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Pines of Rome

 

Banff Alpine Symphony

 

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Writing Tips

4 Quick Tips for Better Writing in any Discipline January 6, 2015 – 9:12pm By Shira Lurie No matter what field you’re in, grad school will at some point demand a piece of writing from you. Many of these are things we’ve learned in grade school, but have forgotten over time. Consider the following as a quick refresher of some basic tools to sharpen your writing. 1. The Passive Voice This is a common writing problem that is often poorly explained. The passive voice occurs when a sentence obscures the actor. For instance, “The bill was signed into law” is an example of the passive voice because we are unsure who did the signing. A better sentence reads, “President Obama signed the bill into law.” Often “to be” verbs (was, is, are) indicate that a sentence contains the passive voice. Do a quick search for those terms when editing to catch any that may have escaped your notice. Fix the problem by clarifying the actor (President Obama) and removing the “to be” verb (was). 2. Semicolons The most misunderstood punctuation mark since the Oxford comma. A semicolon is often used to separate two distinct but related clauses. It is the middle ground between a period and a comma, marking a pause shorter than the former but longer than the latter (easy to remember since a semicolon is a combination of those two symbols). For example, “Most of the test subjects responded well to treatment; however, a minority experienced debilitating side effects.” These two clauses are complete, yet closely linked in meaning. Semicolons can also be used to separate complex lists. For instance, “The conference attendees included lawyers from New York and Boston; Native Americans from the Creek, Ottawa, and Shawnee tribes; and professors from the University of Chicago and Brown.” 3. Cliches As common as dirt, cliches are overused expressions. Ridding your writing of cliches will kill two birds with one stone by adding both clarity and originality to your work. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but writers often use cliches as a shortcut and it shows. When tempted to employ one, think carefully about what you are trying to say and phrase it clearly. By avoiding cliches, the meaning you are trying to convey will become crystal clear. I know what you’re thinking … I should practice what I preach. 4. RRRRRRRRun-on Sentencessssssssssss These are sentences that are too long. They often occur when a writer is trying to cram many ideas into one sentence. For example, “Horse racing in colonial Virginia enabled the planter elite to showcase their wealth by making extravagant wagers and arriving in fancy attire that would make their neighbors jealous and heighten their own prestige and power.” Run-on sentences are easy to spot—just look for any sentences that go on and on (usually over three lines). Fix your run-on sentences by either eliminating redundant words (like very, really, many) or splitting them up into more than one sentence: “Horse racing in colonial Virginia enabled the planter elite to showcase their wealth. They would arrive to the races in fancy attire and make extravagant wagers. These displays heightened their prestige and power by demonstrating that they had more money than their neighbors.” When writing, try to limit each sentence to just one idea. Concision is the key to clarity. BONUS TIPS! Here’s a guide to some common problems: 1. It’s is NOT a possessive apostrophe—only use it’s as a contraction for it and is. Ex. The dog loves its ball. It’s his favorite toy. 2. “That” does not follow a comma; “which” does. Ex. It is important that you wash your hands before preparing food. Our hands often have bacteria on them, which can cause illness and the spread of infections. 3. Numbers with fewer than three syllables should be written in words. Ex. The bill cost twenty dollars, which was nothing in comparison to the 652 million dollar lottery ticket he cashed the previous day. 4. If the answer is “she,” use “who;” if the answer is “her,” use “whom.” Ex. Who wrote the letter? She did. To whom is it addressed? Her sister. A Tentative Taxonomy of Writing (in Grad School) November 5, 2014 – 8:03pm By Kelly Hanson Before you ask, yes, I am aware that my title sounds like something a nineteenthcentury anthropologist might pen. And yes, I am aware that nineteenth-century anthropologists might not be the best role models. But I want to suggest, here, that developing our own classification schemes for our writing can be extremely beneficial to our writing process and to our emotional well-being. To begin, in defense of a writing taxonomy, I want to point out that much of our everyday writing is externally goal-oriented. By this, I mean that our writing goals and forms are often determined by someone or something other than ourselves—a deadline, an advisor’s request, or an application’s demands. How we format and conceptualize our writing comes not from our own individual relationship to our prose, but from something external. A taxonomy of writing, by contrast, might offer us something a bit more internal and organic. A taxonomy of writing asks what type of writing we are doing, what our goal for this writing is, and implicitly asks us to compare all of the different types of writing we do on a daily basis. By developing our own individual taxonomies for the various types of writing we are expected to perform, we can begin to better understand our own relationship to writing, take control of our writing schedule, and develop a more positive relationship to writing that is independent from external motivators and rewards. So, I offer here one way to begin: a brief and tentative description of the kinds of writing I find myself constantly performing, along with links, sources, and tips for accomplishing each. Drafting Type: Generating prose Energy level: Low to medium; this is about creating text, not about finding fancy words or worrying about what your audience might think Unspoken goal: To work through ideas and articulate your thoughts when first creating text; to write down things you have thought about but