/* Add the font family you wish to use. You may need to import it above. */
/* This affects only headers on the site. Add the font family you wish to use. You may need to import it above. */
/* This sets the universal color of dark text on the site */
/* This sets the width of the website */
/* To make this a fixed header, change the value to "fixed" - otherwise, set it to "static" */
/* This affects all grey background sections */
/* More than likely, you will use one of these values (higher = bolder): 300, 400, 700, 900 */
/* For Headers; More than likely, you will use one of these values (higher = bolder): 300, 400, 700, 900 */
/* "0" for square edges, "10px" for rounded edges, "40px" for pill shape; This will change all buttons */
This is Cara from Hunterdon Academy of the Arts and for this month's "Tips and Tricks" series, I wanted to give you a few tips on what to do when you feel like you're stuck in a rut in your Music Lessons. Or you're lacking motivation and need some new sparks in your musical life. But instead of hearing it from me, I thought I would ask some of our teachers who are actually in the classroom with you what they do, or what they would tell you if you're in this situation.
Pete B., Guitar Teacher: "For those of you who might be stuck in a rut whatever instrument you might be playing, every kind of music you play. I found that in my personal experience, what has always helped me progress and stay interested and motivated is keeping my ears open, and I always try to find new artists, new instrumentalists just to stay inspired because you gotta see what's out there and how other people have done it. You never know when you're gonna find something that makes it be like I want to do that. And when you find that, you can really take it and run with it."
Kristen B., Acting Teacher: "So my advice for Actors is: if they ever feel stuck for inspiration or feel a lack of motivation, or if they just don't know what to do or where to go, or if a part is stuffing them, a role is stuffing them, I really really really really suggest meditating and I know that that's infuriating and crazy because we are just like so used to go go go go go, but if you just take a moment and clear your mind and not think about anything for five minutes--and I know that that seems like a really long time--you'll be able to look at everything with a fresh new perspective and with a clear head and it's magic, it really is!"
Russell H., Violin Teacher: "I would say that there are many times in playing and in anything that you might do, you may have reached some sort of a plateau and you feel like nothing is going anywhere and then you know that's when you're kind of in a rut, and I think the best thing to do--not that there are other ways around this--but I find what works is just to go out and do something different and leave whatever it is you're really stuck in, just leave it alone, leave it behind, go out to do something else. But then come back to it at a later time, whether it's the same day or another day. As you come back, your mind is more open, I think, to pick up where you left off and move on."
Gail F., Violin Teacher: "My suggestion for finding a way to motivate yourself is to find music that you really enjoy playing. You can go on YouTube and find some songs that you really like, suggest some songs to your teacher and then see if your teacher can find the right key for your instrument that you can play that piece."
When I was a little girl, my grandmother Lidia would sing to me and my brother all the time--and I mean ALL the time. She was a Hungarian lady with a Transylvanian ancestry and she knew over 1000 old ethnic Hungarian songs. Singing to us was her way of storytelling and she took great pride in being familiar with all the “olden songs” her blind mother passed on to her. We believe that grandma had perfect pitch--even though she had no formal music training. You could pretty much tune an instrument to her voice and she sang everything either in d-minor or D-Major. If you are a musician yourself, you may appreciate this rare skill.
We all experienced first-hand how music brings families closer together. My Mom’s side of the family was very close. We lived in the same neighborhood, and would see all our aunts, uncles and cousins almost daily. Most of us took music lessons at one point of another and played an instrument or sang. We used to have family rehearsals and would go caroling together over Christmas. Grandma was at our house all the time and sometimes it was hard to focus on our “kid stuff” when she was singing. We would often ask her: “Can you please just stop for a little while?” and she would get upset with us. It was also not so cool to have your friends over and have grandma be the center of attention. She really enjoyed that, by the way. :-)
My brother and I did not fully appreciate Grandma Lidia’s talent until she was in her 70’s and a couple of university professors asked to meet with her, record her songs and catalogue them before all that cultural treasure is forgotten. We were shocked to discover that what we’ve been hearing daily is actually something so unique and valuable, but then again, it’s only human to sometimes take people for granted.
