Why Music is Essential to Education

What is the role of music and the arts in education? Unlike the arts-centered education of ancient Athens, modern American public education has increasingly moved towards jobs training. In this commodified world of standardized tests, the arts are often pushed to the periphery so that students will be “prepared for college” or “competitive in a global economy.” Does the current system teach students what to think instead of how to think? In …

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Violinist Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012)

August 6 marked the passing of one of the twentieth century’s greatest violinists, Ruggiero Ricci.  Ricci’s playing was notable for its fire, brilliance and daredevil virtuosity.  Like Yehudi Menuhin, Ruggiero Ricci was a child prodigy and a student of the legendary teacher Louis Persinger.  Ricci’s long career provided a link between the world of Ysaye, Kreisler and Heifetz and the present. Go to NPR and Slipped Disk for video of Ruggiero Ricci’s playing and more …

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Ravel’s Bolero

French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel might have been surprised to know that Bolero, which premiered as a ballet score in 1928, would endure as one of the most popular pieces of twentieth century music.  Ravel was a master of orchestration and he considered this piece to be “an experiment in a very special and limited direction” and “orchestral tissue without music.”  Orchestration refers to the combination of instruments that a composer chooses to …

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Suzuki's Tonalization

“Beautiful tone, beautiful heart.” “Tone has a living soul without form.” -Shinichi Suzuki Tonalization is “the ability to produce and recognize a beautiful, ringing tone.” Dr. Suzuki observed that singers cultivate their voices daily through “vocalization” exercises.  He believed that instrumentalists should approach tone in a similar way. Great musicians make their instruments “sing”, developing a concept of tone that is inspired by the natural expression of the human voice. Tonalization starts …

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Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins

Last month I recommended an exciting new recording of Bach violin concertos, just released by Anne Akiko Meyers.  Now, let’s listen to a much older performance of the Bach Double Concerto featuring two of the twentieth century’s greatest violinists, Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrakh. This music was written around 1730 when Bach was working in Leipzig.  Bach’s main instrument was the organ, but he was also a fine violinist and he was …

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“Air: The Bach Album” by Anne Akiko Meyers

On Valentine’s Day this past February, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers released her newest CD, “Air” The Bach Album, featuring Bach’s A minor and E major Concertos, as well as the “Double” Concerto, accompanied by Steven Mercurio and the English Chamber Orchestra.  This recording, which I highly recommend, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Charts and has been a best seller on iTunes and Amazon.  It follows on the heels of other excellent …

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Ten Tips For Learning New Repertoire

When it comes to learning a new piece, knowing how to practice correctly is essential.  Good practicing is about developing problem solving strategies, efficient use of time and constant evaluation.  Young Suzuki students depend on the parent to structure well disciplined practice sessions that will facilitate the mastery of a new piece.  As students approach the teenage years, they are able to work successfully on their own. Here are ten points that parents …

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