Good Music, Brighter Children Blog

background with cucumbers

Cucumbers are a warm season vegetable, but thanks to warm weather in various parts of the country year-round, we are able to purchase this amazing veggie twelve months a year!

Here are just some of the ways to enjoy this versatile vegetable:

 

Contain Vitamins: Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day. Just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

A Great Pick-Me-Upper:  Feeling tired in the afternoon? Put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber! Cucumbers are a good source of B vitamins and carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

 

Eliminates Fog in the Shower: Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror; it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

Free your garden of pests: Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans, but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

 

Cellulite—Be Gone! Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes. The phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!

 

Helps Headaches and Hangovers: Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost; keeping everything in equilibrium and avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

Curbs Bingeing: Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

 

Shines Shoes: Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don’t have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe– its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

Works like WD 40: Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

 

Relieves Stress: Stressed out and don’t have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water. The chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

Cleans Your Breath: Just finish a business lunch and realize you don’t have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath.  The phytochemcials will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

 

Tarnish Be Gone!: Looking for a ‘green’ way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean. Not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won’t leave streaks and won’t harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.

Works on Ink, Crayons and Markers: Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing. Also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!

Healthy for Pets: Last, the lowly cucumber is also a healthy snack for your pets!

 

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


Group Of Students Playing In School Orchestra Together

The kids are back in school. You can breathe a momentary sigh of relief, but now you want to know how you can support their learning experience and help them to become the best students they can be. So, if you really are interested in helping your child in school and are invested in their academic success–please read this..

After spending the last thirty years studying how music affects the brain, I’m convinced there is nothing like listening to classical music and taking music lessons to build a bigger, better brain in children and adults. Why? Because listening to music and playing a musical instrument  is the ONLY thing we do that exercises the entire brain—left, right, front and back—simultaneously. Take a look at this chart–there isn’t an area of the brain that music doesn’t impact!

Brain on music

 Bottom line: learning a musical instrument it is like giving the brain an aerobic workout accompanied by fireworks!

 

 There are many different music programs in communities all over the U.S. Find one and enroll your child in it. Some programs, like “Let’s Play Music,” offer programs from 18 months of age and above. It is now in 26 states in the U.S. and in Canada.

Let's play music 2

 This program is so comprehensive in its musical scope that it builds the three areas of the brain most needed for learning: the auditory, the visual/spatial, and the motor cortices.  Over the next few days I’m going to talk about these three areas of the brain that music can strengthen and how it relates to learning. I will also illustrate how the “Let’s Play Music” program fits into each one.  First, the auditory cortex:

Brain-builder #1: Music strengthens the auditory cortex and helps with reading and language…

 Do you know that the auditory cortex of the brain is five times smaller than the visual cortex? So it is already established in the brain that we learn quicker and easier by visually looking at something. But here’s the rub: when a child learns to read, they must use their ears first, (auditory cortex) and their eyes second (visual cortex).  Think back when you were learning to read. All those letters on the page looked like Greek and it wasn’t until your teacher said the word, and you used your ears, that you understood how to say the word. So the rule for reading is: ears first to hear the pronunciation of the word and eyes second to visually recognize the word.

 

From various brain scans, scientists know that learning a musical instrument strengthens all areas of the auditory cortex thereby making it easier for a child to read, to understand directions, and to process information in the classroom and elsewhere. It also reaches children who are learning disabled as all learning issues begin with auditory processing, or not being able to understand what you hear.

 Kodály is a music program that develops and strengthens the auditory cortex and is used in LPM.  Kodály trains children to sing on pitch without the aid of an instrument. It’s called solfege and it takes practice! While singing they also use certain hand signals called curwen that reinforce the learning. This training strengthens the auditory cortex thus making reading, writing and processing of information easier. It also helps with memory skills as they learn different songs with different rhythms. Aural or listening skills are learned when the child listens to the varying pitch, rhythm and harmony of a multitude of songs.  This singing method is an amazing brain-builder!

Check in your area and see if you have a “Let’s Play Music” program. If not, check to see if you have a Kodály program. You will be embarking on a powerful brain-building experience for your child that will increase their chances for academic success! (I talk about both of these programs in my book).

