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Meet one of our Violin Teachers! | Navid Kandelousi

Introducing a fantastic new addition to our teaching staff: Navid Kandelousi

violin teacher, strings, philly, fishtown, philadelphia, lessonsI started my musical journey at the age of six by studying violin with both Iranian and Russian teachers. In 1999 I was invited to join the Iranian National Orchestra as a violin soloist, a position which I held until 2006 when I left Iran for Italy.  I studied western classical music at the Verdi Conservatory in Milano, Italy and at the Moscow Violin Academy in Russia.  In 2009, I was invited to join the Gateway Symphony in New York City and the International American YPHIL Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.  I have mastered virtuosic skills on a great breadth of instruments including the Violin, Setar, Taar and Kamanchah, in addition to experience with piano, tonbak, santour and gheychak. Throughout my professional career, I have collaborated with numerous prestigious Persian ensembles such as the Iranian National Orchestra, the Orange County Orchestra, and have performed all the great composers internationally across Europe, Asia and America in venues such as Lincoln Center, Juilliard Music School, Albert Hall, Kennedy Center, Sydney’s Symphony Hall and Vahdat Hall, while winning numerous music and violin awards. My teaching background includes work at the Yamaha School of Music, Suzuki Violin School, and Master Classes in Kamanchah, Taar and Setar at the Julliard School. I received a scholarship from Maestro Daniel Philips in Queens College of Music 2012-2015 and recently attended the Silk Road Global Music performance with Maestro Yo-Yo Ma in Kennedy Center!

When did you begin playing Violin, and why?
I started in music when I was 6 years old, and I chose the violin at 8. I picked the violin because I fell in love with the sound it made the very first time I heard it.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
I play Taar, Setar, kamancheh, and Tombak. These are all Persian instruments that I have been playing for many years along with my violin – they are also mostly from the string family.

What are your personal goals as a musician?
As a violinist, I would like to continue performing solo concerts! As a teacher, I want to be able to show my students everything I’ve learned. Most of all, I hope to become a better person in my life and enjoy music as much as I can!

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
My understanding of violin technique really clicked when I heard the Paganini caprices performed by Shlomo Mintz. What a beautiful performance!

What is your favorite piece of music from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Paganini Violin Concerto No.1

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?
My most challenging moments are always learning new, difficult pieces with a teacher. It can be so hard in the beginning, but it always gets better!

What is your biggest musical achievement?
Finding the best friends and music lovers in my life

Favorite thing about teaching?
I love giving a lot of examples during my classes when I am teaching!

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Practice slowly and correctly and every day!

Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc.
I am also very involved in Middle Eastern folk music!

 

What is Open Music? | Kids Music Classes


Open Music
Philly Music Babies opened its shaker-clad circle to the Fishtown neighborhood a little over three years ago. With a lineup of songs, scarves, pinwheels, guitar, rhythm sticks, wrist bells, drums, and a whole bunch of assorted instruments, we welcomed neighborhood families to come sing with us on a weekly basis. The idea behind the classes was to provide quality music exposure.

Why exposure? There are many studies that point to the language and cognitive benefits that infants and young children receive from early musical education. Not only that, with regards to a child’s capacity to learn music, exposure itself (especially music in the home), leads to a greater music aptitude throughout the rest of a child’s life. Though music may not be important for everyone, there is certainly something to be said for the positive ways in which music shapes a developing child’s mind. And with all of the life-skills that learning and playing an instrument can give us (not to mention the artistic and emotional satisfaction), we are even more motivated to share music with our community of little ones in Fishtown and South Philly.

Philly Music Babies focuses on repetition through traditional songs and incorporates the Kodaly Method. Teacher-lead music and games, backed by guitar, form the core of our class. We introduce solfege (Do, Re, Mi …) to develop a music language of pitch and syllables. By these means, we work toward nurturing a sense of rhythm, melody, and harmony. But really, what we are aiming at is just creating music that simply sounds and feels good! It is our experience that music is enough of a reason to come out and sing. Whether your baby is venturing out around other kids for the first time, or your youngest just needs some mommy-and-me time, the process of making music together is invigorating for everyone (and tuckers them out just in time for naps)!

