I've always loved to sing. According to my parents, I was attempting to sing Schubert's "Ave Maria" before I could walk. This may or may not be true, but that song feels to me like a extended family member that has always been there. It helped raise me, along with a handful of other songs.
In my own memory, I can recall singing, in the backseat of the car, any song that came to mind as soon as it came to mind, never mind that I had not finished the song (or even the line of the song) that I had been previously singing. My parents, as you can imagine, were incredibly supportive and indulgent in this endeavor. I can't remember a single circumstance of being told to "quiet down", although I'm certain that there were times that they wanted yell it from the front seat.
Once, on the night before my birthday, I remember having the brilliant idea of singing every song I knew before the clock struck midnight. I happily set about the task, even quietly singing to myself in bed until I dozed off. The next morning, I awoke and to my horror, realized that it was very likely that I had not in fact, completed my task and now had to face the prospect of a whole year before I could correct my egregiously misspent Birthday Eve. (Spoiler: I have never reached this goal. It's far less possible now.)
Not long after, puberty hit and with it came a crisis of confidence. The truth is that, for years, I struggled to sing.
I started playing in different bands. Somehow, I was voted in as the defacto vocalist. But I was never happy with how it came across. My pitch was shaky. My breath wasn't on point. My confidence faltered. Everybody was being nice (that dirty little word when it comes to art). The fact was that there was a MOUSE at the microphone, not a MAN!
To me though, it wasn't a mouse. I felt like there was an eternally present elephant in the room, towering over every rehearsal and live performance. His apocalyptic message? I couldn't REALLY sing.
I could just sing a tiny bit better than the other kids in the band. Which wasn't good at all.
One day, I was talking to a record producer who mentioned that nearly all professional vocalists had a voice coach, not just while learning the craft, but continually throughout their careers. I'm not sure why, but it hadn't occurred to me yet that I should seek out professional help in becoming a better singer. You were expected to just have that spirit already in you, weren't you? Wasn't that how it worked? Didn't the Rock Gods endow you with the gift of song at birth? You mean my favorite singers, MY ROCK GODS, TOOK VOICE LESSONS???
Weren't those just for little old ladies and for people who wanted to sing Broadway songs?
Later that day, haunted by this guy's statement, I searched for vocal teachers in my area. Looking through several (this was in the days before Google had the answer for everything), I found a man named Jerald Lepinski, with only a phone number listed. I figured that a male teacher would be more likely to be able to understand the male voice than a female teacher (which is not true, which I'll cover another time).
A masculine and refined voice answered and paused patiently while I breathlessly explained how I had been singing for a long time, but that my pitch was screwed up, that I felt like I was running out of breath all of the time...that I WAS SCREWED UP. HELP!
After my rant finished, Mr. Lepinski suggested that we meet for a lesson in a few hours. I agreed.
His house was in the foothills outside of Denver. It was on the edge of a large foothill, with large walking decks majestically stretching out over the precipice. As it was December, small flurries of snow spun and twisted in the air. Something here felt magical and profound, as if I had found exactly the place I was supposed to me. This was a moment of destiny.
Suddenly, there he was. An older man, with a dignified air, flanked by a Giant Schnauzer named Gypsy. He was warm, but just warm enough. His front room was constructed to be a small concert hall, complete with a acoustically designed high ceiling and walls lined with tall bookshelves, filled with music and old books.
In that first lesson, I remember feeling very self conscious. I was embarrassed. But I knew that this was what I needed. Lepinski had me singing in a language I have never spoken before, singing melodies that I was completely unaware of up until that point. It was challenging and more than a little frustrating. I realized how little I actually could sing in the light of his expertise. However, something began that day. I began to start feeling the inkling progress, like the first sprouts in the Spring. I began to get a glimpse of what it was to understand my voice and see what might be possible.
Fast forward a few months and the difference was absolutely noticeable. I was becoming more and more "on pitch". My voice was stronger, my confidence was growing. My knowledge of my voice was expanding quickly, as was my perception of music. My exposure to new songs, new melodies, and new ways to use my voice was thrilling and fun.
Within a year, I was beginning to be known for my abilities as a singer. It was becoming more and more common to be able to out sing the others in the room. There were more and more requests from groups to sing with them. The elephant in the room seemed to have begun to vanish, a mere outline in the corner now.
What Lepinski did for me then and over the next eight years was to help me find the way to unlock my own inner voice. My real voice. He helped me finally connect my abilities to the songs that had always resided within my heart. He taught me how to use my body, my heart, and my soul to communicate what lives inside of me. I will always be grateful to him.
If you are finding yourself wanting to learn or improve upon any part of your musical life, I encourage you to reach out to us here at Amidei School Of Music. We teach voice, guitar, piano, ukulele, mandolin, music theory, and more. While we are primarily based in the Ken Caryl area, we do offer online lessons in most of our instruments. We'd love to meet you!
We get it.
Life is busy. There are so many things to handle that it's easy to get caught up in the day to day. Before long, you look back at the last year and wonder "Where has the time gone?" And if we're honest, this can stretch beyond more than years. What about decades? Whole lifetimes?
