Thursday, May 30, 2013


I've been away for a bit.  Last Thursday Northside Prep's Music Department traveled to NYC with 74 students to master class at Montclair State University and compete in the Heritage Music Festivals.

5 of the 6 awards we won at this year's Heritage Music Festival in NYC

Here's the trip blog if you're interested in perusing through it:

Rehearsals today for Cadence 2013, the final performance of the school year.  Looking forward to Sophia Stein's performance of the 1st Movement of Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

???, Ohio

First pit stop in ???, Ohio. With bellies full, we trek on. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Random Quote

Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate. 
                                   - Clark Terry

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rostropovich: Genius of the Cello

While perusing the good ole world wide web for performance and interview footage of Seiji Ozawa, I stumbled upon a documentary on Mtislav Rostropovich, the great Russian cellist.  The full length documentary was aired on the BBC in 2011.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Smart Music on iPad -- Finally!!!

I just received word that the iPad application for Smart Music is now available for download.  The folks at Make Music first announced they'd be releasing the application months ago with Spring 2013 the target for release.  After waiting and waiting and waiting, the time has finally arrived.  There's plenty of time to tinker with the application in your music classroom before school lets out.

Download the app now!

Smart Music for iPad

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Teachers, Policy Makers, Philanthropists and Creative Thinkers Speak about the State of Education

This past Tuesday evening PBS aired an hour long special entitled TED Talks Education.  From Geoffrey Canada (Founder of the Harlem Children's Zone) to Sir Ken Robinson (Arts Education Advocate), speakers on the program's bill focused their delivery on one message: dedicating their lives to re-imagining a better educational future for all American youth.

If you are a teacher and care about the state of education in the United States then you MUST watch this.

TED Talks Education 


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CPS Band and Orchestra Contest - Scores and Live Adjudicator Commentary

Below is a link to adjudicator scores for the 2013, 2011, 2010, and 2009 CPS Band and Orchestra Contests.  We received Honors Superior Ratings 3 of the 4 years.  Our 2010 performance of Soon Hee Newbold's Perseus and Dmitri Shostakovich's Sinfonia for Strings garnered a Superior Rating and due to ACT Testing conflicts, we were unable to participate in the 2012 contest.

CPS Band and Orchestra Contest -- Adjudicator Scores and Comments

I've included below recordings of live adjudicator commentary from the 2009 and 2013 CPS Band and Orchestra Contests.

2013 CPS Band and Orchestra Contest -- Live Adjudicator Commentary

2010 CPS Band and Orchestra Contest -- Live Adjudicator Commentary

Some of the adjudicator comments made on the recordings include:

“The opening aesthetic of this is remarkable; it’s very well done.”

“Good intonation.”

“Bravo...very nice...very very talented musicians.”

"I apologize for not talking very much, I’m just really enjoying this performance.”

"I can tell orchestra members that you have all prepared yourselves well."

“So talented...doing things very well...I just need a little more contrast.”

"That is some difficult repertoire for those students, but it didn't sound difficult at all."

"Quite impressive."

"The C# minor chord there at the end was nicely in tune. Congratulations, it's a challenging piece."

"Cellos and basses, you're doing very nicely with the intonation on those lower parts. What makes the orchestra sound really well in tune is the fact that you're in tune."

"Nice bowing techniques...wrist motion, use of bow,'s very uniform."

"Cellos left hands look beautiful...well taught...excellent technique."

"I like the fact that you're switching 1st and 2nd violinists around. That's really good. It gives everybody the opportunity to play both parts and develops the concept in students that both sections are equally important."

"I really enjoyed that performance thoroughly."

"Try to achieve a little more evenness in the articulation of sixteenth notes."

"You watch the conductor well...good sense of musical alignment."

"Greater dynamic contrast to give the music a little more excitement."

"Good balance in the violins and violas."

"Excellent music. Excellent ensemble."

"Excellent sense of pulse...good tempos."

"The ensemble plays with lots of accuracy."

"Good bowing style."

Concert Recordings of Northside Prep Chamber Strings

Here are a few pieces the Chamber Strings ensemble at Northside Prep performed at our Spring Concert on 4.30.13.

