Archive | February, 2015

Just in! Ukuleles for Kids Classes

Learning Guitar Concepts on Ukulele in our Group Kids Classes

Good news! Our ukuleles just came in so we can start prepping for music class. Our Big Kid’s class starts April 4th. As of now, we’ve just got an 11 AM Saturday time. However, these small classes work much like private group lessons in that they can be scheduled based on group interest. We’d love to hold more times, especially an after-school weekday time with one of our guitar teachers. So, if you’ve been looking for something along these lines (perhaps as an alternative to private lessons or something to do after school), look no further and contact us with your availability! We’ll do our best to arrange a group. For group lessons, we don’t just do our kids music classes – we also arrange groups for teens and adults and offer classes as well (BYOB singing classes, Beginner Guitar, Folk Ensemble, Vocal Technique, and more).

Description of Our Big Kid’s Class:

This class is a step between our baby and toddler music classes and private lessons. Small group instruction for kids ages 4-6 uses ukuleles and xylophones to playfully teach music. Classes are made up of between 5-6 children. Through guided exploration, children learn notes, listen with their ears, and practice basic technique. Songs are used as learning tools and interludes between activities. Curiosity and experimentation are encouraged.

*People often ask us, what age is good to start children with private lessons? Every child is different! Some kids might be interested at an earlier age than others. Typically, we suggest waiting until your child is at least 4 years old. We do, however, teach children younger if there is a strong interest. Instruments like piano and drums are easier to start with than guitar, and ukuleles are a good way to work up some of the strength required for guitar technique.

Meet Frank Velardo, our Guitar Teacher

guitar lessons

Guitar Teachers at Philly Music Lessons

Introducing Frank Velardo to our pool of talented guitar experts. Looking to take lessons for blues, jazz, or rock? He’s your guy.

Frank is a fellow former jazz performance mate from Joey’s days at the Boyer College of Music and Dance. Thus, we’ve been rubbing guitar elbows with Frank in the music scene for years! From jazz sets at Book Space, Chris’s, and Caribou Cafe (to name just a few), to sharing a bass player on more than one occasion, we’ve gotten groovy to the guitar licks of Frank plenty of times. In addition to being a master of his craft, Frank’s also an awesome teacher. And he looks like George Harrison.

Frank’s Bio:

I teach Guitar, Bass, Piano and Ukulele.  I am an accomplished musician, composer and educator versed in many contemporary styles. I have been studying blues  and jazz based music for many years now and have developed an authentic sound that stands prominently among my idols. I play in  several Philly based groups as a sideman, and I also lead my own  project. In 2010 I graduated from Temple University with a degree  in jazz performance, and in 2012 I released my first collection of original music, The Ardvark Felon.

Here’s our interview with Frank:

When did you begin playing [instrument], and why?:

I took my first piano lesson when I was 9, but my mother had shown me a few things before that. I got serious about music when I started paying the guitar. I was 12 years old. I started playing guitar because I wanted to be able to play “Good Riddance (TIme of Your Life)” by Greenday.

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
Like with anything else, there are short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal could be something like learning a new song or copying a solo. A long term goal is something like being able to identify the chord changes of a song without having to struggle over it, or learning how to play jazz. My long term goals with the guitar is to be able to play every “idea” that comes to me while improvising… oh yea, and to have fun! 

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?:
I was working on being able to hear a continuous stream of 8th notes in my head. I thought it would help my jazz playing. It’s a concept call “Forward Motion”. Hal Galper, jazz pianist and educator coined the term and wrote a book on it. I spent years doing exercises and practicing. It finally clicked one day while I was watching TV. I was just sitting there, not trying, but then I could suddenly hear the notes in my head, and feel where my fingers had to be to play them. It was exciting!

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
Be stubborn. It sounds cliche but “sticking with it” is really the key ingredient to success in music, because if I would have quit back then, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
Working on time/rhythm. It’s still a challenge, and I’ve improved in that department a lot over the last 5 years.

