NEC’s School of Continuing Education Professional Studies Certificate candidate Amy Kao, gave her final recital on Saturday February 22, 2014 in Brown Hall. Amy performed works by Froberger, Handel, Bach and Scarlatti on a 1987 custom built French double-manual harpsichord by Allan Winkler. The harpsichord is based on the work of the Parisian builder Francois Blanchet II and was built here in Boston.
What made this recital even more interesting was that Amy’s entire performance was done without sheet music. Instead, she chose to use a tablet computer with a foot pedal mechanism to turn the pages of the music which had been scanned into the tablet computer.
A special congratulations to Amy on a great performance and we wish her all the best in the next stage of her musical journey!
A special congratulations to our Professional Studies Certificate in Jazz student, Lisa Witwicki, who gave her final recital on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.
We wish her all the best in the next stage of her musical journey!
To learn more about our certificate programs and how we can help you achieve your musical goals please visit our Certificate Programs page.
“Caustic is a music creation tool inspired by rack-mount synthesizer/sampler rigs. Everything is real-time and optimized for mobile devices.”
We love this blog!
Check out the iTunes store for more info and how you can start using this tool in your music classroom!
Here in the SCE, we love checking out all the different kinds of music happening out there! Just like us, many others will be tuning-in to CBS for the 56th Grammy Awards on January 26th. In addition to the awards show this year, CBS will be presenting “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute To The Beatles,” celebrating the Fab Four’s debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” 50 years ago in 1964. The Beatles themselves were awarded seven Grammy’s throughout their career, so it’s going to take several talented artists to honor the unforgettable group.
According to the Grammy’s official website, “scheduled to perform are four-time GRAMMY winner Annie Lennox and GRAMMY winner Dave Stewart reuniting as Eurythmics for one night only; 14-time GRAMMY winner Alicia Keys with nine-time GRAMMY winner John Legend; three-time GRAMMY-winning group Maroon 5; and seven-time GRAMMY winner John Mayer with four-time GRAMMY winner Keith Urban.”During the special these artists will be covering Beatles classics. In addition, original footage will be played from their appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “various presenters will help highlight and contextualize the musical, cultural and historical impact of the group and this legendary performance.”
Producer Ken Ehrlich reports that “Don’t Let Me Down” will be performed by John Mayer and Keith Urban, and “Let It Be” will be a collaboration between Alicia Keys and John Legend. A dozen acts are reported to be performing.
This commemorative special will air on February 9th at 8pm on CBS, exactly 50 years after the original event. Be sure to tune-in!
This past Thursday, December 5th, NEC’s Student Activities Center hosted a physical therapy/injury prevention clinic. This clinic served to educate musicians on how to avoid playing with injuries in the first place, how to practice effectively and cautiously while injured, and how to help one’s self heal as quickly as possible after getting injured. At NEC, this clinic couldn’t be more helpful. It is common knowledge here at NEC that the pianists and string players spend hours and hours on end hidden away in a practice room perfecting their craft. For some people, this works just fine, but for others, sometimes their fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, etc. just can’t keep up with that intense of a practice session, but more often than not, the players keep on playing. This is a horrible habit considering these musicians have their careers resting on those hard working hands!
Of course, injuries can happen to any instrumentalist, and injury prevention can be just as effective for a trombonist as it is for a jazz bass player. I only use string players and pianists as my example because of how many cases of tendonitis, broken fingers, and stress fractures that my friends have experienced in this past semester alone! I, being a singer, don’t really have to deal with this much stress on my body when I’m practicing; the occasional crick in my neck, sure, shoulder tension, you bet, but that’s nothing that a little massaging and stretching can’t fix! I couldn’t even imagine how devastated I would be if I hurt one of my ribs, or a lung, or worse… if I got nodes!
Injury prevention is such an important topic for musicians and I am so glad that NEC is able to hold a clinic like this! Productive practicing is NOT just spending hours in a room playing the same phrase over and over. Productive practicing is being aware of your body while you’re playing; how does it feel? Does it hurt when you reach for that note? Do you feel confident of the music within your body?
Be engaged and aware fellow musicians! We need you to help keep our art alive!
Stay healthy my friends!
School of Continuing Education Office Assistant
Phone: (617) 585-1701
Originally posted on iPad and Technology in Music Education:
Actions for iPad is a remarkably simple way to control your classroom computer from your iPad. The best thing? You set it up the way that you need it to work. I wish tis was the way professional development worked at our school…. The english department gets the info they need while us music teachers get something meaningful and directly related to our classroom teaching! Wait, I get sidetracked…. sorry!
BONUS – AS OF TODAY THIS APP IS ONLY $0.99 – the Cyber Monday deal of the day! Get it now! Usual price is $3.99
The other Deal today is NoteShelf today is $4.99 (on sale from $8.99) I use this app every time we work on music theory in class. Best app I have found yet for using like a large notepad on the projected screen during rehearsals! There are all sorts of different “paper” you can write on built into this app – allowing me to have a blank background, lined, graph paper and of course for the music classroom there is staff paper! But again I get sidetracked…. back to Actions for iPad!
Have you ever observed how very young children respond to music – with rhythmic movement, with sounds, with all sorts of other movements? Do you remember how you felt as a child, when you wanted to make music? Do you ever feel something akin to ecstasy when you hear a piece of a performance you really love? Is the sense of ecstasy only a thought or is it a feeling also in your body? Where in yourself do you feel it? Do you feel the rhythm? Can you feel that sometimes music makes you feel light and sometimes heavy, sometimes it is a swaying feeling and sometimes you want to jump? Sometimes tall and wide when the sound fills up the universe and sometimes all stops and there is just a minimal movement, like very quiet waters?
