After your first year of undergrad, there is an abundance of time to practice (not). However, there is more allocated time to practice, and efficiently using this time to practice is a skill that is most useful post-grad.

In this week’s entry I will set a baseline for general practicing habits as a college student (from both the perspective of undergraduate and graduate) and then the transition to full time teaching whether that be private lessons or public school.


Collegiate Practice Time

Undergraduate:

As an undergraduate student, there is a fairly inflexible block schedule that your practice time has to fit into. Gen Eds, Core Requirements, Lessons, Ensembles, Electives….

As far as practice time goes, it is more or less built into your schedule as “free time”.

This time gets spent on lesson material (scales, etudes, repertoire), ensemble repertoire and chamber music. There isn’t much time for exploration and playing things outside of school music aside from part-time gigs.

Graduate:

Towards the last year of undergrad, but more so during graduate studies, there is A LOT more “free time”. Classes run into the night – if you are working part or full time that may vary how much time you have allotted to practice. However, this variability leaves a few open ended questions:

  1. How much time do you need to practice? School material? Outside school?
  2. What do you practice? What are you working towards?

Grad school is where you have the freedom to hone whatever skills you prioritize.

One of the secrets of adulting 101 that most graduate students and full-time workers will tell you is that you have to schedule a social life. The same becomes true for practicing. If you don’t make time for it, it can slip through the cracks and before you know it you have missed a week a practicing.

There is not set # of practice hours. Everyone is different: work/school schedules, physical and mental health, upcoming projects, etc. However, being consistent and seeing through that you practice when you tell yourself you are going to practice. As well as having a plan for what you want to get better at each time you play – or if you are playing for fun (set time aside for that as well!) – but those times that you are practicing to journal it and reflect every week or so on the small achievements you’ve made.


Post-Grad – Working Full Time:

When you are teaching, the freedom that you had in graduate school is altered. Life changes, workload, etc. However, the key differences is now you are in the driver’s seat. Without regular lessons, you have the freedom to decide how you practice and maintain your skills.

Preparing and planning lessons – ideally you would be working on the repertoire your students are doing, so any personal projects are put on hold to review and refresh for teaching.

Finding balance between maintaining personal goals versus teach goals can vary; and it is important to model a viable career that blends both teaching and personal growth.


How do you practice? Let me know in the comments below!

The eager high school musician, accepted into music school, may want to come into university with a new instrument that is up to the standard they feel is necessary for this transition in their life/career. Here are some considerations for these students and their family to ponder before diving in blind.


New Teacher

Most students will not have the same primary instrument teacher from high school to college. There are A LOT of changes that takes place within the first year of being a music major: embouchure changes, posture changes, sound production, reviewing basics and establishing a strong foundation for the next 4+ years…

All that being said BEWARE buying a flute before consulting this new teacher. Equipment is important, but it is not everything, if you have an instrument that is reliable and consistent then hold off on the expense until university. If you need to upgrade, consult with this new teacher and maintain good communication. Trial instruments, get feedback, and ask questions (it’s okay to not know everything there is to know about flute manufacturing and your teacher will have had an array experience in this area).

Changes and control

Similar to the last point, change is inevitable – especially if you plan to improve. Most student flutes require less work to manipulate factors like tone, focus, and color; many flutes with higher specs require work to really master control of these elements (albeit the sound is often better balanced and blended) which is another factor to consider. As a music major the technical demand will increase, and the decision to get a new instrument at the same time there is more of a demand to be musical may be a road block.


The Importance Of Trials

If you have the opportunity to trial flutes rather than just do a quick test in a store take it. You can get more opinions on instruments and better weigh your options when you have more time to spend with the instruments and learn how they work over a several days.

Just Another Flutist, Joanna, is a partner with the Flute Center of NY and has a concise video on setting up trials and how to structure them to get the most out of the experience:

There are a lot of options and things to consider when making a flute upgrade:

  • Budget
  • New or Preowned
  • Inline or offset G
  • Open or close holed
  • Brand
  • Material
    • Silver… what kind: coin, sterling?
    • Gold, karats?
    • Mixed – interior walls, plated, riser, etc.
    • Platinum
    • Combo?
  • Specs/Additional features
    • C or B foot
    • Split E
    • Foot joint roller keys
    • C# trill
    • Gizmo key
    • Thickness of wall
  • Having a repair tech in house or having a trusted one to go to after purchase

Do you have any advice for soon to be music majors? When did you upgrade and what do you think is important to know about the process?

