Congrats to the 2013 Greely Idol winners!

9 year old Anna West, first place winner for the Junior Division in this year’s Greely Idol vocal competition.

A very special shout out to two wonderful young singers, Anna West and Gillian Fenwick, for each capturing a win at Greely Idol 2013!

The vocal competition, which was held January 26-27, 2013, was a chance for young singers across the city to come showcase their stuff in front of a live audience and panel of judges, including Stephanie LaRochelle, the runner-up from CBC’s Over The Rainbow.

Gillian Fenwick was crowned the winner of the Senior Division after her acoustic rendition of David Guetta’s “Titanium”. At just 13 years old, Gillian was the youngest participant in her catergory.

Anna West, 9, was given first place honours after tying for the top spot in the Junior Division for her cover of Adele “One & Only”, along with vocalist Jake Hamilton.

Anna’s been studying voice for a few years now, and Gillian started in lessons this past September. Both currenly study with vocal teacher Tashi Bernard at Barrhaven Music Academy in Ottawa.

Congrats again girls on a job well done!

Catch their winning performances here:

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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

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.

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!

Practice! Practice! Practice! 10 Tips Every Student Should Know

Practicing is essential, no matter what instrument you’re learning. And good practicing etiquette will improve your playing ten-fold. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your practicing time:

1. Don’t just play, think. Thinking and visualizing what you want to achieve out of each practice session will help you improve at a much faster pace. Before you start practicing, ask yourself what the end goal is, and visualize yourself getting there.

2. Good posture. Whatever instrument you play, or if you sing, check that you are standing or sitting correctly. Your back should be straight, chest up, and feet planted firmly on the floor. Check that you are properly holding your instrument and that you are relaxed and comfortable. Poor posture can affect your playing ability and could even lead to injuries if not corrected!

3. Make sure you warm up. Spend a few moments, at the start of each session, to warm up. This can be done through finger exercises, scales, triads, rudiments, solfège (for vocal students) and many other warm-up exercises. The key is to keep them simple and start slowly; working your way from easiest to more challenging pieces.

4. Stay positive. Be a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you believe it, then it will come true. Stay positive about everything; even those pieces or studies that seem difficult today! I often remind my students to look back in their methods books to songs they used to find difficult, and now can play with ease. Perceive everything as a challenge, but also keep in mind that any challenge can be overcome with the right positive attitude.

5. Sight read. Sight reading is a great way to improve musicality in many ways. It can help with reading notes, rhythm, ear training and theory. To get the most out of sight reading, be sure to do a little bit each time you practice.

6. Hear what you sound like. One of the best ways to improve your own playing is to hear it being played back to you. Recording yourself while practicing will allow you to focus entirely on listening, and you will be amazed at what you didn’t hear while playing. It doesn’t have to be high-quality recording, either – I use iPhone’s Voice Memos, a standard free app. Hearing your mistakes from a new perspective (or for the first time!) will help in correcting them faster.

7. Get into a routine. Strive to practice daily – even for as little as 20 minutes. It’s best to get into a routine for practicing; in the morning, after school, or before going to bed. It’s better to practice a little bit everyday than for hours at a time only once a week.

8. Be comfortable. Where you practice is another important thing to remember. Ideally, you would want a practice area that comfortable and free from distractions, with proper lighting, good ventilation and a comfortable seat.

9. Have all the right equipment. Don’t start practicing unless you have everything you need! Make sure your books, sheet music, metronome, tuner, amp, capo, and CD player or laptop (if needed) are all within reach for easy access. This gives you more time to focus on the music, and you’ll be able to play everything properly and with precision.

10. Reward yourself! Every time you accomplish a tough piece or learn a song you’ve always wanted to master, go ahead and reward yourself! Self-motivation is great and will further inspire you to keep learning.