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I am excited to start a new first-year violin/viola class for 2018-2019. Check out the results of last year’s class at the post entitled Concert of the First-year Class – 2018.

In our weekly one-hour group class, the children learn basic musical structure and ear training through the use of singing games, moveable-do sol-fa, reading and writing activities, and other activities familiar to most North American Kodaly programs.  They also learn to play their instrument together in an ensemble, and they learn to perform solo for each other in a casual setting, including concert etiquette.

In our weekly half-hour private lesson, which is attended by a parent, each student gets the individual attention they need, particularly with violin technique, which allows the teacher to customize the program according to the needs of each student.

With this model for lessons, the children really do get a comprehensive program for developing complete musicianship.  It’s amazing to see how much they learn in such a short time!

I am looking for parents willing to bring their child twice a week to violin lessons and to supervise practice at home.

Contact me at crich8136@q.com or call 801-372-4890 if you live in Utah County and want this complete musicianship training for your child.

If you are a teacher, I highly recommend this model for teaching your own students.  You can learn more about this way of teaching at Intermuse Academy located at Brigham Young University.  Log on to https://intermuse.byu.edu/ for information about their Kodaly Certification Course in June each year.

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This was a great year for the first-year violin class, 2017-2018, at the School for Strings.  Here is their performance in the May concert.

Here’s what some of the parents said:

“Our 8-year-old son has thrived under Mrs. Richards’ violin instruction.  He is consistently excited to go to his lessons and complains the 60-minute group lesson goes by too quickly!  Her program is well developed, thoughtfully progressing through skills to build a solid foundation and good habits.  She is able to translate her years of violin experience into a language children understand and enjoy.  We are so happy to see our son developing serious violin skills and even more happy to see him love doing it.”  JG

“Mrs. Richards’ method of teaching has been very successful for our daughter. The curriculum is very well rounded, teaching technique, theory, composition, artistry, and ear training.  The weekly group class provides a social gathering for the children where they learn to be comfortable performing in front of others and enjoy playing together as an ensemble.  I have been very impressed with the overall experience for my daughter and highly recommend it.”  MKW

“It is tough to keep the attention of 7-year-olds, especially when it comes to the arduous task of teaching music, but Cynthia Richards does an amazing job of not only engaging the kids but actually helping them learn music and have fun at the same time.  The group class provides the party element and the private lesson ensure that the kids get the individualized attention they need to progress rapidly.  You can’t go wrong with this set-up.”  ERB

Moving on to SECOND YEAR!

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Wondering what I might add to the fixed-do versus moveable-do debate, probably the best thing would be to relate my own experience in becoming a musician.  Growing up as a violinist in America, the only system I was given for referring to notes was an absolute one: letter note names that could be fingered on the instrument.  Early on, I had to find a note on my violin by its note name in order to know what it sounded like.  I had not been taught how the tones related to each other to make music. Later, I surprised myself when, as a high school student, I found I could pick out tunes by making lucky guesses for fingerings.  As a music major in college, I attended all my theory and aural skills classes, learning intervals by their numbers, sometimes being helped by attaching the sound of a well-known tune to that interval.  For me, this system was not adequate in helping me to hear in my head what I was reading on the page. Using my ears to form pure intonation with other instrumentalists or with myself was not a problem, since matching tones is a different skill from being able to perceive musical structure and tonal relationships.

It wasn’t until I was taught, much later, the use of moveable-do sol-fa that my ears awakened to tonal structure.  I rejoice that now I can hear a note as a sol, or a fa, or a ti, in any key.  The system is such a simple, marvelous template that can be moved anywhere around the tonal universe! It was a huge light bulb! I found this to be such an important piece of the musicianship puzzle that was previously missing in my own education, that I created a curriculum of my own for teaching my students from the beginning to have well-trained ears.