Last year and this year are very different from previous ones, however, the world is still spinning and many people who want to Major in Music are receiving their acceptance letters into universities. What does being a music major look like? What is that first year going to entail?


Gen Eds

As per usual this will be US-centric and a huge part of American universities is fulfilling general education requirements for your university. AP classes help – somewhat – in getting you out of these classes. You can roughly expect a few literature/writing courses, math, psychology (especially if you are doing an education degree), and general science.

You want to get these out of the way if you want to immerse yourself in the school music fully and not have to travel to unfamiliar parts of campus during the semester.

You can make use of summer and winter courses to knock a few of these out if you find your schedule too full.

Too Many Classes, Barely Any Credits

Welcome to the school of music where the majority of your classes will be worth 1 credit or less. That 3 hour ensemble rehearsal you are expected to attend each week? Yup, that is only worth 0.5 credits.

While your friends in other disciplines will be complaining about how busy they are with 4-5 classes per semester you will be juggling anywhere from 10-12 (maybe more) for only 18-20 odd credits.

Your schedule will be PACKED with block classes.

Plan out times during the day to make sure you are hitting 3 meals a day. NO SNACKS DO NOT COUNT. You want to make sure you aren’t going a full 10 hours of class without a single full meal. Eat breakfast, it’s good for you! Especially before a dictation exam.

Aural Skills – Ear Training

This is where rubber meets the road. If you don’t have perfect pitch don’t sweat it, and don’t let other people get in your head about it. Last month I did a post on my tips to improve in ear training.

The several semester you take aural skills may be stressful, but you will come out the other side a much better musician. Transferring the active listening to your own instrument helps tremendously.

Often times your university will have sympathetic professors that can help you if you are struggling to maintain a passing grade – don’t be to hard on yourself if this is the subject area where you are averaging a C.

Piano Skills

If you are not one of the ‘lucky’ ones to have grown up taking piano lessons or just have a knack for the keyboard you are not alone.

Even if you feel like you should be practicing your own instrument, why do you have to learn piano anyway??? Just remember that, again, this is a transferable skill. When you’re practicing you can play your own part or a reduction of the piano’s part to make this skill useful to your own musicianship.

Essays…

You’re a music major why do you have to write?

You will find that mainly in your first year – and somewhat beyond that – you will be writing A LOT. Learning how to navigate the library, do different citation formats (MLA, Chicago, APA), persuade/argue a point, support your ideas, and peer review. These skills – although not directly related to music – come with the job. Whether you are an educator or performer – writing grants, program notes, etc. you want to be able to write intelligently.

Time to actually play music?!

If your first year you will be expected to transform your playing to set the foundation for the rest of your degree. However, you may find that you just don’t have as much time as you thought you would to practice.

Practice plans. Scheduling. Journaling.

Those are several things that are essential for first year music students if they want to manage gen eds, music classes, secondary instruments, hw, and everything else on top of their primary instrument.

Know what you need to practice that week and prioritize – what are you doing for your lesson week by week, is there a masterclass or performance you need to be prepared for.

Block out your practice time, don’t just wing it and hope that there will be time. Sometimes you have free time, but no practice rooms are open. Sometimes your schedule is so packed you’d be lucky to get in half an hour of practice time. Don’t feel pressured to practice every day, but do try to practice more days than you don’t in a week.

Journaling is something that takes time to develop. What are you practicing? Why? What are you working to improve? What do you like? What strategies are you using to fix the things you don’t like?


This year is presenting new challenges for first year students such as struggling to fit into the music school community and form those relationships they would otherwise have. What insight do you have for new music majors?

As we enter the Spring 2021 semester many students are resuming their aural and theory courses. These classes can be taxing under neutral circumstances, but given the continued changing instruction modalities (remote, hybrid, etc) there are extra barriers and challenges that can make these courses even more anxiety-inducing.


Apps and Programs designed for Ear Training/Theory

  • MacGAMUT
    • An ear training (with a theory edition as well) software.
    • Randomized exercises – in short and long sections.
    • Customize simple, compound meters; certain elements such as rhythm and range.
    • Sections for particular ear training skills – step-by-step.
  • MusicTheory.net
    • A great entry level tool. As a visual (theory) and ear training tool for notes, intervals, scales, and chords.
    • Customizable – omit specific clefs, range, chords, scales.
  • Teoria
    • Includes both ear training an music theory tools.
    • Customizable ear training exercises for intervals, notes, chords, scales, melodies, and rhythms.
    • Comprehensive basic theory – intervals, reading the staves, keys, scales, chords/harmonic functions. Also includes introductory jazz music theory.
  • GoodEar – apps
    • Great for smartphone or tablet.
    • 4 main apps: Intervals, Scales, Chords, Melodies.
    • Customizable.
  • AP Music Theory Barron’s Book
    • Aside from prep for the AP Music Theory exam, this book provides a condensed overview of basic-advanced Western music theory during the Common Core period.
    • CD with listening exercises; as well as self-assessment sections.