One thing that we hear often is someone tell us that they "always wanted to play the (insert instrument here)", but that they think it's now too late to pursue it at all. Let us be the first to tell you, it's NEVER TOO LATE TO START. What needs to be overcome are the unconscious scripts that we keep running in our head, keeping us from taking real action.
Here are some common things we've heard from students, later in life, who have expressed frustration about pursuing their goal of studying music:
Do any of those sound familiar? They are common unconscious scripts run by many of us around not only music lessons, but in going after anything that we want to make happen. However, they can also be buried under layers of other reasons. Next month becomes next year, next year becomes...well, maybe never.
However, when you finally decide to reach out and schedule an introductory lesson, things start changing. You begin to find something new to be excited about. You are growing and the growth feels awesome.
You have made a decision to act with courage and to make a movement forward in your life. You are choosing to pursue something that you are called to. We, as people who have done the same, honor that choice and are proud to help you along the way.
When you take lessons with Amidei School Of Music, you'll find us to be very knowledgeable, experienced, encouraging, and that the aforementioned fears, those pesky unconscious scripts, slowly begin to fall away. It will be fun, exciting, challenging, and world expanding. We can promise you this: playing and instrument and/or singing is even better than you think it might be! (We're not kidding. But you have to go after it to find out!)
This is a call to action for everyone hesitating. Imagine the future in front of you, stretched like two roads off into the distance. One is plaintive, boring, the same thing day and day. The other is one filled with new growth, possibility and adventure. Which one will you choose?
If you've been on the fence about taking lessons in singing, guitar, piano, bass, ukulele, or mandolin in the Ken Caryl, Colorado area, contact us below to take action and schedule your Introductory Lesson for 50% Off (limited time).
Each day, when we arrive to practice, we have to ask ourselves "Exactly what are we practicing? Sure, we might be rehearsing a song or a set of exercises given to us during lessons, but that can easily become monotonous, leading to us to simply go through the motions instead of focusing with intensity. What if there was a way to ensure that you could get the most out of your practice time each and every day?
The good news is, this way exists. And it's very simple.
Set a goal before practice.
Many times, when musicians across the world practice (if they are evening practicing at all) they do so without much intention, just picking up (or sitting down at) the instrument and playing. However, this often does not yield the best results. We've said it before and we'll say it again "playing is not practicing".
Instead, consider setting a specific result to focus on achieving during your practice:
The above list could go on and on, but the point is this: When we set a larger goal (learning a piece, gaining new technical ability, etc) it can feel vague and a bit daunting. However, by taking that larger goal and breaking it down into weekly, then daily goals that we can realize through what we focus on in our practice, we can intentionally lay the groundwork that will make all of the difference not only in our proficiency with out instrument, but in our musical expression overall.
Amidei School Of Music is a boutique music school offering piano lessons, guitar lessons, ukulele lessons, & voice lessons in Ken Caryl and Littleton, Colorado.
Create A Ritual
When you sit down to practice, everything from your surroundings to your mental state can have a powerful effect. With this is mind, it's best to create a systematized way of beginning practice that allows you to ensure that you arrive to with clarity and a focused mind.
Firstly, it's important to designate a practice space. Where will you practice? What does the space feel like to you? Is it cluttered? What could you do to make it feel more inviting to you each time that you sit down to work? A clean, peaceful space has been proven to be the most psychologically conducive for quality focus. Make sure that your practice area is clean and allows you to turn all of your attention to the music.
Secondly, take a moment and close your eyes. Breathe in and breathe out. Clear your mind from everything in your life. Coming to practice is a very specialized thing. When we manage the transition from our daily lives to practice with care, we can begin to shape the state of mind in which work. This is even more important when considering the varied emotional states that we might be experiencing. Practicing while sad, depressed, angry, tired, sick, or hungry all can hurt your performance. Yet, it falls to us to still practice, no matter what life throws at us.
While one of our favorite methods of "reclaiming mental and emotional states" is closing our eyes and breathing for a minute or two, there are many others. It's important to find what works for you and then create a ritual that allows you to show up at your best.
This, simply in itself, will drastically improve the results of your practice time.
Amidei School Of Music is a boutique music school offering piano lessons, guitar lessons, ukulele lessons, & voice lessons in Ken Caryl and Littleton, Colorado.
As passionate musicians and educators, we are aware of the tremendous and measurable benefits of a musical education. However, one of the biggest obstacles that we continually run into is the fairly common belief that music is somehow less important than the core subjects like math, language, and science. It often is relegated to the world of "specials" or "extracurricular activities".
That data sings a different tune, however. It shows a vast improvement in many cognitive, emotional, empathetic, and academic areas, not to mention that it increases one's enjoyment of life and understanding of culture.
Below are some of the well documented reasons as to why musical education is right for your child and for you, whatever age you may be. (Below information originated from this post.)
1. Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and songs can help imprint information on young minds.
2. A mastery of memorization: Even when performing with sheet music, student musicians are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization can serve students well in education and beyond.
3. Students learn to improve their work: Learning music promotes craftsmanship, and students learn to want to create good work instead of mediocre work. This desire can be applied to all subjects of study.
