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Music Schools BC

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The official blog of the British Columbia Association of Community Music Schools

Friday, May 27, 2011

Welcome to the VSO School of Music

Eight years ago, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s artistic director, Bramwell Tovey, had a vision: to open a community music school adjacent to the Orpheum Theatre, where orchestra members could teach aspiring musicians of all ages and backgrounds.
Today, Tovey saw that dream fulfilled, with the unveiling of the $30-million VSO School of Music at 843 Seymour Street, a 25,000-square-foot purpose-built music school featuring 18 acoustically designed teaching studios, two classrooms, six practice rooms, a two-storey height ensemble room, and a state-of-the-art recital hall.
“We believe that this building, in this particular place, is a seed that has been planted in the middle of our great city, where we can take all the wonderful things that the city represents...and we can take our love of music and the joy of music and bring it to the lives of children across the city,” said Tovey at a news conference today held in the school’s recital hall. “The great thing about playing a musical instrument for a kid is if you’re holding a musical instrument, you can’t hold a cigarette. You can’t hold a knife, you can’t hold a joint, you can’t hold a crack pipe, you can’t hold a needle, and you can’t hold a gun. Music has that kind of power. And it’s that kind of power that we’re seeking to harness within this building.”

Read the article online at the Georgia Strait


Monday, May 23, 2011

Sensory Deprivation Boosts Musicians’ Skill Level

Canadian researchers report floating in an isolation tank increased the technical skill level of young jazz players.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Everybody knows the standard answer. But newly published research suggests that, after you’ve labored all day in the practice room, you might want to spend an hour in a flotation tank.

Oshin Vartanian of the University of Toronto and Peter Suedfeld of the University of British Columbia report floating in an Epsom salt solution one hour per week for four weeks boosted the technical ability of a group of college music students. This suggests such periods of minimal sensory stimulation can improve performers’ perceptual-motor coordination.

Don’t start filling up the bathtub, however: This experiment, described in the journal Music and Medicine, featured a level of sensory deprivation achievable only in a specially designed tank. The device was invented in the 1950s by neuroscientist John Lilly; in the years since, its use has been linked to improved sports performance and heightened levels of creativity.

But would it work for budding be-boppers? To answer that question, the researchers conducted an experiment using 13 students enrolled in an intermediate-level jazz improvisation course at Vancouver Community College.
Read more »

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Beware of online "Filter Bubbles"

"The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, not necessarily what we need to see"

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Social Media: What's Your Policy?

An interesting article appeared earlier this month on Charity Village about a real life story of some of the errors that can be made when using twitter and other social media accounts. Mistakes will happen, that is human nature, but how we react to our human frailties can be as revealing as the mistakes themselves.

If you're an avid devotee of social media, chances are you've already heard about this infamous gaffe: a Red Cross employee uses HootSuite to send out an otherwise-innocent tweet about her alcohol-induced evening in the company of a specific beer. She thought she was sending it from her personal account. But she was wrong. As we all know, mistakes like that are not easily repealed and once you've hit that send button it's hard to take things back.

But here's the thing about the Red Cross and their reaction to the incident: no one got fired, nothing hit the proverbial fan and no one went into heavy crisis mode.

In fact, they made light of the situation with an affable response.

"We've deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we've confiscated the keys," said the follow-up tweet. In a statement about the incident, Social Media Director Wendy Harman summed up their response this way: "We are an organization that deals with life-changing disasters and this wasn't one of them; it was just a little mistake."

Taking full advantage of the situation, the beer company referred to in the original tweet, Dogfish, promptly sent out their own tweets requesting followers to donate to the Red Cross. Before long, a number of pubs joined in, offering pints of the beer to anyone who donated blood. Ironically, what could have been a disastrous situation ended up win-win. Well, almost.

In Control?

