Now it is YOUR turn…

By John Gardner

It is normally about this time that Sophomores & Juniors, start to realize that their older friends they’ve look up to, learned from and leaned on, are graduating, have graduated or are gone – and if they dwell on it, they can get down about the next (new) year. Don’t!

This is not a new or unique situation. It happens every year. So I would like to encourage you and others who have thought the same thing about graduated friends…. to consider a couple things.

First, if this note is speaking to you it is a compliment. As you think back during your Freshman and Sophomore years, there were Juniors and Seniors who accepted you into their friend circles, right? Those became strong and meaningful relationships and I suspect you gained from their experience and insight – and from their friends. And now, for those who are Juniors this year, the last of those friends will be graduating this semester and you feel alone. You look at those in your class or younger, who maybe don’t demonstrate the qualities you admired in your older friends. Immature, maybe? Fair enough.

Now, I’m going to ask you to try to get past the perfectly rational feeling that you’re losing some valuable friendships, and also past the probably correct conclusion that some of those in the classes younger than you are “less mature” than you….and consider that now it is YOUR turn to be the upperclass mentor who can do for others what was done for you.

leadership2

Now it is YOUR turn to be the mature upperclassman for those younger. You know what it takes, better than they. You know what you want, better than they. So my question for you is, what are you going to do about it?

Perhaps you feel a little inadequate, like you’re not as ‘good’ as your mentors. You know what I think? I think you ARE. As you step into the leadership role, you know what I think? I think you CAN.

Disney quote Start Doing

If this note seems like I’m writing it specifically to you, then you probably have already been a “step it up” kinda person. That’s one of the reasons you’ve been comfortable around those older. Now it is YOUR turn to step into major leadership; to replace those who are leaving and to set the tone for those coming in and for those who are already looking up to you. NOW IT IS YOUR turn! YOU’RE READY. BE A LEADER. BE A MENTOR. BE A FRIEND….and we’ll all be the better for it, including YOU!

Thanks for reading,
John

Leadership is service not position

Posted in High Schools, Respect, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Domain decisions

Time for change arrow

Domain decisions.

When it is time to renew your domain name, you might want to research options to get a better price.

I’ve experience enough that I can see a pattern.

One of my clients, huntingtonbaptist.org, had a domain renewal coming due at and the price was going to be over $37. I contacted my current hosting provider and their price for every year, was under $17. So, I contacted the domain registrar and started the process to transfer the domain, which required gaining access to the client’s account. And THAT required updating some information and THAT required sending in utility bills, a photo id and more…. Okay, access gained. I started the process to unlock the domain and request an authorization code.

THEN….I get an offer to renew the domain for 1 year for $10. DONE!

Having learned that, when I got notice from that one of MY domains (virtualmusicoffice.com), that cost me $38.xx last year was up for renewal, I started the process to transfer. Suddenly my price drops to under $16.

“Burn me once…..”

So I continued the process to unlock, get auth code and start transfer process to my $17/yr host. DONE!

While I was in the transfer mood, I went to the registrar for qdpcorp.com and went ahead and transferred it to my current host.

Conclusion / Recommendations:

  1. Service providers involved included: Tucows, Network Solutions, Hostcentric, Register, and iPage.
  2. The initial price is only for those who auto renew. The LOWER price is for those who might leave.
  3. If you have a domain up for renewal, instead of automatically renewing, call to START the process to transfer it to get the super-duper 1-year-only discount price. [Then be sure to do that again next year].If you don’t know how to do that, proceed to step #2.
  4. HIRE ME!

ps If you don’t know the underlined/italicized terms above;

domain registrar
transfer the domain
unlock the domain
authorization code

then….

Down arrow decision change

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Posted in Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Safety, Transparency and Reputation when Coaching Students

trustBy John Gardner

For a short while during my earliest teen years, without concern about walking to and into his home, I studied piano with a single guy who lived a few blocks away. During high school freshman year, I took clarinet lessons with a college girl who came to our school and went with me into a sound-proofed practice room. Later in high school I would travel weekly to an area band director’s home for clarinet instruction. Concerns about safety, transparency and reputation never came up.

But times are different now. Priests, coaches and teachers are convicted of having inappropriate relationships with children and students, creating a sensitive and suspicious society that dissuades good teachers and students from participating in the time-tested tradition of individualized instruction.

The concept of innocent until proven guilty does not apply. No one can afford even an accusation. A School of Performing Arts that provides private lessons for area children put windows in the all the classroom doors, instituted a parental sign in/out procedure and has a staff member walk in on every lesson every time. Band directors schedule lessons in busy offices or in large ensemble rooms full of distractions. College students video lessons with middle/high school students they are teaching, not only for critique, but also for security.