Csardas -- Michael McLean

Little Suite for Strings -- Praeludium and Intermezzo -- Carl Nielsen

Vanishing Pointe -- Richard Meyer

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Modifying Team Building Activities For The Music Classroom

After dozens and dozens of conversations pertaining to team building with my colleagues in the physical/adventure education department over the past 12 years, I have finally bitten the proverbial bullet and purchased what is considered the bible of trust building, team building, and problem solving activities/exercises.  Karl Rohnke's book, Silver Bullets: A Guide to Initiative Problems, Adventure Games and Trust Activities, is an abundantly fruitful compendium of games, exercises and activities for small and large groups.  It is just about guaranteed the physical education teacher in your school has one in possession.  Ask to borrow it to get an idea of how you can modify the myriad of activities Rohnke outlines for your music class.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Brooklyn Rider

My first encounter with the musicians of Brooklyn Rider was in New York City's Avery Fisher Hall when I attended the debut performance of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble in 2002 - of which they are the "resident" string quartet.  I traveled from Chicago to participate in the first comprehensive educator workshop organized by the not for profit Silk Road Project.  Members of the Silk Road Ensemble, including Brooklyn Rider, engaged all of the educators in a series of workshops pertaining to the musical and cultural study of regions along the ancient Silk Road routes.

I can go on about The Silk Road Ensemble and The Silk Road Project, but this post is about
Brooklyn Rider - a quartet of consummate string musicians who have re-defined the traditional classical chamber music lexicon to include music deeply rooted in traditional cultures from around the world.

The other day Brooklyn Rider stopped by the studios of On Point with Tom Ashbrook.  Take a listen to this  segment of performances and interviews.

String Quartet - Brooklyn Rider

I think it was last year that Brooklyn Rider stopped by the NPR studios in Washington, D.C. to perform on the Tiny Desk Concert Series.  Here's a video of their performance.

I should probably also include Brooklyn Rider's official website.

Brooklyn Rider

This I Believe -- Music Education

Perhaps you are familiar with the This I Believe series launched by National Public Radio in 2005.  

Essentially, it is forum for Americans from all walks of life to “share the personal philosophies and core values that guide their daily lives.”  

An assignment my graduate students at VanderCook are required to complete is based on this radio series.  

I’ve included below some bullet points from my own “This I Believe - Music Education” essay:

  • I believe that music education is critical to developing a well rounded individual.  
  • I believe the lessons experienced and learned in an ensemble rehearsal has resounding positive effects on the social, emotional, physical and educational character of a student.  
  • I believe a student who is given an opportunity to contribute positively to an ensemble experience walks away with a myriad of life lessons that will be paramount to their development into compassionate, noble, successful and well-balanced beings of society.  
  • I believe the ensemble director is a leader and facilitator whose primary objective is to impart upon his/her students a passion for creativity and imagination.  
  • I believe that the difference between a good rehearsal and great one is rooted in the collective creativity and imagination of the ensemble.  
  • I believe programming is critical to motivating students to be engaged in the learning process.  
  • I believe an ensemble that possesses the highest of technical facility but lacks creativity and imagination will never achieve the most heightened of musical experience.  
  • I believe music education is for all students.  
  • I believe school districts that do not value a robust fine arts education offered to every single student is short changing their students’ ability to live life to its fullest and closing a door to very fruitful career opportunities.  
  • I believe students who engage in the arts from a young age have a leg up in all aspects of life.  
  • I believe a music teacher - a teacher of the arts - has the capacity to inspire, motivate and positively impact his/her students in a manner that may potentially transform their lives for the better.  

Janos Starker -- Educator and Performer

I'm sure many of you heard that Janos Starker, one of the most respected cellists of our time, passed on Sunday, April 28th, 2013.  Here's a brief segment from NPR in remembrance of a man who believed teaching was his calling.

Remembering Janos Starker, The Cellist 'Born To Be A Teacher'

New York Times

Janos Starker, Master of the Cello, Dies at 88

The following is a short excerpt from the Medici TV Documentary Series - A Lesson In Music.

In my most humble opinion, Starker performed with so much more ease and technical fluidity than some of his contemporaries.