As I became aware that a fixed-do system existed as another way of learning the absolutes, I wondered why use it?  We already have a set of note names that functions very well.  Not until I learned that not all countries use these letter note names, but use sol-fa names for their notes did I begin to understand the problem.  And so, what it boils down to is what you were brought up with and your willingness to master both an absolute and a relative system for referring to pitches.  I went for a long time with ears which were asleep, because I was never taught any kind of relative system.  Now, I can hear in my head what I am going to play, instead of what I just played.

It is true that as music becomes more complex and/or atonal, the relative system becomes less useful and the absolutes more useful.  That is one reason why both are necessary.  As an educator, it seems to me the logical learning sequence is to teach the basic rules of tonality first as the foundation for understanding more complex forms.  When it comes right down to it, most of the music we enjoy today is tonal anyway.

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Post by Claude Richards

WordsAndMusic_604

Reading words and reading music have parallels.

Some people can’t read at all.

Some know what the letters say and they can sound out unfamiliar words.

Some people can recognize whole words at once and they pronounce them in their heads.

Speed readers see the words and simultaneously see the images in their heads without ever pronouncing the words.

Music works the same. 

Some people see a note and it means nothing to them.  These people can’t read.

Others can figure out the note on a piano or another instrument.  They can sound it out.

Some people can copy the notes that they hear from others.  These people can recognize a word if someone reads it to them.

Some can see and play one note at a time.  These people can play the music slowly as they figure the notes out in their heads.

“Speed readers” can see the notes and hear the music in their heads without ever touching an instrument.

Beethoven was just such a speed reader.  When he lost the hearing in his ears he was still able to hear the music in his head.  He was able to compose magnificent symphonies which he was never able to hear with his ears.  Nor would it have helped to compose at an instrument since he couldn’t hear the instrument.

“Only the well-conducted teaching of sol-fa can develop the ability to connect tone-image with written note to the point where the one will evoke the other instantly.”  (Bónis, F., The Selected Writings of Zoltán Kodály.  New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1964.  p. 197)

For nearly fifty years I have watched my wife, Cynthia Richards, develop as a violin teacher.  She has always been good, especially with young children.  But I had never seen her so excited as when she came in contact with Dr. Jerry Jaccard and was able to connect the dots – linking the study of violin with a Kodály approach to complete musicianship.  She is now able to put her students on the path to “speed reading” the music.

I heartily recommend that you attend Intermuse at Brigham Young University, and find out what the excitement is about.  You won’t be sorry, I promise.

Click NOW for the Intermuse String Page for more information.

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String teachers!  Are you discouraged by a lockstep approach using the same songs over and over without a way to adapt the method to the needs of your students? 

Do you lack a system for teaching your students how to hear in their head what they see on the page, as a guide for their fingers?

Early in my teaching career I felt a desire to solve these problems, knowing that the ability to hear in my head was something I didn’t learn until my college years. When I found the system for teaching music developed by Zoltan Kodaly, I knew I had found a way to help my students become better musicians, not just instrument-playing machines.

Intermuse Academy gave me the tools to teach these skills to my students.  No longer were they dependent on hearing a passage before they could play it.  Helping them develop music literacy based on their ability to hear with an educated ear has been a joyful experience.  I’m teaching them music, not just the violin!

Join us this summer, June 6 – 17 at Brigham Young University, Intermuse Academy to participate in the Kodaly vision.  Come for a fun and intense experience!  You will receive an effective string curriculum and expand your own skills in musicianship, pedagogy and conducting.

Edgar Willems said, “Bad musicians cannot hear what they are playing; mediocre ones could hear it, but they don’t listen; average musicians hear what they just played; only good musicians hear what they are going to play.”

Click this link NOW for more information! 