have not yet put into words. Drafting is the first stage of the writing process. Ideally, it either is or derives from freewriting, though it may include synthesizing pages of notes, engaging with a small piece of evidence or data, or even just trying to articulate an idea. Drafting is often one of the messier and more difficult stages of writing, because it occurs when thoughts are still nascent and not yet fully formed. Yet it is also potentially easier than later stages of writing because it is supposed to be messy. Drafting is useful as both a writing process and a thinking process. In the drafting stage, we should aim to not be hindered by phrasing or organization, but just to get words out and work through ideas. Rewriting I (General) Type: Revision Energy level: High Unspoken goals: To sharpen your ideas, to simplify your style, to clarify your argument, to organize your ideas for more coherent communication. Rewriting refers to a step often skipped by writers in graduate school, often as a result of rushed writing at the end of the semester. Rather than writing a single draft, editing it for mistakes, and sending it off, rewriting asks us compose multiple drafts, often changing or rewriting completely large chunks (i.e. at least 50%) of our original text. Rather than fixing grammatical mistakes or finding better words, rewriting focuses on structure, ideas, and argumentation. Yes, it aims to organize your prose into a readable format, but more so, it aims to get the prose to say what it needs to say as clearly and effectively as possible. Rewriting requires asking some very difficult questions. How does each paragraph or piece of evidence move your argument forward? What is the purpose of this section and how does that fit into the whole? Do I really need these twenty pages of historical context? (hint: no) Essentially: what am I saying and is this the best way to say it? Rewriting II (For Conference Papers or Oral Presentations) Type: Presenting research, orally Energy level: High (for the drafting process) Unspoken goals: To translate your ideas, notes, and written work into something that can be understood only by listening; to clarify and simplify your writing for oral presentations. Conference papers and presentations are short (usually 12-20 minutes), and should ideally be focused around a single topic or small cluster of examples. There simply isn’t time for more than that. This works to the benefit of the writer, however, because it is much easier to clearly explain a single idea or portion of data than to develop a complex argument in such a short amount of time. Conference papers are, notably, both written and oral documents. Generally, they take a slice out of your larger research project and present it to audiences in an oral format. Often, they offer your first foray into a research topic, and thus represent your initial findings or early ideas. Because these presentations may represent either the early stages of your research or a small piece of a much larger and more complicated whole, your writing has to be simple and clear. This means that sentences need to be short, de-jargoned, and attentive to being consumed aurally. Flourishes you might relish using in written discourse lose their flair when heard aloud, and often impede understanding. You might think of a conference paper as a script for your future performance, and cue yourself and your audience accordingly. Rewriting III (For Dissertation Chapters, Proposals, and Articles) Type: Presenting research to committees who will evaluate it Energy level: High Unspoken goals: to present research in a way that balances your ideas with your committee’s expectations; to convince the committee that your research is both valid and worth continuing; to demonstrate that you are worth supporting as a scholar. Rewriting dissertation chapters, articles, or proposals is a very externally-based form of writing. Generally, this level of writing is not simply to revise your prose but to revise it for a specific group of readers: your advising committee, that grant proposal committee, or the editorial board at a journal. Grant or project proposals are among the most difficult types of writing to produce, because they are extremely short and condense huge swaths of information into a few pages. Proposals and funding applications generally ask us to explain our goals or hypotheses very clearly and concretely to both specialist and non-specialist audiences. A dissertation chapter or proposal, by contrast, performs its pitch through its analysis and argumentation. A dissertation chapter functions much like a grant proposal in that they offer a pitch to your readers demonstrating the value and merit of your research, labor, and intellectual skill set. While a grant convinces an unknown committee to fund your work, a dissertation chapter convinces a specialist committee that is familiar with your project and research that you are a qualified scholar. Although dissertation projects can feel extremely personal and overwhelming, dissertations are above all a degree requirement, as a professor once reminded me. For both proposals and dissertation chapters, the goal of the writing is to find a way to communicate your ideas to a specific committee. This type of rewriting can be frustrating, because it requires you to adapt your work for a particular audience. Professional Correspondence Type: Communication through letters or email Energy level: Low (anxiety level: high) Unspoken goal: to communicate efficiently and effectively while demonstrating appropriate academic and social etiquette Professional correspondence usually takes place over email, and may include communicating with peers, advisors, scholars in your field, journal editors, or potential employers. Balancing formality and friendliness is a tightrope act. Correspondence should be polite and short. Get to the point quickly, but don’t be brusque. Writing, like the rest of graduate school, is best taken step by step, in small chunks. Hopefully, by creating our own taxonomies of the types of writing we want or need to accomplish, we can better understand the goals and requirements of each type of writing, and prepare ourselves better to meet them.

