Monday, May 7, 2012

Final Reflection

    Final Reflection
One of the blogs that I wrote during the semester was “Keeping Music Students Motivated”.  It was intended to describe the different types of methods being used today to help the young music student.  What I was trying to illustrate was the effectiveness of the three methods mentioned by comparing and contrasting, yet in a persuasive essay format.
    My intended audience for this blog was to the students and teachers who are developing strategies to practice musical instruments, but also for those people who do not play, to explain to them what the learning process constitutes.  The thesis statement to the blog was, “There are numerous ways to maintain the music student’s motivation, however music teachers must know how to analyze each of their students learning capacities and decide which method suits the student’s learning style.”  If this thesis were to be analyzed, the context would be music, the subject would be the different music methods that exist, and the claim would be that music teachers need to analyze their students learning abilities and decide which teaching method is best for the individual.  The thesis is well defined throughout the paper and is shown clearly in the blog.  I demonstrate my ability to analyze best in the essay when it comes to comparing and contrasting articles and interpreting them.  I believe I work quite well with others work, however there is still a lot of room for improvement.
    My research paper, “The Similarities Between Marching Band and Football”, is about how marching band should be treated as a sport and how much football and the band have in common.  My audience was directed towards those people that do not believe it is a sport and for those who have no marching band experience.  I wanted to make clear how society defines marching band and a sport such as football.  
    The thesis statement was, “In comparison to football, high school marching bands should be treated as a sport due to the total hours of rehearsal, football game performances, competitions, physical activity, and injuries experienced throughout the season.”  It was well defined throughout the paper in that the context was marching band and football, the subject was that it is a sport, and the claim I was trying to make was that it should be treated as such due to rehearsals, performances, etc.  I felt that my ability to analyze in this paper was best in the first couple pages.  My ability to work with others pieces or articles could have been better.
    I think my writing has greatly improved throughout the semester.  I know that at the beginning, I knew how to write an academic essay, but not in the way college professors expect them to be written.  I believe that what I have written in this class reflects my abilities and the topics that I am interested in. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Similarities Between Football and Marching Band (Research Paper)

The Similarities Between Football and Marching Band:
Marching Band Should be Treated as a Sport
Sandra Gonzalez
Northern Illinois University

The Similarities Between Football and Marching Band
    When watching a high school football game, the spectators look forward to the home team winning and nothing else matters.  However, there is also other entertainment keeping the crowd alive: the cheerleaders and the marching band.  People do not realize how much time and effort the marching band puts into a half time performance, let alone that the band participates in marching competitions.  In comparison to football, high school marching bands should be treated as a sport due to the total hours of rehearsal, football game performances, competitions, physical activity, and injuries experienced throughout the season.
    How the term “marching band” came into existence has a very simple explanation.  According to Kurt Weimer (2005), “The origins of marching band could technically date back to when the first musicians got up and moved around...As better technology in instrument manufacturing quality and quantity in the early 19th century merged with the orderly precision of military tactics established in the earliest of the colonial British empire era, the basis was set for practices still in use today.”  Marching bands today reflect many of the military tactics taught in places such as the navy or the army to discipline and motivate students.  It is these very ideas that has created the competitive high school band.
    To expand on the band’s militaristic origins, it does have a rank and file system with an individual being in command and going down the line (Weimer, 2005, pg. 1).  To illustrate the comparisons, the general would be the equivalent of the band director; the colonels would be the aides to the band director; the major in the military would be the drum major (the person that conducts the marching band); and the squad leaders would be the section leaders of the each instrument group.  Just as in a military, students are taught to obey commands and stand in block formation.  However, the idea that is associated with performing came in the early 1900s.
The idea of performing on fields grew when sheet music became widely available in “1915 and more and more students in the public school band programs created larger marching bands that would perform in parades, which also led to football becoming a widespread sport,” as mentioned in Weimer’s article (2005).  Although much of the marching band’s beginnings is credited to the military, people still fail to see the physical qualities.  However, the one thing that can be said from this is that football viewers have the band to thank for its popularity today.