Practicing tools/tips for Ear Training

  • Start simple: when listening ask yourself is the pitch higher or lower? The move on to steps or skips?
  • When playing your own music think about these same concepts (make the context more directly applicable to you!). Listen to something simple without any visual music and try to play it back on your instrument.
  • Constant and consistent ear training; and be aware of out of tune pianos the intonation issues be confuse your brain, tricking it by a half/whole step depending on how severely out of tune it is.
  • Consistent labeling of pitches, find a system that works the best for you.
    • Examples: Solfege Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do
    • Numbers 1-12 (12 chromatic notes in a scale)
      • Ie. a C Major scale would be 1-3-5-6-8-10-12-1
    • Neutral; ie. la, du, ta
    • Note names: C, D, E, F, G, A, B
  • [More advanced] Identify which type of solfege is more comfortable:
    • Fixed Do
      • Typically associated with perfect pitch, tonal memory of specific pitches.
      • C is always Do, D always Re, E always Mi, etc.
    • Moveable Do
      • Do doesn’t have to always be C like Fixed Do. For example in F Major, F is the new Do and by going up the scale C becomes Sol. Or in G Major, G is the new Do and C becomes La.
  • Practice exercises with a drone
    • It’s a good habit to practice with a reference pitch to help develop an ear for the “home” or tonic note in a key.
    • A building block for harmonic function/context.

Music Theory Tips

  • Find a good tutor/mentor
    • A bad theory teacher or unclear instruction can destroy motivation, especially since theory on its own is so dense; a big part of comprehension is how it is presented
    • Everyone can understand music theory, you just need to find a way to think/process it that makes sense.
  • Break down scary concepts into steps
    • Roman Numeral analysis, most people. dread hearing that type of assignment…
    • Break it down, keep it simple:
      • What is the chord function? Just think Tonic/ Subdominant/Dominant?
      • Then figure out how to label each chord.
        • Tonics can only be I and sometimes vi.
        • Subdominant is ii, IV, and vi
        • Dominant is V and viio
        • And forget about iii (I’m kidding… only a little bit)
  • Patterns
    • Do you like puzzles? Make it a game of finding the same or finding opposite.
    • If you don’t you’ll need to figure out another way to process/recognize similarities and differences in rhythm/pitch.
  • “Common facts” sheet
    • There are solid rules in Western theory (these rules have exceptions, of course) by writing down the fundamentals it will help keep track and act as a physical checklist of what is ‘allowed’ and what is ‘rule breaking’.
  • REVIEW
    • It can be mentally taxing. Take breaks while also keeping on top of the material.

I spent the first two years of my undergraduate program not realizing I had been hearing all my melodic dictation exercises in fixed-do (relative to C). It was only by the time I got to atonal music that one of my professors noticed the stark contrast in my performance on dictation exams and I FINALLY was able to get a grasp on melodic dictation. I hope some of these resources are helpful! Share your favorites in the comments.

In August I did a post which covered the flutes I had played before getting to university; now I will covering ALL the piccolos I have owned and played from high school (which was when I started playing flute) through graduate school.

One important note before I get into the reflection is that it is very common in my area that university students upgrade to a professional piccolo – a piccolo made of higher quality materials (resin/wood/metal); even in my undergrad (as a Music Education major) I felt this pressure to upgrade. And then as a Master of Flute Performance student there is DEFINITELY a push to upgrade, however, I am here to share why this isn’t a must have. Don’t feel pressured to do something that isn’t financially viable or you (yourself) feel is necessary.


High School

It is important to know that I started playing flute as a sophomore in high school for marching band. The flute section comprised of 2 seniors, 2 sophomores, and 2 freshman. Because the seniors were graduating I started my piccolo training only 3 months after learning flute (this is as a 15 year old).

  • Emerson – Nickel Silver Plated

PROS:

  • Durable for outdoor playing, I used mine exclusively for marching band every year.
  • Metal LH 1st finger rest to help with the size difference from flute (like a hand crutch).
  • Reliable – I kept this instrument through my undergrad for any outdoor playing – the mechanism held up well.

CONS:

  • The shrillness that comes with metal piccolos – less suited for indoor/concert playing.

