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Welcome Back Music Students!

As the exciting and heartwarming memories of the holidays linger in our homes, I would like to thank each new and returning music student for their lesson dedication.  As you perform the music you practiced over the Christmas season, there is a new sense of purpose and direction in your style.  It is exciting to see improvement each week and know that you love to learn.  I want to help each new piece become easy for you by the end of the lesson, so your focus can remain on improvements throughout the week.  As you lay a good foundation in note reading, timing, and lyric study, the interpretation, color, and expressiveness of style begins to glow.  Each practice day has led to improved musicianship, and there are remarkable jumps of skill on a weekly basis.  I am excited to be a part of your musical journey and look forward to working with you in 2016.

 

 

 

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Free Sheet Music Scales

Enjoy the free printable major scales from Musicnotes.com.  These scales are printed in two pages of clean, clear typeface.

http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtdFPE.asp?ppn=MN0039135&

Free Sheet Music Scales

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10 Tips and Tricks for Sight Reading Music

10 Tips for Sight Reading Music

10 Tips and Tricks for Sight Reading Music.

From musicnotes.com.

10 Tips and Tricks for Sight Reading Music

Sight reading seems to be one of those challenges that either a beginning musician loves or has recurring nightmares about. For those of us in the latter category, we’ve consulted with music educators who specialize in the important skill of sight reading music to make it less scary and (maybe even) a little enjoyable!

Practice beforehand…

Time signatures and key signatures are, well, key to being a successful sight reader. For a quick review of how to understand time signatures and key signatures, check out our basic sheet music reading primer.

First, familiarize yourself with and practice a wide variety of time signatures so that you’re ready for any situation. You can mask a mistake in pitch much easier than one in rhythm. As the saying goes “always count… never stop.” Here’s a website we found with helpful, free rhythm exercises.

Another suggestion is to print out some free manuscript paper. Write out various rhythms of half notes and quarter notes in 4/4 time. Next, do the same with quarter notes and eighth notes, then eighth notes and sixteenth notes. Play each of the rhythms as you write them or count/tap/verbalize them out loud, and mix-and-match them as you go along. That way, you’ll familiarize yourself with how they look on the page and you’ll be prepared to perform each rhythm in any context.

Next, memorize your key signatures! A tip for reading SHARP (major) key signatures is to look at the last sharp, and move a half-step above that. In this example, your last sharp is a C, so a half step up from C-sharp is D, meaning your key is D Major.Sharp key signatures

A tip for reading FLAT key signatures is to look at the second-to-last flat (reading left to right). In this example, your second-to-last flat is E, so you’re in E-flat Major. The exception to this rule is F major (or D minor) which only has one flat (B-flat).Tip-for-reading-flat-key-signatures

Then, be sure to know your scales  forward and backward. Practice singing or playing your scales, while reciting (or thinking of) the name of each note as you play it.

Along those lines, learning to sight sing, even if you’re not a vocalist, will help you sight read music for any instrument. Phrasing, intonation and musicality are universal, and sight singing will help you practice those without having to concentrate so closely on what your hands are doing.

Also be sure to practice, practice, practice sight reading music without looking at your hands. Knowing the feel of your instrument’s keys/frets/fingerboard is essential to sight reading music because your eyes will be focused on the piece. Sight reading is like training for a marathon, you need to continuously practice your skills in order to keep them. But, in the end it will pay off! Sight reading is one of the greatest musical joys you will ever experience!

Right before playing…

It goes without saying that first you’ll want to look at the piece. Tap out the rhythm, including rests, then read through the notes and follow the overall structure so you’ll know where to go at repeat bars, D.C., Codas, Segnos and the like. Mentally commit changes in key or time, as well as accidentals, dynamics and other markings. If you’re allowed, make helpful marks on your sheet music in any spots you anticipate having difficulties. Never leave home without your handy sheet music pencil!

Next, sound the piece out in your head. Pay attention to patterns, including scale and arpeggio fragments. If you recognize patterns ahead of time, the notes will be much easier to sight read, and it will free you up to focus on other parts of the piece.

