How do you get kids to practice their instruments?

That's the question of all parents who can't help having occasional misgivings about the large outflow of cash going toward music lessons.  As far as I can tell, the only honest answer is, "I don't know.  It's different from child to child, anyway."  Nonetheless, I have made a couple of observations while visiting Heather and family and will set them down for what they're worth.

  • Every child here over the age of three takes formal piano lessons.  The just-turned-four-year-old is eagerly awaiting informal lessons in the summer, and the start of the "real thing" in the fall.  They all enjoy their lessons, partly because their teacher is one of the best-loved in the area, and partly because she's also known to them as Grammy.
  • Everyone over the age of six walks or bikes to Grammy's house for his lesson.  Not only is this convenient for their parents, but I believe it helps them "take ownership" of the lessons.  It also means that if they forget their music books, they're the ones who have to turn around and go back, so responsibility is naturally encouraged.
  • Even with these advantages, practice time was hit-or-miss, until a simple change was made.  All the kids have morning and afternoon chores, which they are (mostly) in the habit of completing with minimal fuss,  "Practice piano" was simply added to the list, and voilà, regular practicing.
  • Best of all, the piano is located in the middle of everything.  You can hardly go from one place to another without passing the piano.  It gets played a lot, because it's there.
  • Here's something I'd never have thought of:  practicing is a whole lot more fun because the piano is not just a piano.  It's a "real piano" rather than just a keyboard, but it is actually an electric keyboard built into a piece of furniture.  Thus it comes with all the extras of a keyboard:  the ability to record one's playing, multiple timbres, the ability to split the keyboard (have different instruments in the bass and the treble), and more.  Yes, this leads to a lot of fooling around, but how many times do you think the kids would practice a particular piece or passage on a mere piano, compared with playing it with the piano sound, then the bagpipes, then organ, then flute, then with various sound effects?  Multiple repetitions, painlessly.

I still don't know the secret to getting kids to practice.  But I can recognize good tools for a parent's toolbox when I see them.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Edit
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 Sunday, September 21, 2014

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Give to the Winds Your Fears (words by Paul Gerhardt, translated by John Wesley; music by Joseph M. Martin; Shawnee Press 35029616)

 

Porter graciously waited in the airport so I could sing this one with the choir.  It was a special day because we had a guest cellist to play with us.  (You can hear the cello part with the anthem, though not our performance, at the link above).  The anthem itself was notable for a couple of reasons.  First, the words (albeit in translation) are by Paul Gerhardt, a German hymn writer I've come to appreciate thanks to Stephan's efforts.  Second, although I'd never heard of this hymn before, I encountered it again in a Christianity Today article on the temperance movement.  (I've included the link, but you'll only just be able to start reading this one unless you're a subscriber.)

Many temperance advocates also promoted voting rights for women.  After all, women were more likely than men to vote to shutter the saloons that were destroying their homes.  Carrie Nation and her hatchet may be the most famous image, but the 1873-74 Woman's Crusade—which led to the founding of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)—is a more accurate representation, with its crowds of nonviolent protesters linked arm-in-arm before saloon doors.  A later WCTU historian described the crusade in Ohio:

Walking two by two, the smaller ones in the front and the taller coming after, they sang more or less confidently, "Give to the Winds Thy Fears," that heartening reassurance of Divine protection now known to every WCTU member as the Crusade Hymn.  Every day they visited the saloons and the drug stores where liquor was sold.  They prayed on sawdust floors or, being denied entrance, knelt on snowy pavements before the doorways, until almost all the sellers capitulated.

Here's something else I learned from the article:

There are a number of misconceptions about the 19th-century temperance movement.  The first, which was shared by temperance activists themselves, is that it didn't work.  In fact, it did.  American drinking dropped dramatically after the temperance movement took off in the 1830s.  Americans in 1830 were drinking 7.1 gallons of absolute alcohol per year per person.  ...  By 1835, they were down to 5.0 gallons; by 1840, 3.1.  By 1910, shortly before Prohibition, this had dropped to 2.6 gallons; post-Prohibition, it was down to 1.2.... Even after every moral loosening the 20th century wrought, from flappers to the counter-culture movement, by the year 2000, the average American drank less than a gallon of absolute alcohol.  That's more than six gallons less a year than their ancestors had about 200 years before.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Edit
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It was good to sing this one again.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

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To Love Our God (Mark Hayes, Hinshaw Music HMC1576)

 

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 19, 2014 at 10:19 am | Edit
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We missed a lot of choir this summer (all for good reasons), and I've missed even more keeping track of what we've sung when I have been there.  As in not since May 18, after which I took off for Switzerland and other wild adventures with grandchildren.  I'm not going to try to remember what I might have missed documenting, but will start with the past two weeks, since the new choir season began.  Because these music posts are mostly for my own record-keeping, I won't be including YouTube videos most of the time now.  Each title below links to an excerpt, however, and many of our anthems can be found in their entirety (though not with us singing) via a YouTube search, should anyone be interested in more.

Sunday, August 30, 2014

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Look at the World (Hinshaw Music, NMC1527)

 

Sunday, September 6, 2014

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Be Unto Your Name (Word Music, O80689124273)).

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 8, 2014 at 5:30 pm | Edit
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Sunday, May 18, 2014.  Thinking especially of a special person who celebrates her 50th birthday today!

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Hosannah and Hallelujah! (Hope Publishing, C5688).  No YouTube video this time; click on the link to listen.