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
I’ve practiced to the point where the guitar is no longer an obstacle in conveying my emotions or “saying what I need to say” through music.

Favorite thing about teaching?:
It forces me to be patient and understanding. I enjoy playing the support role and, I like watching students connect the dots. I’ve had a lot of great teachers over the years so I feel it’s important to keep that tradition going.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
If you have a guitar, don’t wait for the first lesson to take it out of its case! Don’t be afraid to mess around with it. There’s nothing that you can do that will jeopardize your ability to improve if you start playing before the first lesson. Teachers like to see that you have take some initiative with your learning.

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
I play every last Tuesday of the month at Jose Pistolas at 15th and Spruce with my trio. I also play in a blues band called the Downtown Shimmy. I have a calendar of show dates on my website www.frankvelardomusic.com I also have some original tunes and photos posted.

New Piano Teacher!

 

Piano Lessons with Alex Ayala

Piano Lessons with Alex Ayala

Meet Our New Piano Teacher

Alex Ayala
I teach piano.  I graduated from the University of the Arts with a BM in music performance.  While at UArts, I studied under piano teachers Don Glanden, Tom Lawton and Trudy Pitts.  I also received guidance from some of Philly’s finest musicians.  I am currently a freelance musician performing in a wide range of diverse bands and ensembles. As an educator, I teach intermediate/advanced piano with an emphasis on jazz, rock, blues and contemporary music.  My methods involve the basics of note-reading and technique, as well as ear training and theory to provide a fun musical experience that goes beyond the notes on a page.  It is my goal to share my passion of music with my students and to help them find their musical passion.

When did you begin playing [instrument], and why?: Trumpet was my first instrument. Through trumpet, I was able teach myself piano. There was something about it that just came naturally to me…I could do things on the keyboard that I could not on the trumpet.  I got serious about the piano when I was in 8th grade and stuck with it since.
What are your personal goals as a musician?: My goal is to constantly learn and constantly grow.  One can always strive to get better no matter how ‘good’ one gets.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?: When I was a sophomore at UArts, one of my teachers made us improvise over a tune using only quarter notes and with no accompaniment.  That concept forces you to really be able to hear the harmony as you are soloing and helps with memorization.  That was a big milestone in my development.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?: Knowing the tune is one thing, but you don’t have complete mastery over it until you internalize it and make it a part of you.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?: Understanding that sometimes one has to take a step backward before they can take a few steps forward.
What is your biggest musical achievement?: I’m not sure which of my achievements can be considered the ‘biggest’…but one of my favorites was being in the 2011 Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps.  For an entire summer, I got to tour half of the country with 150 other performers who I consider family.  It was completely different from what I currently do in my professional music career…but performing in stadiums packed with thousands of people is something I will never forget.
Favorite thing about teaching?: Being able to teach my students about how to live a fulfilling life, in addition to music.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?: Listening is just as important as practicing, and always listen with an open mind.
Personal music projects: I’m in a rock band: Cold Roses (just released our first album: ‘No Silence in the City’) and a jazz group: Norris Street Trio.  I also starting playing with an 11 piece big band: The Hoppin’ John Orchestra.  I have also performed and recorded with various other groups as a freelance musician.

Philly Music Lessons student performances!

Student Performance

Cello and Guitar Performance at Philly Music Lessons

The Importance of Student Performances – We returned this December to the Church of the Holy Trinity, where students performed their best. Playing in recitals is voluntary, but we always encourage students to take part. Its an opportunity for both teachers and students to focus on skills, master new material, and see a piece through to the end. It is also a time to experiment with performing in front of an audience. This kind of challenge gives students a unique sense of confidence. Recitals are also be a great way to practice playing live (work out those butterflies!). Ensembles and duets sharpen musicianship and enable students to gain group experience. Even though they can be a bit nerve racking, recitals tie together concepts in ways that go above and beyond the private lesson. So students, pat yourselves on the back! We know its not easy to get on stage, and we’re all so proud of the work you’ve done.