That's not always the case. Sofia Ribeiro of Kiwano Marketing relates another story: in early March, an employee of Chrysler's social media agency accidentally sent out a message from the Chrysler handle and used the "F" word in one of his tweets. It didn't take long for Chrysler's management team (and its 9,000+ followers) to see it and react. The employee was unceremoniously dismissed and Chrysler also dispensed with the agency. Though they deleted the tweet from the company's twitter thread, the damage was already done, explains Ribeiro, adding, "What's interesting is that many of Chrysler's followers were shocked to learn that the agency managing Chrysler's twitter account dismissed the contractor over this, further damaging the brand." No win here.
Read more »

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bribing the Kids, Research shows Stickers Work!

Ah! All of you piano teachers out there who give away "stickers" to your young students to positively enforce the development of good practice habits and good technique, well you now have some scientific evidence to back you up! Check out this recent article from the Boston Globe,

CONSIDER THIS column a Mother’s Day gift. Fathers will want to read on, too. The subject: How to bribe your child.

Scientists have worked out a set of guiding principles for using rewards to shape behavior. I’ve tested them in my own home — they are shockingly effective. And I’ve become convinced that, more widely applied, they could make the world a happier, healthier place.

That’s a big claim, but let’s start with carrots. British scientist Jane Wardle and her colleagues recently tackled the age-old question of how to encourage kids to eat their vegetables. She recruited hundreds of 4- to 6-year-olds, and asked each to taste six vegetables, including carrots, celery, and cabbage. She had the children rank them, and selected each kid’s “target’’ veggie from the bottom half of their list.

Over the course of two weeks, Wardle compared doing nothing with three different strategies. One was simply asking the kids to try the vegetable. In another, the kids were lavishly praised (“Brilliant, you’re a great taster!’’) And in the third, the kids were offered a small reward (a sticker) for their efforts.

The rewards, according to a recent write-up in Psychological Science, enticed kids to try the vegetable more. But the big surprise is that, three months later, the sticker kids were still eating substantially more of it. (The praised kids also ate more, though not as much.) This is a key insight into human behavior: Temporary rewards can bring permanent change.

Wardle’s second finding has implications that might not be immediately apparent: the kids came to truly like their vegetable. This runs counter to decades of influential research in psychology and economics suggesting material rewards can backfire, undermining a person’s “intrinsic motivation.’’ But Wardle’s result did not surprise University of Alberta professor David Pierce, who has analyzed nearly 150 studies on motivation and concluded that the backlash is easily avoided.

Based on what is now known, Pierce and others suggest a set of guiding principles.

Choose a specific, positive behavior. “Have at least three bites of a vegetable every dinner for a week.’’ (Good.) “Don’t annoy me.’’ (Not good.)

Choose smart rewards. Work with your kid to choose the prize, investing them and ensuring it’s one they truly desire. A few selections from the LEGO catalogue were all it took me to solve an Olympian parenting problem: thumb sucking. But a reward need not be large.

Stay positive. In our house, we call them “challenges.’’ It is not about “fixing’’ a negative. Don’t nag. Let it be their choice. Pile on the praise.

Small steps first. Faced with an overwhelming task, start with easy goals, and small rewards, and slowly build. So, you might start with “avoid thumb one day between breakfast and nap.’’ Consider a detailed progress chart.

We are not robots. The research warns that material rewards can sap creativity, or backfire if someone is already quite interested in a task, or motivated by idealism. Hopefully you can inspire your young scholar with the thrill of learning, rather than paying for grades.

Read the article here

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The Rising costs of rehearsal space for musicians

This post is a little off topic, but certainly many urban areas in BC are experiencing perhaps similar problems. The costs for musicians for good rehearsal or studio space in our bigger cities has risen dramatically in recent years, to the point where many artists can no longer afford to pay for studio space in the big urban centres. Many of our community music schools are also in situations where they do not own their own studios for teaching, some have community support with reduced rents, while some are paying all the bills on their own.

Would you pay $600 a month to rent a closet?
The Rising Cost of Rehearsal Space in Toronto.  I wonder if any similiar studies have been undertaken for Vancouver?

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