The best musicians study the music closely before playing. The reason they sound so good when they sight read a piece for the first time is because they’ve already studied the sheet music. While the director is handing out the sheet music, the best musicians are secretly scrutinizing it, studying the road map, looking for potentially awkward passages, tapping out rhythm, trying out fingerings—all without playing a note!

 When you begin the piece…

Don’t forget to breathe! It sounds silly, but sight reading music, especially under pressure, can be daunting. Breathing can help you keep tempo and follow your phrasing. For winds players and vocalists it’s even helpful to mark where you plan to breathe beforehand.

Similarly, try to relax and concentrate. Keep your eyes on the page, even if you make a mistake. Don’t correct yourself, just keep moving along. We promise, it will get easier!

In review, our 10 Tips for Sight Reading Music Are:

  1. Familiarize yourself with a variety of rhythms.
  2. Memorize key signatures at-a-glance.
  3. Know your scales forward and backward.
  4. Practice playing without looking at your hands.
  5. Practice sight singing.
  6. Take a minute to examine the piece you’re sight reading. Tap out the rhythm, read through the notes and follow the structure.
  7. Mentally commit changes in key or time signature within the piece.
  8. Make markings on the paper (or on your tablet/iPad), if allowed.
  9. Sound the whole piece out in your head, recognizing patters.
  10. Breathe, relax and keep going, even if you make a mistake.
  11. (Bonus tip) Never leave home without your sheet music pencil!

Do you have additional tips for sight reading music that you’ve found helpful? Do you have a sight reading success story to share? Please let us and your fellow musicians know in the comments below!

via 10 Tips and Tricks for Sight Reading Music.

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Why We Teach – and how NOT to burn out :)

Thank you Kristin, for your valuable insight.

Small Town Music Lessons

I have been asked to write an article for a publisher working on a book.  Here is my section as a work in progress, from the heart.  🙂  And since I am sick at home, I thought I’d get to work on it.  🙂

Wallpaper9Teaching has to be organic.  If teaching isn’t already a part of your drive, something you desire to spend your days doing, you will burn out.  We all have had times we didn’t want to go to work.  Often, the reasons vary as much as the personalities between the teachers.  Maybe it has been a long week, maybe the parents have requested one too many times to reschedule, or maybe the kids simply won’t practice the assignments you’ve carefully jotted for them to follow… but in the end, do we really enjoy teaching?  What drives us?

I have been teaching since I could talk.  I used…

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HSLDA | Dangerous Policy Lurks behind Romeike Triumph

Dangerous Policy Lurks behind Romeike Triumph


Federal officials announced last week that they will allow the Romeike family to stay in America. The decision came after Department of Justice lawyers argued that Germany’s mistreatment of homeschoolers like the Romeikes is perfectly reasonable. Read more about the Romeike family.

by Michael Farris
HSLDA Founder and Chairman

Other than the Romeike family themselves, no one could have been more thrilled than me with the sudden reversal from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which allowed them to remain in the United States. Just one day after the Supreme Court refused to review the court order that demanded their deportation to Germany, the Romeikes were informed by DHS that they could remain indefinitely in the United States where they can continue to homeschool their children.

The DHS notification came to attorney Will Humble, who was the immigration lawyer assisting the Romeikes and HSLDA at all phases of these proceedings. Humble was lead counsel before the administrative judge, and I was lead counsel before the federal courts.

This administrative victory needs to be understood for what it is. It is a victory for the Romeike family alone. No other German homeschooling family can benefit from the administrative grace that was shown in this one instance.

Damage Done

Despite this welcome relief for this one courageous family, the damage done to our laws on asylum and the principles of religious and parental freedom remains.

We cannot slip into complacency and believe that all is well on all fronts. The dangers latent in this case must be understood, combatted, and reversed.

Some court decisions contain language that presents a self-evident danger to liberty. Other times the dangers are much more subtle. For example, in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States (1935), the Court held that Congress could not regulate commerce once goods had come to rest within a state. It could only regulate commerce while in transit and—with words that launched a thousand regulations—those things that “directly affect” commerce. The “effects test” has been used by Congress, the Supreme Court, and the executive branch to impose countless regulations on all manner of activity that would otherwise be outside of federal jurisdiction.