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series–next we will be discussing how music affects the visual/spatial areas of the brain and how it translates into successful learning.

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


There are very few authors that children of all ages remember with more love and cheerfulness than Theodor Seuss Geisel, affectionately known as “Dr. Seuss.” Most people can distinctly recall the first time a parent or school teacher introduced them to one of Dr. Seuss’ books. For most of us, it was a magical moment—one locked inside our memory banks; never to be erased.

I was in kindergarten when my teacher, Mrs. Shelby read to our class Dr. Seuss’s newly published children’s book, “The Cat in the Hat.”  Who didn’t instantly fall in love with that zany cat; his mischievous antics and those out-of-the-box illustrations? And for those of us who were raised on Dr. Seuss, it was a natural course of events to in turn read his books to our own children—thus passing down an important read-a-loud legacy of musically rhyming words, oddly funny illustrations, and never-ending fun.

Dr. Seuss 4

Like most of you, our book shelves were over-flowing with many different children’s authors, but Dr. Seuss reigned supreme—“Horton Hatches the Egg,” “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and the list goes on and on.

Despite Seuss’ death in 1991, his books live on and even some of his “lost” books are now appearing on bookstore shelves.

Dr. SeussOn September 9, 2014 Random House will publish “Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories.” The story behind this book and other “lost stories,” of Dr. Seuss have an interesting history…

In the early 1950s, this former ad man and modestly successful children’s book author published a series of illustrated stories for children in magazines like Redbook. They were short; two-to-three page spreads with stamp-sized drawings and minimal coloring. He was hoping to publish them in a book, but in 1957 his book, “The Cat in the Hat,” became an immediate best seller and while some of his magazine articles were later published, many were not. These so-called “lost” stories are now being published for the first time. The first collection was published in 2011 under the title, “The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories.” It reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list and now Random House is betting even bigger with “Horton,” with 250,000 copies first print-run.

Dr. Seuss 1

Dr. Seuss 3So take some time today—go and read to your child or grandchild your favorite Dr. Seuss book. For me, that favorite was “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.” I recently purchased the collectors edition with the idea of giving it to one of my son’s families. But for now, I’m enjoying it myself…maybe later it will find its’ way into the hands of one of my darling grandchildren.

You may want to check out Amazon or your favorite bookstore for this new Dr. Seuss adventure story—“Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories.” I have no doubt, it is another winning Seuss classic!  And, by the way–have you ever read “You’re Only Old Once,–A book for Obsolete Children?” I think it’s time I read this one!

Dr. Seuss 2 Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

 

 


Cathedral Notre Dame, Reims, Champagne, France

Question: What do classical music and the Cathedral of Notre Dame have in common?

 To answer this question, we need to talk music studies. There are studies on music that date from the 1800s to the present. In each instance, classical music is always the genre of music that is researched. Have you ever wondered why this is so?

 Let me explain by using a simple architectural comparison:

 Go outside and face your home, apartment building, or the condominium, etc., that you live in. Notice the structure; notice the design and notice the architectural shapes that go into making your home. You probably see squares, rectangles, a couple of triangles and maybe an oval or round shape. In terms of mathematical proportions and the elemental structure of your home or any building in your city, they can be compared to the musical structure of every genre of music EXCEPT classical music.

House

A simple achitectural structure

 In order to understand the architectural structure of classical music, you need to think of the Gothic cathedrals of Europe. Think of the Cathedral of Notre Dame—look at the structure, notice the intricacies, the details, the complexities of the patterns and the multifaceted and complicated architectural structure. The mathematical proportions and elemental structure of Gothic cathedrals represent classical music.

Cathedral 2

Cathedral of Notre Dame

Like these cathedrals, classical music is intricate, detailed, complex and filled with multifaceted patterns and complicated architectural structure. It is this complexity and intricacy that strengthens the neural processes of our brains.  No wonder when you listen to classical music that all areas of brain—left, right, front, back portions light up! And no wonder this music builds a bigger, better brain!

