SHAR is excited to announce a new partnership with Associated Chamber Music Players, encouraging everyone to experience the joys of playing chamber music while enjoying special benefits from SHAR. The following blog describes one violinist’s experience with chamber music, his journey away from his violin, and back again.
Violinist Teagan Faran’s unique vision combines great music, virtuosic performance, artistic collaboration and community involvement. Red Shoe Company is the product of this vision. SHAR is proud to support this incredible ensemble of talented and dedicated musicians, in concert on Sunday, November 19. Don’t miss it! Read more about Teagan Faran’s Mission of Happiness, in her own words...
It’s time for a new school year, an opportunity for a fresh start in your studio. A new crop of students is arriving, and many of your students are returning. And each student is different, with different strengths and weaknesses, different commitment levels, and different motivations. You’ve got lots of students to teach, and they need to cover a lot of ground quickly. Fortunately, you have your method books, your supplements, and especially your own experience and good sense, and that has always served you well. For most of your students.
Sometimes a conversation goes too far and crosses the line from spirited discussion to something potentially hurtful and damaging. In my role as CEO of SHAR, I take great pains to focus on appropriate customer and business issues and leave such conversations to others. SHAR has always sought to bring useful and innovative products and services to the attention of our customers. Censorship plays no part in our operation, since we strongly feel that our own music community (“the market”) is best equipped to make its own decisions.
In this guest blog, SHAR customer Paul Dittus asks the question "Why should anyone study music and why is it important?" His answer is a suprising one: drawing on arguments from classical philosophy, Paul argues that at its best music can connect us to beauty and truth. While not ignoring the dire employment opportunities for musicians, Paul reminds us that music is more than employment: it is enduring beauty. Note: This guest article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of SHAR Music.
Why should anyone care to study music? For a large income and a good job, right? In today’s economy you would probably be better off pursuing a degree to become a doctor or lawyer. If money is really what you prize, maybe you should consider pursuing something other than music. I would say getting a degree in music should help you get a job, but I do not believe it should be your ultimate goal and purpose for pursuing a music degree. What about fame? There are not many guarantees in this world, and fame is one that is not easily come by. Unless you are going to be the next “fiddler on the roof” and become a hit, you should probably not count your chickens before they hatch. This is not to say you shouldn’t dream big and set your goals high, it is more to make sure you are pursuing music for a solid reasons. If not for money or fame, why study music and why is it important?
Since our blog's been on a hiatus over the winter, it's been some time since we've had a chance to post one of Nerissa Nields's blogs. How we've missed her! And this blog is especially welcome since it addreses a subject near and dear to many of us at SHAR: music education. Nerissa makes the case that music education not only soothes us as infants but it helps bring together classrooms and families.
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of holding a baby just 10 days old. It was mid afternoon, and I was guessing her poor mama hadn’t really slept since the birth. Elle and I took turns cuddling the baby, while my friend crept upstairs for a much needed nap. After a few minutes, the baby began fussing. I picked her up, walked around the room, sang our version of “Hush Little Baby.” Still gritchy. I switched to “All the Pretty Horsies” and did a gentle canter-y gait. More fussing. Then I started in on Ledbelly’s “Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie.” The baby pulled her head off my shoulder (strong baby!) and stared at me as if in disbelief. She stopped crying and listened as I sang. When her mother came downstairs fifteen minutes later, I told her what had happened.
“No wonder,” said her mother. “We played that song and sang that song many times while shewas in the womb, and since birth."
I’d certainly heard of this happening–baby recognizing pre-womb music post-womb–and in fact, we wrote about this phenomenon in our book All Together Singing in the Kitchen: Creative Ways to Make and Listen to Music as a Family. But I’d never witnessed it so directly. (Well, maybe I did. Maybe it happened with my own kids, but I was so sleep deprived then, I have no recollection.)
Today in Jay’s Suzuki class the teacher had the four-year-old pre-twinklers form a circle. She played “pass the Twinkle,” playing the first line of “Mississippi Stop Stop” to the child on her left, who in turn, wordlessly passed it on to the child on his left, and so on, around the circle. “Isn’t it amazing,” she said. “How you all knew what to do, and could do it without even saying any words. Music is a language we can all understand.”
Plans for SOS-SOA are looking up. Emails are circulating. I am making phone calls, juggling schedules, refining our focus. Meanwhile, doing a lot of thinking about the role of music in our children’s lives. Why fight to keep music in the schools?
- It’s a language we all share.
- It cuts through reason and goes right to the heart.
- When I look back on my own school memories, so many of them have to do with music class, performing, practicing an instrument. Maybe that’s just because I am a musician, but I can’t imagine growing up without all the music I had.
- It unites a group of disparate kids
- It’s the only academic discipline that is equally left-brained and right-brained
What about you? What do you remember about music education growing up?
For more about music education, visit the National Association for Music Education.
Hello to the SHAR faithful out there! Today marks the release of our first issue of Pizzicato, an e-zine (electronic magainze) devoted to all things strings. Click on the cover below to read the issue. Feel free to share the magazine with your friends, students, and teachers!
In May of this year, we shared an article with our email subscribers titled "The Value of Music Degree." The article argued that a music degree, while it may not lead directly to a job, is still worth earning because of how much it can enrich one's life. The response was overwhelming: many musicians disagreed with the article and felt that their degree sent them out into a tough economy with few practical skills; others could not imagine their lives without their music degree, or without music at the center of their lives, no matter how hard it is to make a living as a musician. Sarah Decker is the third reader who has responded with an engaging and generous guest blog. Sarah believes that the "dollars and cents" of her life as a musician don't matter; what matters is that by playing music – doing what she loves – she's staying true to herself and her talents.
