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Early Days – and How They Can Shape the Future

Little beginners are so much fun to teach! They are excited to be there, and have an unlimited amount of enthusiasm to give. They are used to learning new things, in fact it is what they are programmed for.        Parents can do a huge amount to foster this enthusiasm, and get the child off to a good start. Here are some examples of how parents can best use their time and attention:


#1. Parents do NOT have to understand music to be of help!! I can’t emphasize this more strongly.

#2. Establishing a time of day to practice helps greatly, and if yours is a chaotic household where this is difficult, often before school in the morning works when no other time seems to.

#3.  Be positive! Nothing will bring a child down more quickly than negative comments.

#4. If you can sit with/oversee/sit near your child while they are practicing to offer comments of encouragement along the way, that is of tremendous help. Children naturally like to show off the new and exciting (to them) things they are doing to their parents. This can certainly be multi-tasked with other things if necessary.

#5. Reading the book the teacher writes in, although number five on this list, is almost number ONE on my mental list! Just to read through and make sure the child is covering the material asked for. And if you don’t know what it is, ask the child if he or she has done XYZ. If you ask them, you will find out if they know what it is or not, and they do love to be able to tell you things you don’t know!

#6. Expect that they will go at their own speed. Everyone’s learning speed is different. Regular practice is the surest way to competence and a feeling of intrinsic satisfaction with making music.

#7. Little “concerts” for grandma, siblings, visitors etc. will do much to increase your little musician’s confidence and also get them used to playing for others. Most children really enjoy this.



I think the overall message is make it important. If your child knows it’s important to you, it will be important to him or her. And the sooner that happens, they sooner they will be playing for the intrinsic joy and satisfaction that it can bring!



A Concert for a Good Cause

Hello my dear readers,

I received this message this morning with the request to pass it on, which I gladly will do!

Here is a little bit about Power of Hope, as well as the benefit concert by the Gettin’ Higher Choir. Sounds like a wonderful evening!



“My daughter just graduated from Power of Hope, after attending the camp for third time… It has been a joy for me to watch her enthusiasm grow for the experience and see the rewards it has brought her, both in personal growth and increased self-confidence and in wonderful connections and friendships it has given her. Having met many POH kids, I can attest to the quality and lasting value of the unique program… It is solid gold. I am very grateful to [Power of Hope] for enriching my daughter’s (and my) life. I will support [its] work and recommend Power of Hope to all those I know.”
— Dr. Andrew Weil, bestselling author of “Health and Healing” and one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

The Power of Hope is a non-profit organization that delivers arts-based experiential learning programs to teens from diverse cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.

In the USA and Canada, we offer programs for youth and adults who want to take an active role in creating a positive future, develop their leadership skills, build stronger communities and have a great time in the process! We have been successfully creating and delivering summer camps and school-year programs since 1996. We are non-religious and our programs are open to all.

The cornerstone of our youth programs is our distinctive, 8-day overnight camp during the summer. At camp, we bring youth together in a 2:1 ratio with a staff of artists, naturalists, self-care specialists, community activists and other adults working for positive change in the world.

Our school-year programs offer youth ways to connect to the Power of Hope via in-school and after-school programs that offer experiential, creative and non-traditional learning opportunities.

As a result of our programs, young people:

• Discover and expand their creativity
• Connect with their sense of purpose
• Develop their leadership skills
• Learn ways to become active in their communities
• Speak out about issues that matter to them

We also offer workshops and trainings for adults who want to expand their skills in using creativity in their work with youth. We teach arts-based techniques for building community, as well as providing deeper training in facilitation skills and leadership development.

Hello to everyone in our choir community
and to everyone this message has been forwarded to
You are all invited to a great evening of song
in support of a very worthy cause.  Please join us!

Transfer Students – Ensuring a Successful Transition

There is nothing like getting a new student! Whether it’s a wide-eyed beginner, a hopeful senior citizen or a student who is on their third, fourth, fifth teacher and is quietly resigned…each one is different.


This post is about the unique challenges and special gifts of transfer students. To some teachers, it’s not politically correct to inquire as to the student’s history and why they are transferring. In my opinion, it is essential. As a teacher, I need to know what happened to those relationships with other teachers, and what I can do to help. Above all, I need to know what I can do to build a relationship of trust with this, sometimes most cynical, of students.


Sometimes a student transfers through no desire of their own or of the former teacher’s, for example if the child moved, or the teacher became ill. Often there is a strong sense of allegiance, and of missing that teacher. When I encounter that, I usually ask questions about how the other teacher did things, and encourage the student to tell me about him or her. I make a point of expressing admiration for the things they have accomplished together. Once the student knows I respect and value their beloved former teacher, it is usually easier for him or her to accept me, the new teacher. And that is something that has to happen before we will be able to work well together.




Sometimes a student transfers because of problems with a former teacher. Usually I would discreetly try to find out what happened. I do not fault or judge other teachers, but knowing the history often makes it easier for me to know where to focus my efforts. Sometimes it becomes pretty obvious anyway; with more than twenty years experience, it does become easier to spot the problem areas.