One band director told me that

…you don’t have to be guilty….an accusation can destroy a reputation and/or cost your job. And unfortunately, even after proven innocent, the doubts, questions and hesitations can continue to damage a reputation that took decades to build. Teachers have to be soooo careful.

The very nature of individualized music instruction almost mandates that student and teacher be alone in a room with a closed door. How do we take the legitimate safety concerns that student, parent and teacher share along with the teacher’s concern for reputation (and employment) and and still provide specialized, accelerated training?

SAFETY is everyone’s concern even if from different perspectives. Be aware and be careful.

TEACHERS

  • invite parents to sit in or be nearby during lessons.
    • My experience: When I taught lessons in my home (not any more), parents could relax in my living room while I worked with the student in the dining room. A 6th grader’s mother would bring a book and sit in the room at the high school or college.
  • leave a door open or at least ensure it is unlocked and/or has a window. Enable anyone to walk in on you. That delay while you get up to open the door from the inside can cause undue suspicion or concern (and increase interruption time).
  • schedule lessons when others are around. Avoid evenings or non-school days when teaching at school or make sure someone else is home if the student is coming to your home studio. Do everything reasonable to remove any question andensure both student and parent are comfortable. Keep in mind that teens are increasingly cautioned to beware of one-on-one situations with adults. Respect that.
    • My experience: When a mother requested I work with her student over holiday break, I scheduled it at school along with an appointment for another teacher to drop something off to me during the lesson time. I left the band room door opened and set up the chairs in clear view from the hallway so passing janitors could see and hear.
  • video or audio record the session. CAUTION: If using video, place the camera so both teacher and student are visible, but NOT in a way that makes student uncomfortableor  or could set you up for a different kind of complaint.
    • My experience: When I teach lessons via Skype, I ask that the camera be pointed so that I can see either fingers, embouchure or both, so I am usually looking at a profile view of the student’s top front. When girls start adjusting their clothes because you are pointing a camera at them, there is some discomfort. Be aware, and be careful.
  • if you have a regular coaching schedule, post the schedule. If you have a website with a calendar, parents (and students) are better reminded and informed.

PARENTS

  • check references. In addition to safety, you want to make sure you’re getting a good product (teacher). If the teacher is an outsider coming to the school, the school should have conducted a background check. Ask.
  • sit in or be in the area, at least periodically. Sitting in an adjacent room can provide reasonable privacy while often enabling you to hear your child play. They won’t do that for you at home, right? Bring a book.
  • for virtual lessons (via Skype, for example), be in the area. You don’t have to stand over the child’s shoulder, but listen in and even walk in a couple times….say hi to the teacher.

STUDENTS

  • meet a new teacher for the first time with a parent and in public.
  • go with your gut.
  • if anything makes you uncomfortable, speak up or get out. Nearly 100% of the time, you are either mis-interpreting or the teacher is completely unaware and will respond and adjust. Don’t destroy an opportunity based on your misunderstanding a teacher’s oversight.
  • if a parent is dropping you off, have a cell phone to call if the teacher is not there, you finish early (or going over), or you otherwise need parental pick up.
    • My experience: It was during a storm and I was mid-lesson after school when the power went out. Emergency lighting came on, but not enough to continue.
  • if you are going to a lesson, tell your parents (or someone) when, where and for how long.
    • My experience: I’ve had an unnecessarily disgruntled parent when I scheduled some after school coaching with a student who never got around to communicating and mom didn’t know what was going on ’til the student didn’t get off the bus. My mistake was assuming the parent knew.

TRANSPARENCY helps everyone.

Sometimes there is a drop off in parental involvement and in student/parent communication during high school. Teens want more responsibility and independence and both parent and teacher should strive to help them in those areas. Assumptions often cause problems, however, and most issues I’ve ever experienced in the triangular relationship with parent and student elevate because somebody “assumed”. Several years ago, I gave each of my business office employees a personalized, engraved magnet that said, simply:

Assume Nothing!

TEACHERS…provide a list of expectations and policies. Read mine here…

  • Payment. How much, how often and what happens when they don’t. Are materials (music) included?
  • Cancellations when you cancel, when student cancels, how much notice and what if there isn’t any?
  • Minimum requirements; lessons per month, practice time, materials such as tuners or metronome, functioning instrument with adequate supplies (reeds, etc)…
  • Privacy. Don’t share student/parent contact info or details about what happens during lessons. That is why they are called “private” lessons.
  • Communication. Be easy to contact. Determine whether your communication is to be with student or parent. Any written communication with student should be copied to a parent, when possible, including texts, emails or other types of media messages.