My grandma’s passion for music influenced our entire family and I’m so very grateful to her. I have some wonderful memories of making music with my uncle, and I still tear up when I watch videos of his amazing clarinet performances. There are also these warm memories of me and my Mom singing in harmony, as well as Mom singing with her siblings. Sometimes, we did that on stage and sometimes while baking fresh rolls together. I think about those happy times often and with great fondness.
Now, my family is scattered all over the world and my uncle and grandma are long gone. We miss them terribly and I often wish I could hear grandma’s songs in the kitchen. However, my aunt and cousins still call me from Australia, Sweden, Hungary or Serbia and sing “Silent Night” in harmony on Christmas Eve. We all cry and wish we could be together. Music is one of the important links we share and its power to bring back memories is just incredible. So, if one of your family members is always singing or playing, please make sure to pause and appreciate them every day. Ask them to keep singing and try to remember every moment. :-)
My daughter Emily has been attending Hunterdon Academy of the Arts in Flemington since 2011. She started out in Musikgarten's toddler classes and after a while added Actingarten classes to her HAA activities. After aging out of both programs, Emily signed up for Piano Lessons, Showkids Choir, and Acting Classes. She just can't seem to get enough of HAA!
Over the past six years, I've been proudly watching Emily develop her music and acting skills and in the process becoming more confident at school and other activities. As Emily has achieved performance milestones at HAA, I have been sitting on the sidelines recalling activities I attempted and failed in childhood. One such activity was ballet which I took for 2 months at the age of seven before being permanently dismissed and told to ‘find another activity’ which I was capable of doing.
That rejection and failure never left me. Nearly two years ago, I heard about a local adult ballet class so I signed up, took a deep inner breath and gave dance a second chance. It was a life changing choice! The teacher, Nancy Dow, welcomed us regardless of our experience or abilities. Not only did I make it past two months, but I performed in a showcase, filmed and produced a 75 minute video documentary about the journey, and am currently embracing a new year of ballet knowing that I am capable of doing more than my teacher from childhood believed was possible.
When my birthday rolled around in August, I made a pledge to try something new or revisit something I previously failed at each year for the remainder of my life. I made this declaration on my social media accounts. Many friends told me they were inspired by my journey to revisit and conquer past failures. So many parents spend their days sitting in waiting rooms while their children live life and learn new things. I think it’s important for adults to step aside from this sedentary station and take a class or two themselves.
For many years, I have wanted to learn to play the piano. One day while my daughter was in Show Kids Choir, I approached Ruthie and asked if adults take music lessons at HAA. She assured me they do and immediately encouraged me to take a trial class to see if I liked it- you won’t know unless you try. I inquired about lesson and teacher availability during the days and times my daughter is at HAA. While I was initially hoping to sign up for piano, Ruthie mentioned that Darryl, the new violin teacher had availability that would work for me. Violin… the instrument I have always loved and revered, but played rather unsuccessfully as a child. Throughout five years of lessons, I was always relegated to second violin, seated so far in the rear of the orchestra that I saw more of the backside of the stage curtain than the audience during school performances. However, the idea of working Darryl was very appealing given the numerous times I heard his violin and viola playing wafting into the waiting room. I was so impressed by his skill as a musician and his calm, friendly personality that I decided to give violin a second chance, much in the same way I had given ballet a second chance. Ruthie, being the sensitive and encouraging person she is, completely reassured and encouraged me to do a trial class the following week.