The dangers to liberty that are embedded in the Romeike case are equally subtle. One has to take a closer look at the facts in the record, the arguments of the Obama Justice Department, and the decision of the Sixth Circuit to fully appreciate the very dangerous ideas that were embraced in this case.

But once these dangerous ideas are unmasked, it becomes apparent that they pose real threats to the principles of freedom that virtually all Americans would have believed were solidly established.

Burden of Proof

As with any asylum case, the Romeikes needed to prove two basic propositions to be entitled to asylum. They had to prove that they faced either past or future persecution and that this persecution was motivated, at least in part, on one of the grounds contained in our asylum statute. Religious persecution is one of these recognized grounds for asylum.

Thus, the case boiled down to two particular questions:

1. Was the punishment that the Romeikes would face upon deportation back to Germany sufficiently severe to count as persecution?

2. Was the motive of the German government marked, at least in part, by a desire to repress the family’s exercise of their religious beliefs?

On one level, the first question was not seriously debated. All parties agreed that if the family returned to Germany and continued to homeschool, they would face the threat of losing custody of their children.

Our government was not so callous as to suggest that losing one’s children would not be a severe punishment. However, the government and Sixth Circuit contended that it would not be persecution, because the family could just stop homeschooling and send their children to public schools in order to avoid the punishment.

In this context, the controlling legal rule is that persecution is proven when a government acts against a person either for an immutable characteristic or for a reason that one should not be required to change.

“Tolerance will never be achieved by a government which is intolerant of religious minorities.”

Michael Farris
HSLDA Founder and Chairman

Our government contended that forcing a parent to have their children attend a school that violates their religious beliefs does not offend a conviction that one should not be required to change.

Dangerous Conclusion

Hence, the first dangerous rule to emerge from the Romeike case is that governments may order children to attend schools that violate the family’s religious beliefs. It was not a direct ruling in this case anymore than the effects test was a direct ruling in the Schechter Poultry case, but the conclusion is present just the same.

The second issue—was Germany motivated, at least in part, by a desire to suppress the religion of the Romeikes?—requires review of some important facts from the record. Both HSLDA and the Justice Department placed considerable emphasis on a finding by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court that contained a discussion of the motive for the ban on homeschooling.

The general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated “parallel societies” and in integrating minorities in this area. Integration does not only require that the majority of the population does not exclude religious or ideological minorities, but, in fact, that these minorities do not segregate themselves and that they do not close themselves off to a dialogue with dissenters and people of other beliefs. Dialogue with such minorities is an enrichment for an open pluralistic society. The learning and practicing of this in the sense of experienced tolerance is an important lesson right from the elementary school stage. The presence of a broad spectrum of convictions in a classroom can sustainably develop the ability of all pupils in being tolerant and exercising the dialogue that is a basic requirement of democratic decision-making process.

Our Justice Department and the Sixth Circuit found no motive to suppress religion in this official description of Germany’s policy. Yes, Germany did say it was “counteracting the development” of religious and philosophical minorities. But look at the motive, our Justice Department and Sixth Circuit argued. Germany is just trying to promote tolerance by putting children of all viewpoints together in one place.

Tolerance? Really? The aberrational German theory of “tolerance” was clearly demonstrated by the facts in the record.

Another German appeals court held that it is appropriate to use the family courts to seek “the removal of the right [of parents] to determine the residence of the children and to decide on the children’s education.” The same court held that it is “completely acceptable” for courts to “enforce the handover of the children, by force if necessary and by means of entering and searching the parental home.”

Why was it acceptable to use these strong-arm police tactics? That German court gave an answer: to prevent “the damage to the children, which is occurring through the continued exclusive teaching of the children of [sic] the mother at home.” The court conceded that it was not concerned with academic issues—homeschooling could successfully transmit knowledge. It was the philosophical development of children that was at issue.

The German court believed that it was “damaging” to children to be taught only the philosophy of their mother.

And so as to not leave any discretion for leniency by lower officials, this appellate court instructed the family courts that they have “the immediate task to take away all home schooled children.”

All about Tolerance

So, what does our Justice Department say about all of this?

