Sunday, March 27, 2011

Janea & Jason Play for Each Other

Both Janea and Jason have put in good work and displayed performances that reflect their progress!

Jason's First Rock and Roll Song!

 "Real learning is a volitional act..."– Eric Booth
Journal for Learning Through Music/Summer 2003

Jason was the first one to learn ‘My First Rock Song’ during one of the weeks that Janea was away (she learned it the following week). I think that the lead in to this piece was a very good example of what Eric Booth is talking about when he says that “learning is a volitional act.” The lesson that day was very spontaneous. Jason asked many questions and I answered them with improvised, musical answers. For example, he mentioned how the thumb seems to attack more comfortable when it is the lower strings and when the motion is opposite to that of the other fingers. This was a very astute observation in itself and I was taken aback by his making it. Then, I decided to keep the momentum going by taking it one step further. I asked myself, “why not learn about the thumb now? He is asking good questions, what can I do with the thumb and open strings?”

So together we played a blues progression in A major, using the open bass strings, E, A and D. He did very well following along and asked, “Is this ‘My First Rock Song?’ I replied that it wasn’t and that we had just made it up together, then he asked me if we could learn ‘My First Rock Song’ today. Again, I decided to go with the momentum that Jason was providing and we learned ‘My First Rock Song’ together. The following week we reviewed and showed Janea how to play and sing the piece.

You Can't do This With a Pick! - March 5th

Janea always asks very good questions. Today's big question was, "why do you play with your fingers?" The simplest answer is that you can't do what I do with a pick. I hope that my demonstration speaks for itself.

As for strumming - I think that is cool too and there are definitely sounds a pick can make that fingers can't, but I think that there is a lot more benefit to be had from starting with finger-style, especially in the early stages since the possibilities are almost limitless.

The Ninja and Left Hand Fingers - March 5th, 2011

What's up with "The Ninja?" The kids have some good guesses, but the thumb in the left hand is the ninja because it hides. This is an easy and fun way to learn a technique that will help Jason and Janea play with their fingers and produce simultaneous lines. The thumb must be behind the fretboard in order to support and allow the other fingers flexibility. I then take it one step further by challenging them to move up and down the fretboard.

Practice Makes Perfect - February 26th, 2011

 Jason’s First Fretted Note –

The technique needed for playing the classical guitar is a balance of musicianship, well-planned acrobatics and, yes, that last extra push during a practice session. Jason did really well with his right hand, but he discovered that the first few notes using the left hand can be a little painful at first. He stuck through it and the first thing that he did the following week was play “I’m a Little Chipmunk” and tell me how, “last week it was hard, but now it’s not. I don’t know why.” Hard work pays off – that’s why!

The Teacher, Through the Eyes of the Student - February 26th, 2011

A week before this was recorded my friend from Longy, Sachiko Murata and I, were asked to perform at the opening ceremony for the exhibit “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit” at MIT. Berklee Alum, Emi Inaba, composed a piece for the event and we began practicing. Our schedules made rehearsals difficult and the only time we could find to practice before our first smaller public performance of the new pieces was Saturday at 8 a.m. before my teaching internship at the YMCA in Chinatown. We rehearsed until 9 and I decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity by asking Jason to record us playing the piece. It was a wonderful opportunity to see myself through the students eyes and ears as a performer. It also sparked dialogue about how much I practice. Jason was very surprised when I told him that I was practicing four hours every day. He left that day inquiring to himself and his family, “What would it be like to practice four hours a day?”

Warming up to the Camera - February 19th

“I Think that the Camera to be a Casual Thing”

Having a camera in every class could be a very scary thing and I didn’t want anyone to be scared of the camera so I chose a couple of tactics to lessen the camera’s ‘intimidation factor.’ One of the things I decided to do is have transparency of the footage, which is one thing the blog is about. The students and their families all have access to the blog at anytime, so they know what the purpose of the footage is – it is for my development as a teacher and for their own feedback. The other thing that I decided to do from day one is to let the kids hold the camera and record each other. I wanted them to feel somewhat in control of the documentation experience. This has been a success. They are aware of the camera throughout the lesson, but in a very beneficial way. For example, Jason and Janea both have adjusted the camera for me so that I can get the best shot of the class for my research. This shows me that they are not only comfortable with the camera being around, but that they are willing to help me and my research. I really enjoy this kind of positive feedback. Thank you both for being such wonderful sports about this!

Rest Stroke, Finger Alternation and PIMAC - February 19th

Rest Stroke-

Right-Hand Alternation-

Alternation is as easy as walking.

“Left foot, right foot, left foot etc.”

It could also sound like the most abstract kind of nuclear physics.

“First one must start with the ‘i’ finger, which is short for the Spanish word, ‘indicio’. Once you have plucked the ‘e’ string with your ‘i’ finger, the ‘m’ finger should immediately…”

I hope that I have found something in-between that is accessible and allows for reflection upon the mechanics of the body when it is working at its best.


For the classical guitar, there are five possible fingers that we can use to pluck the string; thumb, index finger, middle finger, ring finger and pinky. Using the abbreviations of the fingers’ Spanish names, we get ‘PIMAC’. This is very simple, but it needs to be automatic and students need to be able to both create strings of right hand finger combinations and to interoperate combinations through teacher/peer-led commands or by reading them. The more automatic this becomes, the less of a barrier there is for the communication of technical advice (ex. “play the ‘high e’ string with i-m-i alternation to get the right musical effect).

