Last week I was invited to do an evening online workshop on music for PS 321’s Tech Day, and I was stressed about it for the entire week! Teaching 30 kids online at the same time, and at all different levels! Even some with no music experience at all! What could I do?
That’s when I started finally digging into a free online music experiment called Chrome Music Lab.
If you have never played around with it, it’s really fun. All you need is an internet connection and a browser. There’s several instruments and composing tools. You can pick it up in no time.
The kids had a blast and they learned about pitch, color and composing. Thanks much to Adam Lee and Melih Onvural and all at PS 321 for the invitation.
Another cool thing last week.
I read this article Want Smarter Kids? Teach Music, Not Coding, According to MIT
It made me think of one of my students.
She was one of my earliest students. I’ll call her April. She just turned 4 and was so shy she would hide behind her mother at every lesson. I had to coax her to come off the sofa and “just touch the piano.”
At the time, I was a bit anxious. April was the youngest student I had accepted, and the first to come from outside my son’s circle of friends. It was easy to attract students when I was at the grade school pickup everyday. But a total stranger? What if my color method didn’t work with her?
After the first two lessons, April started to warm up. She hardly said a word, and answered questions with a nod of the head or a giggle. She had a wonderful laugh, and I knew I had broken through when I got her to laugh. A few months later, we had our first recital. She was so nervous to perform that she pulled her dad out of the audience to sit by her side onstage.
Soon after, I came across Dr. Amy Cuddy’s incredibly inspiring Ted Talk about the use of posture to instantly activate confidence. This was great! According to her studies, just two minutes of holding a “power pose” would activate hormones and a feeling of strength and confidence. It reminded me of what popular author and coach Tony Robbins would always say, “motion creates emotion.”
So I started doing power poses with all of my students, but especially April. She loved it. Standing like Wonder Woman. Looking fierce. Then sitting down and playing her pieces with a new confidence and assertiveness! It was like magic.
I remember one summer, when she was around 9, her mother told me April was leading her whole camp in singing “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz while strumming her ukulele. She had just had two lessons with me on ukulele at that point! I was so astonished and proud. And yet she still hardly spoke, let alone sing in our lessons!
But it was still hard for her. Music didn’t come easily. She was not a prodigy. But she had incredible strength, determination and perseverance.
When she was 12, she was anxious about her audition for a middle school music program. I told her, “I’m here with you. Just see me in the corner. We’re doing power poses! You can do it!”
And she did!
At 14, April wrote about music, our lessons and the experience of her first recital.
“…Learning to play music in front of other people made me more confident.
Music also helps calm me down.
Whenever I have had a bad day at school or am annoyed at my sister, I go upstairs to get my trombone and play the highest, loudest note that I can.
Whenever I do this, it feels like I am just letting out all of my upset energy. I have also learned that if you play or listen to a happy song, or a song that you love, when the song is done, you will feel like the song that you just played or listened to.
When I play music, I feel happy.”
I am so proud of April and all she has accomplished. She found her voice, her sense of self, and came out of her shell to share her beautiful spirit and gifts with the world.
And she’s just one of our many student journeys.
I’m so grateful to have so many wonderful students and families as part of our music community. Have a great spring break!
And if you need a fun activity, try the Chrome Music Lab.