I would love to say that I was nothing but excited and confident in the week leading up to my trial, but I was beset with nerves. All I could think about was how poorly I played the violin as a child. I even had a conversation with a close friend, James Goodwin, who happens to be a strings teacher and a professional bassist. I was hoping he would talk me out of taking the trial by telling me it was silly for an adult to take lessons after so many years. Instead, he not only told me how good it would be for me to pick up the violin again but he promised to help me get my long dormant violin lesson-ready. So, it seemed that violin lessons were meant to be.
The day of my trial arrived. As soon as I walked into the classroom I explained my apprehension to Darryl. He completely put me at ease with his reassurance and gently approach to the lesson. He is so patient and encouraging. Darryl’s responsiveness to my musical interests led him to recommend that I listen to a recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for homework. Having a teacher introduces me to music and techniques I could not discover on my own. I am so thankful that Darryl was free to take me on as a student at a time that works for me while my daughter is in choir. I am continually blown away by the quality and skill of the instructors at HAA.
After my trial class, I stopped by the office and signed up for weekly lessons. It’s going to be an investment of time and money, but I know it will be worth it on many levels. I am very excited to have violin back in my life and can't wait to learn and improve. I have already started a daily practice regimen and find playing the violin to be stimulating physically, intellectually and artistically. Taking lessons is also enhancing my daughter’s musical experience. Seeing me practice encourages her to practice. She was so excited the first time she heard me practicing scales that she applauded heartily. What encouragement! I think she has learned some of that from her time at HAA.
I believe it’s important to embrace our interests and dreams in spite of past failures or discouraging statements by others. Along the way, we will inspire others by sharing the various contours of our journey with them. While the ballet school of my childhood saw me as a cog in their elite machine, schools like HAA seek to unlock the beauty and potential of each student in a non-competitive, ever encouraging atmosphere. They do this by consistently hiring kind, patient, and skilled teachers. One thing I have always felt at HAA is acceptance. It’s a place for creative people to be themselves while growing and developing as actors and musicians. This is so important in a society that is rapidly devaluing the arts. As the bearer of a BFA in Visual Art, I cannot imagine a landscape without artists, musicians, actors, dancers, poets… creative people who add limitless layers of beauty through their interpretation and expressions of life. And in order to keep this happening, we must make face our fears and past failures, pick up something new (or old) and believe that learning is a lifelong journey.
Congratulations to June Asai, for winning our Faculty of the Month Award! Below is a summary of our interview with June.
You teach Piano Lessons and Voice Lessons at our Flemington and Lebanon locations. How old were you when you decided to make music your career and what (or who) inspired you to choose this path? I started taking voice lessons in fifth grade while I was living in Japan. I studied with Prof. Saito Kotoko at Kobe College. I watched many of her performances. She was a great role model for me. She had great confidence and a wonderful stage presence. In 7th grade, I performed as the lead, princess, Pamina, in an opera by Mozart called, “The Magic Flute.” I was lucky to be able to perform with a full orchestra which was very exciting. That’s when I decided I wanted to make singing my career.
As a YouTuber who releases covers and original song videos, what
advice can you give young aspiring artists? How DO you build a good following? My best advice is to make sure a career in music is the right path for you. First, learn about yourself and try to become as well-rounded as possible. Then, if you honestly think you have the ability, drive, and the talent to make it, never give up. I think success with YouTube is based on consistency, good content, and timing. I suggest developing a channel as soon as possible, that way you will have the time to develop your skills in social media, understand the programs and technology needed to make videos and work on feeling comfortable in front of the camera.
You have a degree in vocal performance from Rutgers University. How do you balance your classical training with your strong interest in popular music? I believe learning to sing classically is the best way to start for any young singer. Jumping into pop singing without the foundation of proper vocal technique leads to the development of bad habits that will be harder to break in the future. Once a singer can sing classically then vocal exploration is safe and can be very fun. There is nothing wrong with being versatile.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? I love my kids! Every one of my students has their very own unique way of learning and seeing the world and I think that’s exciting. Being part of the process of creative growth is rewarding and fun. Also, the staff is friendly. HAA is a nice place to be
This month, we are congratulating Angy Estrada on winning the January 2017 Faculty of the Month Award! Dr. Estrada is a very successful Instructor teaching Piano Lessons at our Flemington location.
