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Blog titles:
2/20/2013 - Music Lessons the Best Investment
2/12/2013 - What the Mayan Calendar Didn't Mean

 

2/20/2013
MUSIC LESSONS -
THE BEST INVESTMENT


Kids' schedules today are so much more intense and hectic then back when adults over 35 were growing up, before home computers, ATMs, cell phones, cable and direct TV.  There are more choices, more activities and schedules to balance, more pressure to achieve, and less down time.

Though parents recognize the value of music lessons, it's often one of the first things to "go" when students resist practicing.  It's a shame, because of the investment in an instrument,  lesson tuition, and initial high hopes and excitement of taking lessons.  Practice, even for the self-motivated student, requires a "schedule" involving a regular practice time.

Unfortunately, what can happen once the initial "flush" of piano lessons wears off, is the student loses interest.  Sometimes a child  wants to move on to another musical instrument--which can also go by the wayside for the same reason.  Parents DO need to encourage, and even require, the same focus and discipline as homework or sports, for successful music advancement. 

Learning music isn't "entertainment" and, particularly for older students, does NOT offer  the same instant gratification as say, a video game.   It's fun and fulfilling, but, like anything, someone who is good at something makes it look easy!

Let's use sports as an example.  A pet peeve of music teachers is that sports schedules take priority over music, often requiring five or more practices a week, or the student isn't allowed to  compete. However, without this discipline and focus, the student won't develop the necessary skills TO compete.  Gratification is found in the process of developing the skills.

Fact is, learning music requires  the same discipline as a sport does.  Music is physical, requiring coordination, and repetitive practice for developing muscle memory and technique with the ADDED BENEFIT OF  DEVELOPING NEURAL PATHWAYS that lead to higher skill in both mathematics and language arts.  ( Note:   It's  the rare "prodigy" who develops the skills to perform advanced classical music within the first years of piano study.  And the degree of discipline required can lead to an unbalanced life and actually "kill" the child's joy of making music.)

I'm understanding, but disappointed at the same time, when a student stops lessons  because a sport has taken over his/her schedule and  free time.   Sometimes it's a Start/Stop  cycle, which most music teachers have come to accept.  Momentum is lost, and eventually,  the student doesn't return to lessons.

The  thought that "you can always go back to music when you're older"  helps justify this, but, in reality,  the best time to learn music is childhood, while the mind and body are developing, and the habits are formed for life.  Students who start in the early grades and who remain consistent with lessons and practice, will enjoy the gratification of playing and performing advanced music by the time they are in high school.  Plus, being a musician gives a student the edge for being accepted at choice colleges and universities (even if they aren't planning to study music in college).

Any adult who had music lessons growing up will agree with the saying, "if you don't use it, you lose it " when it comes to playing music.  How many times have I heard adults say they wished they'd continued piano as kids, or that they'd even had the opportunity to take lessons?  Fact is, the older you get, the harder it is to go back or get started.

Though adults benefit and enjoy taking lessons, it's not the same as learning as a child.  It's kind of like learning a foreign language. Learn a second language as a child, you are bi-lingual and can think in both languages.  Learning a new language as an adult gives you an "accent" and it's more of an effort to translate and speak a second language.

Keep this in mind.  Many of the most  brilliant minds in science, medicine, mathematics, literature, and business are people who are also accomplished musicians.  Their musical studies as children enhanced the development of their abilities in other fields.  My vision for my students is that they become brilliant scientists, teachers, or outstanding  in chosen professions that benefit their communities and the world at large -- AND who continue as  talented musicians who have a lifelong love affair with making and sharing  music.

If music lessons enhance a child's intelligence and ability to excel in life, then it's the best investment parents and families can make!

"My vision for my students is that they have a lifelong love for making and sharing music, and that their music education helps them to become brilliant scientists, teachers, and  outstanding  in any chosen  profession that fulfills  them personally, and benefits their communities and the world at large."   Debra Lee

CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE ON RESEARCH THAT SHOWS HOW MUSIC MAKES CHILDREN MORE INTELLIGENT ... and 7 great reasons for learning music.