Cathedral 1

Suggestion: listen to at least 30 minutes of classical music each day. Refer to the Resource Section of my book for examples. It will be the best aerobic exercise you can give your brain! I personally would first listen to Mozart’s Piano Sonata in D for Two Pianos-I love that piece of music and once you hear it, it’s bound to become one of your favorites for stimulating and exercising your brain!

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


Fox News 4On Sunday, August 17, I appeared on Fox News in Salt Lake City, Utah (KSTU Fox 13).  Kelly Chapman was the host and interviewed me about my book, Good Music Brighter Children. We had an immediate connection—which is important for a successful TV interview.  She asked me a variety of questions including: how music affects the brain, the ideal age to introduce a child to music; what age should a child start learning a musical instrument and how to motivate a child to practice his instrument, etc. (all information contained in my book).  I’ve been told that the “test” of a good interview is what happens after the interview–in other words–if the interview continues.  Our “after interview” was great as we discussed specific ideas that she can use to involve her three children in music.

Fox News 2

 

 Fox News 1This interview turned out to be a positive experience. I’ve been on TV three other times previous—on PBS Los Angeles and Orange County and Loudoun County News in Virginia. My Fox News experience was the best—clearly because Kelly created a relaxed atmosphere and lots of enthusiasm for the subject! Thank you Kelly!Fox News 3

 Here is a YouTube link of the interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir_vI5sRgz0&feature=youtu.

The interview was a prelude to my speaking at BYU Education Week 2014. If any of you are familiar with BYU Education Week, you know it is a yearly tradition at BYU where they offer 1000 classes to over 50,000 attendees. I spoke Tuesday-Friday about various topics on music.

 Speaking at Education Week is always thrilling, exciting and yes…exhausting! The best part is meeting people from all corners of the United States and even from other countries. The 1000 classes offered include every subject imaginable—and most people leave inspired with a notebook chock full of exciting new ideas and suggestions for changing their lives.  If you ever have the chance to go—do it! I can’t think of a better way to stay young in mind and heart than to become a lifelong learner—plus it is just plain FUN!

Sharlene-BYU-Education-Week-2014

  Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


Here are the recipes that go with the children’s books I discussed in two earlier blogs. They are fun to make and add a special reading/eating experience for your children.

Pasta Fajioli Soup (Book: Stone Soup)

pasta fagioli

Ingredients:

3 tsp. oil

2 lbs ground beef

12 oz. onion chopped (1 ½ cups)

14 oz carrots diced (2 cups)

14 oz. celery diced (2 cups)

48 oz. cans tomatoes, diced

2 cups red kidney beans

2 cups white kidney beans

88 oz. beef stock

3 tsp. oregano

2 ½ tsp pepper

2 tsp. fresh chopped parsley

1 ½ tsp. Tabasco sauce

48 oz. spaghetti sauce

1 package of shell macaroni

Directions:

Sauté beef in oil

Add onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes

Simmer 10 minutes.

Drain and rinse beans and add to the pot

Add the beef stock, oregano, pepper, parsley, Tabasco sauce, spaghetti sauce and the package of shell macaroni

Simmer until tender about 45 minutes

Yields: 9 quarts soup

 

Finger Jell-O (Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar)

Finger Jello   Hungry Caterpillar

Ingredients:

5 boxes of 3 oz. Jell-O in various colors

7 pkgs. Knox gelatin

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

Dissolve 2 envelopes Knox gelatin and 1 cup boiling water in glass dish

Drizzle in 1 can sweetened condensed milk

You will be using ½ cup of this mixture between the colored Jell-O layers

Set aside this mixture in warm place so that it won’t set-up. (I usually put mine in the oven on the lowest setting)

Next, take 1 pkg. Jello, 1 pkg Knox gelatin, and 1 cup boiling water: mix until dissolved.

Pour the jello mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan

Put in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes or until slightly sticky.

Take out of fridge and, evenly pour ½ cup of the white mixture over the Jell-O

Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until slightly sticky.

Next, repeat the process: use a colored Jell-O layer, then a white layer.

Continue this process until you have used the all 5 boxes of Jell-O

The last layer will be a colored Jell-O.

