Monday, January 23, 2012

Full Time Focus

bilde by Molly McGinn

"I was a French horn player and a vocalist, but my focus was really in music education, teaching children," says Matthew Burns, Kindermusik Educator.

And for once, it's good to hear that a community isn't cutting its arts programs. The city of Clarksville in Tennessee will expand its creative reach, and has asked Kindermusik Educator Matthew Burns to lead the effort.

The former schoolteacher was recently tapped as the new coordinator for the Community School of the Arts at Austin Peay State University.

"The Community School is ready to take the next big step," Burns said of the changes he will make.

We think it's a good beginning for many great things to come for Clarksville and the arts.

Read more about the center and Brian's work there in the Clarksville Leaf.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What the Mahler 9 taught me about active listening

Photo by The Inhabitant

Can you hear me? Rub the outer edge of your ears. 

Will your cell phone ring while you're reading this? If so, can you turn it off?

In Kindermusik Educator training, we learn that focused listening is an active experience. It's a learned skill, and it's one of most critical lessons in early childhood. Recent events in the news remind me that listening is also an ongoing lesson - it doesn't stop in childhood. And we may be living in an era when the simple act of listening is one of the most distracting parts of our day.

If you haven't heard the recent story, the twitter version goes like this:  "Concertus interruptus: unsilenced cell phone brings a New York Philharmonic performance to a halt." During Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony" -- a haunting piece some say the composer wrote as he faced his own death -- a cell phone started ringing in the audience," according the story in

"New York Philharmonic conductor Alan Gilbert reacted to the intrusion by stopping the music. He didn't melodramatically fling his arms down; rather, he merely dropped his hands, which alerted the musicians to stop playing, according to Jo. 
Then, the only sound in the great room was the "Marimba" ringtone of the cell phone, Jo said. 
Gilbert turned his attention to the owner of the phone, who was seated on the front row, and asked, "Are you finished?" 
When there was no reply, Gilbert said, "Fine, we'll wait," and placed his baton on his music stand, according to Jo."

I loved Gilbert's calm reaction and focused listening as he waited for someone to turn off the cell phone. As Kindermusik Educators and musicians we have a unique opportunity to help families practice the art of listening - even in the midst of unnerving interruption. We learn in Kindermusik training to model active listening behaviors - to rub your ears, bend closer to the listener, and model the "your turn, my turn" response. We help families learn how music literally helps little ones "tune in" to the sounds we want to hear, and don't want to hear. 

We also have a chance to help parents learn the simple act of turning off their phones for some focused listening in class. It could become the one hour a day when a child isn't interrupted by a parent's ringing cell phone.  

Here are a few ways we could introduce the concept in the classroom. 

1. Make it a part of your class routine. In class we learn to take off our shoes before Kindermusik, include the reminder to turn off your cell phones, too, as a part of the class ritual.
2. Remind families that listening is a learned skill. Children learn "focused listening" by watching adults model appropriate listening behaviors. When they see adults take action to listen - by showing them how we're turning off our phones to completely focus and listen to the child - we're showing them how we value what they have to say, and that we want to hear them without interruption.
3. Slip in the reminder during the "rub your ears" reminder during class. Remember to ask questions: "Is your cell phone off? Are you ready to listen?"

The idea is to learn how to live with technology - not complain about the problems. In your classrooms you have a unique opportunity to help parents learn how to better model active listening among modern day distractions. A reminder that might activate just before they go into a movie theater or to a concert symphony hall.

Can you hear me now?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Introducing Bryant Belin

“I believe in the education of the entire individual,” said Bryant Belin, educator, musician, and newly licensed Kindermusik Educator. “That is why I have chosen to use the Kindermusik system with young children.”

Belin is the owner and director of VP Music Studios and soloist at Tryon Congregational Church. He has more than 10 years teaching and performi ng experience. He graduated from Coker College with a B.A in vocal performance and has participated in the graduate certificate program at the University of South Carolina – Columbia.

In 2007, Belin was invited to study and perform in Spain as well as the Rome Festival of 2011. He has taught voice, music theory and music fundamentals in general, not only in the Western North Carolina area but also in various places throughout South Carolina.

In addition to currently pursuing his master of music degree in performance from Converse College, he has also participated in studies from Boston University’s MM Music Education program. He sings as a bass-baritone concert soloist, Sunday soloist and choral section leader in the Western North Carolina area for various churches and organizations, including the Congregational Church of Tryon, Blue Ridge Sacred Chorale and Asheville Lyric Opera. He was a featured soloist at Tryon Fine Arts Center’s 2011 Do-It-Yourself “Messiah.”

Welcome, Brian. 

source: Tyron Daily Bulletin