So then, what is Open Music? Open Music was inspired by the first set of graduates from our Philly Music Babies series. Now 3 and 4 (and almost 5!) and looking for some continuation of weekly music, parents often ask, what’s next? Do you have any more? When can I start private lessons (more on that here)?

In my own experience, few kids are ready for lessons at 4. While certain kids might do well in the one-on-one lesson, most are still itching for exploration and free-play. Open music is designed with creative group work portions as well as crucial segments of child-led, free-play. Children are given the space and time to feel out musical concepts at their own paces, and are introduced to new ideas through group play. Combining a multitude of senses, learning props, tinker-projects, art, imaginative story time, and real instrument jam sessions, children experience music through play.

How To Sing From Your Diaphragm

voice, music, diaphragm, fishtown, philly“Sing from your diaphragm!” This phrase is almost mythical in the world of voice lessons. Somehow this concept has passed on to students who haven’t taken a single voice lesson, yet even students who have taken years of voice lessons may not know what it means. It doesn’t help either that some teachers say you should sing from your diaphragm while others say you shouldn’t. Who is right? And if you should, how do you do it?

 

What it Means to “Sing From Your Diaphragm”

The short answer to the question of “who is right,” when it comes to whether or not you should sing from your diaphragm is – both teachers are right! Obviously that requires a longer answer though.

diaphragm, voice, singing, lessons

Here is your diaphragm. As you can see, it sits right below your lungs. Think of it as an upside-down bowl-shaped muscle. Because of where it sits, when your lungs expand (when you breathe in), the diaphragm flattens out to make room for the now larger lungs. When your lungs contract (when you breathe out), the diaphragm curves up again. You can see this motion here.

Students often get lost right around now because what isn’t agreed upon is whether the diaphragm is a voluntary or involuntary muscle. In other words, do we move it consciously like our arms and legs, or does it move on its own like our hearts? For singers, this is largely irrelevant. Why? Because the point of a “diaphragmatic breath” is not whether or not we can move our diaphragm. It’s whether we can take an ideal breath to create a steady release of sound for singing. Therefore, focusing on the diaphragm itself misses the point.

Instead, students of singing should focus on how to feel their breath lower in their body, as opposed to breathing high into the chest. This is why the phrase “sing from your diaphragm” may be helpful for some students and teachers; it creates the imagery of a low breath and a steady release for some people. For others, it creates too much focus on something other than the task at hand.

So in short, you should think about singing from your diaphragm if it’s helpful to you. Any one of the following exercises can also help you “sing from your diaphragm” without the terminology.

 

Exercises to Sing From Your Diaphragm

The Milkshake Breath – When we drink a big, delicious milkshake from a straw, that milkshake goes right to our bellies. We can think of breathing in the same way. Imagine your favorite flavor of milkshake. Then, pretend to hold it in front of you and drink it all in. In this scenario, the milkshake will be your breath, and your goal is to fill your breath all the way to your belly. You can even put your hand on your belly if that helps you place it. If you don’t drink milkshakes, you can imagine whatever drink you’d like – as long as you’d normally drink it through a straw!

The Balloon Breath – When a balloon expands, it expands all the way around, not just to one part of the balloon. It does, however, start at the bottom of the balloon. Our lungs, ultimately, are like this as well. We want to use all of our abdominal muscles to create a steady release of the breath while singing, so we want to inhale with that in mind. Take a breath while imagining your torso is a balloon, and your goal is to fill up the whole balloon, starting from the bottom up.

Dog on a Hot Day – Have you ever seen a dog on a hot day, its tongue sticking out and its whole body working to breathe? We can use this for singing, too, although our breaths should concentrate on our belly. Stick your tongue out for an added tongue stretch, then release short breaths from your abdomen like a dog would on a hot day. This is a great exercise to introduce the release of breath along with the inhalation of breath.

The Snake Sound – To start working on the release of breath along with the intake, breathe in on four counts. Then immediately release the breath on a steady “ss” sound for eight counts. The “ss” sound should be strong but not forced, smooth and not jagged. This will encourage your body to release air as a stream rather than all at once, which is vital for singing.