When the Jell-O is fully set, you can use cookie cutters of various shapes and press them into the Jell-O–this is a really fun recipe!

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (Book: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie)

Chocolate Chip cookies   If you Give a mouse a cookie

Ingredients:

1 ½ Cups White Sugar

2 Cups Brown Sugar

1 lb. Butter (four sticks)

3 Eggs

2 Tablespoons Vanilla

6 Cups Flour (Use the brand, “Wheat Montana” you can get this at Wal-Mart—it is not a GMO)

1 ¼ Tablespoons Salt

1 ¼ Tablespoons Baking Soda

2 12 oz. pkgs. Chocolate Chips

Chopped walnuts, as desired

Directions:

  1. Mix together the white and brown sugars.
  2. Add the butter and cream until fluffy.
  3. Blend in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add the flour, salt and baking soda.
  5. Mix well but do not over beat.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and nuts.
  7. Use an ice cream scoop and drop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

 

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes (Blueberries for Sal)

Blueberry Pancakes  Blueberries for Sal045

 Ingredients

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen blueberries

2 cups buttermilk (shake well before measuring)

2 large eggs

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Vegetable oil for cooking

Unsalted butter and syrup for serving

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar in a large bowl until thoroughly combined
  2. Toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour mixture in a medium bowl and set aside
  3. Make a well in the center of the remaining flour mixture and add buttermilk, eggs, and lemon zest
  4. Whisk together, gradually incorporating flour mixture, mixing just until combined; some small lumps should remain in the batter.
  5. Fold in blueberries
  6. Let batter stand 10 minutes
  7. Preheat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat
  8. Brush griddle with oil and ladle 1/3 cup batter per pancake onto griddle.
  9. When small bubbles appear across surface of pancakes and the edges lift up from griddle, flip and continue cooking until pancakes are golden brown.
  10. Serve with butter and maple syrup

 

Pasta Primavera Salad (Strega Nona)

Strega Nona

Ingredients:

8 oz pasta (I like the fusilli)

1 Tablespoon

½ pound broccoli, trimmed, cut into flowerets

1 8 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped, save the marinade

½ cup bottled Italian salad dressing

1 clove garlic, crushed

½ cup minced green onions

2 zucchini, thinly sliced

1/3 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

½ cup frozen peas, uncooked

½ basket cherry tomatoes, halved

½ of a 1 pound can of pitted black olives

1/3 cup minced parsley

1/8 cup vinegar

1 cup mayonnaise

Salt & Pepper to taste

Red Leaf Lettuce

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water to which 1 tablespoon oil has been added. When cooked to al dente stage, drain and run cold water over it, drain again
  2. Cook broccoli in small amount of boiling water until crisp-tender; drain
  3. Pour marinade from artichoke hearts over cooked pasta along with bottled Italian dressing; add garlic and stir well
  4. Add green onions, zucchini, mushrooms, peas, cherry tomatoes, olives and minced parsley
  5. Combine vinegar with mayonnaise and add to salad along with salt & pepper
  6. Gently mix all ingredients thoroughly and allow to chill for several hours or overnight.
  7. Taste before serving and adjust seasonings.
  8. Sever each portion on a red lettuce leaf
  9. If salad becomes a little dry upon standing and doesn’t hold together as it did when first mixed, add a little mayonnaise, Italian dressing or water until moist.
  10. You can also add cooked diced chicken to this or Italian salami cut into small pieces.

 

Peach Cobbler (James and the Giant Peach)

James Giant Peach

 Ingredients:

8 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into thin wedges

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces

¼ cup boiling water

 Mix together:

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2 quart baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips, or a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
  4. Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.

 Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


Did your mother ever tell you to “Stop dawdling?”  When I was growing up, doodling and dawdling, (according to my mother) were wasteful activities that had no value. So after calling me to task, she would add, “and get busy and do something useful!”

 Well, it seems that doodling IS doing something useful—and science says so!

 You would think scientific minds would have something more important to study than the art of doodling, but not so. Even the great scientific minds find doodling worth investigating. What have they discovered? Doodling is an important way for people to relax, stay focused, grasp new concepts and retain information. Yes, doodling does all that…and more.