  • Jupiter Nickel Silver Plated Head; Plastic Body*

*Before the PROS/CONS I just need to disclose I went through FOUR (yes, 4!!!) of these in a month so here’s what happened: The September of the following school year – my first school year exclusively on marching piccolo – I took a trip to a SamAsh because it was “the” musical instrument distributor in my area. The night I took home my first one I was practicing and then went to remove the head joint… and off came the barrel (aka the part that attaches the body to the head). We went back the next day and got a replacement… and I tried it in store (cautious) and it happened again. I’m not here to say anything bad about SamAsh or Jupiter, but this was VERY frustrating 8 years ago (now it’s actually comedic). I don’t know why we kept on going back to this one model of piccolo, and for context this all took place in the month of September by October I had found the piccolo I still have today. On the 3rd and 4th piccolos, there were issues with the mechanism going out of alignment. Anyway so:

PROS:

  • Decent price (just speaking on my own experience I can’t say much more than that)

CONS:

  • FRAGILE – better suited for indoor/concert rather than outdoor/marching
  • Quality assurance – in my own experience from 2013

  • Gemeinhardt 4SP; Plastic Head and Body

WINNER, WINNER. This is the piccolo I still own today, of course I have played professional piccolos, but in my own experience this piccolo plays well enough that I can not justify the price gap from this to a higher quality one.

And also considering that when you upgrade to a professional instrument you also have to pay for professional REPAIRS!!!! That is the biggest reason I keep this piccolo, it saves literally hundreds of dollars to play on this piccolo (especially considering piccolos go out of alignment much easier than flutes).

PROS:

  • Durable; can manage both indoor and outdoor playing
  • The plastic helps reduce the shrillness in the tone, more suitable for playing indoors than metal student piccolos
  • Stable tuning/intonation – 8 years on the piccolo – and even after playing professional piccolos I find that I can navigate tuning on this instrument with no issues.

CONS:

  • Not available anymore – the current comparable model would be the 4P

Bonus: Piccolos I Played In College

  • Haynes – Grenadilla Wood

This was a school instrument that I shared and borrowed within my studio, mainly because there was a stigma on student piccolos versus professional.

PROS:

  • The wood made the tone significantly less shrill.

CONS:

  • Durability – for all wooden instruments, being mindful of the temperature and not cracking the wood.
  • Scale, tuning – this particular piccolo just didn’t feel right under my fingers for the few years I played it; and intonation was always a struggle between registers.

Basically designed to be a “small flute” – has RH pinky keys, extending the lower register of the piccolo.

I don’t have any PROS/CONS for this still I tried it at a convention, but it was mind-blowing and I am still mildly interested in owning one for the novelty of a piccolo actually being designed to be a “small flute”.


What piccolos have you played? Thoughts on student versus professional models? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

This article will be speculative of what’s to come and reflective on the past year including the transition from in person to remote/hybrid lessons, classes, ensembles, and other music making activities.

This has been written with US perspective, in the NY/NJ area where the handling of the current global pandemic may differ from what some readers may have experienced thus far.


Lessons and Classes

Early March 2020 shutdowns ceased the majority of in person music lessons in the US flowing into a period of transition as teachers and their students had to work to figure out unfamiliar terrain such as audio/video recording equipment, video call platforms, internet stability, etc. Most experienced the growing pains of this strange time, and as a result there was a lot of flexibility in the first several months of the pandemic as everyone was navigating new territory.

However, university students had this much more cut and dry. If you were enrolled into a university, lessons are typically mandatory for students, and so they know what to expect. Outside of this formality were students in independently owned music schools, independent studios both locally-based and ones run online.

At their core these groups were impacted similarly to university lessons with the exception of the independent online studios that ran prior to the pandemic. Of course, there were some waves for this latter group with the influx of demand for remote lessons.

Most teachers can agree that teaching students, especially brand new or transfer students, remotely is one major hurdle. The shift from being in the same room as the student: being able to full assess what they are doing (as well as picking up on nonverbal cues), having a sense of control when it comes to distractions/environment, being able to make real time adjustments, and significantly less anxiety (most notably related to technology, especially poor internet connection). To then having to rely on the student having enough support at home to get set up; that the student has a relatively quiet and distraction/anxiety-free place they can work; getting the student’s attention for a significant portion of the lesson while also keeping up student morale; and on top of that being able to see and hear the student well enough to be of any help.

For university students who are self-sufficient or intrinsically motivated this is a less daunting task, but with extrinsically motivated or young or less mature students this being exponentially more challenging.

