Spring Scholarship

Hi Readers,

As the holidays approach, I want to make available our application for the Spring financial hardship scholarship! This scholarship provides fifteen free lessons for eager students who can’t afford the cost of music lessons. Please download the file from the link below, and carefully answer the questions. Deadline for applications is January 4, 2013. We’ll be accepting either one or two students.

A Street Scholarship Application Spring 2013

In other news, I am proud to formally announce the addition of Samantha Dearborn and Rob Megna to our faculty! Samantha and Rob will both be teaching on Thursdays at A Street Music.

sam dearbornSoprano Samantha Dearborn has performed on stages in the U.S. and in Europe, presenting recitals and appearing as featured and guest soloist in both concert and recital repertoire. Her passion for music and performance is evident in her teaching. Emphasizing the importance of breath, she encourages a healthy technique for a sustainable voice. She strives to create a safe, positive atmosphere for her students to learn, grow, and discover. During a study program in Hungary, she was trained in the Kodály Method, which she also incorporates into her lessons.

Ms. Dearborn holds a Bachelor of Music with honors in vocal performance from Capital University. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of Music in voice at Longy School of Music of Bard College.

rob megnaRob Megna is a professional drummer living in Boston, Massachusetts. He is well versed in styles including blues, jazz, latin, rock, funk and country. Rob has played live at music venues such as Lupos Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, RI, B.B. Kings in New York City, the Worcester Palladium, and Tobey Keith’s in Foxboro, MA. He recently headlined a sold out show at Nectar’s in Burlington, VT with folk/blues quartet Hey Mama.

Rob began playing drums at the age of 5 and was instantly recognized for having natural talent. He studied privately with Martin Vazquez, owner of M.V. Drums on Cape Cod. Rob has considerable experience teaching young drummers on Cape Cod and the South Shore, and performs regularly with A Street guitar teacher Paul Chase.

To see full bios for either of our new teachers, see www.astreetmusicllc.com! Short update today, but I’ll be back with more soon!


New to Our Faculty

I always feel like the start of a school year is the real “new year.” Everything picks back up after our collective summer travel and special projects. September also marks the start of A Street Music Education’s third year teaching music. To celebrate, we’ve already chosen our first ever scholarship student, who will receive free tuition for a full semester of lessons. Read below to find out what else we’re doing to provide opportunities in music education to our community. First, however, I’d like to address the title of this post!

We’re happy to announce the addition of Benjamin Moniz and Sarah Troxler to our faculty. Benjamin specializes in teaching classical and folk guitar, banjo, and mandolin, and also teaches harmonica. We’re very excited to add banjo and harmonica to the list of instrumental lessons we teach here at A Street. Benjamin will be available to teach  lessons on Monday afternoons. Sarah is an accomplished pianist and music director, performing regularly around Boston and the South Shore. Sarah will be teaching our intermediate and advanced piano students, as well as providing substitute beginner violin lessons, on Thursdays. Please find more information about Ben and Sarah at the bottom of this post.

Now back to those music education opportunities to which I alluded. We’ll be providing monthly intro classes on a variety of instruments through the Spring. Thanks to generous donations to A Street Music Education, we’ve decided to provide these intro classes with a suggested donation instead of a fee. Call us at 617-328-3600 to inquire about registering for November’s FREE guitar classes.

About Our Faculty Additions:

Benjamin Moniz is a seasoned working musician in Boston and New England, performing almost nightly and teaching thirty private students each week. Ben received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he studied jazz guitar with Jim Robitaille, modern improvisation with Andrew McWain, and classical guitar with William Riley. Ben has continued pursuing education on a variety of instruments including mandolin, banjo, dobro, bass, piano, harmonica (chromatic and diatonic). He is currently studying jazz and modern styles of guitar with Lou Cero and is enrolled in Tony Trischka’s online banjo lessons at the Academy of Bluegrass. You can see Ben perform locally with Grace Morrison and the RSO, The J.Kelley Band and The Marcus Monteiro Quartet (MM4).  He also enjoys a hobby of archiving bootleg jazz recordings and collecting folk, jazz and bluegrass vinyl records.

As an artist, Sarah Troxler operates on the firm belief that any person can learn music from any age or background. Each student learns differently and grasps material in their own unique way. Sarah strives to guide each individual to utilize his/her strengths and interests, so that he/she is able to take ownership of their craft, even from a beginning stage.

