I've been thinking a lot about practice time recently. I believe it is directly linked to student retention, because of its effect on skill level, which is a domino effect toward enjoyment of the instrument. I know our students vary a lot in their level of commitment to practice.
This leads me to wonder how to motivate students to practice. There are skads of various rewards and techniques, but none of them really stand out to me as things that will make a huge difference in whether a student is intrinsically motivated to practice or not. It seems the kids who truly and naturally LOVE their instrument will practice without being asked. And vice versa, students who practice often end up LOVING their instrument and therefore want to practice even more, creating a cyclical momentum. How can we create that? Is the chicken, or the egg first?
This is an excellent article on practice: http://beingmusicalbeinghuman.com/2011/04/19/boosting-intrinsic-motivation-for-music-learning/
It seems the strategies include having the student work on songs they actually listen to at home (the genres they love), ensembles, and letting them choose their own songs.
I welcome comments here from any students, parents or teaching artists who have had particular success with getting their students to feel intrinsically motivated to practice. Thank you for your comments!
As we drove up the mountain towards my family’s village, my eyes feasted on the street scenes that played like a movie through the car window. I saw the hope of Lebanon as we passed the beautiful gold stone architecture of Centre Ville with its high-end stores, cafes and restaurants. I felt the pain of war as we drove through streets where homes were still wounded with bullet holes. And I felt the adrenaline of life as it played before my eyes in conversations, smiles, kisses and car horns. Although this was not my first time in my father’s homeland, this visit, like all the rest, felt like the first.
I saw my grandmother’s face peering over the balcony as we approached her house. Dressed in black and a smile, she greeted me with kisses and a stream of affectionate words of love and nicknames. Days at my grandmother’s house passed by quickly in a cluster of boiling pots, a tummy full of Lebanese food, fresh fruit, coffee, orange sunsets on the Mediterranean Sea and the soft whisper of her prayers under her grape-vine veranda at twilight. I truly love this time with my Teta (the Lebanese word for grandmother) where I am left to fend for myself in broken Lebanese and sign language as I try explaining to her that walking barefoot around the house is totally cool. She stubbornly disagrees as she chases me around the house with a pair of slippers, shouting ‘Shay! Shay!” as if summoning a pot of hot tea from the heavens to drop down on my head and prevent me from catching a cold. My Island girl ways have often reminded me of the great difference between the Lebanese side of the family and myself. But despite our disputes on barefoot living and other western-Caribbean traits of mine, I have always felt nothing but love and acceptance. As much as I enjoyed all the time spent with my family, I was yearning to spend my vacation in Lebanon a little differently than I had in the past.
I decided to volunteer my time at St. Joseph Orphanage, which was located a few miles from our village. When I arrived, the nuns were thrilled to have a music and art teacher as well as the students, whose days were filled with only Math, Language and Science. They did not let the opportunity of my presence pass them by and every hour I taught a full classroom of almost 25 students until the bell rang at the end of the day. My resources and language skills were limited, but luckily with music and art you don’t need a large vocabulary. The children, who were between the ages of 5 and 11, were thrilled to have me and giggled at my invented language of Arabic, French, English and funny facial expressions.
Upon arrival on my second day at the orphanage, the children greeted me in a giant mob fighting to hold my hand, pass me flowers and notes and shouting my name “Ms. Natasha! Ms. Natasha!” I will always remember one little boy who proudly herded me through the crowd of children to my classroom. I spent the week teaching nursery rhymes on recorders, playing games of improvisation with an electric keyboard and handmade percussion instruments and of course, musical chairs! Towards the end of the week I taught them how to draw a self-portrait, make butterflies with multi-color paper and create Aboriginal-inspired art with black construction paper and acrylic paint.
The week passed to quickly and on the last day I found it hard to pull myself from the group of children I came to love. That time spent sharing and creating at St. Joseph Orphanage has given me one of the greatest experiences of my life. As I grew up in the safety and warmth of the Caribbean Sun, these orphans were growing up in the landscape of a war-torn country full of uncertainty. Seeing how happy they were to make music and color their lives with paint made me understand first-hand the power of art to communicate cross-culturally and touch lives. I now wake every day with a grateful heart and a hope that through my art and life I can continue to give. Thank you for reading.
~Contributed by Natasha Kozaily, Vocal & Piano Instructor
Prodigy: How did you decide that you wanted art to be the main focus of your college studies and career?
