Inspiration from American Idol

I haven’t watched American Idol since I was in high school, but my parents got me hooked on this season. Nearly every single contestant in the final rounds has been wonderful talent.

This performance last Wednesday, cradled by the commentary, spoke to me.

Elise Testone sings Led Zeppelin

A. She killed this performance – Steven Tyler and Stevie Nicks were impressed & further complimented her by saying Robert Plant would be proud.
B. She is 28 years old  (I’ve been worried that I’m too old for a musical breakthrough.)  Somebody (Randy? Jimmy?) said that she’s the perfect age to produce her first record – Stevie hadn’t until age 26, he named another famous artist..(which I can’t remember now).
C. She was this good when she was back at home singing Led Zeppelin with her bands – the only difference now is the singing competition, i.e. exposure. That is nuts! Think for a while on this distinction.



I had a small revelation just now as I was emailing my good friend Eric from college.

It is this:
Writing comes easily to me because schools obliged me do a large amount of it throughout my education. I love writing – it is a deeply creative process where you generate ideas and convey them to others (and with style if you’re good). The music composition process is essentially the same thing; but, for me, it is such a painful task that I have never completed a single original piece. I wish that my schooling had required me to do just as much composition with music as with writing because I would be such a prolific composer* by now!

*(or visual artist! This goes for all mediums. I think it is interesting to note the difference between a musical idea verses an idea of words. Music is abstract in that a musical idea conveys something that words cannot express. Perhaps this is why we’re said to only use a fraction of our brain’s capacity. Our educational system limits our exposure and advancement in other realms of thinking, such as the realm of music. Perhaps there are dozens more mediums that we’ve hardly tapped.)

Passion is the Key to Music

“Passion’s the only thing that’s going to make you good at anything. You can learn the technical aspects of anything but that ain’t going to make you necessarily good or tasteful. Look at how many awful musicians come out of Berklee and all these music schools — just faceless, mindless musicians that are being churned out under the concept of, like, ‘Well, you know all the theory so there you go, you’re good to go. You excel at theory.’ Like, big deal.”

Interesting insight from this interview with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, of the Mars Volta and At The Drive-In.

New Jobs!

Today I have 2 interview/auditions for piano teaching positions at two separate music schools. The first went fantastically well. The director and I hit it off and I can’t wait to start working for her. The second is in about an hour – wish me luck 🙂

It is funny that I hadn’t considered teaching around Seattle until last week, about a week after I started this blog. (I think I gained confidence after writing out my thoughts here a few times – I realized that I have something of specialized substance to offer the world). The past few months I have been floundering in this city. I haven’t been able to find a job that both 1. meets my requirements and 2. appreciates my qualifications. There are a lot of jobs out there that I would love, but I’ll need to gain more education/experience before I dive in. Not so with piano teaching – I’m already qualified.

This second audition is going to be interesting. She said: “I would just like to hear a few examples of what you can play and teach.”

This is a totally reasonable request. I had an interesting time selecting yesterday. I spent about 4 hours at the piano, with taking frequent breaks. I decided to play either Chopin’s “Nocturne in E-flat Major” or Debussy’s “Arabesque #1” for Classical. For Jazz, “Christmas Time is Here” or “My Funny Valentine” or an ad-lib version of “Heart and Soul”. For Pop (since she particularly asked for pop)… I know the intro to “Roses,” by Outkast! Or Norah Jones… Pop is difficult. I also have a few Beatles songs that I’d like to avoid playing since it’s really just sugared up block chords. However I’ll see how the conversation goes. My friend who works at that school said that my interviewer is a cool lady 🙂

RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

WOW I only just saw this (it is well over 7M views) but I think its just fantastic.

Also I appreciated the comment around 6:01:

“Aesthetic Experience is when your senses are operating at their peak”

Is this why I’m fascinated by the arts and how they interact with people?

If the aesthetic experience is when your sense are fully occupied and functioning – what does aesthetic creation require?

Aesthetic Experience is “when you are present in the current moment, when you are resonating with the excitement of this thing you are experiencing, when you are fully alive.”

This is at the crux of my fascination. A large part of why I have been unable to transform myself into a fearless musician is because I haven’t been able to let myself resonate and be fully alive. I have a withdrawn and introverted demeanor. I don’t believe this excludes me or all other introverts from musicianship but I think it is an obstacle. (And perhaps a boon as well – my introversion encourages me to fully think through all of my public actions before I execute them – perhaps this leads to more fully rendered work?)

Evolving With HOW We Can Educate

“We’re in the midst of an epochal shift in the delivery mechanisms and content of education…”

Article: What Jay-Z Can Teach Us About the Future of Education 

This article brings up a fascinating scenario and a broader question about values. Our current public education system is not working. We can’t seem to put enough money into it to make it work – and it is widely understood that quantity of money injected is not necessarily going to yield better results. “Funding” and “measurable educational success” aren’t directly linked. However, the internet is providing opportunity for anyone anywhere to learn anything.

And these online educational resources aren’t dilettante youtube tutorials. These are real opportunities to learn, from real teachers and professors! I’m over the moon about this. I’m currently taking a few classes through and through  and another through Stanford Online.

This is exciting for students. This is exciting for world citizens as the population becomes more intelligent as a whole. And furthermore, teachers might be looking towards a pay raise! This is my inference, but it seems that by extending their classroom across the World Wide Web, they will receive greater financial compensation. I imagine this financial arrangement might eventually work itself out similar to the music industry (as it fits into the tech world, i.e. more plays = more pay). This arrangement makes sense to me conceptually; teaching isn’t a commodity – its an art form. We all know the best teachers are underpaid.

I believe this generation of humans are going to be wildly smart. These tools are too fantastic. [My mind is also rowdy with excitement because of this article/video from the other day].

Anyways, that was a tangent. I also appreciate what this article highlights about Jay-Z’s sentiments:

“It took me a long time to realize how much courage it took to work at McDonald’s. … But at that time, it seemed like an act of surrender to a world that hated us.”

True! And this is the shift that we need to make for our students.

Then this article dives into my same question, but with wider scope:

“Why are we educating our children? There are so many obvious answers to the question that it hardly seems worth asking. We educate our children so they get into college, understand how to think, and are able to get good jobs and have a successful life (whatever that means). Yet each of these answers is slightly different. Each answer is a statement of values and has the power to reshape the entire trajectory of any conceivable education system.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself  🙂
I think what’s important is that we remember this and aim to keep our value system open and forward-focused.

Free Music Theory

Free Music Theory

I haven’t watched these videos yet, but there’s always something to learn from someone speaking about music! (Mostly I’m just bookmarking this for later)

Udemy is a very cool concept – seemingly more serious than podcasts and similar models for online teaching.


Update 4/29: I’m about halfway through the series. I’m watching it just to gain insight on how to teach theory and to determine whether or not his structure and explanations make sense, or if I can possibly improve upon it. I’ve got a few good visual aides out of it! Anyways, I do recommend the course! A long time ago I came across the same guy on youTube and “fell in love” with the guy – he’s such a goof but clearly knows his stuff and has a big heart for teaching. It’s endearing.