Into the Performance Archives – For some, this was their second or even third recital. For others, it was their first. Looking back it is incredible to see the progress of those who have returned (even since the 2014 Spring Recital). First timers, you’ll be able to look back at these performances in the future and say, “Hey, look how far I’ve come!” Part of why we keep an archive and write the recital review is so that students can analyze, critique, and appreciate their progress.

Our Fall 2014 Recital Review – This year, the cello made its first appearance. We had a few returning duos and some new – The Glew brothers performed a Coldplay song on cello and guitar, and two adult students played duets from the Mel Bay guitar books. New teachers contributed to the recital as well, including string teacher Veronica Hudacek, and piano teacher Meredith Ferro.

Lilly Huber opened the recital on the piano. Her teacher, Meredith Ferro, has been working with Lilly following classical piano methods, focusing on proper technique and note reading. Lilly played “Minuet in G”, and “Falling Leaves”. Her graceful performance was filled with ease – an ease that has grown since last recital!

Another one of Meredith Ferro’s piano students, Elim Savage, went next. Elim, a beginner, is among one of our youngest students (just 4 years old!). With his first piano lesson just a few months prior, Elim bravely performed “Hiking” with his teacher, followed by a great first-time solo performance of “The Rainbow”. Good Job Elim!

Then, Colton Moran came to the piano. Colton has been a student of our teacher, Alex Maio. This was his first time playing in a recital. Playing with both hands, a feat for a beginner piano student, Colton performed “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick” simply and sweetly (just in time for the holidays!).

Ally Altshuler played us three songs from her growing repertoire: “Bravery at Sea”, “Waltzing Elephants”, and “Animal Band”. Ally and her teacher Joseph Primavera have been working on some pop tunes, while also studying note reading and beginner piano technique. Last Spring, Ally sang and played piano at the recital – Ally, its amazing how far you’ve come in just half a year!

Addie Dash has been working on some pop pieces with her guitar teacher. She chose to play a mellow, acoustic version of “Firework” by Katy Perry. As she and Joe work on guitar technique during lessons, Addie also works on songwriting. Exploring composition, melody and lyrics, Addie wrote an original tune – she played “Black into Light” at the recital. Good job Addy!

Gabe Moran was up next, bringing our attention to the drums. Gabe is a drum student with Alex Maio, and this was his first recital. He kept the beat while playing an 8 bar jam accompanied by some blues guitar from Joseph Primavera. We can’t wait to see Gabe play again with other musicians, as he’s clearly ready to back up his first band!

Jack Hirsh and Joe played “The General”, by Dispatch. Jack has been learning tablature and working on his fret board skills. Jack did a great job with the complicated finger work during the opening of this song. While playing some solid rhythm guitar throughout, Jack also sang the chorus with Joe. Last year, Jack played piano in the recital. He studies both piano and guitar during lessons. Bravo to a first time guitar performance!

Hayden Dash, a piano student with us, played “Best Day of My Life”, by American Authors. Thanks for bringing spunk and personality to this piece and to the recital! Its nuts to think it was only one year ago Hayden played this beginner’s classic (with equal energy!).

Jacob Altshuler played “The Man”, by Aloe Blacc. Jacob started guitar lessons with Joe not too long ago as a beginner/intermediate for his age group. Jacob has worked from guitar books, but has mainly been working with tab recently and right hand picking technique. We enjoyed Jacob’s song choice and his picking skills!

Duncan Glew played a duet with his cello teacher, Veronica Hudacek. Together they played”Etude #5″, by David Popper. Duncan is an intermediate cello student. He produced smooth and clear notes as he performed this classical piece for the audience.

Next, Duncan accompanied his brother, Finn Glew, as they performed “Viva La Vida”, by Coldplay. Finn sang and played guitar. As this was Finn’s first vocal performance, its clear these two are just scratching the surface of their musical collaboration! We hope to see more of this duo at the next recital.

