Category Archives: Music teaching

Andrea Tofanelli Invites You To Italian Brass Week

The Italian Brass Week is an international festival born 19 years ago under the artistic direction of Luca Benucci, the first horn of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. During these years, the festival and the Association have dealt with the formation of thousands of young artists from all over the world, with the aim of consolidating a reality that too often goes unnoticed and give the opportunity to emerging musicians to participate at a primary visibility event for the world of brass and music.

The mission is the enhancement of great Italian and foreign talents, through promotion and cultural exchange. The festival gives the opportunity to young students, new professionals and professionals to take part in an event of international importance, to play and learn from the most important musicians in the world of brass, being part of the greatest orchestras, conservatories and universities.

The high level of training and the quality of the event were rewarded with the bronze medal of the President of the Republic and with many other awards, obtained for the importance of the event and for involving generations of young musicians, who were trained and they have become excellent interpreters.

The Italian Brass Week has moved to various locations in Tuscany, Santa Fiora, Vinci, to land last year in Florence, because Florence is an important reference for cultural growth. It is a city devoted to hospitality and already culturally renowned as a meeting point between present and past.

During these years the artistic quality of the festival has always been guaranteed by the presence of virtuosos and soloists from all over the world, Italian, European and international teachers, jazz bands and brass ensembles who participate, compare and play together in an important moment for the professional growth of all the young people taking part in the festival.

Italian Brass Week
Click to visit Italian Brass Week

Popular Music and American Culture

Go to the profile of Richard K. Yu

The state of popular music in the United States is arguably determined by a diverse set of subgroups of individuals with similar backgrounds and life experience, to which that popular music holds appeal.

The very idea of popular music is inherently tied and determined by the tastes of groups within the population, so the evolution and characteristics of popular music are more intimately connected with the groups with which it is associated. On a broader scale, large political and cultural events relevant to one period of time also represent an axis upon which this set of tastes in the population might vary.

For instance, recalling the periods of historically popular music, it may be observed that some political or cultural trends inform the popularity of certain genres: the counter culture of the 1960s along with the advancements in civil rights liberties for minorities, the appearance of rock and roll in the 1970s and 1980s, and so forth. The temporal aspect of popular music often can be used to characterize the events and moments of that generation of individuals because of this influence of historical political events on popular music.

Though the music industry has largely desegregated today in light of changes in legal practices surrounding civil rights, the populations that listen and engender popular music in the United States are still similarly divided, as indicated by the drastically different forms and messages that appeal to different groups, some which document a history of marginalization.

Upon reflection of the types of popular music present in contemporary times, one often imagines the upbeat, idealistic tunes of popular music or popular music related to social trends. Such types of popular music today may represent a degree of escapism in society, but they are more often indicative of the current feelings of a specific group. Notably, the relative peace of the 21st century has allowed for music commenting on inconsequential social idiosyncrasies to emerge and become popular.

Justin Bieber

However, this feeling of peace that has manifested for majority groups in the United States often shuns more serious and pressing social issues also present in the nation, and in this way, a population’s indulgence in peace may be considered a sort of escapism from the harsher social realities of marginalized groups. For instance, consider the set of popular songs such as “#SEFLIE” by the Chainsmokers, “How Deep Is Your Love?” by Calvin Harris, “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift, or “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber.

These songs either mock current social trends or behaviors, or they expound on a certain set of feelings, often related to the transience of romance. The appearance of popular music that satirizes a specific set of popular social behaviors should indicate the presence of a sort of flippancy or superficiality in that social paradigm. This call to attention to such flippant behaviors (taking a superfluous amount of selfies at social events) is enhanced when the actual behavior is constituted by conspicuous and repeated performative acts made with an attention-seeking goal.

Picture Source: Calvin Harris

Moreover, the other songs listed above all demonstrate the existence of such a superficial social paradigm in relation to romance. Calvin Harris’ video for “How Deep Is Your Love?” consists of a repetitive set of party scenes that include a multitude of time skips, to illustrate the briefness of these social and romantic encounters.