Do you realize that all these states have to do with your body, with different muscular states and a different organization of the skeleton? That your muscles feel different when you feel speed, and different when you feel swaying? What would you think if I told you that the feeling in your body of a particular phrase will create just the right muscle tone needed to play the phrase – not more and not less? Would you consider the thought that ignoring the physical feeling of music might contribute to injury and frustration?
Why do many of us lose that embodied feeling of music we had when we were children? Is it possible to keep the ecstasy of music alive through the whole process of acquiring the techniques to express it? And not only to keep it alive, but use it to find the right movements to express it? I constantly hear from students, after our lesson, variations on this phrase: “Wow, I remember now why I wanted to do it in the first place. I forgot!” The spontaneity and unity of hearing, doing and listening, is suddenly available again and the music is a pleasure to make, even when it needs improvement. Quiet, simple breathing resumes and the sense of the body’s weight returns. It is a moment of relief even to very accomplished players.
When one remembers this natural feeing of music and realizes how much of it is dormant, the next question is how to reclaim it.
The Feldenkrais method provides tools which use the language of movement to do just this. Dr. Feldenkrais created thousands of movement lessons which address every movement needed to live and to play. As a result, injuries are prevented and alleviated and one discovers new options of sounds which in turns enrich the musical imagination.
After many years of working with musicians and realizing how little information and help they get from their own body, I developed a way, which I call “Embodied Music”, to apply the Feldenkrais Method to musicians.
I use four formats in teaching:
1. Group movement lessons
2. Private sessions where I work with my hands, addressing specific problems of a student, sometimes with and sometimes without the instrument.
3. Master Classes
4. Workshops, combining all formats.
In the next installment, I will explain the tools and the theory used to help you express your music without hurting yourself. In the last installment I will direct you through a series of movements so you can experience the efficacy of this Method.
A wheel needs a central point of contact, an axis, in order to turn and spin. One never loses touch with one’s central point – the spine – as one moves through life. But society today has lost that core. It has no idea where it is going.
- Svami Purna
When I was well into my studies as a young cellist, I became fascinated with the question: How does one raise the arms to play? My naive mind wondered: is there a wrong way and a right way, and how does one distinguish between the two? I read a great many books on cello technique and for years I asked this question of my teachers. It seemed to me to be a very important gesture that most people took for granted, and my teachers, with one exception, never discussed it, except very generally to illustrate: ‘do it like this’. But where did ‘this’ originate? Where did the energy come from and how was it to be directed in this fundamental act of preparing to play?
When I began training as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I came face to face with a basic tenet of the work: the act of raising the arms is central to all one’s activities and depends upon the entire coordination of the body, not only the arms. I felt as if I had finally come home.
I mentioned in the last installment the following quotations from F.M. Alexander:
Stiffened necks and arms of people of today are outward signs of the imperfect development and lack of coordination of the muscular system of the back and spine.
Arms and necks are stiffened in performing actions which properly call for the perfect coordination of the muscular mechanisms of the back.
To understand the meaning of these words, we are asked to take a step back—to what precedes the raising of the arms—and that means coming into quiet and taking stock of the state of one’s head/neck and back relationship, what Alexander called the ‘Primary Control’. If the neck is tight, if the head is not balancing freely on top of the spine, if the back is either rigid or collapsed, what hope have we of raising the arms and using them freely in whatever we do, let alone playing the cello?
Let’s begin by looking at the connection of the arms to the source of their power, the back and yes, the legs too! The moment you think of reaching up or out with the arm, the equilibrium reactions are stimulated. Information is sent to the calf, hamstring, and abdominal muscles to organize the anti-gravity response to start working. The long muscles of the back (the extensors) engage to stabilize the trunk and to deliver the power to the limbs. So both the trunk and pelvis are involved in the preparation for using the arms freely. If you cannot use trunk and pelvis properly, you cannot use the arms well.
In the work of the Alexander Technique, the head/neck/back relationship is primary and the limbs are secondary; the former determines the efficacy of the latter. We cultivate the power of the back in order to use the limbs freely. Once the back is in its place, what we call back and up, rather than pushing or collapsing forward and downward, then we turn our attention to how the arms can be raised. To learn to keep the mind focused on what is primary when raising the arms is a huge challenge for the brain.
Amongst musicians, the arm joint (I refer here to the ‘ball and socket joint’–the ball of the upper arm bone which sits in the socket formed by the juncture of the collar bone and the shoulder blade), is one of the most misunderstood parts of the body. When I ask my students where they think their arm joint is, they usually point to a non-existent joint in the crease of their sleeve top. When I point to the place along the outer arm, indicating that this joint actually lies about 1 ½ inches down from the shoulder girdle, they are invariably surprised.
Tightening the neck, pushing forward or collapsing the lower back and raising the shoulder girdle to raise the arm are three of the most common faults, even amongst professional musicians and teachers of other instruments. To learn to use what Alexander called the ‘lifter muscles’—the latissimus dorsi or the large long muscles that wrap along each side of the back—and to allow the arm to rotate in the socket by sending the elbow away from the shoulder, rather than contracting it inward, contributes to a free, floating arm which is light, very mobile and which can transmit the power of the back, the primary energy supplier.
It can take quite a revision of our thinking to acknowledge that the arms don’t make the effort; they simply transmit the power supplied by the back. They are the agents of the spine and must be quiet and ‘empty’ in order to receive this power. Furthermore, when they are well-supported by the huge, long muscles of the back, they are not heavy, nor do they ever need to be made heavy to produce sound. Making the arms feel heavy to relax them is one of the great myths of cello playing and usually involves collapse of the spinal column, or what we call in Alexander work ‘pulling down’.
My Alexander teacher often quotes his great teacher’s saying: ‘Let the spine light up the fingertips.’ The energy must flow like water from the source to the destination, in our case, the string.