I’ve seen some teachers do outside or drive-by lessons with young or new students; maintaining social distancing, and sometimes separation by a screen/glass shield. This, of course, was easier during the warmer months, and now with flu-season and generally colder weather this is a less viable option.

Some teachers have tried using online creator’s videos to supplement information for still young, but more motivated students.

The overall take away is that the transition from in person to remote (or hybrid) lessons is really about release of control. As the teacher you have no control over the technology or internet stability of your students, you don’t have control of the distractions in their space, and you can’t get their attention as easily as you would be able to if you were in the room with them. Each student will have a varying level of control over their own situation – depending on their age and level of sufficiency. And on both sides there needs to be some empathy, when a large portion of the world isn’t able to experience live music the priority of lessons shouldn’t be music making it should be about the human connection. The music can follow.


Ensembles

Similar to lessons, music ensembles also ceased in early to mid-March. In my own experience, I did not have another ensemble experience until the Fall semester, there was so much chaos that they got pushed to the back burner and this really messed with my mental wellbeing – as someone who relies on that connection with other people to create music.

For some musicians – such as string players – opportunities to play live were much more available than they were for wind players. For obvious reasons, string players are able to wear masks and still play. Of course, I did see a few ensembles with wind players outside, distanced to play together, but these were mostly brass only ensembles (as woodwinds are significantly more fragile/sensitive to the outdoors). My own university used a parking garage to record both the choirs, band, and strings in this past Fall 2020 semester x.

Many people turned to online platforms to replicate the same type of ensembles and/or music that they would otherwise. Commonly (even pre-pandemic) you might see people on social media doing covers of pieces they like using apps like Acapella or just a video editing software and putting all the videos together to make a one-person (or sometimes several people) into a remote ensemble. Or they may use DAWs like Soundtrap, BandLab, or GarageBand to record trap to edit together.

I really have no idea when people will feel safe enough to assemble inside for ensembles. And this poses challenges for public school music ensembles in which the students heavily rely on the rehearsal time in order to prepare their own part and learn about the music as they are still developing the skills to be able to read and interpret music, and have enough maturity to be accountable to do so. For my own track as an educator I would strongly recommend making the music making experience less rigid/formal; set aside the standard of excellence and superiority. I’ve seen some schools forgo any type of concert schedule this year, instead focusing on technique and fundamentals.

I disagree with this decision because I feel that the students (who typically already dislike technique work) are going to EXTRA not like it when they have nothing to counteract it. Think about the students (there’s always a handful) who act out in there other classes, but then come to music class – whether that’s guitar club, music technology or just regular old band – and they get to just escape for however long that block period is. Instead, in this hypothetical situation, this type of student is being giving this gritty, mentally taxing work and we have no context for how their life has shifted since the start of the pandemic: what’s going on at home, is there stress and anxiety? Do they have siblings that are competing for technology, attention, etc? Are they giving care to younger siblings or even older family members? Of course we have standards and objectives that need to be followed for these ensembles, however, the material does not need to so rigid.

I would argue that the most important to skill during this time are the students ears. Perhaps you ask them to cover a song they like – they could do it on their instrument (for the class), an instrument they have at home, or with a DAW/MIDI software and you give guidelines for this type of ‘project’ that align with the standards and objectives you need to meet, but the students have so much more flexibility and will be honing the same skill while feeling like their choice matters.

It becomes very stressful – that same release of control – if we expect 9 and 10 year olds to teach themselves (even with the aid of adults at home) unfamiliar instruments. Teach them the skills they need – the two ears they have will be the best tool they need going forward for whatever musical path life takes them – and don’t worry that ‘they won’t be prepared for next year’ because no one will be. Patience. Flexibility. Prioritize.

Other Remarks

I can not emphasize this enough for the university folk who have been primarily classically trained… that is not the only path. Obviously.

Embrace the unknown, that this time as an informal professional development. What do you students listen to? Video game music? Rap? Movie soundtracks? Pop/J-Pop/K-Pop? Etc? Use this time now to immerse yourself in unfamiliar sounds and learn from them. Ask them to observe and actively listen; especially now with the unlimited access we have to music online you this to your advantage.

Take this time to learn about your students’ musical experiences outside the classroom. Do they make music at home? Do they have people in their house that play music? Community building is also essential – especially in public schools, cultivating and maintaining support for the arts is more important now than ever we need our art form to remain relevant for future generations to continue onwards.


How has the transition from in person to online impacted you this year?

Any additional ideas for lessons, classes, ensembles, etc going forward? Let me know in the comments!

There’s not just one type of student or teacher. Everyone has there own learning styles, needs, and quirks that make up a diverse learning community.