The question that is repeated in the video itself “How deep is you love?” almost seeks to escape from this endless cycle of brief and meaningless encounters, longing for profundity and depth in relationships.

Picture Source: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” more explicitly refers to this idea of brief romantic encounters that are torn apart by their unstable foundation and beginnings. Consider how: “I can make the bad guys good for a weekend”, one of the verses of “Blank Space”, illustrates this dynamic relationship between male commitment and female sexuality that stands as the motivation for the briefness of romance in modern contexts.

“What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber once again describes a similar model of romance, referring to the insecurities and uncertainties of young love. Though love songs have always persisted in popular music in some form, popular music today documents a very real degeneration germane to romance.

The songs that receive hundreds of millions of views and the songs that are at the forefront of the public consciousness deal with the collective inability of individuals to reconcile romantic desire, sexual interest, and long-term commitment.

Music, in this case, presents a cathartic quality to all the individuals who find themselves in the unpredictable and unreliable landscape of romance today, and the popularity of such music represents a collective acknowledgment of these issues.

Picture Source: Jake Gyllenhaal

The cathartic quality offers individuals a sort of escape from their own dissatisfaction with failed romantic endeavors (i.e. Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal resulting in the “I Knew You Were Trouble” single). However, the popularity of such musical forms also detracts from the more darker aspects of society ignored by the majority as they engaged in their self-absorbed escapist fantasies through the performativity of music.

What are these darker aspects of society, spurned and ostensibly shoved under the rug by the majority in favor of this escapist romantic narrative? The very continuation of social inequality and abuse of the civil rights of minorities is documented in music.

The American music industry may have formally desegregated, but its population is still very much unequal and cordoned off into groups, roughly by race and socioeconomic class. Consider Kendrick Lamar’s recent single “Alright”, where he deals with the moral considerations and consequences of rampant materialism, as well as the struggle of the African American people in a society with power structures that continue to marginalize them.

In regard to materialism, Lamar reflects on his own experiences subsequent to his fame: “Painkillers only put me in the twilight / Where pretty pussy and Benjamin is the highlight”. Here, Lamar describes how opiates and similar classes of drugs only temporarily absolved him of life’s hardships by allowing him to indulgence in material pleasures and women.

Throughout the song, he also makes frequent reference to the troubled history of African Americans in the United States and their current struggles: “When you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga / When my pride was low, lookin’ at the world like, ‘where do we go, nigga?’ / And we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga / I’m at the preacher’s door/ My knees gettin’ weak…” Lamar paints a vivid narrative of a beaten down and broken race of individuals struggling to survive in spite of the continual frustrations and dangers that beleaguer them.

Picture Source: Kendrick Lamar

When we compare this narrative, which has received only a five million views, to the hundred of millions of views given to the romantic troubles of Taylor Swift, it should inform our perspective regarding the disproportionate representation of social issues in the United States.

Ultimately, though peace has predominated in the 21st century and though segregation is outlawed, civil inequality is still incredibly blatant. The trends in popular music pertaining to superficial romances illustrate a collective ignorance and solipsism to more serious and pressing social issues in the United States.

When one observes the music most popular and relevant to different groups in the United States, one begins to realize the alarming nature of “popular music” in relation to the culture and society of this time, where the public prioritizes and gives more notice to casual sex and romance over the plight of an entire race.

Coltrane Pitch Diagrams

Go to the profile of Lucas Gonze

In the mid 90s I was browsing in the bookstore at Berklee College of Music in Boston. I was looking for Slonimsky’s Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns, a book of algorithmically-generated scales which had a following among jazz musicians, most notably John Coltrane.

Near it on the shelves I came across a similar but more peculiar book, Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns, by Yusef Lateef.

As a frontispiece he had included two surprising images.