 

There are numerous other exercises you can use to learn how to sing from your diaphragm (if you choose to think of it that way). These are my favorites because they all come with an organic understanding of how breath works without trying to manipulate our breath in other ways. Feel free to find your own creative ways to take lower breaths, too! Just make sure that no matter which exercises you use, you don’t do too many at once. These exercises can over oxygenate you and make you dizzy if done too many times, especially without practice. Try two or three a day at first for maybe a minute, tops. A little effort will go a long way to getting you towards diaphragmatic breaths in no time.

Spring Kids Music Class, Ages 3-5

Keely_ClassKids Music Class Dates:

April 1st thru May 13th
Saturdays at 11 AM
2111 East Susquehanna Ave (Philly Music Lessons)

Music Exploration is a 6 week class that allows children to discover a variety of musical instruments! Combining art projects with beginner concepts in music, kids can build a foundation for further learning in music. Within a group environment, social learning will open the door for private lessons later on as kids approach music from a collaborative angle. Read more about our class here!

Topics include:

  • Instrument Bodies and the Anatomy of Sound
  • Fundamental Concepts like Melody, Rhythm, & Music as a Language (Notes)
  • Physical Techniques for Strings and Piano
  • Ear (Solfege)

Examples of Past Art Projects Using Recyclables (materials included):

  • Marimbas (Finger Piano)
  • Jar Shakers
  • Rhythm Sticks
  • Pasta Note Necklaces with Mini Song Patterns

Students will use their homeade instruments to practice “In the Jungle”. Our music class will have the option to perform as a group at our Spring Recital at the Ethical Society on Saturday May 20th! We encourage you to come be a part of our show!

DISCOUNTS:

Students whose families participate in any of the programs at By My Side Parenting will receive a 10% discount for our Spring Session! This discount also applies to private lessons at home, at our main studio in Fishtown/East Kensington, or at our auxilliary space at By My Side.

Kids Violin Class with Rentals & Other Fishtown Music Classes

violin philly

Beautiful Tone, Beautiful Heart!

Suzuki-Style Violin Class for Ages 3-5

“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”

Shin’ichi Suzuki

Saturdays at 11 AM at Philly Music Lessons
October 1st – November 19th
$198 for 8 classes
(Includes a 3 month violin rental fitted for your child’s size at the first class)

Though many different curiosities are piqued when children come into our space and see instruments on the walls and in our practice rooms, violin seems to be of particular interest over and over again! Thus we’ve decided to offer a Suzuki-style violin class for kids ages 3-5. With a violin rental embedded into the cost, kids have the opportunity to experience the Suzuki method and other violin group work intended to introduce young bodies and minds to the violin. Read more about our kids violin class here!


 

Music Exploration Ages 3-5

Tuesdays at 4PM
October 4th – November 22nd
$128 for 8 classes

Our music exploration class is an intro to music beyond baby and toddler classes. Kids will explore ukuleles, their voices, piano techniques, and percussion patterns to gain experience with string instruments, solfege (ear training), and rhythm training. This class lays the groundwork for private lessons in a variety ofinstruments and is simply a fun way to explore music! Each class concludes with an art project that will reinforce a new concept each week.


newmoms

Baby and Toddler Music Classes Ages 0-3

Ongoing Weekly classes at 10 AM Wednesdays and Saturdays
First time FREE! $10 drop in all September

Mommas, daddies, nannies, grandparents, and caregivers can join other families in the Fishtown area for weekly music classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 AM. Babies just a few months old will enjoy classes as much as the toddlers. All classes are drop-in this September, with a special rate of $10 per class (normally $15). Come October, we’ll be moving to a monthly sign up (10 kids max, unlimited makeups) to encourage regular friends and faces, and to allow groups of babies to grow and learn together!

“Long Drum ROOOLLLLLLL!”

DrumclassfinaleOur Spring drum class (Rhythm and Beats), our Ukulele Class, and our Music Exploration Class have sadly ended for the season. But its not quite over yet! Students of our drum class, along with those taking private music lessons, will perform for our Spring 2016 Recital, starting at 1:30 PM, this Saturday, May 14th. Come on out and see what we’ve been doing over here at Philly Music Lessons! Visit us at the Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square for an afternoon of violin, voila, voice, piano, guitar, and more. This recital is open to the public and costs $5 per person above the age of 12 (students attend FREE).

