Some things to look for when choosing a music school

What should you consider when looking for a music instructor in Etobicoke? (or anywhere else for that matter) If you are thinking about enrolling your kids or even yourself for music lessons, you probably have a lot of questions and unresolved concerns about the process. First of all, it’s ok to be nervous. New things can cause a good amount of fear and anxiety. You might ask yourself questions like “can I be good enough? “or “will my instructor be mean to me? “or “is it really worth it?” In this article we’ll dive into some questions to ask yourself about any music school you might be looking into. 1: Meet with your potential teacher or teachers If your potential instructor won’t meet with you even for just a few moments to introduce themselves, consider that to be a huge red flag. It’s ok to want to meet your potential instructor to see if you think you’d get along with them and have a good experience with them. 2: Don’t trust the “name” of a school Even if a music school in Etobicoke has high marks on review sites like Google, don’t just trust that by itself. Sometimes there is new staff that might not be proven. Sometimes an instructor has gotten burned out and isn’t doing as well at their job as they used to. This goes along with suggestion number one, but you never want to walk blindly into a situation. You want your eyes wide open. 3: Don’t just trust their website or brochures It’s easy for any business to talk themselves up. It’s just as easy to piggyback off of one or two success stories. The sad truth in the world that we live in is that sometimes people aren’t as honest as they should be about what they are capable of. Remember that when you take music lessons, your instructor will be evaluating you and you should not be afraid of evaluating them. Make sure your potential instructor can communicate and listen well to what you are hoping to get out of the lessons. Once you start music lessons, don’t be afraid to let them know how you think things are going. Any good instructor is open to feedback and should not be afraid of having to adjust to accommodate the needs of their students. 4: Cost Make sure you know ahead of time...
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Why Are Drum Lessons So Addictive?

Just the other day a young student bounced down the stairs and ran into the waiting room with a smile. I watched as he took off his backpack and noticed two black drumsticks protruding from the top. You should have seen his face as he took them out slowly and with such pride. It was incredible.   That’s the thing about drums. Once you play them you just want to play them some more. There is something so visceral about them, so incredibly physical and enticing.   Growing up in an arts school environment I remember we all believed we could play the drums. They look so easy I mean if I can tap on my desk I can play the drums right? Oh, and what a great fantasy it was to imagine being the guy in the band with the loudest (and arguably coolest) instrument in front of him, controlling the tempo and groove of the song. I would stare at the drummer, longing to be him….that was….when I could see him from over my Tuba. Yes. The Tuba player with drum envy….shocking.   Now as a School Director I see what Drum Lessons do for young kids all the time. I see how it has brought some kids from the brink of giving up on music to absolute renewed pride and enthusiasm. I’ve watched others who already loved music find additional drive and self-esteem behind those drums.   Those who know me know how much I love the piano, but even now I think I still stare at the...
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10 Tips to Help Motivate Your Child to Practice

How do I get my child to want to practice more? Oh, if only I could have a dollar for every time I have been asked this excellent question over the past 20 years. In truth, even now, I know of no perfect, one-size-fits­-all type of answer but there are a few things I can happily share that may be of help.   #1 – Get Started Right – Learning Goes Up or Down One of the most consistent things I’ve noticed in students over the years is that most go in one of two directions. Either the student gets a bit behind at first so they don’t play as well as they’d like so they don’t get to play the songs they want which makes them want to practice less which makes them get stuck on the same song….practice even less….same song…..etc.  OR  – A students starts off with a burst of energy and this gets them ahead and makes their next lesson more rewarding, which makes them want to practice more, which makes the next lesson exciting, which makes them want to practice more…great songs…confidence….etc. Truly very few students stay level; most are headed on a clear trajectory. Either a downward one that feels like constant effort to try and reverse, or an upward one where they are virtually completely self-motivated and happy. The key is the START. Doing well at the beginning sets you or your child up to succeed. Having said that, it is never too late to make positive changes to one’s practicing routine, attitudes, and habits which, with the help of some of my other tips, can get your child moving upwards again.   #2 – Get Your Child to be Your Teacher One of the best ways to ensure your child has learned something well is to get them to explain it to you. This can be an excellent bonding moment between you and your child as he/she proudly shows you what they know that maybe Mommy or Daddy “don’t know”. In truth, this is often the case as your child may show you things you indeed didn’t know. Or even if you did, it is so wonderful hearing it from your child. Now, from your child’s point of view this is one of the best imaginable confidence builders as they develop a sense of being the “expert” at what they are...
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Reflections on 16 years of Teaching Coming to a Close