Football was once literally “football”, meaning that one only used feet to kick around a ball.  Like rugby and soccer, it is believed to have originated from the ancient Greek game harapaston, where points were given to the player who crossed the goal line by kicking the ball even though there were no definite lengths of a field according to the Hornet Football (2011).  The game is said to have been much more brutal and violent than the sport is today.  Rules and regulations were not included until the game developed many years later.
It was not until about the late 1800s that American football began to take its form.  According to NFL History (2012), “In 1869, Rutgers and Princeton played a college soccer football game, the first ever, on November 6th.  The game used modified London rules and regulations.  In 1876 at the Massasolt convention, the first rules for American football were written.  Walter Camp, who would become known as the father of American football, became involved in the game.”  It is from this history that one sees how American football came to be a widely popular sport.  
Any person can say that a sport is generally anything that constitutes competitive physical activity.  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2012), “a sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.”  While there are many sports, in this paper the focus will be primarily on high school football.  With football, there are a certain number of players and they practice to compete against other football teams.  Likewise, they attain injuries due to the physical aspects of the game.  So if the elements of a sport are simply individual or team physical competition, the same can be applied to a competitive high school marching band.
    Many will argue that marching band is not a sport while others will in fact say that because of the marching and the variety of instruments one has to work with, it does require physical exertion and team effort.  “A marching band is an ensemble of musicians that march in time to the music for entertainment at events and in parades, often with brass, wind, and percussion instruments, drum majors and/or majorettes,and color guard,” according to (2012).  Weather permitting, high school marching bands spend a lot of the time practicing outdoors.  From experience, some will practice up to three hours a day without breaks thus resulting in the injuries that will be discussed later on.  Students work together as a team not only to get crowds hyped at football games, but also to outperform other marching bands in competitions.  
    There are many comparisons between football and marching band that are overlooked.  In fact, according to Andrew Martin (2007), “They are both required to apply themselves over a sustained and disciplined period of time in order to develop high-level skills; they both need to “switch on” in key performance settings; they are both subjected to the rigors and challenges of competition; they both need to bounce back from the inevitable setbacks they encounter along the way; they both wrestle self-doubt and performance slumps; and, they both need a set of psychological and behavioral skills to cope with the ordinary course of pressure in the respective pursuits and settings” (p. 135-136).  Marching band shares a lot of aspects with football such as competing and physical exertion, yet many fail to see how it is a sport.  The similarities will be discussed throughout this paper.  
    High school football requires regular workout days leading up to game day.  Typically player will practice four days a week, monday through thursday before game day (which is friday), after school for about two to three hours according to Brian Sather (2010).  The students practice daily to strengthen their bodies and to be prepared for injuries that may follow. During the practice, they break it up into a routine that tests their speed and endurance.
It takes an excessive amount of time to put together a high school marching band show.  Some practice non-stop and even use weekends to rehearse.  Directors will have students rehearse between four to five days a week from an hour to two hours per day (Aho, 2005, p. 95).  Rehearsal will usually consist of running through drill sets, sectional practice, and music interpretation.  Individual practice is the responsibility of the student and must be taken care of off the field.  
    Band students spend a lot of time not only rehearsing, but performing at football games and partaking in marching competitions.  “Members will spend as much as 116 hours and are required to perform at football games,” according to Wozniak (2005, p. 1).  The amount of effort used to march and play takes a physical toll on the body.  Both football and marching band require a great deal of exertion.
    When working to strengthen a football player, the same routines can not be implemented everyday.  Variations of exercises are incorporated to challenge the body physically.  According to Sather (2010), “stretching, warming up, sectional team plays, sprints, punting, working on defensive and offensive teams” are all methods of getting players going.  It is a form of aerobic activity in which the heart rate rises as the individual exerts effort on the body.  This concept it also applied to band.