Amy: It was a very clear and natural path for me to choose. From the time I began school as a small child all the way up through high school I was always most interested and excited by assignments which required or allowed me to show what I had learned by way of making art. I felt like those were times when I shined brightest. When I entered college I was thrilled by the opportunity to begin making art full time …and not just making art full time, but sharing it and presenting it to my fellow artist classmates and hearing their feedback. College was an amazing time period in my life as an artist. I truly began to discover who I am and how to tell my story to the world.
Prodigy: What is the most rewarding part of being an art instructor?
Amy: I feel most rewarded when I am able to help a student work through a difficult and frustrating piece in their art…it feels good to be a part of their triumph!
Prodigy: How much time are you able to spend creating art, outside of the classroom? What are some projects that you are really focused on right now? Describe your process when you have art time at home.
Amy: Being a mother of two young boys, my time as an artist is very limited. Before I had kids I would spend endless hours every day and night at my easel painting. In my free time I would set up my canvas and paints outside and work until it became dark. Then I would pick up all my gear and shuffle into my garage and continue to paint until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. These days, I have to make art after my boys go to sleep. By this time I am pretty exhausted already so I choose to make art that doesn’t involve a lot of clean up or take up too much room. Lately I have been very interested in creating hanging sculptures using a combo of wire, beads, feathers and random pieces of brightly colored plastic that would normally be put into the recycling can (play-do lids, water bottle lids, assorted caps and straws). I twist and weave and arrange all of these elements together to create strange and colorful balance in mid air.
Prodigy: If you could pass on one very important piece of advice for aspiring young art students, what would it be?
Amy: Make mistakes!! I believe a good piece of art contains at least some if not many mistakes.
Prodigy: What do you like to do in your free time (besides art)?
Amy: I am always looking for places of nature to explore and hike with my two young sons. I love to be outside.
Prodigy: What do you like most about working at Prodigy?
Amy: Besides watching my art students doing what they love?? I love hearing music going on all around me... I'm also a big music lover!!
What good is knowledge if it isn’t shared with others? "Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes." -Peter Senge.
It has truly been an honor teaching the art classes here at Prodigy this past year. Moving from upstate NY, Prodigy School of Arts very much became a new home for me to explore San Diego and its art scene. The students I have worked with are all astoundingly talented, intelligent, and prodigious in every aspect, not just the visual arts.
Facilitating the learning process has always fascinated me; I love to see how people incorporate new ideas and use them to further make sense of themselves and the world around them. At Prodigy School of Arts, the atmosphere is rich with the desire to learn, grow, be challenged, and constantly strive to become a better version of self. What a fantastic atmosphere in which to teach.
The gallery shows have been very rewarding experiences; In addition to seeing the finished product that students and parents see walking through the door, I am able to open up a folder full of sketches, drawings, paintings, and thoughts that have accumulated over the course of twelve or thirteen weeks. It is in these folders that lie treasures of creativity, trying new techniques, exploring subject matter, and problem-solving that comes naturally in the process of creation.
As I move on to new adventures, Prodigy will always have a special place in my heart. I wish all of my students the best of luck, and challenge them to keep their hands in the creative process.
Contributed by Aimee Dupuis, Art Instructor
Teaching is the process of passing knowledge from one being to another. I’ve passed on a lot of musical knowledge – lines, spaces, letters, numbers – to more people than I ever thought I would over the past three and a half years of teaching at Prodigy. What surprised me is how much give and take teaching has turned out to be. I’ve given much but have received just as much, or even more, in return. I’ve received an education in education. Being a music teacher has made me a better musician, and for that I’m very grateful.
It’s not very common that one gets to do their passion as a paid job but in this case I got lucky. Making music keeps me sane. For me, singing and playing piano relieves stress and anxiety and allows creative juices to flow. Unfortunately life sometimes gets in the way and the business of a full time job, family, friends, and pets puts music on the back burner. This is partly why I’ve loved teaching so much – I’m forced into the studio, to devote time to sitting in front of the piano, to sing, practice and create. I will miss this time immensely, just as I’ll miss spending time with each student weekly.
During my teaching career I’ve taught students from age four to so old they wouldn’t tell me their age. It has been stimulating and challenging learning the nuances of teaching each different age group and learning style. Everyone learns differently and I’ve tried to reach each student, some of whose brains learn very differently than mine! Most of my students have been children and I’m grateful for the fun of bringing back to life my inner child – as an adult it’s easy to forget the silliness and innocence of being a child.
I thank each and every one of my students and their families for their commitment to a musical education. I hope you will continue to further yours and your children’s musical skills, as they are skills that constantly test the brain and will be useful for the rest of your lives. It has been a pleasure working with and getting to know each of you!
Contributed by Anna Roberts,
Vocal & Piano Instructor