Sunday, January 30, 2011

Music Tip #63 Choir arrangements

I’m the ward choir director in my church and direct a youth choir as well as the adult choir. I recently found a good source for hymn arrangements for choir music. And did I mention it was free? Steven Smith’s website has a wealth of great arrangements for ward choirs. Today my youth choir sang the arrangement of Come Follow Me. Instead of using the vocal descant and/or violin descant, I wrote a descant for bells and had four young women play it on resonator bells. And yesterday my daughter and I played Steven’s arrangement of Come Follow Me for the viola and piano at a Stake Women’s Conference. Great arrangements of a beautiful hymn. Thanks Steven.

Resonator bells are more affordable than handbells. I recently joined a handbell group and am having a great time. But handbells are very expensive. Resonator bells are a cheaper way to go and still let children enjoy the opportunity of playing in a bell ensemble. A 25 note chromatic set of resonator bells range from $170-$270 depending on if the base is made from wood or plastic. Two octaves of handbells will cost over $5,000.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Music Tip #62 What kind of conductor are you?

Have you ever watched a conductor leading an orchestra and noticed his arm movements? Some conductors control their orchestra with very noticeable gestures telling the players exactly how, when and what to play. And they better do it the conductor’s way, too! Other conductors don’t use a lot of arm movement, but just gesture here and there, forcing their players to look at each other and guess how they’re suppose to play.

Then there is the conductor who is definitely in charge, but he allows the soloists to play their own “stories”. He gives them feedback with his facial expressions. He encourages his players to share the meaning of the piece with the audience through their playing, so that everyone becomes a partner in the experience.

Those were ideas I heard as I watched a talk on by Itay Talgam, who was a symphony conductor in his native Israel, but now uses conducting as a metaphor to teach leadership styles.

What kind of conductor are you for your “family orchestra”? How do you control your players? Are you a dictator or do you look the other way and let your kids do what they want? Are family members all partners together and headed in the same direction or is there confusion and frustration? Do your family members know the meaning to life and take part in achieving it?

Children need guidelines, rules and fences. But they need the freedom within those guidelines to interpret their lives. Maybe playing the piano is your goal, but really not theirs (after 5 years of never practicing and now they’re in high school). Parents need to guide the family’s direction but if rules are unclear, children are left to guess what they’re suppose to do.

Having a family council once a week is a great way to make sure your family is all on the same song, I mean page. You can coordinate and schedule the week’s activities and get feedback on what your children are feeling and how they are doing in their activities. You can let your children “play their solos” and give them support and encouragement.
Together, you and your family can make beautiful music!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Parenting Tip #64 The Incredibles

My son and his family dressed up as The Incredibles for Halloween last year. That got me thinking. How great would that be to have super powers? But maybe a different sort of super power than you usually see in the movies.

The Dad in the movie had super strength which he used to save lives and protect his family. Every dad could use super strength. Super strength to work long hours and still have time to play with his kids when he comes home. Strength to have integrity and honesty while at work. Strength to lead his family in spiritual matters. Strength to keep his marriage alive and make his wife number one in his thoughts.

Helen, the Mom in The Incredibles had stretching abilities. Now isn’t that just the perfect super power any mom needs? The ability to stretch herself in all the directions a mother has to go—teacher, cook, taxi driver, nurse, counselor, maid, laundress, wife, community helper. Of course there are other areas a mother gets stretched in, like patience, selfless love, and did I mention patience?

Violet, the teenage daughter can become invisible. So can our children if we’re not careful. If we, as moms, have “stretched” ourselves in too many directions we won’t have time for the most important things in life—our children and husbands. Violet could also generate force fields. Sometimes our children throw up a force field around themselves that is hard to penetrate. But with the super strength of love and patience, we can dissolve that barrier and become more visible to each other.

Dash had super energy and speed. What kid doesn’t? Trying to keep up with my grandson who just learned to crawl is daunting. That’s why a dad’s super strength and a mom’s stretching abilities are perfect for the “Dashes” in our family. We can channel their energy into cub scouting, sports, service, home repairs, family outings and good hard work.

Last in the family was Jack-Jack. At the beginning of the movie he didn’t have any powers—not that were known anyway. But he was full of potential. The Jack-Jacks in our families need time to explore. They need to be read to, played with, given experiences outside in nature, and time to bond with brothers and sisters. At the end of the movie Jack-Jack showed shape shifting abilities. Our children certainly change and shift from babyhood to adulthood. Our job is to help them change into their best self.