Organized Practicing

Organized Practicing

By: Stephanie Landry

  1. Rhythm
  • Consistent pulse (use metronome: preference eight notes)
  • Do Aural Skills dictation (Are you able to dictate from your recording the exact rhythm?)
  • Playing consistent repetitions of music (5-10 perfectly)

 

  1. Learning the Notes
  • Link together the correct rhythm and correct notes!
  • Check your notes with the piano or play them down the octave.
  • Repeat isolated passages 5-10 times. (This allows for consistency)

 

  1. Recognize Dynamics, Specific Articulations and Intonation
  • This is just as important as the last two topics!
  • Be aware that it is extremely difficult to make music without these three concepts.
  • Repeat passages again for consistency.

 

  1. Tempo
  • Practice at a tempo that you can perform the piece/passage 1-3 times flawlessly. After that step then you can begin to accelerate the tempo. Remember to complete several repetitions of each passage before increasing the speed.
  • During this process you should sporadically check yourself with the indicated or recommended tempo. This allows for you to know how far you have come and where you need to be.
  • Once you have reached your desired tempo you should cut off the metronome so that the pulse begins to be more internal.

 

  1. Explore Being Musical
  • Dynamics, Articulation and intonation are the beginning steps to being musical.
  • Never allow the music to stay in one place. Discover when the music should naturally rise and fall. Listening will help this process.
  • Try to create a story or use descriptive words for the music, this will help to engage your audience.

 