Beginner Guitar Books, A Look Inside

We wanted to show prospective students what their first year of lessons might look like. Our guitar teachers have individual approaches, and books are only portion of what goes on. However, because books are a foundational tool where progress can be easily observed, we thought they provided a good way to show a range of beginner skills. We took a look at one of the most common beginner guitar books students might encounter (Mel Bay’s Modern Guitar Method 1) and made video samples at various stages. This Mel Bay book, which can be used for both teens and adults, teaches modern guitar method – a good basis for rock, blues, and jazz (classical method involves its own separate techniques).

This video features the last song in the book, “Southern Fried”(page 47). With a steady amount of practice, students might expect to complete this first book in about 6 months – so this is what you’ll be playing!

As the final piece of music, “Southern Fried” follows many songs, exercises, diagrams, and practice rituals for guitar, all of which slowly build skills to the level exhibited. The content of this beginner book includes an introduction to proper form, musical notation explanations (strokes of the pick, time signatures, the staff, and the notes themselves, etc.), basic tuning methods, beginner duets, chords in various keys, and chromatics. Stay tuned for more samples!

Spring Class! Drums Ages 4-6

Julius_Rivera_DrumsKids with an interest in drums can get a taste of what its like to take drum lessons in group classes starting April 2nd (Saturdays at 4 PM, 6 weeks). With Julius Rivera as our instructor, children ages 4-6 will explore basic drum concepts through group exercises, revolving around tub and tube drumming. Tonal tubes and tubs are a great way to convey rhythm to beginners through feel and play (think Blue Man Group). In addition to tubs and tubes, the real drum kit will be used as a basis for teaching drum terms and techniques applicable to beginner drum lessons. Julius’s style includes high-energy games that reinforce rhythm, tempo, and time. This a hands-on, collaborative approach to experimenting with drums that will tap into creativity, physicality, and imagination.

Check out this and other class offerings for Spring 2016

A Word on Drums for Kids

Drums for KidsWhy should you encourage your child to drum?

One of the stars of the Muppets is a character named Animal. Animal is a drummer, who many would argue, embodies the general perception of a drummer in the U.S. He is wild, impulsive, and intense. This perception is not always based on how the world’s best drummers actually are, but more on the energy that they bring to musical groups and events. I hope to present a picture of some of the skills needed in order to become a great drummer / musician / person and how learning these skills can create rich learning experiences for children.

Drumming is not really wild – it just feels that way…

The world’s best drummers do not hit the drums randomly or haphazardly – they are very calculated and deliberate. In order to play their instruments well and to find new ways to be expressive during performances, they have to practice and train. Great drummers don’t tend to be like sprinters in a race, they tend to be more like marathon runners who take their training and preparation seriously. Like runners, drummers have to learn how to relax while moving, to learn how to breathe well while remaining active, how to use healthy postures, and how to get lost in their activity so that they are not “thinking” about it – but instead doing it with an automaticity that enables them to reflect on other things while they are being active. Drumming like many other physical activities can be very intensive at times – however, great drummers learn to be aware of their bodies and avoid becoming injured in spite of an increase in the intensiveness.

Drumming is natural…

There are many individuals who see a person playing a drum set and immediately think to themselves, “I would never be able to do that! It requires too much coordination – and I can barely clap on rhythm!”  I would argue that when discussing who can drum, we enter a Nature vs. Nurture discussion. I firmly believe that more people in the U.S. do not feel comfortable drumming or using rhythm because of our cultural experiences related to rhythm. Throughout the world, there are toddlers and small children playing syncopated rhythms with ease. Is it because their genes predispose them to rhythmic intelligence or is it because they were exposed to seeing adults exhibiting behaviors and began to learn how to do what the adults around them were doing? What were some of the things that your child was exposed to and how has this exposure affected what they can do – the skills that they have?