Brandon Red

Brandon’s Doodle Art

 Those little spontaneous, random marks on the page appear to be more meaningful than originally thought. “They are a thinking tool,” states Sunni Brown, author of “The Doodle Revolution.” According to Brown, doodling can affect how we process information and solve problems.

 

 For some, doodling relieves tension; for others doodling takes random thoughts and solidifies them into a purposeful whole; still others find that doodling is a way of expressing creative energy. (like color-coding a blog…) Scientists have also found that doodling actually improves memory. When people were encouraged to doodle while listening to a list of people’s names being read, they were able to remember 29 percent more of the information on a surprise quiz later on.

Whatever the reasons for doodling, it is fast becoming a respectable pastime. (I need to tell my mother!)

 For instance, a virtual boot camp, called “The School of Doodle,” has sprung up online and is a platform for the imagination to bloom. Backed by Yoko Ono, Sarah Silverman and Arianna Huffington this website’s focus is to create a place for teen girls to develop their imaginations and learn about creative opportunities.  Still in the development process, the website will offer free creative lessons, a chance to earn “doodle dollars,” behind-the-scenes “field trip” videos to movie sets and recording studios, as well as first-person accounts from women about their industries and career paths. The goal: encourage the development of non-cognitive skills!

Another form of doodling called, “zentangle” is the focus behind the book, Totally Tangled by Sandy Steen Bartholomew. Supported by thousands of faithful followers, the basis of this doodling is that even if you are not an artist, you can still “tangle.” Your creations are called, zentangles” and all you need to create these multi-patterned little doodles is a black sharpie pen, white paper and some imagination.  Usually “zentangles” are black and white, with some gray shading, but color can be added. The idea behind tangling?– unwind, be creative and have fun. My son Brandon was doodling long before it was considered an art form and he doodled to express his inner creative self, focus and relax (see his doodles below; they are not exactly considered zentangles, but they’re still interesting).

Brandon Rend the Veil

Brandon’s Doodle Art

 By the way, doodling is not some new art form—many great artists, scientists and musicians have doodled their way through history.  For instance, the master doodler was artist, engineer, scientist, etc., Leonardo da Vinci–and even maestro musical composer Ludwig Van Beethoven did his share of doodling, along with scientist and creative genius, Albert Einstein. However, their “doodles” have a more cerebral name: mind mapping.

 

Tony Buzan, author of The Mind Map Book, discusses how mind-mapping is a form of doodling using pictures, symbols or images. Mind mapping actually improves memory, concentration, and creativity and accelerates the ability to learn, remember and record information. Classes have sprung up all over the world helping people to understand this fun and interesting way to map, to doodle and to learn.

 

 Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic created a mind map for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. It was the result of years of study, and internal mind mapping. If you are not familiar with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9—think the famous “Ode to Joy.”  It was Beethoven’s last symphony and he wrote it when he was totally deaf. Zander’s mind map is a wonderful doodle/inner expression of this great musical masterpiece. I’ve made this image larger because I want you to see the details of this–pretty amazing!

 

 If you want to take your experience to a new level—turn on a classical music CD while doodling, tangling or mind mapping. Consider Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, or if you want someone a little more edgy, try Stravinsky. You can check out the 50-page Resource section of my book for ideas of specific pieces of music to play from the great classical composers that will take your doodles and mapping to new heights.

And, btw: by adding music when doodling you are bound to solve the problems of the world—or at the very least—your own!

 

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


Note: This is an excerpt taken from chapter five of my book, Good Music Brighter Children

 

Jason Record-1039

Jason had over 100 records by the age of 3 and he knew every song on them

When our son Jason was eighteen months old, he would climb on a chair, reach up to the stereo, and put music on to sing and dance to. By the time he was three, he was studying the violin and taking group music lessons, which he immensely enjoyed. At seven, Jason started taking private piano lessons.

