Wednesday, August 20, 2014

3 Big Ways To Boost Your Child's Brain Using Music

Guest Post by Sharlene Habermeyer, author of Good Music Brighter Children

I'm Sharlene Habermeyer, mother of five boys and the author of Good Music Brighter Children and happy to be blogging for Let's Play Music today.   I have spent the last thirty years studying how music affects the brain and I’m convinced there is nothing like music to build a bigger, better brain for children and adults. Why? Because music is the ONLY thing we do that exercises the entire brain—left, right, front and back—simultaneously.

Bottom line: playing a musical instrument it is like giving the brain an aerobic workout accompanied by fireworks!

How does Let’s Play Music fit into all this brain-building activity? This program is so comprehensive in its musical scope that it builds the three areas of the brain most needed for learning: the auditory, the visual/spatial, and the motor cortices.  Let’s talk about each area and how it relates to learning…

Brain-builder #1: Music strengthens the auditory cortex and helps with reading and language…

Did you know that the auditory cortex of the brain is five times smaller than the visual cortex? So it is already established by the brain that we learn more quickly and easily by visually looking at something. But here’s the rub: when a child learns to read, they must use their ears first(auditory cortex) and their eyes second (visual cortex). Think back when you were learning to read. All those letters on the page looked like Greek and it wasn’t until your teacher said the word, and you used your ears, that you understood how to say the word. So the rule for reading is: ears first to hear the pronunciation of the word and eyes second to visually recognize the word. From various brain scans, scientists know that learning musical instrument strengthens all areas of the auditory cortex thereby making it easier for a child to read, tounderstand directions, and to process information in the classroom and elsewhere. It also reaches children who are learning disabled as all learning issues begin with auditory processingor not being able to understand what you hear.

The philosophies of Kodály and the music-teaching methodology that develops and strengthens the auditory cortex are integrated into Let's Play Music classes.  Kodály trains children to sing on pitch without the aid of an instrument. It’s called solfege (read more about it here)  and it takes practice! While singing, children also use hand signs to reinforce the learning. This training strengthens the auditory cortex thus making readingwriting and processing of information easier Aural or listening skills are learned when the child listens to the varying pitch, rhythm and harmony of a multitude of songs. Let's Play Music is an amazing brain-builder!

Brain-builder #2: Music strengthens the visual/spatial cortex and helps with math and science…

Music training also strengthens the visual/spatial areas of the brain. Spatial people solve problems in their minds-eye; they think in pictures; they understand higher forms of math and science and they are usually very creative (they dream in color while most people dream in black & white). Think about Albert Einstein whose visual/spatial areas of his brain were 25 percent larger than most people: he was an accomplished violinist and credits music with organizing his brain and helping him to solve intricate theories and problems. His friend said that Einstein used music for inspiration and that the answers to complex problems came to him in the midst of playing his violin. Studies show that when a child learns a musical instrument it primes, prepares, and develops the spatial areas of the brain in such a way that a child is able to understand science, technology, engineering and math more easily.

Brain-builder #3: Music strengthens the motor areas for brain organization and memory skills…

Learning a musical instrument and being engaged in music develops the motor areas of our brain—which are important for the development and organization of the entire neurological system. Let’s Play Music incorporates both the Orff-Shulwerk and Dalcroze teaching methods—both of which strengthen the motor areas of the brain.  Here’s how:

When a young child pounds on rhythm instrumentsclaps her hands, stamps her feet, snaps her fingers or marches around the room, these activities help organize the brain.  They help the child to remain focused and increase memorization skills. These types of rhythmic body movements introduced by Orff are practiced in Let's Play Music classes.

Dalcroze promotes the use of specific movements called eurhythmics.  Children move their bodies to the beat of the music and the body is trained like an instrument. Many different senses come together in the Dalcroze experience: seeing, hearing, feeling and moving.  Scientists agree that movement is an indispensable part of learning and thinking. Dancing and moving to the music, marching, singing, whistling melodies, humming tunes all boost a child’s language, listening and motor skills. They also help develop physical coordination, timing and memory.