Clearly, any art form requires an investment of time and benefits from guidance from experienced professionals; however, most children are naturally drawn to hitting a cylinder with their hands or with sticks. I would argue that it is as natural for people to drum as it is for us to run, but that our cultural experiences affect our exposure and comfort with drumming. It seems to move away from being an activity that you can engage at your own level into a skill that you either can or cannot do. It is similar to a person who enjoys drawing (and has a natural impulse for it) being discouraged from drawing because they don’t draw well enough to meet another’s standards or a person being discouraged from dancing because they cannot execute the dance move as expected – we often prioritize a person’s ability to perform over their desire to do something that they enjoy and that makes their lives richer (and could become something that they would be better at with time and work).

Great drummers listen well and express themselves appropriately…

Drums are very powerful instruments – an average person can create deafening sounds without the need for electricity.  So, drums should be treated like other powerful things – tools, money, the stove, etc. You can hurt and offend people with loud erratic drumming. Most professional drummers tend to have a low tolerance for loud erratic drumming. They understand that it is possible to create something beautiful and enjoyable with a little bit of effort. The experience could be compared to watching a child color outside of the lines in a coloring book.  Most adults will (at some point) draw attention to the lines of the picture and encourage children to use the lines to guide their coloring rather than disregarding them. Great drummers learn to be considerate to listeners by adjusting the volume of their drumming to a level that is appropriate to the occasion. A person who knows how to control their volume, but chooses not to, is being immature and inconsiderate of the listeners and musicians that they may be performing with. Showing off at the expense of the success of the group is seen in most social situations. Learning to be considerate to listeners and other musicians is a skill that demonstrates and fosters maturity in individuals of all ages.

When a drummer becomes aware of ways to channel these powerful instruments, then they can begin to dance musically.  They can learn basic steps / movements and then they can add expressive touches and / or improvise something that is complimentary to the song. The great drummer dances with the other musicians – this sometimes leads the musicians to perform things that go beyond what was rehearsed. As a drummer, I have often been inspired to do something that was not rehearsed during a performance and responded to other musicians who began to do something that went beyond what was rehearsed.

Is drumming on buckets the same as playing Guitar Hero?

Although it may seem as though drumming on a bucket is similar to playing a musical video game, the skills introduced and reinforced are dramatically different. A video game introduces and reinforces the skill of pushing the appropriate buttons when prompted by the game. When a person is actually playing an instrument, they learn to repeat particular movements in a specific order in order to produce the musical sound. The sound produced is consistent when the movement / behavior is exhibited (muscle memory). For example, if you play a C note on an acoustic piano, it will create a sound – that sound will not change. However, it is possible to produce different types of sounds using devices that can be connected to instruments. Guitarists often use foot-switch pedals in order to change sounds. There are skills required to use them effectively – a video game does not introduce or reinforce these skills.

Drumming on buckets is not equivalent to playing instruments, but it does offer transferrable skills. One skill that is introduced and reinforced with bucket drumming is awareness of hitting versus not hitting. In visual art, artists learn to become aware of negative space. In drumming, not hitting the drum can be seen as a musical negative space. You don’t hit the drum in order to create the quiet portions of a rhythm – instead, you resist hitting. This silence / break in the rhythm is as important as the hits. In fact, intentional breaks are what separate an intentional rhythm from haphazard noise. This awareness is necessary for playing any instrument – to play or not to play… SELF CONTROL

Another skill that can be learned from bucket drumming is the skill of experiencing a repeated pattern becoming the foundation for song. Many popular songs have 4 or more chords that are repeated.  The melody of the song is performed on top of this repeated pattern. After a child / person learns to perform a rhythm, it is important for them to learn how to relax into the rhythm so that they can continue to repeat the pattern while other performers do something different that is complimenting the rhythm. RELAXING

Finally, bucket drumming offers opportunities for creativity. Once a child has learned how to relax into a rhythm/ song, then they can begin to explore being creative. They can try to develop their own “new” rhythms and they can begin exploring ways of complimenting rhythms with other patterns or with improvisational breaks. CREATIVITY

In summary, Drumming teaches countless invaluable skills. A child who learns how to drum, doesn’t make noise, they make art!