Sarah is an active musical collaborator throughout the greater Boston area, having earned her Master of Music degree in Collaborative Piano at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA.  She earned her B.A. in Piano Performance at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, MA, where she is currently an adjunct music professor. She is active as a teaching artist throughout the greater Boston area, serving as a vocal coach for individual singers, choirs, and theatre groups.

Ms. Troxler is active in community music programs, serving on staff with the Quincy-based South Shore Performing Artists’ Concert Series and Quincy Summer Singers.  She serves as a collaborative pianist and vocal coach at Longy School of Music of Bard College and with Cambridge Summer Opera Company, as well as serving as Minister of Worship at North Street Community Church in Hingham.  Her instrumental arrangements of favorite Christmas tunes can be heard on North Street’s Advent album Coming Home.

Days One and Two of Summer Camp

Hello A Street Music Education blog readers! We are not too far from the end of summer, and there are tons of things to report. While we seemed to keep a steady and large amount of students in the summer months, we are excited to enroll new students during the coming school year. We’ve been playing around Quincy and around Boston (in fact, you can find us at the Quincy Farmers Market almost every Friday. But for me, the most interesting thing has been preparing for and directing musical summer camps. I directed the music portion of “Summer Jam,” part of the First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain’s summer kids program. We are currently preparing for Day 3 of our summer camp at the YMCA here in Quincy.

Music camp at the YMCA is called a “Creative Arts” camp. We learn music in the large space where the “ART” installation is (pictured), and we build instruments in the art studio. Chad Gray, an A Street bass, guitar, and composition teacher, is pictured to the right. We built a scraper this morning to make sure we could best direct the campers.

In the first two days of camp, we’ve had the campers build and decorate claves and scrapers, using hand tools, thick wooden dowels, and all of the art supplies one could dream of (we do build in an art studio). In addition, we’ve had great success exploring dynamics (loud and soft in music), rhythm, beat, and tempo. We’ve also started exploring the idea of scales in music, partially by using numbers to represent notes. I was extremely impressed with how quickly the six to eight year old campers were able to begin exploring these fundamental musical concepts. The below photo exhibits one of those explorations using numbers to represent notes of the scale. The seemingly nonsensical words below the numbers are the lyrics to the “Navajo Song of Happiness,” a simple song easily applied to teaching situations.

I’ll be back soon to the blog with more photos from camp, and a bigger reflection on what the campers learned. But before I go, I’ll share one more photo of a student enjoying his newly made and decorated scraper!

Interlude: June News and Events

Hi blog readers. Summer is upon us. The air conditioner is running. I’m amazed by how quickly time has passed, and that A Street Music is only a few months short of one year old. I’ll be keeping you updated about programs here at the store over the next month, but for now, please mark the following events in your calendar and support local musicians and A Street faculty members!

June Teacher Performances…

June 3 – 8pm
Nick Dinnerstein
performing with Kelly Omalley
Café Verde – 275 Essex Street, Lawrence, MA

June 14 – 7pm
Caddy and the DeVilles
featuring Bülent Güneralp
1000 Southern Artery, Quincy, MA

June 24 – 7:30pm
Wenham Street Brass in Concert
Featuring Justin Stanley and Nick Dinnerstein
with Matt Baker, Heidi Aispuro, and Sarah Troxler
First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain
633 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, MA

June 29 – 9pm
Michael Thomas
with the Mike Dease Sextet
Smalls Jazz Club
corner of W 10th and 7th Ave, New York, NY

Dates in June
Robert Hoveland in the pit for
“The Drowsey Chaperone”
Boston Performing Arts Center

Wednesdays in June – 9pm
Paul Chase
The Burren
247 Elm Street, Somerville, MA

Other News…

Call the YMCA at 617-479-8500 for information on our summer music camp, August 1-5!

Before I finish up, I’d like to share a couple of photos from our education programs over the last few months. Enjoy!

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!

More About Practice: reflecting on music-making

When you read or hear the word “practice,” what do you think about? This is a question that everyone has an answer to, but the answer is often negative in nature, ranging from “I have to practice everyday if I ever want to be good” to “practice is boring and I’d rather be doing something else.” A few weeks ago, I posted a survey about practice that I hope will help students view practice as what it ideally is: music making, learning, a venue to explore creativity, and hundreds of other positive experiences. (I am still compiling answers to said survey from students here at A Street, which I will share when I am able).