What were these? A small note at the bottom of the acknowledgements said:

Geometric Drawings: By John Coltrane, 1960. Gifts to Yusef from John.

Over time I became fascinated by the Coltrane drawings and set about decoding them using a protractor, compass and tracing paper.

First I made a clean schematic of Coltrane’s marked-up diagram.

In thinking about it I realized it could be simplified from two rings to one without losing any of the intrinsic relationships.

Of course, from a musician’s perspective this had the surprising result of converting from a whole-tone scale in Coltrane’s original to a chromatic scale in my single-ring version. Then I realized there could be a three-ring version as well, with the intervals on each ring describing diminished triads.

This new three-ring version was visually strange and beautiful, and had a feature that wasn’t evident in either the one-ring or two ring versions: a winding pattern.

Pick a section starting with C and walk to the next C, one semitone at a time. The first four notes of the series would be C, C#, D, Eb. In the one and two ring versions D and Eb are adjacent, but in the three-ring version Eb is on the far ring.

That got me to thinking of the series as a winding banner.

And from there a 3D pattern, not a flat one.

I made a clean final version of this sketch.

From there it was natural to go on to versions with four, five and six rings.

When I had finished my six-ring version, I was sorry that I couldn’t go any further, because each set of rings shows a symmetric interval, and there are no symmetric intervals larger than this.

My drawings were complete, so I made a little title page for the collection.

Not long after I went to a Yusef Lateef concert. It was at Lincoln Center in New York City. He was a stellar player and the show was unforgettable.

After the performance I made my way to the crowd of people chatting by the stage door with the musicians, introduced myself, and asked him to sign my copy of his book.

We talked about the Coltrane diagrams. I showed him a version of my work. He told me that Coltrane had been drawing the original diagrams between sets on a gig they did together, and had given them to him. Lateef said this wasn’t the first time. “He was always doing that,” Lateef said.

That was probably during a period when Coltrane was studying Slonimsky and thinking about generative patterns for melodies. The year was 1960. He was growing from the modernist formalisms of bebop harmony — all bright lines and strict causality — to the ecstatic spirituality of free jazz. The connection between his post-bop and free jazz was numerology, a belief that divine or mystical phenomena can arise from quantitative thinking.

1960 was arguably his peak year. He founded his landmark band with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones and recorded his signature hit, “My Favorite Things.” Whatever the diagrams meant to him, they were connected with his best art.

Lateef was warm and generous with his time. I promised to send my own schematics, and later that year I did, along with a cover letter.

10 Fundamental Things People Don’t Understand About Practice

By Nicolas Cole

People that boast how many days they’ve gone without sleep in hopes of proving their dedication to their craft are missing the point.

Practice is an art — it is not a simple “plug and chug” of hours in and skill level out. And in order to actually make the time you spend practicing meaningful, you have to bring a heightened level of awareness.

You have to know what to look for, what to fix, and ultimately, how to enter your “zone.”

1. It’s not about just “practicing.”

Going through the motions isn’t enough.

You have to be present and aware while you practice, and actively looking for all the things you still need to improve upon.

2. Your schedule and your practice times go together.

If you are practicing in the morning some days, evening other days, and afternoons at random, you are not as effective as the person who practices at the same time, every day.

Your schedule needs to be based around your practice hours — not the other way around.

3. Consistency is the most important part.

Rome doesn’t get built in a day.

You can’t go 5 days without practicing and then try to pull a 12-hour marathon to make up for lost time. Practicing a little bit each day is far more effective than day-long sprints.

4. The “sweet spot” for practice is 3–4 hours.

Reason being, that first hour you are still warming up, and that last hour you are entering “burn out.”

So in reality, a 4 hour practice session is really only 2 hours of truly quality practice — which means it is exceedingly important that you are “mentally present” during those middle 2 hours.

5. Don’t practice what you’re already good at.

Competition inherently looks for weaknesses.