In the instrumental ‘traditional’ symphonic band and orchestra tracks, the expectation is excellence, discipline, and high-achievement – this is a grandfathered system that keeps going, but why? Because it’s comfortable or at the very least familiar? Or because it is what is right for our diverse learners?

In this article, I will be providing an argument for why it is important to seek alternative paths and perspectives that can be married with that familiar “excellence, discipline, and high-achievement”; as well as how these alternatives will help keep our art form alive for there to be another 100+ years rather than gradually lose public funding and favor.


University – Who are you?

When in university you are exposed to a whole new pool of people that – most likely – differ from you and the people from your formative teenage years. You have an immediate choice: do you integrate yourself into as many of these diverse pools as you can? Do you dip your toes into a few pools that either rebel against your former experiences? And/or end up fitting into your former experiences? Or do you completely reject these new perspectives in favor of your own personal experiences?

Identity.

This is something most people begin thinking about around the time they develop social awareness; however, one people are left on their own – without a familiar backdrop of places and people – they are forced to see who they really are.

Hence, why it is paramount to take advantage of the time you have in university to explore these alternative perspectives. Now that doesn’t mean you have to do things that go against your morals or beliefs; but LISTENING to people about why they feel the way they feel does not do any harm to you. It doesn’t suddenly mean you are rebelling against your morals or are doing anything wrong.

One term that has gained popularity with the widespread use of internet forums is “echo chamber”. For those of you unfamiliar, you can read about it here; to summarize, it is usually characterized by people seeking out others who hold the same opinion as they do to further solidify their biases – most of the time this is not malicious and can often be done subconsciously.

With all this in mind, every once in a while take a step back to reflect on the media you are consuming to see if you are exposing yourself to a wide array of ideas or are just listening to what you know you will agree with.


Grandfather Music Education

Like many things in life, there isn’t one way to become a music educator.

Most people may think that you become a music educator through a 4/5 year Bachelors program (which includes clinical experiences, teaching portfolios, and state/nation required exams). The first glaring issue with this is that this is strictly an American perspective. Likewise there is also the bias of time – expecting someone to finish their degree in a set number of years – more or less. As well as assuming that someone HAS to do their Bachelors in Education. And the list can go on….

Here I will be reflecting on Music Education in America because that is where I studied and have the most insight on:

  1. One of the biggest issues is the separation of music in school and out of school. We demand support for the arts (rightly so) yet when it comes to music making we rarely ever create new things, we simply recreate what is expected. On top of that most of the music we perform is not meaningful to the students. Popular instrument, music technology, film score, etc. classes are heavily undermined and not taken seriously by many educators. However, can it be at the fault of all these educators? Or is it really the lack of preparation and training in degree programs to get these educators to make music education more accessible.
  2. Accessibility for special needs. At the end of my Bachelors they tacked on a few special education courses – which they graduate above my year never took and that is worrisome. I graduated with my Bachelors in 2019 and special education was not given a platform to all these educators who may not actively seek ways to support and reach students who really need it.
  3. Poverty – this gets touched on yes, but no one actually knows what to do, most of us are just told to make it up as we go. Not having enough instruments for students, or not enough materials (stands, music, chairs, space) for students is devastating when the engagement is there. However when there is low enrollment or interest, how do we get these students in the door? How do we make an environment that supports them, their learning, and their financial need?
  4. Racial distribution – this was never really discussed in my undergraduate classes (even with my University being on the East coast). Racial diversity doesn’t look one way it is highly dependent on the school you teach in/the district. You CAN NOT have a band of predominantly one racial group and them a sprinkle of other groups in there and call that diverse. There are many interconnected issues within this topic such as: lack of proper healthcare (which can effect proper diagnosis of special needs) and economic inequity.

Those are just a few of the topics that stick out the most (from my perspective). Others may want to call out gender, family/home stability, LBGTQ+ harassment, and more. Those are all valid perspectives that are not covered in this grandfathered music education pyramid.

Expanding Grandfather Music Education: Resources

Here are some resources that I could find address these topics – feel free to share ones you have found:

Roderick Cox – Conductor’s Perspective discusses “A live conversation among four American conductors across generational lines- sharing their unique stories navigating the elusive profession of orchestral conducting, and perspectives on classical music as a unifying art form for the future.”

NAfME: Teaching Lessons to Children with Special Needs

Article: Inner-City Schools Find Music Programs Could Be Key To Happier, Harder-Working Students

@blackgirlmusic_ / @iamcreateorg supporting Black and Latinx female musicians.