Jason Violin-1037

Jason playing the violin at age 3

Eight months later, with positive comments from the judges, he won second place in the duo division at the Southwest Music Festival at California State University, Dominguez Hills. At eleven, he performed from memory an hour-long recital on piano and organ. At twelve, he lost this intense interest in the piano. He continued taking piano lessons until he went to college, but not with the same focus. Today, at thirty-seven, he still loves and appreciates all kinds of music, plays the piano for personal enjoyment and is practicing law in Northern California. Here is an excerpt of Jason playing at his recital at age 11–entirely from memory.

 Jason Piano-3041There were many reasons why Jason lost interest in seriously studying the piano, but regardless of the reasons, we did not feel he would have ever become a concert pianist, nor were we grooming him for such. The willingness to put in mega hours to become a concert pianist was simply not there.

 The goals for children studying music should not be to transform them into virtuosos, but rather to help them realize their full potential in all aspects of life and to instill in them a love of music.

 By learning a musical instrument Jason learned many valuable lessons, such as responsibility, perseverance, and dependability, which carried him through life’s challenges. Additionally, Jason acquired increased inner confidence in his abilities and a love for the arts, which forever will enhance the quality of his life—and he didn’t need to become a virtuoso to do so.

 Many parents who see signs of genius in their young child feel compelled to relentlessly develop those talents immediately, fearing that if they do not, the child’s potential, however dramatic it may be, will be lost…forever. This potential could be in music, sports, math, or any other subject in which the child shows exceptional talent at an early age. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

Trevor Piano-1040

Trevor playing the piano at age six

 Lauren A. Sosniak, an associate professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, conducted a study that gives a very clear outline on how exceptional talent is developed. Twenty-one concert pianists were interviewed to find out what was involved in developing outstanding achievement in music and how this relates to the overall development of talent. Ms. Sosniak found the following:

  • Development of a talent takes a long time—an average of seventeen years of hard work from the time the child begins training until she receives international recognition.

  • All of the pianists interviewed started out playing a musical instrument with no intention of becoming concert-level performers.

  • Surprisingly, they did not show any unusual talent at an early age. Their parents gave them lessons because, like many parents, they felt that learning a musical instrument was a positive thing.

  • It wasn’t until they were thirteen or fourteen, after spending several years taking lessons and practicing daily, that the teacher or parent realized they could accomplish more with their music. At this point, the focus of their music changed.

  • From that point, the pianists started spending a lot more time practicing, giving serious attention to the details and technicality of the music.

  • They got involved in musical competitions, summer camps, auditions, and public musical activities.

  • Eventually, after working with some of the finest piano teachers and developing a music style uniquely their own, they reached their goal of concert status.

 The musicians in the Sosniak study did not start piano lessons with the intent of becoming concert pianists—it was a natural evolution. If their parents saw talent, they did not push it. Some of the parents were not even musical themselves. By the time the students realized they wanted to seriously pursue music, they were also willing to work hard.

 

Yo-Yo Ma is an excellent example of the evolution of a virtuoso. Ma began playing the cello at age four, and six months later he was playing Bach suites. His father taught him but was careful not to put too much pressure on his young son. In fact, he insisted that young Ma practice only thirty minutes a day, learning only two measures of music, but playing them technically perfectly. By following this system, he had memorized three Bach suites at the young age of seven. When Ma was fourteen, it was obvious to people in the music business in New York that he was virtuoso material, but his father wanted his son to be “normal.” Therefore, Ma did not enter competitions, and he rarely gave concerts. He said, “My father wanted us to be educated, good people first and musicians second.” It was while he was at Harvard pursuing a liberal arts degree that he began to realize how very important music was in his life. It became clear to him that his first desire and priority was music. Today, he is internationally recognized as one of the greatest cellists in the world.

Ryan Piano-1042

Ryan playing the piano as a teen

 The musical journey will be different for each of our children. Some will achieve concert status; some will enjoy playing a musical instrument with the school band, while others will enjoy listening to music with a deep love and appreciation. Whatever musical road your child chooses, the evolution and process involved take the time and patience of parents and child. As you watch your child emerge musically, encourage him or her to work hard, enjoy the journey, and, finally, appreciate the destination.

 

Sharlene 2014

 

 

 

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