By: Dave Orrett, School Director If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to be a little nostalgic on this blog post. The largest chunk of my life doing anything has been teaching piano and just this past week I decided to end this chapter in my life, my last lessons coming on June 25th, 2013. Learning piano was a mixed experience for me. I actually started taking private lessons on the recorder in Streetsville, Mississauga and was luckily oblivious to how incredibly “uncool” this was for a young boy. Wisely I kept it a close guarded secret that I rocked the recorder…yeah baby yeah! My parents tell me that at that time I used to bang on the piano and sing silly lyrics along with it. Perhaps as a means of sparing themselves further sonic torture they signed me up for piano lessons. My first teacher was the stereotypical older lady who taught from her home filled with cats. She used to whack my hand with a ruler if my finger position wasn’t perfect. Not that I have emotional scars from this experience…no really J Not surprisingly I wanted to quit. After a few years of this I wanted to quit so much my parents finally indulged me. Generally when a child quits music lessons this is the end, few return. Somehow though I had this deep longing to return and I remember begging my parents to let me return just a year or so later. The deal was I had to pay for a portion of the lessons out of my allowance since I had previously quit. Ouch. It was worth it though and I did it. What followed changed my life forever. My first teacher upon my return was amazing. Her name was Lisa and she showed me what a “chord” was and why I was playing the notes not just what the notes were. Suddenly I had some knowledge to go with all the constant musical ideas and….well….I haven’t looked back ever since. Fast forward to 1996 and I began teaching one student who my grandfather referred to me. I leaned heavily on my experience as a camp counsellor and the inspiration Lisa had awoken in me and it went faily well. Still, when the programmer at Bloordale Community School asked me in September of 1997 if I would teach a full night of students starting the...
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Dave’s Blog: Mixtapes – A love story

By: Dave Orrett, School Director Ah the lost art – and it certainly is an art – of making a mixtape is one lost on a generation that needs only drag and drop to make a mix. Where is the love, passion, blood, sweat, and tears in just moving a song from one digital file to another? Those “mixes” are just playlists held captive inside a computer. Do you remember John Cusack in the movie “High Fidelity” describing the art of the “perfect mixtape”? Spending hours or even days to finish it? Naturally the amount of time we spent felt to us a perfect reflection of how strongly the message was we were trying to convey. Now the songs had to have a theme (“You broke my heart into a million pieces I hate you” was as common a theme as “I would like to get to first base with you”) but it was not nearly good enough to just take a bunch of love songs and throw them on a tape. They had to tell a perfect story as though all these bands got together in the studio to make a concept album based solely on your feelings for the boy who sits behind you in science class. I can picture myself in my room with albums strewn around me. I’d be spending painful minutes stopping and restarting a song in the hopes of hitting the red button at the perfect time to make sure there were no chunks or hisses. Or could the hiss become a part of the mix? The debate was: If there wasn’t enough space between songs did it feel too frantic or did it just symbolize the constant flow of passion you felt for the recipient? What about too much space? Was that slow and boring or a metaphoric symbol of the silence in your relationship? And of course there was the whole “Side A / Side B” element. Perhaps ending side A with a bit of melancholy only to put the infamous “recovery” song to bring your mood back up to start Side B (Which subtly meant “there is hope yet my new love!”) Remember when finished how you’d painstakingly, and in the neatest writing you could muster, write the track list on the impossibly small card that came with the cassette? You’d use your micro penmanship to squeeze in the long...
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Personal Memories of Jazz Legend: Dave Brubeck

By: Dave Orrett, School Director What do you know about Jazz? I remember being asked that question at age 14 and thinking: “In all honesty, not much.” Then again there was this amazing rhythm stuck in my head. It had not the usual four, but five beats per bar, and it was so catchy it just wouldn’t leave my easily distracted teenage imagination alone. The song I learned was called “Take 5” by saxophone player Paul Desmond of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. To me the song was like my own little secret; a great song surely few people knew and I learned it frantically (it wasn’t easy) so I could play it and help it get out of my head and into my little musical life. Naturally once I started playing it I realized not only did others know this famous piece of jazz, but that it was also one of the most influential and commonly played instrumental songs of all time. Next came “Blue Rondo a la Turk” based on a street rhythm which was so exciting to play I could hardly wait to practice it. I remember loving the feeling of knowing I could, with my own hands, play something so epic and rhythmically exciting. My then clumsy fingers resisted for months but at last it was mine! I recall being in Winnipeg a few years later and having the chance to hear him play live and of course I took it in an instant. The visual that followed has stayed with me ever since. I can still picture the audience cheering as the then 80 or so year old Brubeck walked oh so slowly across the stage with the aid of a walker looking fragile and weak. It seemed to take forever then he finally sat on the bench. The audience held its breath, afraid perhaps the slightest motion would cause this poor frail man to fall over. And then…..his hands began to fly. Music exploded from his piano with the virtuosity of a young man. The last laugh was indeed his! Although I was sad to hear of his recent passing, I also felt so happy to know he had lived such a long and influential life. Thank you Dave Brubeck and your quartet for opening my eyes to the world of jazz, for opening my ears to the most exciting rhythms I had ever...
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