Tell us a bit about your musical journey. When did you start playing music and why did you choose piano over other instruments? My musical journey started when I was 7 years old and I joined the music program at my school. I played piano with our Salsa Band while attending “Bellas Artes” Music Conservatory in Colombia.
Who inspired you to become a professional musician and why? My Mother was always very supportive and my teachers encouraged me to study Music professionally. My colleagues from “Orquesta La Misma Gente” inspired me to continue my education and my piano teachers, Lucia Mora and Dr. Baruch Meir were highly supportive, as well.
You received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Rutgers University, but you also studied jazz composition and arrangement. How does classical music fit in with the rest of your music interests? Classical music is the foundation for my Piano Technique, Music Theory, Music History and Musicianship. My studies with Prof. Stasio expanded my horizons in Jazz allowing me to create my own music, and performing other genres such as, Latin Jazz and Gospel Music.
What is your recommendation for students to get motivated to practice on a regular basis? Students should build their weekly schedule including practicing their musical instrument. I recommend my students practice earlier in the day before they get too tired. In addition, having performance opportunities motivates my students to practice and achieve significant progress.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? Hunterdon
Academy of the Arts is a very organized community. I enjoy the respect and commitment that everyone
shares with each other to make sure our students improve their musical skills.
We'd like to congratulate Emily Rubin on winning January’s Student of the Month Award!! Emily is a Piano and Acting student at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts in Flemington, NJ.
How old are you and how long have you been a student at HAA? I am 11 years old and I have been at HAA for 2 years.
You take Piano Lessons and Acting Classes at HAA. What do you like about each of these two programs?
I love being able to play an instrument, such as piano. And my Acting program makes me love to be in front of the camera.
What kind of music do you like to listen to at home? I like listening to Ballads (Adele, Twenty One Pilots, etc.).
What are your hobbies and what do you like doing in your free time? I love to draw and play video games in my free time.
What do you like about being part of Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? Being able to learn so many new things (Piano, acting).
What do you want to be (professionally) when you grow up? I want to be a professional artist when I grow up.
The beginning of a new year holds great promise. It provides an opportunity for us to leave “in the past” any disappointments, shortcomings, and discomfort we may have experienced during the previous year. At the same time, the start of the new year also allows us to build on previous accomplishments and take them to a new level. So here we are on January 1, looking both back and ahead.
It is a moment when many of us define their personal New Year’s Resolutions. We make them in good faith, but come March, how many of us will still abide by them or even remember what they were? As Joseph Luciani says, 80 % of New Year’s Resolutions Fail because we tend to be over-ambitious in choosing goals that lie well beyond our capacity to attain, or because we may lack the experience in managing setbacks on the path to reaching our goals, be it saving a certain amount of money each month, losing x number of lbs, etc.
Part of the problem is that resolutions often involve sacrifices that take us way out of our comfort zone or are difficult to love and enjoy. Most of us resolve to exercising daily for two hours not because we enjoy exercising but because we want to lose 40 lbs by a certain date, with the ultimate goal of making an improvement to our health or feeling better about our physical appearance.
Learning a musical instrument is a different kind of challenge, though it is one that deserves to be among your resolutions and goals to achieve this year. Of the many reasons why music lessons are so high on my priority list, I will focus on the five most important ones:
1. Music is forever. The ability to make music, once you have learned at least basic musical concepts and skills, is yours to keep for life. Playing soccer at age 80? No, unless you want to make a fool out of yourself. Playing the guitar? Absolutely! With ease, and a smile on your face.
2. Making music brings people together because instruments--traditional ones at least--don’t play by themselves. If you can play an instrument, you will have friends and likely some admirers as well. Over time, you will also find friends interested in making music together with you!