If you are a master of one thing but a total newbie at another, then all someone has to do is target your weaknesses. Make it a point to practice what you’re not good at, so that you are more well-rounded.

6. Reflect after each practice session.

Ask yourself, “What did I improve upon today? Did I learn something new? Did I challenge myself? What can I work on next?”

You want to constantly be asking yourself questions so that you know what to improve upon next.

7. It’s not about “getting it done.”

It’s about getting it done “right.”

If you are the type of person who times how long you’ve been practicing, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. It’s not about practicing for the sake of “just practicing.” You have to have a vision, something you are working toward.

Then, it no longer becomes about time. It’s about skill.

8. Study yourself.

The ability to watch and learn from yourself is also extremely undervalued.

If you are an athlete, record yourself playing your game. If you are a gamer, record your screen as you play. If you are a writer, go back through your work with a pen and look for improvement areas. If you are a musician, record yourself and listen to yourself play.

You will never be able to see your mistakes while you’re in the moment of practicing. So separate the two.

9. Watch other people.

If you can learn how to record and learn from your own practice sessions, you will have a better eye for watching how your competition operates as well.

You will be able to pick apart what it is they are doing, and then steal their strategies.

This learning then becomes an inherent part of you — your process.

10. Always be growing.

Always be looking for how you can improve.

Always be focusing on your weaknesses, not your strengths. Always be searching for new competition. It’s a journey and on you to stay moving forward at a consistent pace.

Introducing Guitarist – Juan Manuel Ruiz Pardo

Promo video of the “Solo Guitar Show” project, where I perform my own arrangements of classic pop & rock songs: Beatles, Queen, Police, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Abba, Tears for Fears, Toto, Bon Jovi…

Juan Manuel Ruiz Pardo

Duchess of Kent: ‘My love for teaching music at Hull state primary school’

The Duchess of Kent has spoken movingly of her “love” for teaching at a state primary school in Hull, after ill health forced her withdraw from official royal engagements.


In a touching television interview, the 78 year-old spoke of her excitement teaching music, mostly anonymously, for eight years at Wansbeck Primary School.

The Duchess, whose husband the Duke of Kent is the Queen’s cousin, admitted she got a “tickle” of excitement when she recognised talent in pupils.

Known as “Mrs Kent” to her students, the royal said she was proud to have given some the confidence to go on to university or pursue careers that previously would have been unachievable.

But she said she feared for the future of music in the English school curriculum, which could deprive underprivileged children of valuable stimulation.

She said music was powerful enough to help children climb the virtual “Berlin Wall” that surrounds many council estates across the country. It is thought to be the first time she has publicly spoken of her time in teaching.

In a pre-recorded interview, broadcast on The Alan Titchmarsh Show later on Friday, the duchess also gives a rare insight into her life and discloses that she is an avid user of her iPhone and is a fan of popular music.

After her self-imposed exile from public life in 1996, she agreed to a friend’s request to visit Wansbeck Primary School after they moved to the city.

Upon her visit, the head teacher disclosed that the school was in desperate need of a music teacher, and she volunteered. She was involved with the school for the next 13 years.

“When I was teaching the first thing I began to notice was the power of music as a stimulant to these children to give them confidence and self-belief. I began to see that happen all the time,” she told the ITV1 show.

“Some of the children I taught haven’t necessarily become musicians, but the confidence it has given them, some have joined the Army, some to university, which they might not have done otherwise.

“I have always loved talent, I love that tickle up the neck when you see talent and I began to realise I was teaching some very, very gifted children.”

She added: “I love those children, I loved being there and I love Hull, I wouldn’t have stayed there if I hadn’t.

As a schoolgirl the Duchess learnt to play the piano, the violin and the organ and narrowly missed out on a place at the Royal Academy of Music.

She pursued her passion for music through finishing school in Oxford and held dreams of playing at Carnegie Hall.

Asked if music was underrated in schools, she replied: “Oh my goodness is it underrated. I would love to see one of the arts being compulsory at GCSE level. I think that would be wonderful.

