Making Music and Having a Blast!: A Guide for All Music Students

PDF Making Music and Having a Blast!: A Guide for All Music Students Broché – 26 août 2009

Book author
  1. Bonnie Blanchard
  2. Cynthia Blanchard Acree
51A5SavkojL SX348 BO1204203200

In her follow-up to "Making Music and Enriching Lives: A Guide for All Music Teachers", Bonnie Blanchard offers students a set of tools for their musical lives that will help them stay engaged, even during the challenging times in their musical development. Blanchard discusses issues such as finding an instructor, selecting the right instrument, and choosing a college or conservatory. The book includes lessons on music theory and history as well as a guide to finding additional materials in print and online. Blanchard's strategies for making practice productive and preparing for auditions are useful tips students can return to again and again.


Welcome! My name is Bonnie Blanchard. I’ve been a freelance musician and private music teacher for 35 years. I’m also the author of the Music for Life series. The first book in this series is Making Music and Enriching Lives: A Guide for All Music Teachers. You’re reading the second book, dedicated to students ranging in age from teens to adults, and in experience from beginners to college graduates starting music careers. Adult students returning to music, or playing for the first time, will also benefit from my practical tips and advice on the challenges all musicians share.

I’ve taught music for many years, yet memories of my days as a middle school beginner and a struggling college music major remain vivid today. My introduction to the world of music began at age 12. Every Tuesday after school I trudged up the long flight of wooden stairs to the second-floor apartment of Mrs. Shell, my elderly piano teacher.

Mrs. Shell never took the time to teach me how to read notes and rhythms and to understand music theory. She preferred the more “efficient” method of giving me all the answers. The tedious process of writing in the names of every note and then circling every sharp and flat in my music book with her red pencil took nearly half of every lesson. And then she made my job even easier—by playing each new piece for me. Once I knew how each piece sounded, I breezed through them, never needing to learn the difference between a half-note and a quarter-note.

It wasn’t that I worried much about improving my playing anyway. Why would I? My “helpful” teacher never held recitals and was the only person who ever heard me play. Besides, no matter how much I practiced (and most weeks I didn’t!), she told me my playing was “wonderful!” Her praise boosted my ego and gave me the warped idea that I was so naturally gifted I didn’t need to practice. I was convinced only stupid or untalented people had to practice. Did I ever get that one wrong! After nearly two years of no practice and no progress, I finally made the connection and realized that being stuck in beginner books was no fun at all. I loved music but hated my playing. At age 14, it was time for me to trade in my red pencil habit.

My next piano teacher was also nice but not without her own quirks. She assigned me more challenging pieces, but when she discovered I was a better singer than pianist, our roles changed. Now she played the piano at my lessons while I stood behind her and sang. We became a popular duo at her ladies’ club functions. But while my singing skills improved, my piano skills did not. As a freshman in high school, I quit my second attempt at piano lessons.

Over the next two years I continued to sing in my school choral groups, but gave up on finding the right piano teacher. Then one day I passed by a store window with a big sign advertising piano lessons. The lessons were close to my house and reasonably priced. I arrived at my first lesson and met my new teacher, a middle-aged man wearing his hair in a ponytail. “What kind of music did you play with your old teacher?” he asked me. “Classical music,” I said. He frowned. “You hated that kind of music, right? Wouldn’t you rather play pop music and jazz?” That was my first and last lesson with him.

Two more years passed with no piano lessons. Now I was a freshman at the University of Washington in Seattle. The happiest part of my school day was attending my chorale class with a select group of 40 talented singers. Singing high-quality music with this tight-knit group motivated me to become a music major. I had only one problem, one big problem. To be accepted, I needed to audition on both voice and piano. Singing in choirs had prepared me a little for the voice audition. But the piano audition? Yikes! Not only were my meager piano skills rusty, but what piece could I quickly prepare to impress the jury? A friend came to my rescue and taught me the Mozart fantasia she had learned at her own lessons. I practiced hard and somehow passed the piano audition.

My first piano lesson at the University of Washington quickly exposed the huge gaps in my skills. When my world-famous teacher asked me to play my scales, I said, “I don’t know what a scale is.” He almost fell off his chair. That poor man had to build my knowledge and technique from the ground up. I passed the voice audition and was thrilled to be accepted as a voice student with a piano minor. I was now officially a music major! My new life in music had begun.

Having always been an “outsider” looking in, I was now a full-fledged member of the music community, studying music theory and history, singing in the choir, and taking voice and piano lessons. Yet something was missing: a longtime desire to play the flute, an instrument that had captured my heart at an early age. Growing up in a small town with parents who placed little value on music, I’d never had the opportunity to learn to play the flute. Now at age 19, the time was right.

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