The German court thus explained what it saw as the value of the law in bringing people of differing views together to learn from each other and to learn to accept those whose views differ from their own. The goal in Germany is for an “open, pluralistic society.” Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen of Germany. It is scarcely feasible, with those stated goals in mind, to tease from the opinion a persecutory motive on the part of those who enforce the law.

There you have it. The German courts have said it is damaging for children to learn only the religious and moral values of their parents. The German courts say that they wish to counteract the development of religious and philosophical minorities. The German courts say it is appropriate to use force to remove children. The German appellate courts tell the lower courts that they have the immediate task to remove all homeschooled children from their parents. And our Justice Department says it is impossible to find in these facts anything other than an open, pluralistic democratic society teaching children to be tolerant.

The Justice Department’s view echoes the words of George Washington University Law Professor Catherine Ross:

In order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine toleration of difference. Respect for difference should not be confused with approval for approaches that would splinter us into countless warring groups. Hence an argument that tolerance for diverse views and values is a foundational principle does not conflict with the notion that the state can and should limit the ability of intolerant homeschoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children—at least during the portion of the day they claim to devote to satisfying the compulsory schooling requirement.

Ross joins Germany and our Justice Department in believing that pluralistic societies may crush “intolerant” homeschooling parents to promote tolerance in their children.

History and logic prove, however, that tolerance will never be achieved by a government which is intolerant of religious minorities.

Incidentally, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights—a treaty that Germany has adopted—says this about the rights of parents in education:

The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

This treaty was adopted in the aftermath of the horrors of Nazi Germany. The right of parents to ensure that their children have an education that conforms to the parents’ convictions is considered a fundamental human right—a right Germany currently rejects and considers dangerous.

“In order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views.”

Catherine Ross
George Washington University Law Professor

Freedom at Risk

The long-term concern for American homeschoolers arising from the Romeike case is obvious. If our government contends that Germany did not violate the principles of religious freedom when it banned homeschooling in order to gain philosophical control over children, then it implies that it would not violate religious freedom or parental rights if the United States decided to ban homeschooling for the same purpose. After all, we would simply be promoting tolerance and pluralism.

That is the subtle but dangerous message buried in the Romeike decision.

How should we respond?

There are two specific areas of concern that demand our attention. First, we need to deal with the specific problems in our asylum system that have led to a severely limited view of religious freedom and parental rights. Second, we need to address the underlying antagonism that our government is expressing against the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.

HSLDA has worked with leaders in the House of Representatives to secure language that would ensure an amendment to our asylum law that addresses parental rights and religious freedom. If an overhaul of the immigration system passes Congress, there is a very good likelihood that this correction will be adopted. We will have more to say on that topic, including calls to action, should this provision become a point of contention in that process.

HSLDA is unlikely to get engaged on the broader immigration issue. We simply want to ensure that if such a measure is moving through Congress, families like the Romeikes will find refuge in the United States.

The more pressing issue is the need to address parental rights in general. At the same time that the Romeikes were facing deportation, other pitched parental rights battles in our own country were taking place. Perhaps the best known of these battles was the Pelletier case in Massachusetts.

Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) conspired with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to seize custody of Justina Pelletier because the BCH doctors thought that they knew better than the doctors at Tufts Medical Center how to treat this young girl. Because the Pelletiers wanted to choose the doctor for their daughter, they lost custody to the State of Massachusetts.

I was asked to draft a specific statute that has been introduced in Massachusetts to fix the underlying law in that state. And such laws, which specifically address parental rights to choose a doctor, may become necessary in other states.

Protecting Liberty

But there is a bigger and broader solution. The Parental Rights Amendment (PRA) is the ultimate form of protection for our family liberties. Just as the Second Amendment tells all levels of government that they may not interfere with our right to bear arms, the Parental Rights Amendment tells all governments to not interfere with our rights to raise our children.

We have also proposed state versions of the PRA in statutory form, which have recently been enacted in Virginia and Nevada. We also helped draft Michigan’s parental rights statute which was adopted in 1994. Utah, Kansas, and Arizona also have similar statutes on their books.

Everyone who believes that we need to ensure parental rights are protected at the highest legal level should join these efforts. Please go to www.parentalrights.org and sign up to become a part of the team—which, at a minimum, is a commitment to call or write your legislators when bills are moving in Congress or in your state.

