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September 2, 2016

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JUST READ!

January 22, 2015

Suggestions for Summer Reading

OK, I admit it—one of my weaknesses is reading. I love to read! Unfortunately, my nose is often buried in a thriller or a novel with twisted plots and subterranean character development, instead of reading books which would enhance my professional skills. But I have to admit that lately three engaging books about teaching music have managed to pry me away from those entrancing novels, and I'm going to recommend them to you today.

The first one I chanced upon is Making Music and Enriching Lives: A Guide for All Music Teachers by Bonnie Blanchard with Cynthia Blanchard Acree (Indiana University Press). Now, Bonnie is a flute teacher, and I am a piano teacher. But no matter—she nails down the very attributes I've been trying to assimilate for lo these many teaching years: how to nurture excellence in your studio, how to energize those little rascals into practicing more, and just generally how to create successful, music-loving students while maintaining your own humanity. Her breezy, down-to-earth writing makes it an easy read. Clear chapter organization means you can pick and choose (perhaps according to which fire needs extinguishing first!).

These two authors have also penned a book intended for students, but full of insight for teachers as well, Making Music and Having A Blast!: A Guide for all Music Students (also Indiana University Press). Chock full of advice, these chapter headings give content hints: Learn the Tricks to Become a Confident Sight-Reader, How to Memorize without Having a Brain Freeze, How to Fit Practice into Your Already Busy Life, Quit Wasting Your Practice Time, and (especially pertinent for us teachers) Help! I Want to Quit. I don't know how many students would actually read this book, inundated as they are with English, History, and Biology. Maybe they could read it in the waiting room before their lesson? Maybe I could excerpt passages for class lesson discussion? At any rate, getting a student point of view gives a new slant to my pedagogy.

The third book in my teacher's reading orgy is The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness by Gerald Klickstein (Oxford University Press). As the author states: this book articulates fundamental skills that bring about musical excellence, drawing on his three decades of research, teaching, and performing (guitar). What makes this book unique is that it is connected to its own web site, musiciansway.com, with its own set of social networking tools (blogs, face book, newsletter, conversations). Want to refresh your own skills and feel like a real musician again? Dip into this pool of inspiration! Listen to this gem: "When Duke Ellington felt glum, for example, he wouldn't let melancholy stay his pen: 'I merely took the energy it takes to pout,' he said, 'and wrote some blues.'" I also resonate to Part III, Lifelong Creativity, which begins with the quote from Thich Nhat Hahn "When we are in touch with the refreshing, peaceful, and healing elements within ourselves and around us, we learn how to cherish and protect these things and make them grow."
I'd love to share ideas from these books with anyone else who reads them. Let's start an online conversation!

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