“Someone asked me the other day, why wasn’t music as popular as football and I couldn’t answer at the time because I was nervous but then I realised that music is so much more popular than football.

“There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t tap their feet to music.”

Since leaving teaching, the duchess has launched a music charity, Future Talent, which aims to help gifted children develop their musical prowess, the Daily Mail reported. The charity now works with orchestras such as the Halle in Manchester and links them with primary and secondary schools.

The duchess has three children with the Duke of Kent – George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews, Lady Helen Taylor and Lord Nicholas Windsor.

But following the stillbirth of her fourth child in 1977, she suffered recurrent health problems and her withdrawal from the royal circuit prompted claims she had become a recluse.

Public appearances also became rare following her decision to convert to Catholicism in 1994, becoming the first senior royal to convert publicly since the passing of the 1701 Act of Settlement.

The Phenomenal Alexander Hrustevich – A true virtuoso

Alexander Hrustevich – Accordion Virtuoso

…a virtuoso was, originally, a highly accomplished musician, but by the nineteenth century the term had become restricted to performers, both vocal and instrumental, whose technical accomplishments were so pronounced as to dazzle the public.

In recent years, the term virtuoso has been overused and downgraded to include any artist who has command over their instrument. The word ‘proficient’ should suffice when describing most accomplished performers however, once in a while, a musician will come along who goes way beyond just proficient. I am reminded of the likes of Paganini,  Pavarotti and Jacqueline du Pre when looking to fit this bill.

Alexander Hrustevich fits the description perfectly. There is nobody more proficient at playing the accordion than Alexander.

Ukrainian-born Alexander Hrustevich is one of the best bayanists in the world. Mr. Hrustevich is constantly invited to perform in many countries, including Poland, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, Serbia, Brazil and many others. Just recently, he performed with legendary musician and composer, winner of several Grammy awards Bobby McFerrin in a sold out, three thousand audience arena in Kiev.

The very first notes will take your breath away… Alexader Hrustevich is able to play the most complicated transcriptions of violin, piano and orchestra pieces with the bayan; starting with Tchaikovsky’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and finishing with a fragment from Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Using his ten fingers at the same time, he is able to easily play both orchestra and violin parts. For these extraordinary abilities people and critics call Mr. Hrustevich – “the man orchestra“.

As prof. David Yearsley writes about Mr. Hrustevich’s recording, which he saw on Youtube: “The small stage on which Hrustevich demonstrates his art is festooned with yellow and orange balloons and fake flower garlands. The camera is hand-held, but despite all of this, you can feel how great are this virtuoso’s gifts.” The professor also compares his interpretations of Bach Passacaglia with a pianist: “Tricky passages that the pianist divided between the two hands, Hrustevich manages with one. He revels in the virtuosic spectacle of fingers flying and sliding and contorting over buttons and in the same time picking almost every note cleanly. It’s rather like playing the Bach Passacaglia on a travel typewriter, only harder.”(The Musical Patriot).

Born in 1983, Alexander Hrustevich started to play the bayan by the age of 6.  He graduated Ukraines National Academy of Music as a student of prof. Besfamilnov. Apart from his solo activity, he is also a member of the National Academy Orchestra.

Introducing – Soulfully Yours Music – Jacqueline Langston MEd

Jacqueline Lewis LangstonMSEd @Soulfully Yours Music… letthemusicplayon.

Posted by Soulfully Yours Music on Thursday, 13 April 2017


Jacqueline Langston MEd
Jacqueline Langston MEd

Soulfully speaking… it has been said that Music is the universal language and singing presents opportunities to bring family, friends and other cultures together to capture priceless moments

  • Local live sophisticated soulful sounds of  music/singing.

  • A little something extra to make your Themed Social Event or Wedding memorable.

  • Creative Atmosphere of Nostalgia- Romance and Sense of Occasion.