So there you have it. If you want to build a bigger, better brain; one that functions at a higher level; one that helps children to read; increases language development; boosts memory; aids in the learning of math and science; and enhances motor skills—then start learning music. It will be the best thing you do for your brain—and your overall feeling of well-being! Plus, it is just plain fun!


My Book:
Here is a small sampling of what you find in my book to help you and your child on your musical journey:

* Why and how music builds a bigger, better brain.
* How to turn your home into a musical training center with ideas on musical games and activities for your children from utero through high school.
* Ideas to help the learning disabled child.
* How to choose an instrument and teacher, ideas to get kids to practice, and values learned from learning a musical instrument.
Resource Section: The book also has an extensive 50-page Resource Section that includes list of music to play when children are studying, lists of books and DVDs about music, music to use when teaching subjects such as animals, nature, the solar system, etc. and music for every stage of your child’s development.  Also on page 393 check out what I have to say about Let's Play Music!


The book is easy-to-read and loaded with examples and stories that will excite and motivate you to get you and your kids involved with music!



If you are interested, please visit my blog: www.goodmusicbrighterchildren  My book is available here.  

About Sharlene HabermeyerSharlene holds a Masters degree in Education from Pepperdine University, Malibu, California and a Bachelor’s degree in Art from Utah State University. She teaches college and in 1999, she started the Palos Verdes Regional Symphony Orchestra. It currently boasts over 100 musicians. She will be teaching at BYU Education Week August 18-22, 2014 (8:30am in the Harris Fine Arts Building, Madsen Auditorium)  

Contact
Please “like” me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoodMusicBrighterChildren
You can access my Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other blogs throughwww.goodmusicbrighterchildren.com



Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 National Composition Contest Winners

The student confidently steps onto the stage, and announces his original composition.  He performs beautifully for the audience.  The parents, and certainly the teacher, are shocked to discover that three short years have flown past since he began Let's Play Music, and now he's graduating from the program as a viable musician.  Audience members gasp in delight and amazement to hear the creativity, knowledge, and feeling bursting from compositions by unassuming six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds.

This is a familiar scene every Spring at Let's Play Music studios nationwide.  The program helps students read and play piano music, but the more fantastic result of three very short years is a student body who understand the music, enjoy the music, and create their own music!

Today we share the performances from the 2014 National Composition Contest winners: students who made it clear that they understand and will forever be creators of music.  Winners were announced earlier in June at the National Let's Play Music Symposium for teachers.  1,264 young composers completed compositions in 2014.

Best Overall Composition: 
"The Wild Mustangs"Joshua, Age 7.  
Teacher: Heather Prusse, Arizona
"You should hear two horses racing. In the minor section, you should hear some horse bandits trying to get them, but the Mustangs get away." - Joshua


Most Original: "Secretariat" Paige, Age 8. 
Teacher: Laura Leavitt , Utah
 "You will hear horses hooves thumping on the ground." -Paige



Best ABA Form:  
"The Great White Shark" Noah, Age 7
Teacher: Marianne Barrowes, Utah
"The song helps you think about scary stories."- Noah



Best Use of Chords:  
"Ponies in Trouble" Kinsey, Age 6 
Teacher: Alicia Dansie, Utah




Best Melody: 
"Gypsy Air- Dani's Song"Kallyn, Age 9 
 Teacher: Janalee Fish, Arizona
"I wrote this tune for my little sister, Dani."- Kallyn



Honorable Mention: "Miracles"Grace, Age 7 
 Teacher: Cindy Read, Arizona




Honorable Mention: "Scottish Jig" Eli, Age 7.  Teacher: Annah Clark, Kansas


Honorable Mention:  
"I Love To Swim All The Time" Ashyln, Age 6 
Teacher: Lily Hight, Utah
"My B-section is minor, because it's when you have to get out of the pool." -Ashlyn


Honorable Mention:  
"Horse Family On The Range"Aundra, Age 6. Teacher: Celeste Stott, Montana
"My song is about me and my family chasing cows."-Aundra

Honorable Mention:
"The Best Day Ever" Charlie, Age 7.
Teacher: Jera Farnsworth, Arizona




If your student hasn't reached the third year yet, stick with Let's Play Music and you'll see all the foundational skills come together for some joyful musicianship.  If your child isn't in Let's Play Music, FIND A TEACHER near you: most are registering right now for classes that begin this fall!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Parent


Thursday, June 5, 2014

2014 Traveling T-Shirt Contest!


Share the Love!
It's summer again, and we want you to share your love of Let's Play Music with the whole world!  Wear your LPM shirt to the cool places you visit, and submit a photo to be entered.