Do we want a nation where the government can tell us that they can take our children away from us—all day or during the school day—so that they can ensure our children develop the philosophy that the government wants to instill?

Liberty cannot be sustained in a nation in which all children are indoctrinated in the government scheme of homogenized philosophies. We must have a people who can think for themselves and believe in the religion of their own choice.

These freedoms are threatened by our own government. But only our silence and inaction will actually defeat us.

Stand up. Speak up. Show up.

via HSLDA | Dangerous Policy Lurks behind Romeike Triumph.

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Save Your Piano – Don’t Spray Oils

This season, as we prepare to receive company, we dust off traditions and customs that are dear to us.  When it comes to dusting your piano, remember to spray your cloth first and then dust your piano.

“My piano does not stay in tune!”

Silicones and oils that are sprayed onto the piano can make their way to the wood doughnut-like bushings that surround the tuning pins.  These bushings need to tightly grip the tuning pins so your piano stays in tune.  When they become slippery, the tuning pins will not stay where the piano technician puts them, and withing a few minutes, the pin is unwinding toward the flat position.  This situation is common to dry-rotted pin bushings, or pianos that have received too much dry heat and not enough moisture.

The Dampp-Chaser company sells smart sensors that automatically detect the amount of moisture in the air and adjust that to provide either more dampness or more dryness in your specific situation.  This is a real boon for churches, schools and homes where excess dryness, humidity or change is involved.  The pianos I tune that are in the best condition have a Dampp Chaser installed.  As a piano technician, I can install a Dampp-Chaser unit on request.

For older pianos that have seen neglect or oils, Garfield’s Pinblock Restorer, or PinTite may be a help.  The Garfield’s product takes a week to set, the PinTite sets up within the same day.  Both applications require a vertical piano to be placed on it’s back during the process.  Another method to restore the necessary friction is to install a tuning pin bushing.  This method involves un-stringing the pin in question, inserting a thin metallic shim, re-inserting the pin, restringing the wire, and tuning.  Naturally, I take the condition of the piano wire into condition on a job like that.  I would not care to try it on rusty piano wire, or when most of the bushings are loose.  On piano restorations, sometimes the entire pinblock and/or individual bushings are replaced.  These large and expensive jobs require specialized tools and a highly-trained craftsman.

Three main helps are:

1.  Do not spray furniture oils or silicone-based products onto your piano.

2.  Use a Dampp-Chaser system to protect your investment.

3.  Repair existing damages with a pinblock solution or bushings.

Julia is available to help you with your piano tunings and repair.  For scheduling, please contact her through the online form or at 570-295-0371.

Categories: Helpful Hints, Instrumental Tips, piano tuneing, Piano tuner, Piano Tuning, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Music Competition

IMG_20131023_113420Congratulations to Jonathan, Charles, Katie, and Kendra for their hard work in preparing for the annual Faith Baptist School of Theology scholarship music competition!  Judges’ results, by Dr. Allen and Mrs. Ellen Ives, showed that dynamics were a high point for most of the students, as was careful and accurate presentation of the music.   College Days in Seneca, P.A. was an exciting time to compete for the prize, meet new friends, and enjoy old ones.  We are sad that this exciting event is over for the year and are looking forward to next year.  For more information on College Days, or to make an appointment to personally visit Faith Baptist School of Theology, please visit: http://faithbaptistschooloftheology.com.

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Majesty Music

Majesty Music

Visit one of my favorite sites for harmonious and exciting Christian music, both recorded, and in sheet music form.  They also provide recorded dramas with music for children-I wore mine out when I was a tiny tot!

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Enjoy the free sheet music downloads!

Enjoy the free sheet music downloads!

Julia recommends http://www.music-scores.com for a great selection of sheet music organized by composer, instrument, and level of ability.  Non-members may print a number of free titles, but members enjoy the greatest benefits with unlimited sheet music downloads.  You can even apply for transpositions, or submit your own compositions.

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Autumn Piano Tuning

DSC02648As summer humidity decreases and the cooler evenings approach, remember to set up your piano tuning with Julia Race Music Services and enjoy your piano to the fullest.

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