One other character in the movie is Buddy, a one time fan of Mr. Incredible. He turns into the villain and becomes Syndrome. That makes me think of all the syndromes we go through that throw us off track of where we should be going. The “stay up with the Jones Syndrome”, the “everyone has their kids in sports, dance and piano Syndrome”, the “scrapbook syndrome” (I’m not saying it’s bad, just keep it in perspective), the “health club syndrome”, the “it’s got to be the cutest syndrome”, etc, etc.

Super powers. That’s what our families need. And that’s what you can have as you take one day at a time and make it the best.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Parenting Tip #63 Small House

After one of my sons and his family came to visit for Christmas, my little granddaughter told her mom she wanted to live in a small house just like grandma and grandpa. When asked why, she said, “because it’s so comfortable and I like the way it feels.”

That reminded me of what one of my daughters told me when she was a teenager. Her friend had a really big house—really big. But her friend told her she wished she lived in a small house like we did. She said, “your family is so close to each other and you know where everyone is.”

There was a time in my life when I felt very bad about living in a “small house”. I was covetous and jealous of others and embarrassed how we had to squish 7 kids and 2 parents in a small 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house.

But now I’m glad. Our family had to learn to get along with each other, share, cooperate and take turns (did I mention we only had 1 telephone and 1 TV, too). With only 1 bathroom you learned to be fast and be considerate. With 4 boys in one small room you learned to be creative with living space and learned how to share. You learned to make do, not be selfish and work problems out.

Yep, I’m glad I live in a small house—it’s much easier to clean, too.

Music Tip #61 Cartoon, Movie music to play

Hurray for cartoons! And commercials! I’m a TV hater. I don’t watch TV and think there’s nothing worth watching on it, but TV does have it’s virtues. It teaches kids classical music and helps them to even want to play it on the piano, violin, etc.

There are many, many classical songs that are the background music for cartoons, commercials and movies. Why? Because they’re in the public domain and FREE for the taking. How can you as a music teacher or parent take advantage of this? Find the music to classical tunes that come out in movies and give them to your budding musicians to learn.

My students have been asking for the music in the movie, UP, as the old man is riding his chair down the elevator. I couldn’t even remember what the music sounded like, but as soon as they started singing it, I realized it was from Carmen-Habanera, by G. Bizet. It’s next on my list to arrange and simplify for my students.

Remember the song the farmer sings to his sick pig in the movie, Babe? That’s from Camille Saint Saens Organ Symphony.

This site has a list of songs made famous by cartoons and movies:

This is a great website that has simplified classical music in levels 1-5.

I have several songs I’ve simplified for my students and would be glad to send to anyone. Just drop me a comment and I’ll email them to you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Music Tip #60 Listen to your child

Isn't it interesting how your children teach you, the parent. I always tried to be consistent with my children and use natural consequences when disciplining them. But one day I discovered it was better to listen to my child and make decisions based on his needs.

Ben, my oldest, was 10 years old and had been practicing the piano without complaining for several months. I found that if I sat and listened to him practice, it was more enjoyable for him. But suddenly he started complaining again about having to practice and said he wanted to quit (something he hadn't said for a long time). He said the songs were too hard and too long and I gave him too many to practice (I was his piano teacher).

I told him he had to practice all the songs anyway--4 songs were not too many. He kept complaining. My usual tactic was to be consistent in my demands and try and force him to practice--which always resulted in a power struggle and a big fight.

This day, for some reason, I listened to what he was saying. He was overwhelmed. I backed off, and took one of his songs off his list and told him next week he could just learn part of it. He was happy with that, I was happy with that, and I learned to listen and cooperate.

Parenting Tip #62 Power in expressing your feelings

Years ago I had trouble with one of my sons getting his work done—which wasn’t like him. I blamed it on his allergies and his age (10). One Saturday he wouldn’t mow the lawn. He didn’t have to mow the whole lawn, just his part (each of my 3 boys mowed 1/3 of our large yard). I had tried positive reinforcement, incentives, threats, etc. but nothing was working. He didn’t get to go to my sister’s house—which was always a treat—because he hadn’t mowed the lawn. I told him if he had it done by the time I got back from running an errand, he could go to the grocery store with me (he loved to go grocery shopping). Even that didn’t work. So finally I told him if it wasn’t done by the time I came back from the store, I would probably sit down and cry and think that I was a failure as a mother (I knew that wouldn’t motivate him either, but I was so frustrated).

When I got home later, I couldn’t believe my eyes. He had mowed the lawn! When I asked him about it, he said he didn’t want me to think I was a failure, and that was the reason he had finally done it.

The lesson I learned. It is more effective to sit down and discuss problems and express feelings, rather than threaten, bribe or get mad.


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