Soulfully Yours Music

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Michael Griffin -The Magic of Musical Metacognition

Dear Music Teacher

I provide music department INSET focussing on the impact of growth and fixed mindsets, teaching for metacognition, cultivating an intrinsically motivated department, and the teaching of music practice. I’m presently taking bookings for my UK tour this September and October.

I tour each year from Australia, and have provided for numerous schools and music services throughout the UK. I am the author of ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ and ‘Bumblebee! Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’.

Topics include:

Music and Mindset: Elephants in the Classroom!

From the ancient world through the Renaissance, artistic skill was viewed as an intuitive gift rather than the result of effort. Even today, musical ability is more often considered innately derived than any other ability or human faculty.

Indeed, 75 per cent of music educators subscribe to this theory that superior achievement in music is due to genetic endowment. To what end? Mindsets powerfully impact learning behaviour. Learners with a growth mindset work harder, embrace challenge, persist for longer and learn from criticism, whereas the fixed mindset gives up more readily and ultimately achieves less.

Teacher mindsets result in teacher expectations impacting student achievement. Mindset is the most important precept in music education today. It is that important that every music teacher understands the impact their beliefs, words and actions have on cultivating the learning disposition of students. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can cause irreparable damage.

The Magic of Musical Metacognition

Metacognitive teaching has the greatest impact on learning. It is that wonderful learning stage when the learner drives the learning. An umbrella term, metacognition means “thinking about our thinking”. It includes planning, questioning, monitoring, memorisation, self-reflection, self-knowledge about our learning strengths and weaknesses, and self-evaluation. It involves understanding our motivations, setting goals, knowing which practice strategies to implement, and being able to exercise self-discipline. It’s about knowing when and how to use practice strategies for maximum learning.

Metacognition enhances autonomy, powerfully impacting intrinsic motivation. How is this maximised in music teaching? Supported by the work of John Hattie and Gary McPherson, and specifically for music teachers, a tripartite model for fostering metacognition will be presented.

Deliberate Practice: Expanding Musical Potential

Many teachers focus instruction on what to practise, but the how of practise is the most important concern. Children who are unable to motivate themselves to apply deliberate practice strategies will lack real progress. Progress is the great motivator. If students do not think they are making progress, they quit trying. The best predictor of musical progress is the quality and quantity of practise time.

Types of repetition, chunking, and slow practise must be core. Engaging music students in metacognitive practice processes is the most effective means of guaranteeing progress. What is required is not just that students engage in the proper practise strategies, but that they know what they are, and are consciously aware of using them. How is this taught explicitly, and how can we be certain that students really understand practice?

Or have all three topics as part of a whole day of INSET. Return email for more. Independent teachers welcome to attend.

Michael Griffin


“Wonderfully inspiring – still on a high.” Guildhall School of Music, London

“So much information that is backed by research. Great advice and I’m inspired to try a new mindset in my teaching.” R Tombs, NSW

“I had a great day learning about how students are motivated by progress. We were taught all about how to determine progress and how to instil a growth mindset in our students. I then took what we learnt back to the classroom and my students are more motivated in their music practice.” J Goodwin, NSW

“Brilliant! Just what I needed to get back in the groove!!” – Hampshire Music Service, UK

“This was a first-class talk by a high calibre, international speaker. What a great start to a new school year. Red Maids, Bristol
An excellent talk this evening. Michael is a superb speaker and delivered key messages in such an engaging way.” Headmaster, King’s High School, Warwick UK

Developing Musical Skill Presentation 2018 (1)

Unlocking Musical Potential – Teacher PD UK 2018

Schools and conferences.

Learning Strategies for Musical Success

Bumblebee! Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs

Here is what music does to your body

Countless research has been done over the years as to the positive effects that listening to and playing music can have on the brain and the body. Here is an excellent and succinct video that summarizes this.

Here Is What Music Does To Your Body

Here is what music does to your body.

Posted by Hashem Al-Ghaili on Thursday, 1 March 2018