Marching and playing takes a lot out of the high school band students’ body.  According to Wozniak (2008), “Marching demands high levels of oxygen to allow the body to exert the needed effort.  Members must also use air to play the instruments.  Consequently, marching and playing simultaneously is a highly aerobic activity” (p. 9).  The tempo, or the speed of the music, determines how fast one marches from point A to point B on a field, which gets the blood circulating thus resulting in the heart working harder.  Added to the effort is having to carry an instrument as well.
    Instruments vary in size and require effort when in use.  A small instrument, such as a trumpet, must be held at a ninety degree angle for long periods of time whereas students that carry a larger instrument (baritone, tuba, percussion) must expel more oxygen due to the weight and movement together according to Wozniak (2008).  It is a lot of physical activity for a band student and football student which can lead to possible injuries.
    Football is a contact sport.  Injuries can range from a simple sprain to broken bones or concussions.  According to Sean Turbeville (2003), games a practice injuries include sprains, knee injuries, fractures, concussions, dehydration, strains, and contusions (pg. 976).  Many students will already have pre-existing injuries and continue to play.  Due to outdoor practices, while it is not as much of a problem, dehydration is still a risk with students who do not properly hydrate.  Similar to football, band students can experience the same repercussions.
    Like football, marching band is an outdoor sport.  The team rehearses regularly and for hours on end sometimes under hot temperatures.  According to Claudia Vepraskas (2002), “Marching band students are athletes who practice outdoors under conditions that expose them to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and sunstroke.  They suffer these heat-related injuries because breaking down formation frequently is impractical.”  Just as she said, high school directors do not allow for continual breaks during practice.  It does take away from precious time yet it makes the body prone to illnesses caused by lack of hydration.  It also allows for the other bodily injuries to incur.
    High school band students suffer from injuries partially because it is not treated as a sport which means directors and aides do not have sufficient knowledge of health guidelines.  Dehydration attributes to bodily injuries due to excessive marching and expelling air through instruments.  Musicians report leg and arm pain, thoratic pain, numbness, loss of sensation in the hands or fingers, fatigue, temporary hearing loss, dizziness, and chest pain to name some injuries mentioned by Susan Harman (1992).  Of course, students carrying larger instruments will experience more frequent back pain and strains versus a student who carries a smaller instrument.  However, smaller instruments that are held at a certain angle require just as much muscle due to the length of time being held in that position.  “Muscles, tendons, and joints can be injured during physical activities, particularly when a regimen of repetitive, deliberate practice and performance is required,” according to Jacob Levy (2009, p. 135).  Regardless of the injuries taken during the season, these do not stop football and marching band students from performing.
    Friday night football games are what bring the high school together.  It is a chance to show off how much spirit and pride the school has.  Game day consists of the team meeting an hour or two before the game to stretch and warm up.  The players are then introduced before the game and they compete against the visiting football team in the hopes of winning to make it to the playoffs and even winning a championship game in the division the school is a part of.  
    Half-time shows are what high school marching bands are recognized for.  They are essentially the entertainment for the crowd, aside from the game itself.  According to Wozniak (2008), game day adds on five hours to the seven hour a week rehearsal schedule (p. 2).  This may include practicing before the game, the actual game, half-time performance, and more practice (in the case that errors are made on field that must be fixed).  Whatever the case, half-time performances are a tradition that is to be continued.  They provide more practice for band competitions during the season.
    Depending on the competitiveness of the marching band, a season will typically allow for three to four competitions.  This is also dependent on how long the high school’s football team lasts against other teams and the season.  Other than that, the competitions vary from place to place.  Schools compete against other bands and are separated by class based off the size of the band to give everyone a fair chance.