* Post your photo onto our Facebook wall with a message telling us where you went, and who your LPM teacher is.  Did you tell anyone about Let's Play Music on your trip?

* Entry Deadline is Monday, September 1.

* One entry per STUDENT, please.  Parents can enter multiple times according to the number of students they have enrolled for 2014-15.  Students who just graduated in 2014 may also enter!

No Shirts at Home?
Don't have an LPM shirt? Don't travel much?  You can still enter by sharing the LPM love in your very own town.  Tell us your brief story about how YOU shared LPM with the world.

*Post a message to our Facebook wall or this blog with briefly telling readers how you shared Let's Play Music, and who your LPM teacher is.  It's not hard to let the world know what you love most about LPM!

Here's an example from yours truly:
At summer tennis class, another mom started chatting with me. 

Linda: "Are you signing Clementine up for the next session of tennis?"
Me: "Yes, we're all set.  How about Johnny?"
Linda: "Yep, he just loves tennis."
Me: "What about this fall- will he play sports or take music class or something?"
Linda: "We haven't planned anything yet."
Me: "Clementine's favorite after-school event is her Let's Play Music class. We just LOVE it. She'll be playing piano this year, so I'm totally excited.  Are you planning to have Johnny learn piano?"
Linda: "Well, eventually, probably. We haven't really looked into it yet."
Me: "I was kind of surprised to find out that this age is actually the key time to get started with music.  The class she is in takes advantage of how quickly 4 and 5 year olds learn ear-training, but they also learn to read music.  Our teacher is so fun."
Linda: "I should get the name of your teacher.  I bet he would like something like that."

Prizes!
Our friends at Easy Ear Training understand our passion for balancing all aspects of MUSICALITY in our young students.  Let's Play Music brilliantly incorporates ear training into our classes, along with note reading, sight-reading, singing, composition, music appreciation, piano skills, music theory, dictation, improvisation, and ensemble-playing.

We want to give you even more opportunities to master ear-training with your whole family, so Easy Ear Training has generously donated a GRAND PRIZE 5-book set of ear training books, (valued at $77).


Our SECOND WINNER will receive the  Ear Training Essentials e-book AND audiobook (valued at $30).

* Winners will be chosen in a random drawing from all entries.
* Be sure to enter by September 1, 2014.
* Go share your love of LPM!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's Summer! Should We Practice?

The glorious days of summer are just around the corner.  It's time for swimming and camping and vacationing! How does piano practice fit into it all? As you decide how to help your student prepare for 3rd year, you have a spectrum of choices for handling summertime practice.  From the structure of daily practice to the ease of taking a serious long-term break, you can make a plan that fits your family's needs.

Option 1: Stick with Daily Practice
If your family has a groove going with practice and you would love to maintain daily practice and progress during the summer, you'll love having more of the structured practice and theory assignments that you've come to love.  Let's Play Music teacher, Jen Ellsworth, in St. Clair, Pennsylvania has put together a six-week summer practice program to help any student get bolstered for Purple Magic this fall.
Practice Packet

If you had a Yellow Arrows student that was less than confident with all of the repertoire learned this year, a summertime of continued (or improved?) practice can make a huge difference!  Three months is a long time for young minds and fingers; often, struggling students can  turn things around and enter Purple class full of confidence.

Option 2: Get Some Help
You love the idea of the first option: daily practice.  BUT, you know that your child (and yourself) are just not going to be motivated to get the practice done five times each week when you know full well that there is no fun lesson waiting for you.  Don't despair!

If you are especially lucky, your Let's Play Music teacher might even have time for a few private lessons in the summer.  Between her travels and yours, that might mean only 4 or 6 lessons, which is often plenty for a summer.