4. Increased coordination: Students who practice with musical instruments can improve their hand-eye coordination. Just like playing sports, children can develop motor skills when playing music.
5. A sense of achievement: Learning to play pieces of music on a new instrument can be a challenging, but achievable goal. Students who master even the smallest goal in music will be able to feel proud of their achievement.
6. Kids stay engaged in school: An enjoyable subject like music can keep kids interested and engaged in school. Student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects.
7. Success in society: Music is the fabric of our society, and music can shape abilities and character. Students in band or orchestra are less likely to abuse substances over their lifetime. Musical education can greatly contribute to children’s intellectual development as well.
8. Emotional development: Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.
9. Students learn pattern recognition: Children can develop their math and pattern-recognition skills with the help of musical education. Playing music offers repetition in a fun format.
10. Better SAT scores: Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses.
11. Fine-tuned auditory skills: Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.
12. Music builds imagination and intellectual curiosity: Introducing music in the early childhood years can help foster a positive attitude toward learning and curiosity. Artistic education develops the whole brain and develops a child’s imagination.
13. Music can be relaxing: Students can fight stress by learning to play music. Soothing music is especially helpful in helping kids relax.
14. Musical instruments can teach discipline: Kids who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.
15. Preparation for the creative economy: Investing in creative education can prepare students for the 21st century workforce. The new economy has created more artistic careers, and these jobs may grow faster than others in the future.
16. Development in creative thinking: Kids who study the arts can learn to think creatively. This kind of education can help them solve problems by thinking outside the box and realizing that there may be more than one right answer.
17. Music can develop spatial intelligence: Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.
18. Kids can learn teamwork: Many musical education programs require teamwork as part of a band or orchestra. In these groups, students will learn how to work together and build camaraderie.
19. Responsible risk-taking: Performing a musical piece can bring fear and anxiety. Doing so teaches kids how to take risks and deal with fear, which will help them become successful and reach their potential.
20. Better self-confidence: With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.
However, even with all of the aforementioned reasons, it often faces an uphill battle. Below is a wonderful example of this kind of thinking and a rightfully forceful response. (Originally from this post.)
The current core subjects as outlined in No Child Left Behind are English, reading or language arts, math, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history and geography.
The Senate ESEA bill adds “technology, engineering, computer science, music, and physical education — and any other subject as determined by the state or local educational agency."
Historically, core subjects have made up a much shorter list — sometimes as short as the oddly named Three R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic. In 1989, the National Governors Association released a set of education goals that listed English, math, science, history and geography. Following up on that conference, President George H.W. Bush released “America 2000” in 1991, which outlined a national education strategy listing the same five subjects as core curriculum.
As Bob Morrison of the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership writes about that period, the arts community started pushing to add arts to the list outlined in America 2000 but were rebuffed. In a letter responding to one music education advocacy group, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander said he would certainly want his local schools to provide arts, but they were “extra-curricular.”
Responding to Alexander and America 2000, Michael Greene — chairman of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences who oversees the Grammy Awards — used the pulpit of the 1992 Grammys to criticize the federal Department of Education’s lack of inclusion of music or arts as a core curriculum.
According to Morrison, Secretary of Education Alexander called a friend in the Nashville music business to ask, “Who is Mike Greene and what is his [expletive] problem?” A few days after, a concert was planned by arts advocates protesting the threatened elimination of the music program in Maryville, Tennessee — which happened to be the hometown of Alexander.
Eventually the pressure led to an announcement shortly after the Grammys speech by the secretary of “America 2000 Arts Partnership,” which strengthened the emphasis of arts. That emphasis was written into law in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed the “Goals 2000” education reform measure (later replaced by No Child Left Behind), which for the first time set up national curriculum and standards for arts education.
So while arts are currently outlined under existing federal legislation as a core part of U.S. education goals, they’ve enjoyed a relatively short history with that status. Arts and music advocacy groups aren’t ready to assume that status is safe in future rewrites to federal education guidelines, and groups like NAfME have led letter-writing and social media campaigns to lawmakers working on the ESEA. For now, they are celebrating getting to this point as they watch to see whether national leaders can agree on and finalize the law.
While we at Amidei School Of Music consistently make the case of the usefulness of music education, it is often one of the greatest challenges that young would be musicians face, most commonly from parents who don't recognize the vital and important nature of such education. We (all music educators, ourselves included) must do more to make the information and benefits around music instruction to be known.
It has often been said that “Music makes you smarter”.
Is that true? Is it a fact?
We all know that learning anything increases your brain power, but just what is it about learning an instrument that can help your brain, not only as a beginner, but in the years down the road?
While playing an instrument is a great way to impress people, have fun, and express yourself, learning an instrument is proven to help with memory loss, cognitive decline, and distinguishing the spoken word. Further study has shown that even if you did not learn an instrument when you were a child, studying music later in life will still have benefits. Even after only six months, adults who had received piano lessons showed more robust gains in memory, verbal fluency, the speed at which they processed information, planning ability, and other cognitive functions, compared with those who did not.
If you are considering music lessons at anytime of your life, remember that learning to play an instrument can have a significant benefit on your brain.