REPUTATIONS are slow to build and quick to crumble.

Students and parents need to realize how important that is to the teacher, especially when their very livelihood depends on it. Younger or single teachers need to be hyper-aware, but no one is too old, fat, bald or ugly for legitimate concern and caution.

Without an element of TRUST, this simply cannot work. Hopefully the teacher has ‘earned’ some trust from both the student and the parentl. It is unfortunate that we hear via national news when trust has been abused. That is horrible. But it is also a very, VERY small percentage of people. My advice to all…. in a nutshell:

Be Aware & Take Care!

Thanks for reading.

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Posted in Classroom Teacher, College Prep, Communication, Consulting, High Schools, Parenting, School Security, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Teens I Admire #1

By John Gardner

Large group of smiling friends staying together and looking at camera isolated on blue backgroundAdults who are afraid of teenagers or who feel like teens of today are nothing like those from their day (adults have been saying that forever, right?) ….. or who think the quality of teens is crumbling….. should come hang out with the teens I get to spend time with.

As a teacher, I can’t use the “love” word, must avoid the “creepy” label (they DO use that word too much), have to be careful how I compliment the way someone looks, and often settle for handshakes and high fives when a good pat on the back or a hug seems so much more appropriate for the circumstance …. but I thoroughly enjoy my time on the school clock. I LOVE the youthful enthusiasm. I ADMIRE their dreams, goals and aspirations. And I RESPECT those who make the best of their circumstances as they strive for excellence. I am all about encouraging achievers and I think it is because they recognize that, that they allow me into their lives. I “love” this job AND these teens.

My response to the parent who asked recently, “How do you put up with a room FULL of teenagers?” is “I feel sorry for those who DON’T get to experience a room FULL of teenagers.”

Some of the “types” of teens I admire…. (first in a series)

I admire teens who thrive because of their parents… Band students have complicated schedules that can challenge parental patience. There is the expense of instruments and extras (reeds, valve oil, drum sticks) — not to mention private lessons, summer camps, etc. Vacations get adjusted and, especially until the teen can drive, there are countless trips to drop off and pick up.

Some parents sacrifice soooo much in time, energy and money so that their teen can focus on being a better student, athlete, musician, academic or whatever. But all of that is for naught if the teen doesn’t take advantage of it. I admire teens who appreciate what they have and commit themselves to “getting their parents’ money’s worth”.

I admire teens who thrive in spite of their parents.

I was outside Door 34 prior to a rehearsal when she jumped out of the car and ran up to me, crying and wiping tears from her eyes, “G… I’m sorry…..I’m so sorry.” As she ran off into the building I got the impact of her emotion when I saw the approaching papa angrily waving a copy of our schedule.

Additional random examples….

“We’re going to pull our son out of band…..his room is a mess.”

“I can’t come to band today. I’m grounded and part of my punishment is whatever consequence I get from you for not being here.”

” He really loves band…..which is why this has to be part of his punishment.”

“She can’t major in color guard in college….so there is no point in the expense for her to be in this activity.”

“My parents took my band card money and my paycheck money. What do I do?”

“Here’s my paycheck to pay you back for letting me go to Disney. I will be able to pay you back from my job over the next three months.” (And did.)

“I have to stop taking private lessons because my dad says if I have money to waste on music lessons that I can pay rent.”

“G, I just got kicked out of my house.”

“Why are you telling my kid (s)he needs extra money for music lessons? Aren’t you the teacher? Why don’t you do what you’re getting paid for?”

“Why should I buy another [instrument]? I bought the one they told me to buy when (s)he started.”

Some of the most determined to succeed band students have parents I never meet. I understand busy and I understand the struggles of single parenthood (there were five kids in my single parent home) and it can be hard….yes, it can be hard. But it is sad sometimes to watch students try not to show disappointment when the parent is not there…. just sayin’.

I admire students who, despite the potential negatives of their circumstances…..are determined to succeed…..

….to be continued

Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Parenting, Teaching, Teaching Music

Raise the bar with PRACTICE

Raise the Bar with Practice

Posted in Assistant Directing, High Schools, Personal experience, Storytelling, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , ,

Sight-reading Tips

By John Gardner

Solo and Ensemble no frameMusicians auditioning for acceptance or for music scholarships are working on prepared pieces — likely the same piece he/she is using for solo contest. An aspect of many auditions that are a challenge is the demonstration of sight-reading proficiency. Colleges want to know how quickly you can learn their music.

