Video From Our Concert

Our concert last Saturday was a huge success! It was inspiring to see the progress our students have made, and to hear the artistry of our faculty members. The video below is a compilation of various performers.

I hope that our students take pride in their performances, and that, provided with video of their full performances, our students can continue to grow from them.

I’ll post more soon, but for the meantime, please enjoy the video!


What do you get with A Street Music lessons?

A piano lesson with B├╝lent

It’s finally here.

I’ve been alluding a blog post about our assessment practices here at A Street Music for a while. I’ve also been feeling guilty about not writing said post for a while. I am the education director at A Street Music, and this is the first time that I’ve put together a full assessment program. I’ve been a consultant for assessment in the Chicago Public Schools through the Music-in-Education National Consortium, and I’ve tracked the learning of my own students. Here, I’m creating a program where students get full progress reports and where teaching artists are challenged regularly to grow as educators. The ‘blurb’ about assessment on our lesson advertisements reads,

When you purchase A Street Lessons, you will receive more than just lessons with our outstanding faculty. You or your child will be encouraged to reflect on the learning happening in lessons and at home. This occurs through interviews designed to get students to think critically and with as much complexity as possible, and through daily practice logs provided by A Street Music. Teachers and students alike are assessed and critiqued through careful observation of lessons by our Education Director, and through detailed reports from teachers. You or your child will receive regular progress reports from A Street Music.

Everything above has been implemented already (except practice logs, which should be designed in the next week). I’ve begun observing lessons, and many of our students have received progress reports, to be provided every few months. The ‘meat and potatoes’ of the assessment – a strange metaphor as I don’t eat meat – is the interviews with teachers and students.

I originally designed the student interviews with Randy Wong in New England Conservatory’s Music-in-Education program with the intent to find out what students are learning and how make our education department great. The questions I ask get students to speak about musicianship, their instruments, listening to music, and performing/creating music. I ask the same questions to 5 year old students as I ask 30 year old students, though the way I word the questions should always be age appropriate. I feel good about the format of the questions, because young kids are able to respond and show progress over months of lessons, yet older students still comment on how difficult the questions are. These questions aren’t ‘only-one-answer’ questions, but they definitely make students think.

Progress Reports
I use the rubric below to take notes based on the interviews and to assign scores. Students, parents, and teachers don’t see this part of the process. I prepare a full progress report that ranges between two and three pages and meet with parents or students. I will include a link to a progress report here as soon as I get permission from a current A Street student.

The teachers respond to questions much like those of the students, but they are directed toward what the teacher has observed in lessons. This material supplements the interview scores on progress reports, and it also supports teacher reflection. Teachers are encouraged to plan ahead according the strengths and weaknesses of each individual student. Lesson observations are mostly to help give feedback to our teachers, but they will also be used to augment the information in progress reports.

What’s Next?
In the most literal sense, practice logs – tools for students to keep records their own work – will be the next implementation of assessment here. I’m excited about this, because it’s my belief that assessment – understanding what students know, what they need to do, how students learn, etc, etc, etc – is always best when it’s in the hands of students. When students reflect on their own progress, the trajectory of their learning is evident and goals for the future are easier to make.

Over time, I want to move toward a ‘portfolio-based’ learning philosophy here. By that, I mean that I want students to be able to document, through writing and video/audio taping, what they do musically. With more responsibility comes better learning. With better learning comes better musicianship. We want our students to constantly grow as learners and musicians. I created a portfolio of my experience here at A Street Music. I will make this available in the shop as soon as I get permission from all students featured in the portfolio.

So what does this all mean? For all intents and purposes, A Street Music is a music store that provides music lessons. I hope that what I’ve outlined above shows that we don’t want to be ‘just’ a music store that gives music lessons. As Aaron, A Street’s owner, likes to say, “we’re a non-profit organization in for-profit’s body.” A Street is a store, but we always want to offer people the best when it comes to all things music. Whether it be through the care we take making sure students are learning, the care we take with individual instruments, the availability of instruments for sale or rent, or our outreach in the community (keep an eye out for our coming work with the local YMCA), we showcase our love of music and our desire to share music.

So keep an eye out for more on the assessment program here, as well as our faculty’s upcoming concerts and a commentary on practice. And feel free to contact the store anytime.

A Street at the Y Plus Yours Truly on the Horn

Hi blog readers! I’ve got some photo documentation for you today. Aaron Belyea, A Street’s fair and just ruler, and Chad Gray, our bass teacher, performed at the Quincy YMCA last Tuesday. (Look below for a blog about Chad that I wrote around 10 days ago). I, unfortunately, had to keep a watchful eye on the store, so I couldn’t watch the performance. I did get our friend Sage at the Y to take some pictures for us!

There’s the duo playing to a seemingly very attentive group of kids. The next picture is from a different angle. Is there an audience? We’ll never know.

I heard that the audience at the Y really loved the performance, which included jazz standards, “Frosty the Snowman”, and a special performance of “Happy Birthday” over the intercom for one lucky individual. We’ll be performing again at the Y on December 16th. I’ll keep you informed!

On another note, I had my recital a few weeks ago. Since I write about our teachers for the Artist Teacher series on the blog, I figured I’d toot my own horn a little bit in this post. The recital went really well, and it was the last step to get a masters degree from the New England Conservatory. Here’s a picture of pianist David McEvoy and me performing a trio by Carl Reinecke. Our oboist, Jonathan Bragg, was sadly omitted from the photo.

The Wenham Street Brass, A Street Music’s resident chamber ensemble, also performed at my recital (I’m the horn player). I’ll get a recording of us performing up on the blog as soon as I’m able, but that’s it for now. Short blog this week because of the holiday. If you’re new to the blog or if you’re interested in learning more about A Street Music, feel free to contact us through our website, or give us a call at 617-328-3600. We’ve got a number of spots available in all instruments! Also, comments are enabled and appreciated on the blog. Tell me what you’d like to see more of.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I’m currently thinking about how to lose the 15 pounds I gained last night…