Friday Fave: Festival Time!

NFMC Piano Festival

Every February, many of my students participate in the Illinois Federation of Music Clubs’ Junior Festival. This will be my fourth year as a member of the federation, and it’s no less nerve-racking than it was when I first started!

At the end of October, I help my students choose their two pieces (one required, one choice) that they will learn, memorize and then perform at Festival. It’s a long few months, and by the end of January, we’re all ready for the big day so that we can move on to some new repertoire.

But all their hard work pays off in the end: last year, two of my students received their first gold cups, meaning they received a “superior” score three years in a row. This year, I have 5 students hoping to receive their first gold cups.

I like participating in Festival for many reasons, both for my benefit and the benefit of my students. Here are just a few of them:

  • It makes me a better teacher. My job is to help those kiddos get ready to perform not only for an audience, but for judges who will score their playing. No room for slacking!
  • My students are held accountable for their practicing. If they don’t do the work, they don’t get that superior score. It’s funny how motivation levels skyrocket between October and February :)
  • It’s an opportunity to learn from other teachers and students. I really enjoy being amongst a group of teachers, all of whom have different teaching styles, and my students can learn from the other participants.
  • Performing in Festival builds self-confidence. There’s nothing better than the smile on a student’s face after he or she has played well and received a great score.

It’s going to be a busy weekend for all of us, as they perform both on Saturday and Sunday while I’m busy serving as a room chairman (of two rooms, this year!). I have a feeling we’ll all be much more relaxed come Monday…but until then, wish us all luck!

Friday Fave: Third Floor Music Festival

Third Floor Music Festival

Can I tell how you excited I am about tonight? The Third Floor Music Festival is an event being put on by our local arts center here in Springfield, and I’m thrilled to be included in the lineup.

10 of Springfield’s most talented musical acts will be performing at the festival, and frankly, I’m still a little stunned (in a good way) that Rachel & Matt is one of them. After all, Matt and I have only been playing together for a little over 8 months, and we don’t have the name recognition the other acts do just yet. But we’re working on it, and hopefully playing in the festival tonight will help with that!

Each act plays for 30 minutes, with the exception of the headlining band, who will play for 90 minutes. Matt and I have chosen 8 of our original songs to showcase during our set, and have been practicing every night this week to get them down solid. 3 of those songs are less than a month old and have not yet been performed live.

For those of you Springfield friends reading this, we’ll take the stage at around 7:15 pm and would LOVE to see you there! The buzz has been going strong and we’re hoping for a huge turnout. It’s going to be a fun night…doesn’t get much better than 7 solid hours of live music performed by local musicians!

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Rachel & Matt Music

I spend most of my time writing children’s songs, providing music therapy to children, and teaching children how to sing and play instruments. Early on in my career, I realized that I was going to need a non-children-related outlet to keep me balanced, which is why I started writing songs and playing gigs for an older crowd.

I’ve kept that up over the last few years in different capacities — first as a solo act, and eventually branching out to perform with other musicians. This summer I met Matt Combs, and we quickly realized that our musical taste and style meshed well, as did our songwriting.

We’ve been hard at work for the past couple of months, writing music and preparing for our first gig in October. This week we launched our Facebook page, where we posted a demo album which includes two originals and some of our favorite covers.

I know most of you come here for content related to music therapy, music education, and children’s music, but I like to stray from the beaten path every once in a while and write about what else is going on in my life. If you want to keep up with my new pursuit, you can “like” our page below:

I’m always curious to hear about my colleagues’ endeavors outside of their professions. What do you do outside of work for fun and to stay balanced? Feel free to share links to your “for fun” blog, project, Facebook page, etc.

How Do You Learn New Music?

How Do You Learn New Music?

I’m always learning new music, whether it’s for a music therapy session, voice student, performance or gig. Many times I might have the words or lead sheet with chords in front of me, but not necessarily the melody line — which means I need to have it down pretty well.

My go-to method for learning new tunes is to either download the song or record it (if I wrote the song myself) and then make a playlist that goes everywhere with me. Spotify has come in very handy for this purpose, since I have the app downloaded on my laptop, iPad, and iPhone. I listen to the songs in my car, while I get ready for my day, at the gym, or while I’m doing mindless tasks at the computer.

This method works well enough, since it allows me to multitask. But I always wonder if there is a better way…now more than ever, because I have a gig coming up in less than a month that requires me to learn about two hours’ worth of new music!

So I’m curious: how do YOU go about not only learning new melodies, but getting them to stick? Please share your own method in the comments!

Friday Fave: Giggin’ Out

Gig at Andiamo

One thing I look forward to every summer is having the time to play a few gigs here and there. I very rarely get to do so during the school year (although I’m hoping that changes with my new schedule this year), so it’s been a special treat to perform around town pretty frequently these last few months.

Back in June, I played my first gig with Ryan, an extremely talented guitarist I met through his wife Misty. Not only have the two of us played gigs together, but he has also invited me to sing with his band a couple of times this month. If you’ve never sung with a live band, you don’t know what you’re missing!

We’ve talked on past episodes of the Music Therapy Round Table podcast how important it is for music therapists to nurture the musician in themselves, since after all, we were musicians first.

I know that with each gig I play, I fall a little bit more in love with music and am even more inspired as a therapist and educator. It sounds cheesy, but it’s completely true.

What have you done this summer to nurture your inner musician?