MUSIC PRACTICE ADVICE to live by:

1.  When beginning lessons, commit to a full year of study and a practice schedule.

2.  Treat music practice the same as homework or sports with a regular schedule for practice time at home.

3.  Meet resistance with reward  and praise for practice.

4.  Work with the teacher for a new lesson time during a sports season (or the summer or other schedule conflicts that may arise) rather than dropping lessons and starting back later.

If you choose to take a leave of absence, return within  4-6 weeks.

5.  If a teacher offers recitals, maintain lesson and practice schedules in order to participate, as recitals are an outstanding experience for building confidence and composure.
 

When is it time to "QUIT" lessons?

Again, a one year commitment is recommended. 

For many students, there is a "honeymoon" period where they are highly motivated to practice. 

Though everyone is different, the motivation can wane when a student plateaus and is ready to breakthrough to the next level. 

After a one-year commitment, here is a general guide of knowing when to stop lessons:

1.  It's apparent the student doesn't have a "natural" ability and loses the desire because playing an instrument doesn't come naturally.  Consult with the teacher on this.  There are still benefits to music  lessons, even when natural ability is not apparent. 

2.  The student's resistance to practice is beyond any reasoning or encouragement.  If a student doesn't practice, the  teacher will know and may  choose to release the student.

3. The student becomes "bored" -- it may be time for a new teacher, or a new instrument if the student has musical ability.  If this is the case, speak with the teacher about new material that would interest the student.  Give it another month, and if things don't change, move on.

Sometimes when a student's ear surpasses their music knowledge and technical or coordination abilities, they become dissatisfied or "bored."  This is NOT a reason a quit.   If the same dissatisfaction persists with a new teacher or instrument, there may be another issue to address.

4.  The teenage student has "peaked" in ability level and no longer has time to commit to practice for further advancement, because of activities and scholastic responsibilities.

Piano lessons are the foundation for learning music.  Students who have piano lessons generally have more success with learning new instruments.  In college music programs, piano is REQUIRED.

 

 

2/12/2013

Millennial Thing Revisited
What the Mayan Calendar Didn't Mean and
THE STORY OF TIME !

 

"The impulse to art is a universal attribute of intelligence...and the most enduring human value of all is the tendency toward artistic expression. Artistic expression is intrinsic to human intelligence…" Jose Arguelles, anthropologist, author
2012 seemed far off at the time I wrote and recorded my debut CD Millennial Thing, a collection of 12 original songs, created and recorded with a solid blues backup band and production team who had the  vision to offer up a timeless roots-rock-Americana feel that will hold up for years without being "dated."  It's also gratifying that the music and message of Millennial Thing remains relevant.   I'm happy for the airplay that earns me royalties, and feel blessed to have new fans discovering the music. Thank you!

The inspiration for the CDs title track, and several other songs, was the ancient Mayan Calendar. Yes, the very one which became a phenomenon  that captured our mass- pop-culture-imaginations about an "end of the world" prophecy of cataclysmic, biblical proportions (with the help of a sensationalistic Hollywood movie among other things).  And with "apocalyptic" tensions mounting in world affairs since the 1940s, and sophisticated weapons of mass destruction to make it possible (plus added tensions of economic woes  and  unprecedented US political polarity since the Civil War) -- it's no wonder.  It certainly gave pause to consider the unthinkable.

The date 12/21/2012  has come and gone, and with it the  bad jokes. The date actually marked the  end of a cosmological cycle spanning 50,000-some years, or "The End of Time" to the Mayans (they didn't have TV,  which gave them lots of time to watch the stars... though a funny cartoon I saw pictured two ancient Mayans with little hammers  and stone tablets, with one saying something like, "Uh oh, we've run out of stone.  This is really gonna screw someone up someday.").  Point being, the end of a time cycle is  not a portending "doomsday."  Still,  scary stories have entertainment value.

