October 30th, 2016 – 28 Tishrei 5777, the “Chassidic Expressions” Art & Music School will start its second year.
The program is aimed at the in-depth learning of arts and music, taught by the professionals, who help the students in bringing up their talents, as well as coaching them in gaining sturdy skills, and building a lasting foundation for further growth. The curriculum is developed al taharas hakodesh, and based on the Chabad nigunim, and Judaica arts and crafts.
Before the new semester starts the “Chassidic Expressions” team had exchanged the previous year teaching experiences, that turned into a fascinating discussion of the importance of parents involvement, and advantages of the disciplined practicing.
Here are the comprehensive tips for students, and their parents, on how to achieve success in music studies:
Ephraim Schwab, a bass guitarist for many of the most renowned performers in the Jewish music field including: Yitzchak Bitton and Raya Mehemna, Mordechai ben David, Yossi Piamenta, The Diaspora Yeshiva Band to name just a few:
“Choose a song that the whole family enjoys (admittedly not an easy task), and ask the student to focus on that song first. Once he/she knows the chords and melody the family should share in the experience, singing the song together at an appropriate occasion. Motivating a child to practice is not as simple as sitting him/her in a room and locking the door for an hour. Involvement and encouragement are key factors. That being said there is no progress without practice and all beginnings are difficult.”
Mikhoel Pais started practicing piano at the age of 6 at Shostakovich School of Music in Brooklyn, and being accepted later into Bay Academy and Fiorello H. LaGuardia for his piano prowess. On his first year there he won the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition at a rousing Carnegie Hall debut. As a final testament to his high school years, Mikhail founded a klezmer band, taking his classical skills and twisting them into a humbly Chasidic twist:
“Musicians, more than many other professionals, sense how life is actually “bigger than life”. We live in a reality that was created for our greatest creative accomplishments, and not a fantasy world that the world convinces us “we all make up”. Music opens us up, and allows us to experience what’s real.
The commitment towards creating a musical expression, or learning a piece of music, gives one the discipline and self esteem of fulfilling their potential, and bringing to life an otherwise silent piece of paper! Self respect means that one recognizes their value, their mission, and their ability to fulfill it! Simply put, practicing piano is a crucial part in learning piano. Without it, a person can have the loftiest inspirations, but it will not come down to reality. Practicing, and consistency in general, allow you to achieve your potential for expression.
Just like in chinuch, your support and the environment at home that you create – cause a much bigger impact on your children than the faculty and curriculum of their school, exactly so it is with music! If you want your children to prosper, than show them how much you are proud of their desire to learn, and marvel at their every step in that direction! Show them videos of performances, play music in the background at home, and try to arouse their thirst for music. While reminding them to practice is important, when they see the importance and the power of music in your home, and in our lives, this will catapult them to greater heights than they imagined they’d reach before they pressed down on that first piano note.”
Shevy Rosenfeld’s music experience has been an integral part of her life since the young age of 6 years old when she began to play the flute and continued on to learn the piano at age 10. In 2011 she completed her Suzuki Brendel Piano Certificate, and in 2012, the AMusA Diploma of Flute Performance and Theory. She strives not only to teach my students music, but to instill the values of what a Chassidishe life means through the tools of music:
“In order to get the most out of your expensive music lessons, the following 4 tips are crucial for helping your child progress efficiently and effectively.”
Learning takes place AFTER the lesson
In order to truly develop a skill, gradual yet consistent routine practice must be in place. Unlike other after school programs where one only needs to be involved once a week at the session, learning a musical instrument only works when there is consistent efforts AFTER the lesson to work on. When learning a musical instrument, the bulk learning is during the week ( not in the lesson) where the student goes through the musical process again and again until the skills learnt and the music becomes one with him.
In order to achieve healthy practice habits, there must be ACTIVE involvement from the parent, especially when the student is first starting out, in order to establish healthy practicing habits. It is most beneficial when the parent is at the classes with the student, understanding the new information being taught, and then practicing with the child at home, making sure that she is practicing correctly and consistently.
Although it can be difficult in large families, there are benefits. The mother and child develop a bond as they are forced to spend quality time together, which enhances their relationship to a large degree.