    One of the most popular and well known marching band competitions is called Bands of America.  According to Musica For All (2010), “Bands of America is a program of Music for All. More than 1 million people are alumni of Bands of America marching band events, the first of which were held in 1976. Bands of America was created in 1976 as "Marching Bands of America" (MBA), renamed Bands of America (BOA) in 1984 and merged with the Music for All Foundation in 2006 to create Music for All. MFA’s marching band events continue to carry the name of "Bands of America."  Marching bands from all over the nation are given a chance to compete against some of the most experienced, talented musicians.  The event is held in November every year at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.  
The event encourages band directors to show off what the marching band can do.  “Bands of America marching band championships are about excellence and opportunity. Participation offers students the chance to be placed on the nation’s highest pedestals, alongside their peers.  We provide the finest venues, quality evaluation and opportunities to observe other bands, all in a positive, affirming and celebratory atmosphere.  For the band director, Bands of America Championships are an opportunity to demonstrate excellence, to receive invaluable input and feedback and to evaluate the achievement of your students and the progress of your program on a national standard and level,” stated by Music For All (2010).  It gives high school marching bands an opportunity to perform like they never have before in the hopes that all their hard work has paid off.  
    The most highly competitive and known marching band competitions is Drum Corp International.  According to DCI (2012), “From modest beginnings more than three decades ago, Drum Corps International (DCI) has developed into a powerful, nonprofit, global youth activity with far-reaching artistic, educational and organizational influence. Through the annual DCI Tour and more than 35 World Championships in 17 North American cities, Drum Corps International provides entertainment to millions through live performances and nationally-televised events. Drum Corps International is Marching Music’s Major League.”  It sends a message to other marching band of the possibilities that can come from music.
    Drum Corp International travels all around the nation from July to early August, present the best of the best to fans of all ages.  Stated by DCI (2012), “Each year, more than 8,000 students audition for the fewer than 3,500 positions available in top-tier DCI member corps.  More than 5,000 members directly participate annually. Sixty six percent are male, average age is 19.4, 72 percent are full-time college students, 59.6 percent of the current college students are pursuing music education degrees, while 65 percent of those that indicated they are high school students intend to major in music education.”  The competition looks for the best marching bands around the nation to put on the best show possible for spectators that come from all around.
    The comparisons between the high school marching band and the football team are far too great to be overlooked.  Just as a football player needs to train to be a better athlete, a marching band student needs to train to be a better “athletic musician”.  One does not simply become a musical prodigy or the greatest football player ever over night.  Both these sports require a lot of physical exertion, competition, motivation, and determination.  High school marching should a sport because it functions just the same as any other competitive sport.


About. (2012). Drum Corp International [Drum Corp International]. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from
Aho, E. W. (2005). A DESCRIPTIVE ANALYSIS OF THE FOURTEEN  MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE ATHLETIC BAND PROGRAMS (Doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University). Retrieved from
Bands of America. (2010). Music For All [Bands of America]. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from Music for All, Inc website: [Online dictionary]. (2012). Retrieved April 29, 2012, from, LLC website:
Harman, S. E. (1993, December). Medical Problems of Marching Musicians. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 132-135. Retrieved from
History of Football. (n.d.). Hornet Football [History of American Football]. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from
Levy, J. J., Lounsbury, J. W., & Kent, K. N. (2009, September). Big Five Personality Traits ad Marching Music Injuries. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 135-140. Retrieved from
Martin, A. J. (2007). Motivation and Engagement in Music and Sport. Journal of Personality , 136-170. Retrieved from
Merriam-Webster Dictionary [Online Dictionary]. (2012). Retrieved April 20, 2012, from
NFL History Chronology. (2012). Nation Football League [NFL History]. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from NFL Enterprises LLC website:
Sather, B. (2012). Practice Schedule. In High School Football Season [Training]. Retrieved April 19, 2012, from
Turbeville, S. D. (2003). Risk Factors For Injury In High School Football Players. The American Journal of Sports Medicine , 31(6), 974-980. Retrieved from
