Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Meet Steven A, Bigelow, Our Newest Teacher

In our mission to provide quality music programs for school aged children, RI Kids Create Music School is offering guitar lessons with Steven A. Bigelow, who has a very impressive background.  Here is an example of a man who had a passion for playing the guitar at a very early age and pursued his dream to play in a band.  

He was already playing guitar in the community in his home town of Groton, Connecticut, at high school dances, and the Navy Base at the tender age of thirteen, with his mother as a chaperon.  When he turned eighteen, he had an opportunity to play Country and Rockabilly with Sleepy La Beef.  His music career began early, leading him to opportunities to play with an impressive list of recording artist such as:  Greg Allman, Marcia Ball, Johnny Copeland, Willie Dixon, Foghat, Sleepy LaBeef, Dr, John, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Carol King, James Montgomery, Blood, Sweat and Tears, to name a few.  While playing with Young Neal and the Vipers in 1988, he met Ahmet 
Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records and was able to sign a recording contract with him in 1989.

Steve has had experience playing Rock, Roots, Blues, Swing, Country, and Cajun/Zydeco music.  He has had experience in working with children at private schools and plays in the worship service at his church.  He is currently playing with various bands in Providence and Boston with Boogaloo Swamis and the Hubcaps.

With his extensive experience as an upright bass, electric bass guitar and fretless player and singer, Steve is an asset to our school and would have many stories to share with the students about his work. Steve will be teaching improvisation and composition at the Busy Beaver Piano Camp in Portsmouth, RI this summer.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Music is Important to the Health and Well Being of Children

Many children today are suffering from anger, depression and other physical ailments as a result of the stresses in their lives.  Music can be a way of alleviating those stresses.  

When I first started teaching piano, I was working with a group of very troubled children at an after school program.  I used to bring my digital piano to the community center and give piano lessons.  There must have been about one hundred children there.  I would give the children lessons, two students at a time, one on the high end notes and the other on the low end notes.  The children were very comfortable about this and never complained.  They learned how to play simple songs. 

Some of the children who attended were very troubled.  They argued with the other children, were very disruptive, and some bullied the other children.  One girl in particular took an interest in playing the piano.  She happened to be one of the students who bullied the younger children.  After learning to play a few songs, she no longer hung out with the other children who made trouble for the younger ones.  She became very involved in learningmore songs and began to experience joy whenever she came into the community center.

She became very adept at playing and learning the songs, stayed the longest, and no longer associated with the her friends who were bullying other children.   Her expressions turned from scowls to smiles.

I have numerous stories of other children whose attitudes changed when they started playing piano.  By the same token, I had a few children who did not enjoy the experience at all and asked to be taken out of the class.  They were not interested in playing the piano.

However, there is evidence that music relieves stress and has been shown to have a positive effect on the school performance and behavior of inner city youth.  All that is needed is one hour to exposure to music, either listening to it or non-stressful playing of an instrument, such as a guitar or piano.  This activity van also create changes within the cells which can last for a long period of time.  Many doctors have compared music therapy to having the same effect as medication.

The good news is that adults have the same response to music, which can help all of us manage the level of stress within our lives.  The tempo of the music will affect our moods in different ways.  For example, we will be more alert when we hear faster paced music, while a slower pace, such as classical music, will make us feel more relaxed.  For confidence, listening to upbeat music is very helpful. 

Because we are individuals with varying needs, not all music will affect us in the same way.  We will have to find music which can help change our moods for the better and make a conscious attempt to use it when we need it.   

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Motivation to Practice

If a child desires to be a great piano player, he/she must practice.  It is the only way.  It does not matter if the child happens to be highly intelligent, highly talented, or has a better than average memory.   This is not what it takes to become a great piano player.  It takes practice.

All piano players, great, and not so great, have one thing in common – they have to practice. It was once believed that in order to become an expert, the student must spend 10,000 hours on nurturing his/her talent.  It has to be done every day.  If a child spends one hour a day playing the piano, that would be 365 hours per year.   At that rate, it would take 27.40 years to become an expert player. 
However, if the child spent two hours a day, that would be it would only take 13.70 years to become an expert.  Experts are now questioning this theory.  It is important for the child to practice, but experts also agree that the better piano players have talent which makes them better players.

When parents and their children agree that the child should take music lessons, they need to decide on the goals they want the child to achieve and how much time the child should spend on achieving that goal.  It could save the parent time, money, and heartache in the event the child decides he no longer wants to pursue the goal.

When discussing music lessons with a child, it is important to explain to the child why they are having lessons, why it is important to practice, and the parents’ expectations when it comes to the child practicing their lessons.  If both parents and child understand the importance of practice, the child is more likely to engage in practice.   The child must also know what the practice schedule is and must be reminded to practice.