 

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It’s been a long time since I posted on my blog, so here’s what’s new. Last year, after the school district decided to charge me a lot of rent for the after-school use of the building, I decided to go out on my own to create my own school for strings. With some advertising I was able to put together a class of six 4 and 5-year-olds which met twice a week for singing-musicianship. That was a lot of fun! Children that age are so unpredictable! And they love the games and songs! With a small class, everyone gets a turn every time. Taking and giving turns is an important life skill for these children. By the time we ended in April, the list of songs they knew was gigantic! Beat and rhythm were well-known elements of music, and they became familiar with quite a few composers. Expressing the music in their dance movements was also very important.

My cute kindergartners!

In addition to the kindergartners, my first-year violin class consisted of five children ages 6-9. In 12 weeks, from September to December, we covered basic 1st grade Kodaly singing curriculum and part way through 2nd grade. (It’s not hard to have an accelerated course when the class is small. For one thing, you get through the games a lot quicker and can cover a lot of material in a short time.) In January, the children began their study of the violin. The course changed from a twice-a-week 45-minute singing class, to a weekly 30-minute private violin lesson and one-hour group class. We spent half the class time playing the instrument, and the other half continuing on with learning the elements of music through singing-musicianship. I teach the students to sing and hear a new element before they play it. Then they learn to read and write the element, composing and improvising music of their own. The plan worked beautifully. It was a great year! By the end of May, it was amazing how well the children could play, and more important, how much they knew in their heads and ears given the few short months they had been studying. The goal this summer has been to have the students finish Book 1 of the Complete Musician in private lessons, so we’re ready to move on to Book 2 at the beginning of the school year.

I sold my previous home and moved into another with an unfinished basement, which I am making into a classroom, ready for another first-year class and continuing on with other classes. I want to post the progress of our facilities and the program on a consistent basis. Questions and positive comments are welcome.

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One of the principal tools used in Kodály music education is the movable-do system of solmization, or solfege, or sol-fa which was originated by Guido d’Arezzo in the eleventh century. In this system the tonal center of a song is do in the major and la in the minor modes, whatever the key may be. One can move the tones of a melody anywhere on the staff, and the solfege syllables which disclose the relationship of the notes to each other remain the same. It becomes a very effective tool in revealing melodic/ harmonic structure and tonality to the musician.

Solfege helps the student to easily understand the structure of keys and harmonies.


Kodály first saw this system when he visited England and observed choral training there. The method he saw in use was essentially the one developed by Sarah Glover and later refined by John Curwen in the nineteenth century. He had this to say about this effective tool:

“Only the well-conducted teaching of sol-fa can develop the ability to connect tone-image with written note to the point where the one will evoke the other instantly.” (F. Bonis, The selected writings of Zoltán Kodály,. New York: Boosey & Hawkes)

In other words, sol-fa helps students hear what they see and see what they hear. It simultaneously reveals tonal relationships and gives them a name and a symbol. It is simply the thousand-year-old original, easiest, and best means of comprehending the architecture of music.

Most Americans’ knowledge of sol-fa is limited to the song in Sound of Music that is so familiar. But maybe you asked yourself like I did, “Why is Maria teaching the children how to sing that way? That’s not how I learned music.” I didn’t know that she was teaching them a skill which I did not possess. Many people who play an instrument consider themselves able to “read music,” even though they often cannot accurately sound out a single interval without their instrument. I was not taught to hear in my head what was on the page. A piece of the music puzzle was missing in my training; that is, until I finally took an aural skills class in college.

So, why wasn’t it taught? Was that something only European musicians learned? Bodman and others remember that up until the middle of the 20th century in America, sol-fa was in the curriculum. As teachers began to try to “simplify” music for their students, it was all too easy to take the shortcut and skip the sol-fa. The trouble is, the knowledge of musical structure based on the educated ear was sacrificed, and we became more technicians than musicians. (Now, you can even learn to play a keyboard instrument by pressing the key down that lights up for you. Sort of like, painting by the numbers.)

When I got to my college aural skills classes, I was very surprised that I was expected to have a skill that no one told me about all those years I was practicing. Now that I know its value, I have to ask, “Why didn’t someone teach me that from the beginning?”

 

 

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