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!