Kindergarten Hooray, baby! I wrote this Kindergarten theme song in collaboration with my phenomenally entertaining students at Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley for their spring concert. My first French/bilingual creation. (It's a good thing "Hooray" rhymes with so many French words.)
And having the choral experience I missed the first time around (when I was busy playing guitar in the jazz band—and my rock band, the immortal Flibbertigibbet).
This spring will see the premiere of three commissions I’ve been busy composing for high school choirs. More details forthcoming, but suffice it to say, I am very excited to be writing for some seriously talented students. Quick performance info:
March 20, 2018
Premiere of 'Voices from the Freedom March' (mash-up arrangement of six iconic spirituals)
Sunset High School Concert Choir, Portland, OR
Christopher Rust, director
March 28, 2018, 7:00pm
Premiere of 'The Gift to Sing' (poem by James Weldon Johnson)
Albany High School All-Choir, Mary Stocker, director
Albany Veteran’s Memorial Building
1325 Portland Ave., Albany, CA
Free admission (donations graciously accepted)
Commission for Albany High School Concert Choir, text and more precise info TBD
This school year, I've had the good fortune of serving as the kindergarten music teacher at Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, where my son attends (and my daughter will attend this fall). It would be difficult to overstate how much fun it is to play music with these kids. I always leave class with a smile that lasts for days.
Yesterday, May 25, we had our end-of-year show for the parents. We performed our very own original tune, "Things We Love," with lyrics supplied by the kids, and the French song "Le petit chaperon rouge et le chasseur" ("Little Red Riding Hood and the Hunter"). Learning French alongside the kids has been a delightful perk of the job.
The kids rocked it. See for yourself!
All I can say is that the future of classical music is in excellent hands.
On Sunday, May 21, I served as one of three judges for the American String Teachers Association SF Chapter's competition finals, here in Berkeley at the Crowden School. Students of violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, or harp compete in two divisions: Youth (age 14 and under) and Junior (age 15-18). (There is also a Senior division that did not hold a competition this year.) This was my second time judging the ASTA finals, in addition to helping select finalists from a preliminary round of video auditions.
Practice hard. Practice easy. Practice in front of the TV.
“We work more effectively when we continually alter our study routines and abandon any 'dedicated space' in favor of varied locations. Sticking to one learning ritual, in other words, slows us down."
—Benedict Carey, How We Learn
All of us, musicians and non-musicians alike, tend to share an image of what “practice” looks like. You sit down in a quiet room. You focus. You have concrete goals, broken down into tasks—ideally in written form—and you address each of them conscientiously. You use your metronome. It’s hard work, but you do it because you want to get better. That’s how it works, right?
Well, sure—but not always. Practice can take many forms. The thing is, we don’t commonly characterize all of them as “practice”—but we should.
There are myriad ways to practice, and as you continue to learn and grow as a musician, you will no doubt identify some of your own. Here, I’d like to discuss four modes of practice that I’ve found useful. I’ll call them: deliberate, casual, diverted, and empty-handed.
Composer Michael T Roberts shares his thoughts on writing, playing, and teaching music. Comments? Please e-mail Mike.