3. Making music is immensely enjoyable. The learning process does require a concentrated effort to develop and maintain your skills. But at the end of a tricky practice session, what remains is your passion for music and love of the instrument.
4. Making music offers you an island of sanity in the craziness of your daily life. Regularly set aside some time to experience the calming effects of music and explore the sea of emotions it holds!
5. Music lessons improve mental focus. You will learn to read and interpret a new language--musical notation. Expressing that language on your instrument requires you to develop some special fine motor and coordination skills. Your ability to focus will improve even further as you begin to memorize the songs you are learning.
Are you ready to start (or restart) music lessons this year?
This month, we are spotlighting Rob George. Rob is not only one of our most popular but also one of our most versatile Teachers. Below are the highlights of a recent interview we had with him:
You teach several cool instruments, as well as ROCK Plus, a new performance program at HAA. How did you get into playing several different instruments? In addition to teaching guitar lessons, I also teach ukulele, banjo, and mandolin. I actually got into these instruments because of an uncommon instrument one of my previous teachers had me learn: the lute. The lute is essentially a predecessor to the guitar, and it’s really tricky to get a nice sound on. My teacher had a philosophy that if you can get a good sound on the lute, your sound on the guitar would be that much better because of it. This sparked a fascination with tone, and I began learning a bunch of less played, fretted instruments in hopes to apply that to my guitar playing.
You also play in a band. Can you tell us more about it and the kind of music you play? The band I play in is called Mr. Hey Mister. If I had to label our sound I’d say we’re kind of like a chill electronic jazz group. It started as a duo with my friend Ryan and I; I would play guitar and program sounds on my computer, and he played the drums. Recently though we’ve developed a much more R&B sound as we’ve been joined by a bassist and a singer. We’ve been working on a full length album hopefully ready to release relatively soon!
You majored in Classical and Jazz Guitar Performance. How does classical music fit in with the rest of your music interests? Classical music fits in to the rest of my musical interests in almost too many ways. I would say the biggest influence studying it has had is how I now listen to music. In Classical music, expressing
yourself through your playing is so essential to conveying the way the piece makes you feel, and in my opinion the most beautiful music is created due to the subtleties that can often be overlooked. For example, I try listening for how loud or soft is the music being played, which notes are being accented and which aren’t, when there's tonal changes... when you start to critically listen you can find there’s a lot of sounds going on that you may not have been aware of before and it’s really really cool!
How do you inspire your students to explore various musical styles and dedicate their time to practicing? To inspire my students to explore various music styles. I try to understand what kind of music they like first. Then we work together to learn the songs they’re interested in. Once we understand what sounds they’re interested in, we pursue those sounds. Once I have an idea of what my student likes and doesn’t like I try to suggest bands that they might not have heard of before; the more music you listen to the more you can understand what sounds you like and what you don’t. As far as practicing goes, the biggest thing I encourage is to use your time efficiently by setting a few small goals instead of one big one. Trying to learn an entire piece in one day from start to finish can often be frustrating, discouraging, and frankly, unrealistic. But saying something to yourself like, “Okay, I can get the first thirty seconds of this song down, and then maybe I can work on my scale” creates an achievable, realistic, and rewarding goal.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? My favorite part about being a part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community is easily the positive and encouraging atmosphere. From the students and parents to the teachers and staff, everyone is always helping each other become better musicians, but more importantly, better people :)
This month we’re congratulating Matthew Scotto on winning December’s Student of the Month Award!! Matthew is a 10 year old student who got started in our MusikGarten program over 6 years ago.
What instruments do you play and what made you choose them? What’s cool about them? I am currently
taking lessons for piano, cello and banjo. I was in the group keyboard class and when that ended I started taking private piano lessons. I started cello lessons in school last year and thought it was fun so I continued with private lessons. I don’t know why but I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the banjo.
