For the past five years, A4L has partnered with the Frost School of Music and the Greater Miami Youth Symphony to create and run the MusicReach mentoring program. Through this program, talented young musicians like Meg Roy (now a senior at the University of Miami) get the chance to learn the basics of teaching artistry and give back as mentors to students in the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. The following is Meg’s journal of her experiences working this fall with her mentees Christian and Damarius.
Today I got to meet my mentees!! It was very exciting, and we spent much of our time getting to know each other.
After our general meet and greet with the parents, we went to our room and talked about our goals for the semester. I asked each student about what goals they had for themselves, and I was pleasantly surprised with what they told me. We set similar goals for December/the middle of the program – learning major scales, improving articulation, sight-reading, consistent tempo, and music vocabulary. For the end of the year, we set goals of learning to improvise, improving range, and again – improving sight-reading, tempo, and music vocabulary.
We got to know each other more, I asked questions about why they chose trombone, etc. I like getting to know my students because I get to know who they are and how they act and react – and it helps me to be able to teach them better!
We then warmed up, talked about the benefits and why we warm up. I gave them my homemade warm-up sheets, and assigned them scales for their scale tests next week. Although I have a mandatory wind ensemble rehearsal next week, I have a very good substitute coming to cover for me.
I am excited for this year!!
Today Christian was unable to come to the lesson, so I worked with Damarius one-on-one.
We went through the warm-up routine thoroughly, working on specialized techniques such as keeping consistent air while having the slide arm and tongue work together. Damarius is a quick learner, and I think we covered a good amount of ground today as far as trombone technique is concerned. I was pleasantly surprised at how well he played his scales. The new scale he did not practice, but the other three were well prepared WITH arpeggios – which is significantly improved from where we left off last semester.
I noticed that his intonation and slide positions were inconsistent, so we sat down at the piano and talked about theory – everything from note names to octaves to whole steps vs. half steps. We then picked up the trombone and practiced the theory we learned. It was a lot of information, but Damarius was picking it up fast. However, I know that next week I will definitely be talking about theory!
To end, we reviewed his GMYS piece, which we will also work on more next week.
Our lesson today went very well. We started off with some breathing exercises, which was followed by our warm-up routine. Doing warm-ups helps me to catch little inconsistencies and bad habits that my students may have and fix them before we start working on their pieces. It also gives me a heads up as to what they are struggling with, so I can address and plan to help reach a solution.
I then tested them on scales – both students had improved since last week, so I will continue to move them along. After, we delved into some theory, talking about major scales, the octave, and whole vs. half steps. We listened to what they sounded like, saw what they looked like on the piano, then felt what feel like on the trombone. Overall I was pleased with how quickly they were learning, and I think exposure to theory like this will help them solve problems on their own in the long run.
Next, we started working on the parts of the students’ music that was challenging for them. The overwhelming problems were reading rhythms and getting to the right slide position for each note. I will try to incorporate exercises that emphasize rhythms and slide accuracy. Today, I wrote out the agenda for the class on the board. I like how this kept us on task and very productive!
This week, our lesson was my students attending my recital! I put in a lot of work to making the recital happen, and I wanted to share it with them – and I wanted to have them get to hear me play!
After the recital, I saw Christian. His mom told me that he said he wanted to be able to play like me someday. That really touched my heart, and I’m glad that I could inspire my student in that way – it’s what I strive to do. The support of my students was awesome, and I’m ready for next week and preparing for Winter Wonderful!
Our focus this week was to get working on our piece that we will be performing for the “Winter Wonderful” fundraiser. Both students arrived late, but we just worked on warming up until all were present, then lead directly into scales.
Since we are playing “We Three Kings,” I started off talking about Christmas (we all celebrate Christmas) and Epiphany – to put into context what the song is about and how it relates to Christmas. We then listened to the song, the melody and lyrics, and discussed the story it is talking about and part of the world it originates from. Then, we began to talk about musical concepts – what is a trio? Key signature? Time signature? We delved into time signatures a bit too, as the arrangement we are using is in 3/8 … A less common time for beginners to see. We drew parallels between 3/4 and 3/8, learned what time signatures represent/how to read them, and what “feel” means. For example, how 3/4 usually has a 3 feel, and 3/8 usually has a 1 feel.
We still have a lot of work to do – next lesson will be comprised of mostly rehearsal – but I am very proud of my students for being focused and interactive and learning advanced concepts fairly quickly!
Today we focused mainly on our piece, “We Three Kings” for Winter Wonderful. We only have one more lesson before the end of the semester, and it seems as though time has completely flown by!
I tried to have everything we did today, warm-up, theory, etc., to revolve around the piece. So, we warmed up by playing arpeggios of F minor and Ab major – the two tonalities this piece explores. We also talked about major and minor chords, how they sound, and why they sound the way they do.
The rest of the lesson was working through the piece. I made sure to spend equal time focusing on each student as they were learning their part. And, if I had to spend more individualized time with one, I would have the other write in the Db’s or “air slide” along as we played the part in question. By the end of today, we could get through the trio, which is a first! Though they tell me they practiced, it didn’t seem to come together until I went through it with them again. Hopefully now the music is in their ear more and they know what to look for. I encouraged them to write in their music and take ownership of their performance. They are excited, which is great, and they are particularly ready to wear the crowns I promised to get them!
This was our final day of lessons for the fall semester. Christian was not there, so Damarius and I went straight to work warming-up and working on “We Three Kings.”
A doctoral TA from Frost School of Music came by to check on us and hear how we sounded. He seemed very impressed with Damarius, especially for his age. I can tell that he had practices too, and his father confirmed that he had indeed been working hard.
My only concern is that Christian was not there to run everything through before the day of the event. I’m sure there was a good reason, and his part was sounding good last week. I plan on emailing both mentee’s families to clarify and remind about Winter Wonderful and their winter assignments.
After reviewing our Db’s in fifth position, Damarius and I went over the information for Winter Wonderful and their assignment. I gave him examples of what I am looking for, and he had a good time brainstorming artists to research.
Afterwards, I presented the gifts that the generous Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation sent for them – I had only gotten them this last week. I then had Damarius make/write his own thank you card to send to the foundation.
I am doing my best to keep everyone informed, responded to, and on task, but with attendance inconsistencies, delays unfortunately happen. My plan is to bring the gifts, thank you card material, and everything we need to complete to the Winter Wonderful event. Chances are, we will have some down time (at least that has been my experience the past three years).
Overall, I’m excited to perform at Winter Wonderful with my students! They have worked hard, and I look forward to next semester.
PS-Winter Wonderful was a smashing success and raised over $100,000 for scholarships to the Frost School of Music. Please note how handsome Christian looks in this photo with Dean Berg and company!