I believe it is important to consider the child’s feelings, also.  If the child is not as delighted as the parents are for the child to take the lessons, the child will not engage in practice because he/she is not interested.  I have witnessed this happen too many times.  The parents have to explore their reasons for wanting the child play the piano.  Is the parent unknowingly trying to live vicariously through the child?

A music education will benefit the child, but if there is no talent, it is a waste of time investing in the child by giving her/him an instrument which will only gather dust.  The parents would be better off trying to determine if there is some other talent or talents which the child has.  The child will benefit more by developing the talent that he/she already has.

If the child is involved in too many activities, the child may be overwhelmed with trying another activity such as regular practice.  It is good to have children involved in extracurricular activities.   However, if there are too many activities, the child may not have time for practice.  Therefore, it is important to assess the number of activities the child is engaged in and how important each one is to the development of the child.  It is also important for children to spend time on homework and study.

Although practice is important, expert piano players, as all other talented individuals have ways of memorizing and storing information in their brains which help them to remember how to perform certain functions.  These ways are superior to most people and will enable them to become better piano players.  The degree to which children are able to store information in their brains will enable them to become great piano players.

In conclusion, children must have a consistent practice regime in order to become great piano players and need guidance from the parents in adhering to a practice schedule.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Busy Beaver Piano Camp

RI Kids Create Music School will be holding one week piano camp sessions for children aged seven to ten years old.  Activities include learning how to compose a song and learning a new song for a piano recital for parents during the final class.  Children must have completed at least one year of piano lessons.  Classes will be held in Newport, Middletown, or Portsmouth.    Choose morning or afternoon session.  
Reserve your spot today!  Please register and indicate your preference on the contact form on this page.  Payment  in advance by Paypal (Cash, Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express.) Please go here for payment.

Tuition - $350,00

Class schedules are as follows:

June 22, 2015 through June 26, 2015, 9 am - 12 pm
June 22, 2015 through June 26, 2015, 1 pm - 4 pm

June 29, 2015 - July 3, 2015,  9 am - 12 pm
June 29, 2015 - July 3, 2015, 1 pm - 4 pm

 July 6, 2015 - July 10, 2015,  9 am - 12 pm
July 6, 2015 - July 10, 2015, 1 pm - 4 pm

July 13, 2015 - July 17, 2015, 9 am - 12 pm
July 13, 2015 - July 17, 2015, 1 pm - 4 pm

July 20, 2015 - July 24, 2015, 9 am - 12 pm
July 20, 2015 - July 24, 2015, 1 pm - 4 pm 

July 27, 2015 - July 31, 2015, 9 am - 12 pm
July 27, 2015 - July 31, 2015, 1 pm - 4 pm

Monday, February 2, 2015

Could You Justify Spending $50,000 on a Grand Piano?

At a time when interest seems to be declining in the support of music and arts programs in the schools, one school system saw a need to provide a grand piano for instruction in the public schools.

The Kansas City, Kansas school board under the leadership of Cynthia Lane, just approved the purchase of a grand piano for $48,191, which includes the cost of transportation and a protective cover.   Apparently, the Summer Academy program needed the piano to keep instep with the other summer programs in the state and the piano would be utilized in the music classrooms during the school year each day. 

This decision, however, did not gain approval by all of the citizens, as some feel the purchase price was extremely high, in light of some of the other problems in the school district which needed preference, such as providing tutors for the children and taking more steps to close the achievement gap.  Additionally, the Governor, Sam Brownback, has advised the state that he would recommend reducing the education budget by $127 million overall in the state.  The Governor may be justifying his decision based on the mean scores for students who took the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) examinations.  For example, 4th grade math students in Kansas obtained median scores (250) or under the median scores out of a total of 500 points.  Kansas spends $11,557 per year per student on education. 

Some would believe the purchase of a grand piano is justified, in view of the fact that a music education is beneficial to the students.  Music students have better reading and math skills and they tend to score better on standardized tests.  No doubt, the music department, the school board members, and the superintendent are aware of this fact.

Art and music programs are not supported in most schools because of the school officials’ attempts to meet the standards that must be adhered to in compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Which requires the students to be tested annually in reading, math, and science.  If the students are not making progress, the schools risk losing their federal funding, may be given federal sanctions, may be required to provide tutoring for the struggling students, may require transfer of the students to other school districts, or may require restructuring of the schools.   Because art and music students are not tested, and the schools place a priority on academics, many student miss out on the enrichment that art and music can provide.

This is an interesting issue and perhaps more school systems should consider offering more music programs to the students to help them on standardized tests.  For now, however, the schools will have to rely on outside agencies to offer music programs to their students.