I was introduced to the Mayan Calendar in the mid-1990s when I was hanging with the hippies  (brings to mind my favorite Dixie Chics song). I delved into a course of study of these ancient "Galactic Time Keepers"  under the tutelage of "Starroot", a beautiful German-born world-folk musician-artist who started an artists' community in Floyd, VA, near the rural town outside of Roanoke where I lived at the time.  (One of her "day jobs" was playing the accordion in traditional German costume at festivals and conventions in the  city of Roanoke).  She and her husband Sparky (short for "Starsparks") were students and personal friends of Jose Arguelles, an anthropologist and author who decoded the Mayan Calendar (which I understand there's been some controversy over, but that's another story which I know nothing about).

As of today, I've forgotten most of what I learned about the Mayan Calendar (it was quite involved),  and my fascination with things "Galactic" is satiated by watching back to back episodes of  STAR TREK  (I'm a late-bloomer Trekky - "Make it so, Number One") and STAR TREK movies, other sci-fi series like STARGATE, FARSCAPE; the movie CONTACT (I've watched at least 10 times); and science  shows like  reruns of Carl Sagan's COSMOS, Steven Hawkings' series on the Universe; and, also I confess,  UFO documentaries.  (If they're on Netflix I've seen them all!)

To me, the "End of Time" marked by the Mayan Calendar on 12/21/2012 (which got misrepresented as  the "end of the world") can be seen as the official start of a new era of human evolution.  A provocative documentary series called, ZEITGEIST (also on  Netflix) offers a vision of where we're headed (and what it is we're "coming out of"), the vision being a world of peace, equality, advanced technology that makes life wonderful (like a high speed vacuum line that can take you across the Atlantic in minutes), warp speed air and space travel, clean, healthy environment, a world where people are happy and empowered living their highest potential, with wealth and well-being without money, and no religion, too!

What? No money?  Imagine!

Yea, I know, but like the song says, "You can say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." (John Lennon)

I found the  poem/song  lyrics  in the next column while cleaning old files.  Written during my Mayan Calendar days, it  gives a little history lesson of THE STORY OF TIME,  per Jose Arguelles.  

Though my personal cosmology has grown since the time I wrote it, the lyrics really capture a philosophic essence of  the  Mayan Calendar. 

So,  in the spirit of songwriting,  this poem is dedicated to  Visionaries, Galactic Warriors and Peace-Keepers everywhere. 

"Blessed are the peace makers for they will  see God."  Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

THE STORY OF TIME
by Debra Lee
Based on the Mayan Calendar teachings of Jose Argueles


Time was never on our side

because it's running out, you see
We've been hypnotized and mechanized
Locked in apocalyptic history

The people never question
They buy into the lie
that time is money, security, a pension
by punching a clock and counting time

For  what was once salvation
has fallen out of grace

a world of mechanized slave nations
TO AN ARTIFICIAL 12-60 TIME OUT OF PLACE

The clock began in Babylon
into Rome, then Pope Gregory
said an hour was 60-minutes
for the rest of eternity

And the money barons liked it
And all the kings agreed
the new clock ensured their righteousness
and solidified their greed

And what was once salvation
has fallen out of grace
a world of mechanized slave nations
TO AN ARTIFICIAL 12-60 TIME OUT OF PLACE

But their clock didn't follow reason
of the biological flow
of the 13 lunar seasons
and the cycle of galactic tones

Instead it bred nationalism
and a war economy
where democracy's an illusion
for what's been called equality

But there were Galactic time keepers
known as the Mayan Race
who were branded as heathens
by the soldiers and the priests

The people of learning were put to death
and the Mayan libraries burned
but the temple stones still hold the glyphs
so that to Galactic time we can return

And the stones will not be silenced
what greed did not erase
and the Earth will rise triumphant
out of artificial 12-60 time out of place
 

 

Songs from Millennial Thing are on this website!

 

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