Performance Pedagogy

Nature-Nurture
I find this topic interesting because I never really thought about what background people/professionals come from. I do believe that to a certain extent people that come from a musical background it is easier to understand why you have to practice, score study etc as much as you do. I know from my background that my mother played flute in high school and my siblings did the same. I have learned through the years that I don’t them somethings and I avoid phone calls etc when I am close to exams or major performances. I do believe that people that come from more musical backgrounds have more support from their family and they could also experience more pressure to meet a higher standard. I do agree with Kohut when he mentions Suzuki stating “Talent is no accident of birth” (p103).  Even the professionals have to practice at some point, but some techniques come to them easier. I also agree with Kohut their is nothing we are able to do to change the circumstances and I enjoy teaching both types of students. I am able to relate more to students that come from a non-musical family, but I enjoy learning about students that come from a musical family. Both types of students teach me new things.
Weaknesses in Music-Teacher Training
When Kohut speaks about first year teachers using trial and error and how he believes that this is “difficult to justify”. It makes me believe that he thinks everyone should have a standard way of teaching. I don’t agree with this and yes everyone will bring their own experiences from being a student, but that won’t be the same for the student they are teaching. If we did teach by trial and error how would we know that different or new techniques of teaching are useful and more effective than older techniques?I agree that students should have more experience teaching because it is helpful, but also teaches you a lot about how effective you are as a teacher. I find this chapter very frustrating because he seems to think that we have no foundations to teaching music. I one-hundred percent disagree because we all have the universal language of music theory and history. I believe that these create our foundations of teaching and scales are universal. Music is not a subject that you can say this is exactly how you will teach your students all of your students. Music is an art form and people are different so we have to accommodate our students so this makes the teacher unable to teach every student in the same way.
Problems in the Use of Literal Verbal Instructions
I believe that sometimes teachers may use too much verbal commands to help the student which can create a mind overload. This may also lead to paralysis by analysis. I also believe that in teacher I am teach my student to be able to teach themselves so we have a lot of verbal conversation at times which includes me questioning what the student thinks could be the problem. I also believe that verbal conversation is crucial for the student to be able to describe and use academic terms that relate or are about music. I have found throughout my music career that my mentors press me to learn and speak in an academic language. I believe that verbal instructions are important for the student and at some point you should not have a lot of verbal commands because the student will need to be able to evaluate themselves while they are performing and fix themselves without instruction.
Physiological–Analysis–Conscious-Control Method
I believe that this may dangerous to the student and for the teacher because both begin to worry about the mental aspects of playing. This causes a lack of attention to what we are actually trying to do. We are trying to make music, turn phrases and have fun in the process. I don’t find it always helpful for a teacher to tell me how my body operates in order to have a more efficient breath. This information is valid, but I would not advise giving these specific instructions to all students and even if you are going to give this information be cautious. Some students will enjoy learning these things are it will be helpful, some students like myself will close their ears because it is confusing and frustrating (totally regretting that now as a teacher) and then last their are some students that believe the information is useful, but really causes harm to the student. I would only recommend this to advanced students that you are able to monitor on a regular basis.
Recipe-Cookbook Method
This method is very effective when teaching some concepts, but it is not my favorite method. I believe that his example of free buzzing, then buzzing in the mouth piece and then place the mouthpiece into the horn is an excellent example and it is really effective. In some cases students don’t respond well to this method. I know from personal experience I play by feel on the horn and I know what shape my lips should be making so I hate buzzing on the mouthpiece and I find it ineffective for myself. I have also discovered that the shape of my lips make it more difficult for me to have a full buzz sound on the mouthpiece as well. The most interesting part is that I am known for having an excellent sound on the euphonium. I find free buzzing and playing notes of the piano more effective for myself. I do teach my students this method quite often because it does work for them. Another example is using breathing patterns, without the horn, then blowing the air through the horn and then actually playing the notes in the horn. Once again every student is different and they will need to be taught in different ways as well. The teacher should be flexible in their approach to teaching students.
Imitation-Method
I believe that this method is crucial for any level student because it helps the student develop quicker, but this should be used in moderation. Some teacher will catch themselves playing too much in a lesson and the student will be asked to play by themselves and plays very different. Also sometimes the teacher is just showing off their skill level, this is not helpful for the student. I am also a firm believer in recordings as well. Everyone should be aware of all the excellent musicians in the world and all the different instruments. A good place to start is your own instrument and then branch out into the next instrument closet to you then you will eventually listen to any musician performing and find valuable things from those performances that will enhance your own playing and teaching abilities. I really enjoyed and learned the most when I performed a hand written tenor aria about two years ago. I believe that I learned the most because I wasn’t listening to euphonium artist or imitating them I was imitating a tenor and a specific tenor. Imitation is a large part of learning an instrument, but should be used in moderation so that the student create their own musical interpretations.

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