Vepraskas, C. (2002, August). Beat the Heat: Managing Heat and Hydration In Marching Band. The Journal of School Nursing, 18(4), 237-243. Retrieved from
Weimer, K. (2005). A Parent’s Guide to Competitive Marching Band. Guide. Retrieved from

Monday, March 5, 2012

Keeping Music Students Motivated Blog #5

There are a variety of methods being used today concerning the instruction of young music students.  Authors Courtney Crappell, from the University of Texas San Antonio, with “Preparing Students for Vibrant Sonatina Performances Using Rote Exercises”, and Pamela D. Pike, from Louisiana State University, with “Maintaining Student Motivation On The Musical Journey Toward Mastery”, are both assistant professors of piano pedagogy who emphasize how to keep a student from encountering the frustrations of learning complex repertoire.  While Pike demonstrates how to keep a music student motivated through out the learning process, Crappell shows music instructors the steps needed to break down a difficult piece of music during the lesson. The author Gary E. McPherson with “Commitment and Practice: Key Ingredients for Achievement During the Early Stages of Learning a Musical Instrument”, was directing one’s attention to the initial stages of motivation in music students based off of research conducted on students through out there learning experiences.  Each author has a different take on how a student should be motivated through out the musical experience.  There are numerous ways to keep maintain the music student’s motivation, however music teachers must know how to analyze each of their students learning capacities and decide which method suits the student’s learning style.
In Crappell’s article, one reads about how the Rote Exercises are an excellent technique to be used to “achieve one of our primary teaching goals, fostering a lasting love of music and music making” (Crappell 20).  He indicates this to the reader by providing a sample piece of music, a sonatina, and breaks it down in a way that both the student and teacher can comprehend.  According to Crappell, if a student becomes comfortable with one step of the exercises, or a simplified version of the piece, the music teacher should create other ones, in accordance to the Rote Exercises, with the difficulty going up gradually as the student progresses.  The purpose of these exercises is to facilitate a “call and response fashion- the teacher demonstrates, then the student plays” (Crappell 19).  The author only illustrates one specific technique and fails to recognize the existence of any other ones, in spite of this Pike’s article provides both specific and generalized methods every music instructor should be familiar with.
While it is helpful to have a specified exercise all layed out, instructors should also account for the types of students they are teaching and how even basic methods can maintain a student’s motivation.  Pike says, “asking potential students a couple of quick questions during the lesson-readiness interview can help shed light on their expectancy-value with regard to music study”, something Crappell failed to mention in his article.  She explains that by asking questions, for example why they want to take lessons or if they re involved in any other after school activities, it can determine how motivated they are.  According to her article, figuring out the process of teaching today’s music students is different from how it was 20 years ago.  “When designing curricula and lessons, instructors need to be aware the Millenials and ‘Net generation students have different expectations for learning then baby boomers” (Pike 21).  The article she wrote only provides methods to teach students, but it also shows how to assess a students expectations in regards to formulating a music plan for the individual student.  Although she gives a better argument than Crappell’s, Pike does not address how music students feel at the beginning of the learning process can effect the overall instruction and outcome of them continuing to play or not as is shown in McPherson’s article.
The initial stages of learning to play a musical instrument are just as important as the instruction itself.  McPherson’s article involves a study conducted on music students from seven to nine years old, following them for nine months through out their journey.  “Research in academic subjects shows that young children’s beliefs about their own personal competence and valuing of an activity predict how much effort they will exert on the task, their subsequent performance and their feeling of self worth, even after previous performance is controlled” (McPherson 122).  With his research, McPherson evaluated each of the children’s interests through out the nine months of instruction by asking them in the beginning middle and end of the process how they felt towards learning the instrument.  He determined that the children who knew they would continue in their instruments for a long time, even after the nine months were up, showed that they practiced more on average than those children who showed little interest in musical instruction.  While techniques such as the Rote Exercises shown by Crappell and general motivation skills discussed in Pike’s article all help maintain motivation, a young child’s thoughts also determine how long they will continue to play the musical interest.