In most sight-reading circumstances, there will be a period of time for you to preview what you are about to play. In a concert band festival, the sight-reading session involves 10 minutes to look over a piece (counting/clapping rhythms, checking out different aspects, before time is up and the judge is ready. In the Smartmusic.com practice software, sight-reading exercises begin with a user (or teacher) determined amount of time prior to the click off and the assessment. Whatever amount you get, gage the time to get through the following:

Key signature. What key are you in? Think through the scale. Look throughout and see if or how many times it changes during the piece.

Notes. Check range. If possible, sing what you see…. Can you hear and sing what you see? That is another skill we will address in other posts.

Time signature. Does it stay the same or change?

Tempo. If marked, this should give you a general guideline, but keep in mind that is a performance tempo. For sight-reading, look for the most difficult passage that you will play, get a quick idea of how fast you think you can play it accurately, and use that as your overall tempo. Once you start, you don’t want to change the pulse depending on difficulty.

Rhythms. Scan for anything that looks tricky and take a moment to count, clap, sing or whatever — to get that/those rhythm(s) in your head.

Dynamics. Scan for them and then be aware as you play.

Stylistic markings. Staccato, legato, articulation, accents, etc. The tendency in sight-reading is to concentrate on notes, which are primary, but watch for the other signs as you go. Like driving the car, staying on the road (notes) is important, but watching the road signs (slow down, stop, cross-walk, etc) are equally important to getting to your destination safely.

Once you start – DON’T STOP! If you miss a note, that one is history, you can’t go back and fix it … part of practicing for sight-reading (or for any performance) is to force yourself to continue.

Finding music to sight-read. Get books from other similar-range instruments. Pick random hymns in a church hymnal. Check the band director’s office. Go to the music library and pull out random pieces. For sight-reading practice, however, don’t keep playing the same piece(s), unless it is to prepare them for performance or to see how quickly you can perfect them.

Another important aspect to sight-reading is evaluation. If possible, have someone else listen to you and critique what you played. You may be playing a rhythm wrong that you will continue to play wrong.

Hope this helps. Add your comments or send questions.

Music Coaching

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Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Teaching Music Tagged with: , ,

My Philosophy of Education and why I interact with students the way I do

Click the pic to get to the article.

Click the pic to get to the article.

Posted in Classroom Teacher, High Schools, Personal experience, Storytelling, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Solo contest judge’s #1 recommendation

By John Gardner

excellentMost participants in high school solo competitions are only in the performance room long enough for his/her performance and maybe for a couple friends’. They could learn so much by sitting and listening/observing for a while.

During some down time in between local student performances at a state level contest, I sat in a few performance rooms just to hear examples of what other students around the state are doing.  I did not expect to see the wide range of performance quality given that I was at a STATE level contest and everyone participating had already received a GOLD (top) rating at district competition. If I had to summarize that experience, it would be with the conclusion that…

…not all music education results are created equal.

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Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Music Department, Music Performance, Parenting, Solo Prep, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , ,

The Cost of NOT Volunteering….one story

Volunteer

In a band blog article/announcement about Volunteering, I was encouraging and recruiting student volunteers for a fundraising dinner, a pep band that we were taking to play at a small Christian college’s basketball game, and another pep band invited to the local YMCA to play for a tournament involving their young basketball league.

To make a point, I shared a personal family story:

In 2001, David graduated high school Valedictorian in a class of 470. He chose to go to Duke University, where the 4-yr sticker price was close to $170,000. He had earned a good package of both merit based and financial need components — but was going to be about $32,000 short over his four years there. To go to Duke for $8,000/yr is pretty amazing, but he could have gone for FREE if he had known this one thing.

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Posted in College Prep, Personal experience Tagged with: , ,

Teacher to Student after Talking To Parent: Is It True?

By John Gardner (view LinkedIn Profile)

Is It TrueSometimes, engaging and talking to teens, outside the authoritative imbalance of parent/child or teacher/student is challenging. If you catch them with the wrong group of friends, they may ignore or give you the peer-pressure-influenced reaction. Or you picked the day that they just broke up or had some other type of unrelated tragedy.

Never let a less than stellar first attempt turn into a lasting negative impression.

Of course, there are those who make and even start fun, friendly conversations. Most are engaging and appreciative (even if they don’t admit it) that a teacher is showing interest in them or in what is going on in their lives.

For some of the others, what follows is one of my favorite tactics.

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Posted in Classroom Teacher, High Schools, Music Department, Personal experience, Public Schools, Storytelling, Teaching, Teaching Music