A great former teacher of mind shared a half-truthful joke with me recently that I’ve revised slightly: 70% of four-letter expletives spoken at any given time in Boston, MA happen in the small area that includes Berklee, New England Conservatory, and Boston Conservatory, and 95% of those are happening inside of practice rooms. Practice can be hard! People make mistakes all the time in practice, and it can be really frustrating. Some musicians have a hard time practicing because they don’t know how to make goals for what they want to accomplish. Other musicians, like the people mentioned in the joke above, set very strict goals that can drive them crazy.

I’m going to stop myself now before I start writing a thesis on practicing. I could go on and on about this subject, because I’ve been through my own troubled relationship with practice. Luckily for me, I learned how to treat practice as a positive experience – as a time for me to explore music and to grow in my ability to express myself musically. The worst way – the absolute worst way to practice – is to be judgmental of oneself. This does not mean that you can’t be self critical, but the moment you apply a judgmental word or phrase like “bad” or “not good enough,” practice will become a negative experience. At A Street Music, I’ve just created practice logs for our students, and I’m sharing both of them here on the blog. These logs are designed to help students of music reflect on what they do in practice in a positive and constructive way.

Reflection is a really important part of the learning process, and setting goals based on observations of practice is a great way for any student to move forward. The first document is a weekly log, with spaces for daily entries regarding practice. The log requires that the student notate short and medium term goals, and answer four questions each day: How long did you practice, what did you practice, how did you improve, and what did you learn.

A Street Music Weekly Practice Log

The second document requires that a student focus on specific material on which he/she is working. Both sheets have some space for teacher suggestions, this second sheet especially. However, both forms can be easily adapted in case you don’t have a regular teacher.

Directed Practice Log

Enjoy the logs, and have fun practicing. Please feel free to comment.

Practicing Now

Hello blog readers!

This particular update is a little different than anything I’ve done before on the blog. Bülent Güneralp, A Street’s piano, voice, and drum teacher, approached me a few weeks ago to share an article he had found, written by Wayne Dyer.

Dr. Wayne Dyer

Bülent suggested that this article, “Resolve to Get Real,” could very easily be applied to the way we practice music. I’d never heard of Dyer before Bülent showed me this article and another book with information about Dyer, so I can’t speak to Dyer’s body of work at all. However, I think that Bülent has a great idea regarding how to apply some of the ideas in the article to our students’ practice. The following is Bülent’s idea:

As we entered 2011, I happened to check Dr. Wayne Dyer’s website where I came across “Resolve to Get Real,” a short article on his blog. I read it and thought, “This approach could be helpful for many people in many different ways and areas.” I thought that students could apply the idea to their practice and may get wonderful results. I thought, “It would be wonderful if the parents and students themselves read and analyzed the article, and expressed in their won words how they could apply the idea to the students’ practice.” So here we go. Let’s consider this as homework: What does this article by Dr. Dyer mean to you? I look forward to hearing what our students and parents will say.

Dyer’s short article has a very simple thesis; in general, it’s better to live in the moment. He wrote it at the beginning of the year to explain how “living in the moment” is a better philosophy than making long term resolutions. I’ve seen similar negative outcomes from friends who have vowed to quit smoking or to start exercising, as well as some positive ones. I was younger, I would vow to practice through the summer, and I would habitually break that vow. It doesn’t make sense, because I’ve always loved playing the French horn. Perhaps if I’d approached it in a different way, I would have progressed more quickly.

Young people and parents often become frustrated by practice. Well, young people by practicing and parents by a lack of practicing. Practice is a very strange thing. Often music teachers don’t give clear cut homework like students would receive in school. Students of music are often forced to direct their own learning, which can be a huge challenge. The way we teachers approach music teaching has to help students learn how to teach themselves.

We’re going to share this article with parents and younger students at A Street, and record their response through a short survey. I’ll be back to the blog soon, hopefully with some interesting ideas from our students about how to practice. I wanted to post the Dyer article here on the blog to avoid any confusion, but the terms of use on Dyer’s website forbid republication in any form. Please follow this link or the link above to the article.

Update 2/21/11: Anyone out there reading the blog who wishes to complete the survey as well, feel free! You can find the survey through this link.