Music teachers need to realize that there is more than one way to teach a student and not every student will have the same teaching style.  While McPherson had data to support his argument that children determine how motivated they will be through out music instruction, Pike does touch on this subject a little bit by explaining what questions should be asked before formulating a music lesson in accordance to the individual student.  Crappell’s technique only specifies how to teach a student using a specific exercise.  Pike demonstrates a great deal of methods to be used from the beginning of instruction and through the musical journey. 

Works Cited
Crappell, Courtney. “Preparing Students For Vibrant Classical Sonatina Performances Using Rote Exercises.” American Music Teacher Oct.-Nov. 2011: 16-20. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <​ehost/​search/​advanced?sid=a26dacf3-74c2-466b-af7e-2208fe8e4bd1%40sessionmgr104&vid=1&hid=125>.
McPherson, Gary E. Commitment and Practice: Key Ingredients for Achievement During the Early Stages of Learning a Musical Instrument. University of Illinois Press, 2001. Web. 2 Mar. 2012. <>.
Pike, Pamela D. “Maintaining Student Motivation On The Musical Journey Toward Mastery.” American Music Teacher Aug.-Sept. 2011: 20-24. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <​ehost/​search/​advanced?sid=a26dacf3-74c2-466b-af7e-2208fe8e4bd1%40sessionmgr104&vid=1&hid=125>.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sonatina Rote Exercises For Music Students Blog #4

One simply can not say that studied for a test.  Studying involves looking over notes, rereading chapters, and any other method, such as flash cards, one may use to earn the highest grade possible on an exam.  The same can be said about practicing a piece of music or repertoire.  In the article, “Preparing Students For Vibrant Classical Sonatina Performances Using Rote Exercises”, Courtney Crappell demonstrates how rote exercises can be used to break down even the most complex pieces for a musical student during instruction by remembering “if we take the core elements of a passage and reduce the overall difficulty, our students will experience the essence of the music and gradually build a feeling of ease” (Crappell 17).  There are many techniques that may be incorporated into a student’s music lesson; however, as the difficulty of the musical work heightens, so does the ability to retain the piece of music.
Learning a difficult piece can be frustrating for a student no matter what level they are at.  In the beginning steps during a lesson, a music instructor may have the student listen to the selection a couple times.  According to Crappell, since we tend to learn by imitating sounds, the same should be applied to when we are learning music.  “We actively engage in sound based coaching every time we demonstrate passages for our students and say things like ‘try it this way” (Crappell 17).  Teachers must have an understanding that by having a student analyze a piece of music by listening and following notation, it allows for the student to learn it more quickly.  Once he or she has an idea of what the music should sound like, the instructor should commence the breaking down of the piece itself.
The rote exercises break down a musical piece, such as a sonatina, into elements including specific phrases, rhythm, and simple notation or measures.  Crappell mentions that by making each exercise simple, they will be quicker and take up less time during a music lesson.  For example, the teacher would take a complicated part of the selection (a couple measures to simulate the musical phrases the student will encounter while learning the music on their own) and have them focus on that one part until they can move on to something more difficult.  “This entire process consumes about three minutes of preventative teaching time in the initial lesson and will save 10 times that amount in subsequent lessons” (Crappell 18).  It may seem fitting that a teacher break all this down for their student while they are learning a piece; however, Crappell fails to mention if the students have the skills to comprehend this or if the teacher actually takes the time to do this.
Some students may not encounter long difficult music selections.  Crappell states, “Due to their length, teachers tend to spend less time introducing and exploring sonatinas in the lesson before the student has learned the notes at home” (Crappell 16).  With that being said, it is as though he is assuming with the exercises he mentions that every student can work with them.  Music teachers have their own preferences and they decide how to help a student with a complex work based off of what their initial observations on the student’s learning are.  While the rote system may work for some students, it is not “one size fits all”.