What kind of music do you like to listen to in your free time? I listen to all sorts of popular music like: Frankie Valli, Beatles, Queen, Eagles, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay.
What are your hobbies and what do you like doing in your free time? My hobbies are playing video games and playing with my puppy.
What do you like about being part of Hunterdon Academy of the Arts? What I like most about HAA are my current and former teachers. My music classes are fun! And HAA has fun parties.
What do you want to be (professionally) when you grow up? When I grow up I would like to be a famous YouTuber.
This month, we are spotlighting Mauricio de Souza, one of our most successful Drum Teachers. We’re fortunate for having Mauricio on board, and can’t wait to share with you the interview we had with him.
How old were you when you started your formal music education and what made you choose percussion? I started learning to play drums at age 11. My first teacher was Ricardo Gianetti in my hometown of Brasília, Brasil. Within a few months, I began playing in a cover band with friends from school. Later, I joined the youth percussion ensemble at the Teatro Nacional Cláudio Santoro. From 1991 to 1997 I played in numerous rock cover bands, ranging from the Beatles, to Pearl Jam, to Rush, to Metallica, Pantera,... Eventually, I became interested in Fusion (mix of jazz with rock). Always looking to forward my studies, I took a summer course with Brazilian classical percussionist Ney Rosauro in 1996 and came to the US in 1997 to study with jazz drummer Joe Morello.
You have a degree in Jazz percussion, but you also have classical training. What are the benefits that you’ve experienced in getting trained in both fields? Jazz combines numerous elements from classical music and (today) world music, allowing individual artistic expression through improvisation. As a professional musician, I want to be the best I can be. By studying and performing in both fields alongside musicians equally devoted to their craft, I get exposed to a wealth of ideas, techniques, and unique musical expressions which allow me to keep growing as a musician. Also, the more versatile a musician is, the more work one can do. In my experience, classical and jazz training have given me the foundation to be able to play any style of music I want or need to and to become the musician I want to be.
You often perform in some world-renowned venues. What’s it like to perform at the “Blue Note” in NYC? I’ve been lucky to be able to perform as a band leader in such venues as Blue Note, NJPAC, and this October, at the Québec International Jazz Festival in Canada. [The Blue Note is] my favorite jazz club and the place where all of my heroes have performed.
There is a new CD you released recently. Tell us a bit about it. My new album, “Trajetórias”, was recorded live at Galeria West in Westfield in May of this year. We have performed there numerous times over the years, it’s one of my favorite venues to perform in. It’s a very intimate and naturally artistic venue. This is my third commercial album as a band leader. I recorded nine tracks with my Brazilian jazz group, Bossa Brasil. The music features my arrangements of compositions by Tom Jobim, Milton Nascimento, Hermeto Pascoal, and Pat Metheny. The group is a quartet/quintet with Dmitry Baevsky on alto sax, Jerry Weir on vibes, Bob Rodriguez on keyboard, Gary Mazzaroppi on acoustic bass, and myself on drums. The album is available at live performances and online at Pandora (in a few months), iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, CD Baby, and most online music sites.
You are a kind and patient teacher and your drum lesson students love working with you. What is your #1 tool to motivate them to practice? :-) I love working with my students at HAA! They are all unique in their learning styles and interests and it’s a pleasure to watch them grow. My #1 tool to motivate my students to practice is always focusing on their interests. As a teacher I feel it’s my responsibility to show them how to play the instrument but I also feel it’s my responsibility to help them achieve their musical goals. I may expose them to different techniques but I don’t like to force anyone to study something they’re not interested in. I think the best learning happens in a friendly and relaxed environment.
What do you enjoy about being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community? I enjoy all aspects of being part of the Hunterdon Academy of the Arts community. I thoroughly enjoy interacting with the students and parents, they’re all dedicated to making the most of their experience at HAA. The staff is very friendly and professional. I feel HAA is dedicated to constant growth and improvement in providing the best learning musical environment possible. And I love that about the school.