BrassChicks

Article: Orchestrated Sex: The Representation of Male and Female Musicians in World-Class Symphony Orchestras

Reddit: Hello r/flute! What are your thoughts on males playing flute?

Trumpet Headquarters – Black Female Brass Players

NAfME: How to Teach Commercial and Popular Music in Schools

Forum: Students with Divorced Parents

Article: The ‘shadow education system’: How wealthier students benefit from art, music, and theater over the summer while poor kids miss out

Article: Teaching Music in Inner City Schools


Is it that easy?

No it’s an ongoing battle. Especially for the groups that can not just walk away from it. If you are able to turn it off and walk away you NEED to acknowledge your privilege. We (especially those with privilege) need to complicate our lives to make any sort of impact in the way music education is taught and experienced.

Especially with this pandemic that is rolling into its tenth month: people are either going into poverty or deeper in to poverty; the gaps in educational achievement are widening; people are stressed and emotionally unwell; and there is still so much instability in the world.

As a future educator my one message to you is: that people come first. Ease your students into lessons – how was your day/week? What did you have for breakfast/lunch? Who’s that on your shirt? What have you been listening to?

Make them feel seen and that they matter because they might not be getting that support elsewhere. The music can come later.


Share any resources you like in the comments!

Prescreening and audition season is just around the corner.

My last November as an undergraduate student preparing for my graduate prescreenings was a complete blackout of stress and crying. As a high school student preparing for undergraduate auditions I was utterly baffled as to how anything worked and whether or not I was sufficiently prepared. Here is some advice to help keep you on track this audition season:

The organizational requirements…

  • What are the audition fees?
  • Is there a prescreening required (are there rounds)?
  • Can it be in person or can it be a tape?
  • What are the audition dates (is it during the week or weekend)?

Planning how many schools you apply to – planning your budget for school fees AND audition fees. Keep in mind that usually the school of music has a separate fee from the university you are applying to – don’t stretch yourself too thin.

Know if there is just one round of auditions or if you are required to send in a prescreening. If there is… do you need to have an accompanist? Is there specific repertoire for prescreening? Do you have or need to get equipment for a high quality prescreening (nowadays phones are pretty good, but you might want to invest in a good microphone to present your playing in the best light. Here is one mic recommendation (Zoom iQ6) that is compatible with iOS.

Do you need to plan to travel? If the school is out of state/international are you eligible to send in a tape? With COVID schools are more likely to accept tapes than live auditions so you may be able to forgo unnecessary travel. Also with planning look ahead at your schedule – what are the specific dates for your instrument? Clear your schedule 3-4 months in advance to avoid issues during audition season.


The music requirements…

  • Is your instrument in good shape?
  • What scales do you need prepared?
  • What repertoire do you need prepared?*
  • *Two contrasting pieces or movements is a very commonly asked requirement. Clarify with the faculty at the school you are applying or your teacher what would be appropriate.

The first thing you should consider before preparing for auditions is the condition of your instrument. You do not want to have your instrument break down or put off a much needed service during audition season. Get it taken care of BEFORE you start preparing (at least 3 months) before your auditions so that you have one less thing to worry about!

Ask the faculty (if not abundantly clear on the audition list) what scales you will be required to play. What kind of articulation? Is there a preference for tempo and rhythm (band style v. straight eighths)?

Again ask the faculty if you have any confusion about the repertoire listed. Is there a specific edition asked for?


Mental preparation

  • Remember: The faculty are not looking for someone who is perfect, they are looking for someone they can TEACH. If you make a few mistakes that is fine, it’s how you handle them and respond to feedback that is so much more important!!
  • Practice tip: Work on starting pieces/excerpts once you feel like you’ve got a piece down. If you are able to get yourself centered, comfortable with the opening of pieces it will help maintain stability throughout. If you are nervous starting a piece, you may start to snowball.
  • Practice tip: Closer to the audition date (1 month or so) practice with the increased heart rate, high energy. Go run up/down the stairs; do jumping jacks; etc. before you run a piece to help acclimate to the way your body responds under stress.
  • Plan out your day of the audition so that you know what to expect. Will there be exams (theory/ear training)? Will you have an interview? Knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the audition day anxiety.

What tips do you have for college auditions? Share them in the comments below!