Taking on a complex piece is a challenge for any music student.  Simply going through the whole repertoire on their own is not enough and the teachers have to incorporate good techniques to learn the music.  Crappell shows in his article that by having the student analyze the composition, in other words break it down to make the piece easier, will allow the student to perform better.  Although there is the question of whether or not he contemplated the student’s learning capacity or the exercise preferences of the music instructor, it would be a good method to include in the music lesson.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Enhancing Musical Motivation Blog 3

As with any activity students participate in, the issue of maintaining motivation may arise at any given point during the learning process.  The article, “Maintaining Student Motivation on the Musical Journey Towards Mastery” by Pamela D. Pike, suggests techniques music instructors should consider to help students keep high motivation while gaining the musical skills necessary to play the instrument chosen.  Such techniques involve allowing the student to decide which musical piece he or she may like to work with, “creating a technical exercise for a tricky spot, or creating an accompaniment for the melody being practiced” (Pike 22).  Pike believes that by understanding each students’ musical interest, only then can the instructor focus on their potential musical capacities.  Today, students tend to lose the motivation necessary to learn a musical instrument and it is important to realize how simple things, like changing up the lesson plan as mentioned by Pike, can really make a difference in their musical endeavors.
No one said learning a musical instrument would be easy.  It is all about practicing, that is of course if the student is is motivated enough and that motivation is reliant on how the music instructor takes the time to fully understand the student’s interest.  They have to remind the student that if they believe in themselves and put his or her time into the instrument, they will have success.  According to Pike, “if students believe the effort they have to expend to accomplish the objective is not worth their time and energy, they will likely not be motivated to complete the task.  Since motivated students believe that a reasonable amount of effort needs to be expended to learn a piece of music, effective repertoire selection and the assignment process for students is especially important.”  Although, belief can also decline over time, other techniques must be instituted into the music lesson.
Music teachers need to remember that each student works differently and learn at their own pace.  One can argue that if the teacher challenges that student profusely, they will succeed; however, if the instructor assigns a piece of music that is beyond the student’s capabilities, discouragement will arise.  Techniques that are beneficial include providing ample time to learn a piece, help them decide where to begin based on their level of playing yet still allow room for a challenge.  “Students motivation can be improved and maintained through out the journey of music of study if we remember students practice differently when they are working on pieces of music that they like, break down complex material, provide time for reinforcement of new concepts, encourage students to become comfortable with struggle, and have students try various practice strategies” (Pike 23).  These techniques will not only build belief and confidence, but also the motivation needed to continue learning a musical instrument.
Today, a student’s motivation decreases over time as they learn to play a musical instrument.  A music teacher can influence a student’s motivation by understanding how to incorporate the techniques mentioned.  Pike’s techniques enhance the musical student’s experience should be considered by all music instructors.  It would certainly make a great difference in their ability to learn challenging music.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Early Stages of Playing a Musical Instrument

Children aspire to be whatever they want to be in life and do whatever seems fitting.  They see the world as a place where anything is possible and it is that very thought that lets them gain knowledge.  Motivation is what sparks a child’s interest to learn.  Playing a musical instrument is more than just interest, it takes commitment and most importantly practice.  The study “Commitment and Practice: Key Ingredients for Achievement During the Early Stages of Learning a Musical Instrument” by Gary E. McPherson, illustrates how a child’s value of an activity before they commence learning impacts his or her motivation.
McPerson’s purpose of they study he conducted was to see what children’s opinions were of learning a musical instrument before any instruction and if they would continue to play through out the years.  He states that forty eight percent of six year olds in Britain show an interest; however, that percentage shrinks to half by age seven.  “These findings are consistent with results in countries such as the United States” (McPherson 123).  His explanation for this is that children who display low interest are more likely to quit after a short period of time.  To further support this, he conducted a study in Sydney, Australia in eight different schools.
