Giving Students the Gift of Calm


Every year, I struggle with what to give my students as a token of my appreciation for their hard work when the holidays roll around. This year was no different, but as it turns out, I didn’t have to look any further than the top of my piano.

Giving Students the Gift of Calm

These framed signs (which I wrote about here) have been conversation pieces amongst my students since I decorated my piano with them back in June. So as my holiday gift this year, I gave my students their own “keep calm” sign in a simple frame, to be placed in their practice area. Kellan (pictured above, thanks to his mom!) and most of my other students have been happy to receive their gift, and excited to display it just as I do in my studio.

Christmas gift for music students

I gave different framed signs to my students, based upon whether they study piano, voice or guitar. For my music therapy students, I went a bit of a different route:

Music therapy student gift

A tambourine might not be the definition of “calm” (quite the opposite, actually!) but hopefully it will inspire my students to keep making music during the holiday break.

I still have some gifts to give out this afternoon, after which my studio will officially be closed until 2012! It’s hard to believe that the first semester of the school year is coming to an end, but I’m looking forward to a fresh start in January. I’m also looking forward to lots of zen-like, well-practiced students, thanks to their “keep calm” gifts! ;)

Student Spotlight: “O Christmas Tree”

O Christmas Tree

I love everything about the holidays: giving gifts, singing Christmas songs, the general cheeriness of the season. But putting up my Christmas tree and seeing it all lit up at night is probably what I look forward to most every year. Matthew agrees with me on that, which is why he chose to include “O Christmas Tree” in his holiday repertoire.

Although he has been taking piano lessons from me for many years (he was actually the first official Music Therapy Connections student!), Matthew only recently began taking voice lessons here at the studio as well. This 5th grader is on his way to becoming quite the musical double-threat:

There are only a few days left before my studio closes for the holiday break. I’m sure going to miss hearing my students’ sweet voices singing the sounds of the season!

Part 2: Using the Guitar and Music Education to Enhance Childrens’ Cognitive Development

Guitar & Music Education

This is the second of a two-part article series by guest author Aaron Schulman. You can read part one here.

In the previous article of this series, we discussed the importance of music in developing cognitive abilities in young children. Now let’s take a look at some practical ways or methods to implement the process in your own home. Whether your goal is to simply enrich your child’s learning abilities with music, piano or guitar education, or whether you aspire to help him or her become the best beginner acoustic guitar player he or she can be, these ideas can help set a normal and quality foundation.

The age of the child is of great importance to how you teach a musical instrument. As a child grows, so will his or her attention span. Studies show that simple instruments, such as a keyboard or hand drum, can be played by nearly any child who can follow simple directions. However, a very young child would not have organized lessons, nor would the teaching last long. It is important that the first lessons be fun and stimulate your child’s interest in music.

As the child matures, lessons can last longer and become more structured. A rewards system, such as short breaks with a special, healthy snack in the middle and end of the lesson, may work well with younger children. For older children, they will be able to see the progress they are making as a reward in and of itself. Intrinsic motivation can be built up as a child begins to get satisfaction from the sheer process and enjoyment of learning music.

But for a child at any age, time spent with a parent learning about an instrument is valuable. For example, you may show a drum to a one year old, and teach them how to say the word drum. This will help develop interpersonal and language skills. As the child learns to tap out a rhythm, they are learning musical and kinesthetic (body movement) skills. For an older child, figuring out tempo and patterns and learning to read sheet music can help develop mathematical skills and self-confidence.

Make sure to encourage your child in his or her process, and remember that each child is an individual who learns his or her own way. Even siblings will not learn at the same pace (so be sure to adjust the details of the learning process to suit individual personalities). A younger child may learn a certain instrument more quickly than an older child. One twin may have an ear for rhythm while the other does not. That’s okay and should be expected as the “norm”. Each child will have differing strengths in each of the seven Multiple Intelligences (learning styles.)

As you may recall from the first part of this series, these seven areas are:

  • Linguistic (verbal and written communication)
  • Logical-mathematical (logical analytical skills)
  • Visual (spatial-creative thinking in abstract ways or dimensions)
  • Bodily-kinesthetic (using coordinated body movements to accomplish tasks)
  • Musical (musical talent and ability)
  • Interpersonal (development ability to work well with others)
  • Intrapersonal (development of internally oriented tendencies)

A child’s intelligence cannot be measured by focusing on one single area, rather all areas and learning styles must be considered for a complete assessment. And, don’t forget that it is more important to stimulate your child’s brain development with structured variations and challenges in the lessons in music rather than to simply make sure that the child perfects every lesson within a specified time.

The choice of instrument is important as well. Your toddler or young child will not be able to handle a full-sized guitar or even a ¾ size guitar with effectiveness (it may cause more frustration at too early an age as well). With a younger child, a keyboard or piano is a good place to start. As the child grows, he or she may “graduate” to a child-sized mini guitar. The lessons they learn on these smaller instruments will follow them into adulthood and perhaps even promote a lifelong passion for music.

All in all, even if your youngster doesn’t grow up to be a modern day Mozart, you can rest assured that the musical training he or she received as a child helped develop learning styles and skills that will be utilized throughout life.

About the Author: Aaron Schulman developed a passion for playing acoustic guitars over twenty years ago, and continues to enjoy playing, teaching, studying the guitar and writing guitar reviews, like a recent one on the Baby Taylor. Aaron has made it a personal goal to help others find their own “fit” in an acoustic guitar within their personal budget and goals. You can read more reviews, including one on the Taylor 110 e at

Sunday Singalong: Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

The other day as I was getting ready for work, this song came on the radio. Before I knew it, there I was — performing the accompanying show choir moves I learned in middle school. 15 years ago.

I posted about it on Facebook, only to find out that I wasn’t the only former Generalette (of the Grant Middle School Generals & Generalettes, G&G for short) who still busted out these moves from time to time.

“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” amuses my students just as much as it amused me back in the day. Sure, it’s corny and a little crude (I left out that second verse for good reason), but it’s a classic.

Friday Fave: Music Pasta

Music Pasta

I consider myself quite lucky to provide music therapy and lessons to such an amazing bunch of students. The sweet, thoughtful gifts that many of them (along with their families) give me during the holidays are completely unnecessary, but always very much appreciated. And some are just too cool not to share with you!

Take, for example, music pasta. I am so giving this to my musician friends and family as a stocking stuffer next year. What a fun gift from one of my lovely voice students, Nicolette O. I told her that it was too neat to actually cook and eat, so maybe I’ll put it on display in my kitchen for visitors to ooh-and-aah over :)

I am so digging the music-themed presents — others have included ornaments, jewelry dishes, and gift cards to my favorite local music store — but like I said earlier, I don’t need or expect anything from my students and their families, especially anything lavish. In fact, one of my favorite gifts so far this year is a fabulous drawing by Henry H. Not only are my students generous, but they are multi-talented as well!

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