I’ve been a musician my whole life. There was really no option otherwise; music was always such an integral part of growing up that it’d be a miracle if I didn’t end up being a musician. My mom taught piano lessons until I was too big to stay out of trouble and directed church choirs my whole life. She made sure that I had access to wonderful music, whether it was Peter and the Wolf narrated by the great Leonard Bernstein (of course, I had no idea who he was until I was much older), The Nutcracker, The Beatles, or The Fiddler on the Roof.
Growing up, I was always involved in band, choir, dance, theater, and the Black Hills Symphony. When it came time to go to college, I debated my major briefly but it seemed only natural that I major in music. There was nothing else that I had such a passion for. In time I learned that I didn’t have the passion to teach, but to perform and compose music, so I changed from majoring in Music Education to double majors in French Horn Performance and Music Composition & Theory. Before long, I realized that I’ve always had a love affair with movie scores and decided that I should compose them, so I found a new Master’s program in just that. I’m extremely proud of my accomplishments there and I’m slowly working on getting a small composition career going on my own while I perform with the Black Hills Symphony and Powder River Symphony.
Economically, I sort of shot myself in the foot there. Just as I was finishing my masters degree the economy tanked. The end of that degree included a 5-week internship that was supposed to turn into a job, but most of us had no such luck, and I couldn’t find any other jobs either because I was “overqualified but under-experienced” for anything I could realistically do, so I had to firmly tuck my tail and move home from LA to live with my parents again. I ran into that same line at home too. Being highly educated is definitely a double-edged sword; I posses skills and talents that many people can only dream of, but instead of using that as a testament to my abilities in new situations potential employers seemed intimidated and found reasons not to hire me. Well-meaning friends and family continue to ask whether I should “just teach,” but having been in the educational system as long as I was I knew it wasn’t something you do for the money. You have to have the passion for it and the willingness to sacrifice your evenings and weekends for minimal compensation, not to mention deal with administrators that continue to slash arts budgets left and right. That’s not me.
Would I have done things differently if I had known what would happen? Maybe. My studentloans are gigantic and there’s no way I can afford the monthly payments. But then, who can say they’ve pursued their dreams, even if they got slapped down a little? How many people can say that music they’ve composed has been recorded by Disney musicians at Capitol Records and attached to a real film? It was truly a surreal experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So what if I’m not in Los Angeles anymore? Composers are a dime a dozen there. Being back at home means I can play with the BHS again like I did in high school, spend time with my aging parents and give my newborn daughter the chance I didn’t have to get close to her grandparents, help my fiancee record and master an album of his songs, and work on local film and TV projects. I’m the only person around here with the training and skills I have, so as soon as I find the right niche I can make a career out of this after all. As for my loan payments... I’m still working on how to bring in enough money to cover them, but for now we’re surviving. Right now, that’s all I can ask.
The value of my music can’t be quantified in dollars and cents. It is part of my core and my soul. I will always dance. I will always sing. Without Symphony, life is bland. It doesn’t pay enough to reimburse me for the gas it takes to get there, but I don’t care. What I do for a “day job” doesn’t matter, but I am trying to use my passions productively to help with that and maybe in time that will be all I need.
Above all, my mother surrounded me with mentors where the public school couldn’t provide them. Starting with ballet and gymnastics at age 3, private cello lessons starting in middle school and continuing through high school, private voice lessons in high school, and sending me to music camp for cello, voice, and French Horn all through middle and high school, I collected a team of teacher-mentor-friends that continue to help me to this day. This support net is truly invaluable, no matter what happens.
Now, at 30 years old and a new mother, I’m determined to do the same for my daughter. My teachers helped me become the person I am today and the vast majority of them are still a very present part of my life, or should I say, my constantly changing, insane, wonderful, musical life.
We're very pleased at SHAR to share our first guest blog from the talented violinist and educator Christian Howes. Although a classically-trained musician, Mr. Howes made a name for himself in the New York jazz scene in the '90s, playing with renowned musicians such as trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist D.D. Jackson, Bill Evans’ Soulgrass, crossover pioneers Spyro Gyra and the legendary guitarist-inventor Les Paul. In addition, Mr. Howes is a former associate professor at the Berklee College of Music and was the founder of the Creative Strings Workshop in 2003. It's fair to say that all these passions – classical music, jazz and rock, and teaching – show up in Mr. Howes's fascinating blog article. The article asks an essential and important question for music today: Is it possible to bridge the cultures of rock and jazz with the culture of classical music education? And if so, how can classical musicians harness the creative energies of rock and jazz?
We tend to ascribe values to ourselves which don't necessarily coincide with how we spend our time. For example, even if I really wanted to, I couldn't call myself "athletic" if I only exercised once every other week. It wouldn't matter how much I think, deep down inside, that I'm athletic.
In May of this year, we shared an article with our email subscribers titled "The Value of Music Degree." The article argued that a music degree, while it may not lead directly to a job, is still worth earning because of how much it can enrich one's life. The response was overwhelming: many musicians disagreed with the article and felt that their degree sent them out into a tough economy with few practical skills; others could not imagine their lives without their music degree, or without music at the center of their lives, no matter how tough it is to make a living as a musician. One of our readers, Susan Speicer, agreed to share her experience as a recent grad of Washington State University's School of Music. Even though Susan hasn't landed a symphony job (yet!), she's doing fine: she teaches and works at violin shop; she serves as an administrator for a youth symphony; she coaches and makes violin jewelry; and she writes a music blog. What we love about Susan, besides her obvious dedication to music, is her willingness to try out the different niches of a career in music, whether that's teaching, business, administration, or playing.