Presently, there are MANY barriers that prevent people of socioeconomic and racial status from pursuing higher education, especially in music. Take a look at what type of programs and audition repertoire are asked for at music programs across the country. We expect everyone to be on some standardized playing field… we expect everyone to have access to teachers… access to instruments. It is frustrating on both ends. Those who are marginalized by this are not given a platform to advocate; and those who are in a position to make change are shut down. People are afraid of change, “if I had to learn this then you have to suffer through it too”. There is this idealistic, utopian perception that reading Western sheet music is this “almighty, higher than thou” pedestal. When really there is this repressed fear of altering the way instruction is implemented, how curriculum is structured, and how to allocate resources so that (in the best case) education is accessible for everyone.

Before going forward with this article, I must disclose the identity advantages that I have as a passing-straight, abled, cis-gendered, white woman living in the United States. I deal with significantly less LGBTQ+ issues head on because I can pass. I deal with less misogyny because I am white woman rather than a woman of color. I deal with barely any physical limitations because I am abled. Generally, I deal with less barriers because I am a passing-straight, cis-gendered white woman.

However, I was born into poverty; and still live in the very low socioeconomic pool. There was a lot of moving in my early childhood that made learning especially challenging because the curriculum from school to school varied… I am the first in my family to go to college – both undergraduate and graduate. I had to learn how to do all of college alone. How to request federal financial aid, loans, grants. So my perspective for this article will be centered around the socioeconomic barriers; however, I will make the effort to be aware of other barriers that may make these resources less accessible to people of other identities.


Financial Resources

I qualified for EOF (the Educational Opportunity Fund) when I started my undergraduate degree, but it was completely on accident…. I had not idea what the program was when I applied, I just saw it being pushed by the school and decided to see if I qualified for the aid. Let me tell you about my experience:

Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF)

Offered to both undergraduate and graduate students who are low income first generation college students can be awarded financial aid for tuition each semester as long as they are in good academic standing and meet all of their universities specific requirements.

  • The requirements I had as an undergraduate student were to attend a summer institute prior to my first semester, attend a freshman seminar during my first semester, attend 2 counseling sessions each semester I was enrolled in school, and maintain my academic perform to my university’s standard.
  • For my graduate school experience the regulations were much less active, it functions more like a grant rather than an active program. Each school year I need to reach out to the EOF department coordinators to get access to the application form, if I qualify for the financial need then those funds help cover my tuition.

You can do a quick google search to see if your university offers an EOF program or fund. Or email your academic advisor or the financial aid office to see if you can find out if the school offers any assistance that you may qualify for.

FASFA

This one is no secret. The secret is DO IT EARLY. The sooner you do it, the better off you will be with your aid (pending you are in good academic standing and depending which financial bracket you fall into).

Since I started college in 2015, the dates have been moved around. It is now OCTOBER 1st…. DO It NOW!!!! It used to be in December/January, you may miss out on aid if you wait a month or several months to complete the form.

Know Your Financial Aid (Grants, Loans…)

In case you aren’t familiar with the different types of financial aid available, there are 2 main types: the one you have to repay and the one you don’t. Awards, scholarships, assistantships, work-study, and grants are all the latter – you DO NOT repay these. You can get awarded these by completing your FASFA early, applying for grants/funds (like EOF), and reaching out to your school’s cashiering or financial aid office for resources.

  • Schools will usually have a grants/scholarships page where you can see the more common awards you can apply for!

Loans (of which there are two types subsidized and unsubsidized) are more or less a last resort. When you don’t have enough aid or savings to cover your tuition, you must take out student loans.

TIP: Max out your subsidized loan BEFORE you increase your unsubsidized loan. Why? Because the subsidized loan does not earn interest while you are at least a 1/2 time student while the unsubsidized loan starts earning interest once the money is distributed to you. This may not seem like a big deal when you are getting your award money, but by the end of you degree (4 or more years for a Bachelors) you WILL notice the difference of 4 years worth of interest.


Online Music Resources

Free Apps

  • ProMetronome : iOS / Android
  • GuitarTuna: iOS / Android
  • **Spotify: iOS / Android
    • **Students get 3 free months of Spotify – it is worth it if you want access to more recordings while in school!
  • GarageBand: iOS

Websites


Music Resources at School

1. LIBRARY: You can use the library to borrow sheet music, scores, textbooks, and other materials you may need for classes.

2. ONLINE LIBRARY: As a student you have free access to journals and databases for academic resources. Take in as much as you can. Websites like JSTOR, Ebsco, and ProQuest are a few examples of the many, many databases I had access to in both my undergraduate and graduate schools.

3. COLLEAGUES and TEACHERS: If you really can’t afford to buy you own music or books for courses, sometimes you can borrow or buy materials at a heavily discounted price from upperclassman. Or you professors many be willing to loan you their materials for you to use.


Feel free to share any resources I missed in the comments below!