that your child knows they have a network of support so they will want to continue to learn.

It should be fun!

Never, ever, force a child to learn music if they absolutely do not want to. This will only lead to a waste of their time and yours. Keep in mind, if a 4 or 5 year old displays no interest in music, that may not be the case a few years down the road. Starting a child too early is music can have adverse effects and ruin any love they could develop for that particular art if they are given the time to express it on their own, at a later time. First and foremost, learning to play an instrument should primarily be enjoyable. If your child isn’t enjoying it, then perhaps it isn’t time just yet.

It’s not an exact science to determine the proper age for a child to start taking formal music lessons. As a parent, it’s up to you to determine if your child is ready based on what you’ve seen and the inclinations of each child.  If you don’t think your son or daughter is ready for formal music lessons, try joining an early music education program which focuses on fostering a love of music, rhythm, and self-expression. By exploring how different instruments sound, and how music makes them feel, your child may learn to appreciate music more than they realized!

No matter what the scenario, age, or instrument, the most important thing is that your child’s experience with music is fun!

French music lessons now available in Barrhaven, Riverside South communities

Barrhaven Music Academy opens its doors to students seeking music lessons in both French and English

Press Release

Barrhaven Music Academy’s studios in southwest Ottawa.

OTTAWA – With the rise of French-speaking families moving to the city’s southwest neighbourhoods, a call for music instruction in both official languages has finally been answered. After officially opening its doors earlier this month, Barrhaven Music Academy is now providing students the chance to learn music in English, French, or both.

“We have a great team of qualified, professional teachers working with us and we are happy to offer French music lessons to our community,” explains co-founder Ashley Martyn, 25. Students of all ages can now register for piano (the school’s most popular instrument) and violin in either language. Barrhaven Music Academy aims to offer French music lessons for all instruments in the near future.

As University of Ottawa alumni, Martyn knows well the importance and benefit of learning in more than one language. Four years of post-secondary study in a bilingual atmosphere strengthened her knowledge and appreciation of both English and French, and she wants Barrhaven Music Academy’s students to have those same advantages while learning in an environment that “provides a bridge to professional, academic, cultural, and personal growth.”

It’s no wonder that Barrhaven, with a population climbing to 84,266 in the 2011 Census, has seen a rise in demand for French language services. The community is already home to three French elementary schools: Michaëlle Jean, Jean-Robert Gauthier and Pierre Elliot Trudeau; together all three have a combined population of nearly 1,300 students.  There’s also Barrhaven’s first French high school, École Secondaire Catholique Pierre-Savard, built in 2009, housing students from grades 7 to 12.  And, don’t forget the adjacent community of Riverside South, home to an additional 3,300 households and projected to be the fastest growing community in the city with an anticipated annual growth rate of 13.5%. Two French schools are nestled within Riverside South’s boundaries as well: École élémentaire catholique Bernard-Grandmaître and the French Catholic Secondary School Franco-Cité, with a student body of over 1,100.

Founded in 2009 as a home-based music studio, Barrhaven Music Academy has shown notable growth and acquired an excellent reputation as a haven for quality music education. Their newly-renovated location on Woodroffe Avenue include a handful of teaching studios with state-of-the-art sound isolating technologies and warm, inviting colours that promote a fun, friendly learning environment.

With the introduction of French music lessons, Barrhaven Music Academy is enthusiastic to give francophone families the opportunity for their children to learn music in their first language. “It’s another way we can give back to our community,” Martyn affirms, “and music itself is a universal language.”

For more information on Barrhaven Music Academy and to register for lessons, contact 613-459-6027 or info@barrhavenmusicacademy.com, or visit their website at http://www.barrhavenmusicacademy.com.