The children were asked various questions before they began their instruction.  Their answers about how long they intended on playing ranged anywhere from through high school or maybe they will quit when they are teenagers.   A survey was given in addition to the interviews to pin point their interest.  Some said “all my life while others circled “just this year”. From that point through out the nine months they would learn to play a musical instrument, the children were subjected to interviews to measure their progress and interest.
After the nine months were up, the children were interviewed and tested on their performance.  They were tested using “the Watkins-Farum Performance Scale, a standardized sight reading test for measuring performance and progress” (McPherson 124).  Each child’s playing was recorded and later assessed to determine how practicing coincided with how long they thought they would continue play a musical instrument.
Commitment to play the instrument and average weekly playing was how McPherson analyzed which child scored lower and which ones scored higher.  The result of the study was that the highest scoring children were the ones who practiced extensively and would continue to play as they grew older.  As for the lowest scoring children, he wondered what other reason they could have had for playing.  A series of questions resulted that some of the children joined the band because their friends were in it too.
Most of the children who scored in the middle viewed playing an instrument as if it were any other sport or hobby, something they could enjoy but not important.  “The children could differentiate between their interest in learning a musical instrument, the importance of being good at music, whether they believed their learning would be useful to their short and long term goals, and also the cost of participation in terms of the effort to continue improving,” according to McPherson.  For the most part, children foresaw how long they would continue to improve on their musical knowledge.
Practice and motivation are key in learning to play an instrument.  While some children may not aspire to be prodigies, for some it is a form of entertainment.  The early interest in a instrument is not the only thing that makes a child want to learn.  It is their reason behind it, whether it be wanting to be with friends or making a career out of it, that motivates a child to learn to play.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Biography Blog

Music is a part of everyday life.  Whether it be classical rock or hip hop, it is safe to say that music is one of the many things that brings a group of people together.  It defines an individual by the genre of music he or she listens to.  There are many different types of music that connect people across the world.  Even knowing how to collaborate music or play the instruments that produce it integrates people who have a passion for it.
I’ve been playing an instrument since fourth grade.  That gives me about nine years of experience and counting.  My main instrument is the viola, which I have been playing since elementary school.  I started playing alto saxophone my junior year of high school and have been singing soprano in my school’s choir since eighth grade.  Music has always been a part of my life in particular socially.
Playing an instrument takes a lot of time and practice.  One can not just expect to be a on over night prodigy.  If it was let’s just say everyone would want to take the profession of musician.  Starting at a young age really sets the stage for a skilled player.  For some, they may happen to have  natural talent.  Yet for others, the so called “technical” musician, a lot of practice is required.  
When I was younger, I would practice up to three hours a night non-stop.  As crazy as that sounds, even though my orchestra teacher told me time and time again how much natural talent I had.  Music fueled my interest.  It was something that I could fuse all my emotions into without having to worry about what people thought of me.  It still is and I believe it is a form of expression that potentially can be strong when you put enough devotion into it.  
Learning how to play an instrument is not enough to make yourself an expert.  There is a lot of reading of composition involved.  Transposing occurs when you have to read from one clef to another.  Depending on the instrument you play, most instrument read treble clef, while the viola is the only known instrument to play in alto clef.  So cite reading may be difficult for those who only read in that clef.
My main instrument is viola.  It’s the only instrument that plays in alto clef.  When I got to high school, it was the first time I had any interaction with the other clefs in my pieces of music.  I had to teach myself treble clef in order to keep up with the difficulty of the pieces being played.  However I was determined to learn it no matter what.  After three months of going over the transposition from alto clef to treble clef, I no longer had to refer back to my music book for help.  
Of all the things I could blog about, music is something I am passionate about.  My personal experiences certainly make me qualified to talk about the topic.  I feel that music is a topic everyone can relate to and have something to say about the subject.