Jessica Lydon has been an adult piano student with Philly Music Lessons for a few years. With an interest in learning chord melodies for popular songs, Jessica has been working on the song “Mad World”, by Tears for Fears. She performed this Donnie Darko tune for us on the piano.

Phyllis Farquhar and Joe Stanczak followed Jessica’s performance with two guitar duets. Phyllis is a beginner guitar student, and Joe Stanczak an intermediate. Both taking lessons with Joseph Primavera, these two played “Ballad”, and “Pretty Pickin'” from the Mel Bay Guitar books. There’s often no better way to make note reading come to life than in the form of duets. Often times, teachers will offer accompaniment for such practice, but we love when our students create their own ensembles.

Joe Stanczak, though a long time guitar student, recently began taking voice lessons with one of our teachers, Marcelle McGuirk. In order to improve vocal technique and better understand the mechanics of singing, Joe has been focusing on vocal exercises. He and Marcelle have begun applying a technical singing practice to his interest in classic rock. Coordinating guitar and vox together, Joe performed “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who for the recital – a first-time vocal performance!

Henry Corkran, who studies guitar with Joe, played “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin. Way back when, Henry was just beginning to scratch the surface of all the great classic guitar riffs from artists like Pink Floyd and Zeppelin. Its clear Henry’s grasp of the fret board is moving along!  Onward, to mastering more great electric guitar lines, Henry!

Derek Mansen, an advanced student studying jazz guitar, performed “Play it Pretty”. He’s been dissecting some chord melodies during lessons with Joe, tapping into theory along the way. Tackling these advanced pieces fosters a thorough understanding of the fret board and scales, and requires mastery of tone and form. Derek played this piece smoothly and evenly.

Alana Gardner closed the show with her heart-felt performance of “Come Home”, by One Republic. Performing on piano and vocals, Alana showed off her singing skills again! Alana has been translating pop music into solo performances, accompanying herself on piano. As a supplement to her lessons, Alana has experimented with recording. Recording, like recital performance, challenges students in a unique way. We’ve got some of Alana’s first recordings here.

To Our Students – When you’re in the thick of learning an instrument, its easy to forget that there was a time when you didn’t know anything about music – when your fingers were sore from holding down a single string, when you couldn’t yet hear intervals, when you didn’t know the names of the notes, or how to make a decent sound come from the strings or trumpet. Taking time to look back will remind you of the process and how far you’ve come. May these reflections inspire you as you continue into the future! As you watched everyone perform this past Fall, with students from ages 4 and up, perhaps you were inspired by those who are just a little further along than you. I know there were some little ones in our audience who were surely doing the same, waiting for their turn in the spotlight!

Sign Up for Fishtown Music Classes

Saturdays in Feb.

Feb 7th at 10am – Music in Fishtown
Just a reminder that there is a 10 am class for MAKE-UPS and SIGN-UPS this Saturday! DROP-IN spots are FULL, but if you’d like to reserve a spot for next weekend, please email phillymusicbabies@gmail.com

We’re also gathering names for a 9 am time on Saturdays. Once the 9 am slot has enough people signed up, that time will be open to make-ups and drop-ins – but not quite yet! Stay tuned.

SATURDAY SIGN UP:

$10/class (around 3 classes per month – see CALENDAR)
9 am and 10 am options
Sign-ups occur on a monthly basis
If you just found us, you can join mid-session!
Flexible make-up options if you miss a class
First time FREE
Email phillymusicbabies@gmail.com

SATURDAY DATES:

February Dates: 7th, 14th, 21st

DROP-INS $15:

Always email to check for space and confirm times.
$10 for alumni (those who have already been signed up for a month)

Thank you! See some of you this weekend!

Claire, “Coco”

phillymusicbabies@gmail.com
phillymusiclessons.com/phillymusicbabies