It is not enough the practice regularly if the practice is done incorrectly. When hammering a wrong skill in, the incorrect method becomes second nature, and is extremely hard to undo. “Practice makes PERMANENT, perfect practice makes perfect.”
It is better to practice a little bit every day, then to practice a lot once a week. This is because overnight the brain processes what you learnt the day before and the next day, you are able to add qualitatively to your practice.
Bill Todd, saxophones, flutes, and clarinets player in theater orchestras, jazz ensembles, taught by well-known musicians, and awarded by Louis Armstrong Jazz, and John Phillips Sousa Band Awards:
“It is common sense that in order to become proficient or to simply improve at performing any skill or action, effort is required. No matter what the objective is wether it’s to become a doctor, athlete, or musician one can not expect to actually reach that goal by merely putting on a white overcoat and stethoscope, stepping onto the field, or buying an instrument and some lessons. Success is not something that can grow over night. It demands work, effort, dedication, sacrifice, and most importantly it requires help and encouragement.
As a teacher, too often I do see students who don’t seem to fully understand these concepts, especially when it comes to music. I know there must be other aspects of their lives in which these values are instilled like in school or studying Torah so why not in music? I can only assume it is a matter priority and what the student thinks is actually important and what is not. I see this as a slippery slope that can lead to laziness and the idea that it’s ok to give “half-effort” and results in lack of seriousness and caring. I believe strongly that if you’re going to do something, do it the right way. Choose the hard road over the easy road and actually learn a thing or two!
It is rare for a person to possess this level of understanding on their own and for most of us it is a learned attitude learned by good parenting or mentorship. Young students especially need this strong guidance to stay on track because it’s absolutely more tempting to play outside with friends or to play video games than it is to sit down inside and practice your instrument, and believe me, I know all about that! If any parent is serious enough to spend their hard earned money on getting their child and instrument and music lessons, they must also be just as serious about showing them it is not a joke. Encourage them to practice and tell them when improvement is heard, no matter how little.
What I’m suggesting is not necessarily to spend three hours every day practicing or else face “the consequence” but for practicing to become part of the culture at home. Obviously, what you get is what you put into it and it doesn’t take much to begin seeing positive results. The only “rule” for practice is that it must be consistent, that’s it. For beginners, 20-30 minutes on 2-3 days a week will show adequate results. Students who have been playing for more than a year should be practicing at least 30 minutes 3-4 days a week will show adequate results. Learning an instrument is just like studying for an exam. Cramming the night before does not allow the brain to properly process and store all of that information. Digestible and repetitive studying or learning allows for faster and more accurate recall, less confusion and on an instrument allows development of muscle memory to play correct fingerings, notes, etc.
It doesn’t take a child prodigy to become a good musician just like it doesn’t take an absolute genius to become a doctor or genetically “perfect” human to become a successful athlete. Sure, that would help a great deal but that would be the exception. For the rest of us, becoming what we desire and improving at anything takes commitment, repetition, encouragement, and most importantly the mindset that anything is achievable- it just takes effort!”
Dana Pestun began her musical education at the age of five with violin lessons. She attended Rubin Music and Dance Academy in Jerusalem, participating in ensembles, and youth orchestras in Israel, co-directing SPAC (Summer Performing Art Conservatory), and directing the girls program at Mamesh Music, teaching violin, and guitar:
“From my experience, the lack of exposure to music education in the community is evident in the approach the students, and parents take before starting to learn music. To master the music sounds is fun, but the amount of work that has to be put in before it actually becomes ‘fun’ and beautiful isn’t mentioned enough. So, usually, before I give the new students, and their parents a preview on what they should expect this process to be like. Many of them don’t have an understanding of what it entails to learn an instrument and be successful in learning this skill well. I try to explain to them that it is a big commitment so they should consider it seriously before purchasing an instrument and taking classes, because the money (and the time) they will invest into it will not accomplish much if there is no commitment to practice regularly. The practice must be consistent, and goal-oriented, that fits their practice time-frame. Practice time depends on the age and where the student is holding in their learning.
For younger students, most parents are not involved in the learning process. Ideally of course, they should be present in class and participate in the home practice, but in all my years only a couple of parents actually sat in class. Even though it’s hard for some parents to be present in class, they should have an overview of the class, and know what their goals are and how long they should dedicate towards these goals, reminding their children to practice and stay on top of it.”