Holding the Guitar - February 12th, 2011

I owe a lot to Brian Moore of the UNM Music Prep School for these pedagogical concepts. I learned these ideas by watching his class after I taught my classes at the Prep School on Saturdays. The most important concept with his approach is to re-term vocabulary in a fun and age-appropriate way.

The terms for holding the guitar are:
Edge of your Seat
Inside on Top
Eye Level
Straight Back
Gas Pedal (Footstool)

First Time with Guitars - Feb 5th, 2011 Videos

Janea and Jason were excited to learn more about the guitar. Janea's father teaches guitar around Boston, so she already had some familiarity by being around the instrument. Both Jason and Janea played instruments before, so they had a body of knowledge that they could use to transfer to this new instrument. They both asked very good questions. Janea noticed that I play mostly with my fingers and asked if I would play something for her with a pick that she had in her pocket and Jason asked about the footstool. I introduced them to the sound of the guitar by playing songs that came to mind. All of this is included in the video above - Jason and Janea's first moments in class with the guitar!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The Syllabi that I handed out in the past were so boring. This year I wanted to try something more exciting, so I used ideas for my syllabus inspired by a handout by Julia Church Hoffman. She makes wonderfully engaging papers for her classes to read and because they have pictures, they are more eye-catching and more likely to be read by the students (and parents as well). For the first class, we colored the syllabus that I created. Children’s book illustrator, Chie Yasuda, created artwork for my syllabus that is both accurate (in terms of playing position and number of strings on the guitar) and friendly. As we colored the syllabus, we talked about whether or not the student in the picture was right handed or left handed and what the important information is on the syllabus as well as answered questions that came up spontaneously.

Chalkboard Introductions

Chalkboard Introductions:
Because there are only two students in the class I decided against “Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar” and came up with this impromptu way of getting to know each other. We introduced ourselves by talking about our interests and our favorite flavor of ice cream.

Q:What do you do for fun? What is your favorite ice cream?



Cookies&Cream or Green Tea Ice Cream (Maccha)

Overview of my Proposal

Overview of my Proposal 
In 2009, I wrote “Guitar Music for Children and Beginners” in response to needs that I saw in the classrooms that I taught, which I will describe later. The rationale is that “pre-reading” children ages 5-7 can learn simple ways to read music that are connected to their listening that are not necessarily the same literacy as standard notation, but will benefit them at their current learning level as well as the future. A simple example of this is guitar tablature, which has both the ability to expediently teach the method of guitar playing, as well as having a historical significance in 16th century lute music, (which was written in tablature) as well as multidisciplinary benefits, such as mathematical. An understanding of music in multiple representations has also proven to improve the brain’s functionality in a multitude of different ways, which we are working on in Music-In-Education (MIE).
Goals for my Internship
My goals can be summed up in three different categories: I would like to know how and in what ways my children’s book benefits children; I would like to make further steps toward creating a lesson plan that keeps students’ musical literacy skills in step with their technical ability and helps students who are stronger in areas other that music; and I would like to document my student’s progress based on their improvement in overall musical literacy. I would hope that by the time I finish my Internship that I will have articulated a method that improves a beginner’s overall musicianship as well as their technical skills on guitar.
I plan to begin before the Internship begins by articulating a detailed rubric and lesson plans for the entire semester. During the Internship I plan to write down all of my reflections, which I will use to assess my progress. I also plan to assess the student’s musical aptitude according to a method developed by the MIE department. I also plan to occasionally record lessons through various electronic media which I will compare to the lesson plans and an after class assessment. I plan to use any media that I take during class for my after-class assessment. I will focus on key points and moments in the classroom and highlight them in my portfolio based on the material collected from my lesson plans, reflections and media.

Questions that I would like to like to pursue during the course of my Internship:
How does one integrate music theory, music history and ear-training into instrumental education at a young age?
How does the introduction of multiple literacies supplement traditional music education for beginning guitarists?
How does my “Guitar Music for Children and Beginners” book supplement traditional music education?

Details of Internship: Location
The tentative location of the Internship is the Wang YMCA in Chinatown. The music teacher there is Johnny McInnes. Wang YMCA has a variety of different programs for youth from an array of different ethnic backgrounds. I would like to do the same internship over the course of two semesters to improve the accuracy of my data.

Wang YMCA in Chinatown:
Applications of my Internship and Future Plans
After I receive my Masters in Music from the New England Conservatory I plan to return to my life as a full-time musician and teach and perform within the community. My desire is to use my time at the Conservatory to reflect upon my previous teaching experience, identify and learn key areas that are important to myself as an Artist/Teacher/Scholar, to try out and collect data on new ideas during experiences like my internship and to use this scholarship to build upon my current teaching and performing style. The hope is that this research will help me find new opportunities as a musician as well as work with more satisfaction.
As for my book, I would like to republish my “Guitar Music for Children and Beginners” book and method in a way that draws a broader audience of students, parents and teachers that are looking for material to supplement their traditional guitar program.

MIE Internship at YMCA Wang

I have begun my MIE Internship at the New England Conservatory and will be teaching classical guitar at the YMCA in Chinatown in Boston, MA. The main focus of my internship is to better myself as an educator through scholarship. Everything that I have done in teaching before I will try to make improvements upon by implementing some of the suggestions my colleagues have published about children's education, video recording classes and examining student progress based on a strict set of goals. I will also conduct research as to how "Guitar Music for Children and Beginners" works in a classroom setting and see exactly what areas of musical aptitude a child makes improvements in. The research from this internship will be used to benefit the concepts brought up in "Guitar Music for Children and Beginners". I hope that you will follow this blog through my internship for Spring 2011.