Connecting Through Music During a Not-So-Average Year

Lessons have looked very different this past year, with most of my private students quickly switching to virtual lessons because of the pandemic. At first, it was rushed and felt less than ideal. But I have actually become a better teacher through this past year’s adversity. I have learned how to use words to explain music, techniques and concepts in a better way, maybe even better than before. I have more patience, and have found that simplifying steps and taking things slower in the moment actually leads to faster progress for my students. It has forced me to learn to take my time instead of rushing to the next thing, which, who knew, actually ends up creating more time somehow. I adapted how to teach music over video. And I have seen my students make huge progress! After this year, and all the experience I have gained, the new tech I have mastered, and the new teaching style I have developed, I will be opening up my studio to virtual lessons permanently, so if you don’t live in the Bay Area but are interested in learning music in a fun way through one-on-one online lessons with me, please contact me! (And don’t worry, to all my current and local students, I’ll still be doing in-person lessons as well!)

My approach as a music teacher is not “cookie-cutter”. I have a few concepts that apply to every student;

Learning to read music is one of the big ones, as well as learning how to “practice smart”. And, being a percussionist myself, teaching how to have good rhythm is of course very important! But other than these few things, lessons differ based on my students’ interests and goals. This includes a range of using method books, popular songs and tunes they like, improvising, learning chords, theory and even sometimes composing. It’s all about having a good balance of challenge but also fun. I include basic theory in our lessons so my students learn the “why” behind learning scales and chords, and the fundamentals and foundations of music. All things which I found lacking in my own experience learning music. I started taking music lessons when I was 4, and my memories include lots of hard times and tears through challenging teachers (one of whom my family hilariously dubbed “Dr. No-No”). I think learning music should be fun, something you enjoy doing and can be proud of. If you want more of a challenge, I am here to give it to you. But it is up to you, the student, how far you go based on how much time you are putting into practicing and developing your music-making outside of our one-on-one lessons. I want my students to feel like they can play their instrument well, and feel proud that they have learned the tools they need to be a self-starter at home, learning music on their own time. And I’m here to help coach them along the way. Music became a career for me, but for my students it is most important that they have a great experience so that music can be something they carry with them for the rest of their lives, whether it is a lifelong hobby or a career.

I hope to see you soon in lessons, let’s get music making!

Tags: percussion, piano, lessons, music lessons, zoom lessons

What the Heck is a Percussionist?

I can’t tell you how many times I have been stared at blankly when I use the word percussionist. My uncle teased me recently when I showed him my sparkling new business cards- “Pear-shoosh-un-ist… What the heck is a “Pearshooshunist!?” he asked.

I laughed, but internally cringed because I knew this reaction was probably more common than people let on to me. Usually the silence and cricket sounds are all I hear.

My very technical definition of a percussion instrument is anything you can hit on. Junk. A metal sheet. Pans. Bowls. Bicycle spokes. Your stomach. Or the more classical, traditional instruments such as a bass drum, cymbals, gongs, glockenspiel, xylophone, timpani, drum set, marimba (or, as my high school bestie used to call it, the “marumba”). Percussion instruments are things that are struck, either by a mallet, a hand, or another instrument. This is also why piano is considered to be a part of the percussion family, because the hammer strikes the string to create the sound.

Technically, to a percussionist, every object could be an instrument. I’m sitting in my room, looking around imagining the different sounds I could get just from a piece of furniture or hitting on the wood floor. Junk yards are gold to us; I have found many awesome instruments digging around storage areas on my dad’s farm (thanks dad).

Percussion is all about sound. It may seem easy to just hit something for a living, but there are different ways to get different sounds, and a finesse in finding how to do this consistently and musically. (So all our hours of practice really DO accomplish something!)

We have two types of instruments: the non-pitched instruments (like a snare drum) as well as the pitched, melodic instruments (like the xylophone).

Another common question is the difference between all of the pitched instruments-these are the instruments that kind of resemble a piano, except with wood or metal bars that are struck with a mallet. or four. (or bowed with a string bow, or lightly tapped with a finger, and the options go on and on…)

A glockenspiel, which we often call bells or glock for short, is small, metal, and very high pitched and piercing. A xylophone is made of wooden bars and has resonators, and is also high and piercing. The more mellow sounding vibraphone is metal, has resonators, and also has a pedal so it can sustain. The marimba is the gigantic one, with wooden bars, a huge range, resonators, and would take up half of my living room.

So as a percussionist, I hit things. And next time someone asks me what I do for a living, I think I’ll just keep it simple and tell them that.

Tags: percussion, what the heck am I doing, job, passion, profession

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