Whatever the cause for the transfer, there is always a period of time needed for a student to make the transition to working with a new teacher. If both I and the student’s parents understand and respect this, it will be in everyone’s best interests. The hope, of course, is that in time, this transition will lead to a trust which will allow the student to relax and concentrate on what’s important – their love and desire to learn to play music!




New Year News

Happy new year,  to all my families and followers! I hope everyone had a wonderful and peaceful (is that possible with young, excited kids around?) Christmas holiday.


It’s that time again – today was the first day of lessons. It was a great day! Although I felt the holidays sped past, all of my students came back rested and ready to start up again. Yay!




I am getting ready to have a class of three-year-olds begin this January. We will be making the “soundscapes” from story books, putting them on some fun instruments, doing some dances and other fun stuff! If anyone has a little one who is at least three and wants to join, please give me a call, email, or respond on here.



We also have some spaces available in all instruments. We would all really like to fill these up soon, so bring on any and all requests!


We had an excellent concert at Luther Court before Christmas – it was at least partially recorded, so as soon as I get that I’ll put it up here.


Once again, I hope you all had a great holiday season and all of us here at JH Music School wish you a



Go to a concert – with the kids!

The more musical events you take your children to, the more they will come to appreciate various aspects of arts and culture. Although it is a busy time, the holiday season is filled with wonderful opportunities to see musical groups of all stripes showcase their work.



There is something for every age group and budget, and this is a wonderful way to spend some extra-special time with your children. It’s also a great way to get into the holiday spirit!



I took my children to see “The Nutcracker” with the Alberta Ballet as a yearly tradition when they were small.  This is something they remember as a super-special event, and I will treasure in my memory the thrill they got as the Christmas tree rose, and rose…


From ballet to symphony to neighbourhood choir, holiday seasons concerts are a great way to connect with your kids that has nothing to do with malls, commerce or chaos, and a great way to de-stress yourself as well, and remember whatever the holidays mean to you.




Tax Break!

I received a notification from the BC Registered Music Teachers (BCRMTA) in my mailbox this morning. It said:


“For 2011 and subsequent years, the Federal budget proposes a new non-refundable tax credit based on eligible expenses paid for the cost of registration for a child in a prescribed program of artistic, cultural, recreational or developmental activity.”


At last!! You can claim your child’s music lesson fees against your taxes. Teachers and parents have been fighting for this for a long time (like about 15 years.)



There is a form that teachers can download and fill out for your taxes.  Just let us know and do give us a bit of time to navigate this new system before you are down to crunch time. Thanks!



Christmas Sing-along!

Here’s an event coming up that looks like a lot of fun:


Christmas Singalong with the Victoria Philharmonic Choir
The popular Family Christmas Carol Singalong concert will be at 7pm  Sat  Dec.10 at the Church of St. John the Divine. Last year there was a power cut so we performed by flashlight and without the organ. Baritone Bernard Turgeon and cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni will again join us to perform the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Christmas carols with David Stratkauskas at organ. Audience will have a chance to join in familiar carols and children (under 12 free) invited to come up front with the choir. For ticket info see attached poster.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
     Can you imagine, singing by flashlight? Must have been exciting!! It sounds like a really enjoyable event.
     Have a great day!

The Ear: Near and Dear to our Hearts

Ear training is a vital component of any musical education. As with most things, there are numerous ways to approach this, for example:


  • Ear training books, full of sometimes dry little exercises
  • Sight singing, using the Solfege or Sol-fa systems (for those of you who think you don’t know this, you  do – it’s good old “Do-re-mi”!
  • Ear training games…
     I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t like to close his or her eyes and play guessing games!
     This kind of activity can be started early, right from day one of lessons with the youngest of children. It’s a fun way to get a good solid base without being too aware of it, so that when the time comes for a more serious approach (dust off those exercise books!) the student will be well prepared and find it much easier.
     Happy listening!



Be a Pro – the Pros of taking Exams

When people think of music exams, they often think of the old, strict way of doing things.





Nose to the grindstone, struggling uphill on the way to the lesson and again on the way home…





It certainly doesn’t have to be this way anymore. Some advantages of taking exams:


  • Learn every aspect of the level so it is completely understood
  • Get high school credits for graduation
  • Feel a great sense of accomplishment
  • Impress your friends with your amazing playing!
     While it’s not encouraged to take an exam for every grade, it’s extremely beneficial to take one at certain, carefully chosen times. Doing so will increase competence and confidence, and lead to a “jump” forward in ability.  What’s not to like?
     If you want to consider an exam, just ask your teacher for more information and to see if he or she thinks it’s good timing.
    Happy playing!

The postcards have arrived!

Today my copy of our JH postcard arrived in the mail. It’s not actually a postcard, but a flyer which is about the size and thickness of one. The fact that mine arrived today means that all 2400 of them should be arriving around the neighbourhood in a day or two!

I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. Tonight is also when I am going to get some professional help with this website from a wonderful parent of two of my students, Ann-Marie. At last! She will help me through the maze of html so I can run this thing on my own, and start actually doing some of the great ideas I have in my head.

Have a wonderful day!