If your LPM teacher isn't teaching privates, summer could be a great time to start looking for the piano teacher you'll graduate to in one short year.  Check out our guide for interviewing piano teachers.  Explain that you'd like someone to help your child over the summer, you have a curriculum you'd like to follow (from above), and if all goes well you'll be back in a year to start up full time.

Many private teachers are looking to fill summer vacancies and will be happy to work with you, and you'll be happy to have a few weeks to test the relationship before signing on long-term next year.  Some teachers have a wait-list for taking permanent students; if you like this teacher, put your name down now for next year.



Option 3: Go To Disneyland!
Go to the family reunion.  Go camping.  Send the kids to a week of camp.  Do you feel like you are in and out all summer?  The summer packet has only SIX weeks of assignments, so it is expected that you'll be busy for a few weeks and just pick up when you get back.

If you decide to add the private lessons, you'll be relieved to know that students who attended as few as FOUR summertime private music lessons showed improvement and retained Yellow Arrow skills.  Practice the weeks you're in town, and don't worry about the rest.

Option 4: Take A Long Break
Perhaps your child is wanting some freedom to choose what she plays, and to wanting to practice as a recreational activity this summer.  Even if there are no formal practice sessions, we hope your child is starting to love making music and will go to the piano on her own (or with gentle suggestion) sometimes for fun and creation.  
As fall starts to approach, check in with your child to be sure she can still play the basic skills learned in Yellow Arrows and use our guide for crafting your own practice plan to refresh skills before class starts.

When your musician attends the first few weeks of Purple Magic, she'll feel happy and confident having mastered her chords, hand positions, and scales.  She'll be ready for the new fun skills and repertoire to come!

- Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Almost Summer Giveaway!

Facebook Page
We're celebrating the conclusion of a fantastic year of music, and getting excited for next year!  
That's right- it's almost summer, and we have some goodies to give away!  

Visit us on our FACEBOOK PAGE by clicking here, become a fan, and enter your name for the drawing.  

3 winners will be randomly chosen, and each can choose a prize from one of four great musical options!  Enter once per email address, and share on your wall.

Winners will be announced May 28, so don't wait too long.  Let's get ready for summer fun!
Facebook contest

Monday, May 19, 2014

You can Play "Let it Go" from Frozen

Now that the school year is winding down, could you use something inspirational to draw your second- or third-year student to the piano?  Then make your child's day with a simple and fun version of "Let It Go," arranged by Let's Play Music teacher, Nicci Lovell in Mesa, AZ.
CLICK ON IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

Second-Year Students:
Play the chords with your right hand.  Then try your left hand.  Then try hands together!  You sound great when you sing along (I am guessing there's a good chance you already knew the words to this one.)  Now you're having a great time and giving yourself more practice with our favorite chords and one interval (see the third?).

Here's a video of a student playing. He chose to use his left hand and was too shy to sing on camera, so I did the singing:

Third-Year Students and Graduates:
Play through those chords: pretty easy, right?  Now you have the freedom to improvise!  Instead of playing long whole notes, play two quarter-notes and a half note, or two half-notes, or some other combination you like.  Here's a video of some improvisation: after you play the chords with different rhythms with the left hand, you can learn to play the melody with your right hand and put it all together.


The Power of Chords
Delightfully,  many songs can be harmonized using the I, IV and V chords (or as you know them, Red, Blue and Yellow.)  With careful listening, you and your child will learn to pick out chord progressions as you hear them in songs, and be able to play your favorite songs!  Stay tuned for more popular songs for your LPM student.

You can click here for a piano video demonstrating how just a few chords can be used to harmonize over 40 popular songs.  To our 3rd-year students: A common chord pattern you'll hear over and over in that video is I-V-vi-IV.  Hey! it's the same pattern that we saw in "Let it Go".  That 3rd in "Let it Go" (C-E) was not a full triad, was it?  Do you see we could complete it to make an A triad?  Or we could call it the vi chord, since A is the 6th step of the C scale.

Have fun exploring with chords!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher