Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Who's Who at the Center for Young Musicians- Anna Elder

CYM is delighted to announce a new member of our teaching faculty, Ms. Anna Elder. Ms. Anna hails from Pittsburgh and will be joining us as our very first voice instructor. Welcome Anna!

Anna Elder earned her Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from The Eastman School of Music. While at Eastman, she studied with Dr. Constance Haas and received training in vocal pedagogy, anatomy, physiology, and the acoustics of the voice. She participated and performed in master classes presented by Ruth Ann Swenson and American operatic composer Carlisle Floyd. She received the Ornesto Award for excellence in recital performance and was a Rochester Classical Idol finalist. Ms. Elder has performed with Eastman Opera Theater, The Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra, and she recently finished an Off-Broadway run with Squonk Opera.

Currently, Ms. Elder teaches and performs around the Pittsburgh Area. Her teaching philosophy centers on developing the natural singing instrument from the inside out, to produce a confident and versatile vocalist and musician. With a strong focus on musicality and technique, Ms. Elder encourages all of her students to sing in multiple styles and languages. She is also an advocate for music education as a therapeutic tool for students with special needs. She has taught music and drama for Firefly Arts, a program that provides multidisciplinary arts workshops for students on the Autism spectrum and their families. Ms. Elder has two dogs and one cat. They all sing and are constantly trying to upstage her. 

We wanted to get to know Ms. Anna a little better, so we sat down for a chat-

CYM: What is your favorite piece of music to sing?

Ms. Anna: One of my favorite pieces of music to sing is Samuel Barber's "Hermit Songs". I discovered them when I was fourteen and I feel in love with the text (poem's written anonymously by Irish Monks), and the way they fit together in the song cycle. I had to wait until I was 21 to be vocally mature enough to perform them all. It was so hard to wait that long. Now I am mature enough to sing them all the time...in the recital hall, the car, the supermarket... It's so wonderful to play a portable instrument, no matter how many strange looks you get in public!

CYM:   When/where/how do you listen to music for fun?

Ms. Anna: I often listen to anything from Appalachian folk songs to Shostakovich on my record player while cooking dinner. Currently, I am listening to The Tune-Yards, David Lang, Thomas Ade`s, Brahms, and St. Vincent.

CYM:  Where do you live? Would you like to share anything about your family/roommates/pets?

Ms. Anna: I currently live in The East End. I have two dogs and a cat. They all have very funny personalities and they often try to sing along in their own way when I am practicing. Someday, we will all record an album.

CYM:  What has music given you?
Ms. Anna: Music had been one of the most amazing influences on my life. I am the only musician in my immediate family that consists of mainly engineers, and early on I developed an interest in everything musical. My family was very supportive, and while growing up I was surrounded by opera, symphony music, and rock n' roll. I was encouraged to study and perform every style of singing, and I am so grateful that I did. Music has given me the opportunity to collaborate with many different composers and musicians, and it inspires me to keep studying and teaching. It has also given me the opportunity to travel and perform in Europe. I have met some of my closest friends through teaching and performing music, and I met my fiance` while singing with a local chamber music group. My wonderful students bring me joy and every day they challenge me to be a better teacher.

CYM:  What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

 Ms. Anna: I used to work as a cook. I love to cook and learn many different styles of cuisine.  For many years, I wondered if it was possible to sing and cook professionally. I eventually decided that music and education were my true callings, but I was excited to learn that there is a Julia Child opera!!

CYM:  What’s your favorite treat to eat?

Ms. Anna:  "Oh Food Glorious FOOOOOOD!!" I love all food, but I would say my favorite is Italian. My mother's family is from Italy and homemade pasta is both fun to make and so good to eat.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Why Group Class? Part 1

Ms. Sonia's piano students waiting to perform.

Why Group?
Group classes are an essential part of a well rounded music education here at CYM and an invaluable part of the Suzuki student’s musical education.  There are many ideas, thoughts and practices that are taught and reinforced in the group setting which simply can’t happen in a private lesson.  

Over the next few weeks we will feature writings by faculty members on what happens in the group class and why it is important.  Ms. Sonia Tripathi starts our series off with her thoughts on the benefits of the group class for young pianists.

There are countless benefits of group class for pianists in the L1 and L2 level, as well as L3 and up.  Literacy is the same in every Classical group class, so I will focus on the Piano Performance aspect of the group class.

Solo Performance Skills

 In Levels 1 and 2, piano students are just at the beginning of their piano studies, and have the valuable opportunity at CYM to hear the progress of their peers on a weekly basis.  While one student, in his private lesson, may be focusing on refining his tone in “Honeybee,” in his Group Class, he might have the chance to hear a friend who is working on refining Alberti Bass perform “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.”  At all times, the students are either hearing the pieces that are coming up next for them, or hearing past pieces being continually refined by their peers.  

 The all-around motivation that occurs in this setting is invaluable, and has been proven to keep kids driven and excited about their piano studies for years to come.  At the L3+ levels, groups of piano students are often heard performing Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” or a Mozart Sonata, or a Chopin Nocturne for their peers.  

 At these levels, the Group Class truly has evolved into a Performance Class, where the kids listen intently to each other’s performances, and make constructive comments to each other about tone, dynamics, pedaling, virtuosic technique, and practice-approaches.  They are building their knowledge of piano repertoire every year, and refining their listening not only by playing and analyzing their own playing, but also by absorbing the fine (and often varying) details of musicianship heard in their peers’ playing. 

Ensemble Skills

Ensemble playing is introduced very early on, and leads to very mature duet and trio playing in L3 and up.  In L1, these skills are developed by having 3 or 4 kids, playing one or both hands, practicing any of the Suzuki Book 1 pieces, at the same time.  At CYM, having 2 pianos in our Group Class rooms makes it possible for us to do this.  In this set-up, even though the students at this age are playing the same pieces at the same time, they are forced to listen to each other, and concentrate on matching their partners’ tempos, volume, and touch.   

Being able to listen to others’ playing, while also listening to themselves, is the primary concept which leads into really advanced ensemble playing that can be heard from students in L3+.  In recent years, we have heard students from L4 and L5 Piano Group Classes perform duets such as Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” and Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette.”  Many of the piano students graduate from this type of Group Class and move on to join one of the Chamber Groups at CYM, where their years of Ensemble practice serve them tremendously as they play with combinations of violinists and cellists.

-Sonia Tripathi, pianist  

The ABC’s of Group Experience by Jacqueline Maurer

 Arrival- Arrive early with time for unpacking and tuning and time to catch your breath! Help the class to start on time!

 Behaviors- Loving, courteous and respectful behaviors are cultivated. We try to respect each other and others’ feelings.

 Community- People working on common goals have a sense of belonging, and bonds are strengthened between them.

 Discipline- Classes are enjoyable within a disciplined framework. Students learn to follow a leader and develop many cooperative skills.

 Exhilaration- Contributing to a large group sound and accomplishing shared group goals are exhilarating activities. Group experience provides a showcase for skills!

 Frequent performances- Frequent ensemble and solo performance opportunities build confidence and ease of playing.

 Games- Games have a purpose! They teach techniques in fun ways and give students a chance to take a break.

 Head to Heels- Group time is a chance for teachers to gently remind students to play with their best postures.

 Interest in the child- If you spend a large block of time with your child, he/she can sense the importance you attach to these activities.

 Joy- Work is joy. Participation gives a sense of accomplishment which is an important part of the happiness journey. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

 Keeping skills sharpened- Students should be well-reviewed before group classes. Then pieces can be worked on in a confident and challenging way.

 Listening- Listening skills improve by listening to directions in class, learning audience listening manners and developing a heightened awareness of tone and musicality.

 Motivation- A direct by-product of all of these points will be increased enthusiasm for playing the instrument.

 New ideas- Teachers have new and different ideas which can be shared in a group setting and among themselves.

 Observation- Observe each other’s postures and techniques, poise of recital soloists, more advanced players and the many interactions of parents, children and teachers.

 Peer interaction- A group class spurs growth in a way that teachers and parents can’t.

 Quick reflexes- Quick reaction to instructions. Mental agility. Quick reflex games.

 Reinforcement- Reinforce, review and revise techniques and musical concepts learned in private lessons.

 Socializing- Friendships are made between students and parents and teachers. Problems and successes can be shared in a relaxed and informal way.

 Team work- Team competition instead of individual competition is recommended for group classes. The results of team efforts can be very rewarding.

 Unison playing- Ensemble and unison playing offer various challenges and bring awareness of different combinations of sound.

 Variety- Some teachers are high energy, some have a more relaxed style. Some are right brained, some left. Some sequential, some holistic. Children learn to adapt to their group teachers’ different styles.

 Working on polishing pieces- After notes and bowings are learned, details of phrasing, intonation and musical ideas can be refined in a fun and challenging way.

 eXpectations… Vary from parent to parent and child to child. With a variety of faculty and classes, these can be met at different times and in different ways.

 Yielding results- Yields of highest quality and quantity for our youth from group experiences!

 Zest- Zest for music!

Monday, April 7, 2014

CYM Spring Curriculum Nights

Join us this week and next in Wexford, Sewickley, and Shadyside for these very important nights at CYM. Current families can listen first hand to their child's teachers explain the goals, content, and motivation behind many of CYM's programs.

Take the opportunity to ask important questions about your child's musical journey and gain perspective to keep your family's musical goals going strong through the school year.

New families can meet teachers, learn about CYM philosophies, goals, and methods, and take home registration information. 

2014-2015 School Year Enrollment Forms will be available for attendees!