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Edit
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Sunday, May 11, 2014  The men of our choir, plus a few others from the church, took over for the women in honor of Mother's Day.  I felt a little uncomfortable not sitting in the choir loft, but I did have a great seat: just about where the cameras were in the video below.  The men sang twice (besides the regular service music):  A version of Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in this Place (Lanny Wolfe, arranged by Elmo Mercer, Lanny Wolfe Music), which they did beautifully.  What blew our socks off, however, was  Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) (Tomlin/Giglio/Newton/Raney), Hope Publishing, C5644).  We've done it as a whole choir before, but I just love what the men did with it.

This video is courtesy of our friend and fellow choir member, Beth, who deeply regrets not getting the whole song.  It took a while for people to realize that this was a moment to be preserved.  I didn't even think of my own camera, sitting under my chair in my purse.  You may be able to see a longer—though still not complete—version if you are friends with me on Facebook.  Or maybe not; I've discovered that when I share other people's posts, sometimes my friends can see them, and sometimes they can't.  In any case, I'm so grateful to have this much for a reminder of how lovely it all was.  (Heather, you know the guy behind Dad, too.)

 

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 11:02 am | Edit
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Sunday, May 4, 2014  One of our favorites.

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Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (Gustav Holst, Galaxy, 1.5019)

 

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Edit
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I've said before that I love going to a church that has services every single day between Palm Sunday and Easter, and I love even more living close enough that there's little hindrance to attending them.  Beyond ordinary busy-ness, that is, which we're supposed to be giving lower priority during the most momentous week of the Church Year.  Writing this up so late, I'll no doubt miss something, but GEIBTP.

Palm Sunday  I miss processing with whole palm branches instead of little leaves, but at least they were still cut from the yard instead of purchased.  The best part was the music provided by our own little orchestra!  It was great being led by trumpets: we stayed together much better than we usually do while trying to sing All Glory, Laud, and Honor spread out all around the church and the parking lot. The orchestra was amazing: these are middle schoolers, some of whom just started playing their instruments this year. Great music? No. Helpful? Very much so. Inspiring? Yes, yes, yes! And I was really impressed by their endurance.  Other hymns, songs, and anthems:

Ride On! Ride On! In Majesty! (tune: The King's Majesty); A Simple Word of Grace; It Was Finished on the Cross (solo); At the Name of Jesus (tune: King's Weston); O Sacred Head Sore Wounded (tune: Passion Chorale).  Plus an anthem, which I'm pretty sure was the beautiful To Love Our God (Mark Hayes, Hinshaw Music HMC1576).

 (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Edit
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Sunday, March 30, 2014:

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Christ Hath a Garden (Gerald Near, Belwin-Mills, GCMR3271).

 

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Edit
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Sunday, March 23, 2014:

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I Am Not Afraid (Martin/Larson, Bekenhorst Publishing, BP1863).  (You must click the link to hear this one.)

 

and

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Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) (Tomlin/Giglio/Newton/Raney), Hope Publishing, C5644).  (You must click the link to hear this one, too.)

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Edit
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Funny—with so much of the mainstream now celebrating Pi Day, I find myself less inclined to do so.  But for the sake of our grandson, with whom a phone conversation is more likely to consist of recitations of pi to 36 digits, or of whether a given number is prime or composite, than it is of  "what did you do today?" I will reprise the Pi Day video I posted in 2011.  Enjoy!

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 7:04 am | Edit
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Our Ash Wednesday anthem:  I Am Not Afraid (Martin/Larson, Bekenhorst Publishing, BP1863).  (You must click the link to hear this one.)

 

 

altAnd for Sunday, March 10, 2014, the beautiful Adoramus Te (David Hicken, Hal Leonard, 08748829).  This recording is still not our choir, but getting closer:  it's from one of the times when our children's choir sang (with many others) at Carnegie Hall for the National Children's Choir Festival.  I know one can get tired of anything, but at the moment I feel we could sing this every week!

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 10, 2014 at 6:00 am | Edit
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Sunday, March 2, 2014: 

This being the last Sunday before the alleluias disappear for Lent, we pulled out all the stops with anthems and hymns featuring that joyous shout.

When in Our Music God Is Glorified (arr. by Mark Hayes, Beckenhorst Press, BP1750).  There's still no YouTube version, but the link takes you to JWPepper.com, where you can hear it.

This was our introit (alleluia section) and processional hymn (hymn section).  It was a clever idea, and mostly went over well, though the congregation was a little confused about when to stand.  We managed to sing and walk at the same time (always diffcult with an anthem, rather than a plain hymn), and a wonderful trumpet player (Nancy Micklos King) covereth a multitude of sins.

Our anthem was We're Gonna Worship Christ the King (Pepper Choplin, Lorenz, 10/4245L).  This version doesn't really do it justice, but YouTube beggars can't be choosers.  We had a great soloist (Mark King), the anthem was fun to sing, and it all came together very well.  (Yes, Mark is Nancy's husband, this making the third set of Mark-and-Nancy spouses in our immediate circle.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 4:33 pm | Edit
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Recently we attended another wonderful Horns & Pipes concert at Orlando's Cathedral Church of St. Luke.  We have been enjoying these ever since Heather made the suggestion back in 1996.  One of the works featured was Fisher Tull's The Binding.  I believe Heather and Janet in particular will enjoy hearing it, even though this version I found on YouTube is not quite as glorious as with the larger and more professional Horns & Pipes ensemble.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 3:40 pm | Edit
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Sunday, February 23, 2014:  How Great Is Our God (Chris Tomlin, arr. Jack Schrader, Hope Publishing Company, C5491). 

While we were singing, one of the little girls in the second row got up and started to dance!

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Edit
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