I Can’t Tell You, But Maybe I Can Play it For You

Scholarship Entrant: Jason from Urbandale, IA
Essay Question: How has music changed your life? Please describe a specific example and share what music means to you.
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Maybe the notes will say what I can’t.

I could not communicate clearly as a young kid. I had a speech impediment that drove me into shyness and quiet behavior. I remember vivid and visceral moments when I stammered in public and was cringing inside. As a child it was a daily traumatic experience.

But a certain je ne sais quoi drew me to music even before I could speak. As I grew up, I idolized musicians, danced, and started writing my own lyrics at age 8. And I’ve always had a sense of inevitability: there was nothing else that I could have possibly done with my life besides pursue music. When I was a teenager and picked up guitar, it allowed me to saw that my tongue wouldn’t allow me to. The frustrations of teenage life, the heartbreak of my childhood, and my hope for the future. Music is how I am able to share my soul with the world.

I played that thing day and night. And even started performing, as the LEAD SINGER! Talk about a flip. And now, I feel that my understand of my own tempo and rhythm has allowed me to regulate myself and take control over my vocal fluency. I truly believe that had it not been for the mentorship of rhythm, pitch, and power chords that I would have developed into a well balanced adult. What does music mean to me? Music is life.

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Music to life

Scholarship Entrant: George from Fort Washington, Maryland
Essay Question: How has music changed your life? Please describe a specific example and share what music means to you.
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Throughout my whole life, music has been an integral part of me. Even as a young child I always knew that I had a special connection to music. To touch someone through music is a special gift because once it leaves the instrument and get to the ear of the listener it can’t tampered with in it’s natural state. I have had and tried many different kinds of jobs but nothing seemed to work except music for me. I’ve always felt that it is the universal language of the world meaning that even if someone can’t understand what are saying, they can understand what you are playing musically. when I was in junior high and throughout high school it keep me going and out of any kind of mischief. When I got to collage I knew then that I wanted nothing more than to play music for the rest of my life. Even though it has not been easy, I have leaned that it very important to do something in this life that you love and are most passionate about. Music to me is also about freedom of expression through an instrument, and what a great way to reach out and touch the hearts of many people. I would be a wonderful thing to be able to have some new gear to make music with. I recent;y last all of my gear due to a flood and I hope I will be considered to win something here. Thank you kindly.

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My Music: Inspiration and Love

Scholarship Entrant: Vincent from Juniper Ave, California
Essay Question: How has music changed your life? Please describe a specific example and share what music means to you.
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Have you ever felt like you have been touched by love? The way music has transformed my life is by keeping me alive physically, spiritually and mentally. I used to feel like I was alone and thought nobody understood my life. In a way, I used music to be my form of escape. When I am not able to express my communication simply by talking with others, I create it in music. Every friend, the way I dress, the college I go to, who I am as a human being has all been impacted by music.
My ability to inspire others through my music is really the love I receive from communities of people and love I can give back. When I play music for people and watch them smile, dance, and even cry, the most intense feeling of love rushes through my veins. I created a music video cover and involved 37 strangers I pulled from the streets to dance in it. There is nothing more beautiful to me than having so many people smile and connect with each other on a same level.
I am held accountable for having the ability to impact the world. Music to me is a form of communication. The speaking of warmth and comfort. Music creates the space for me to give myself up for others and commit to impacting this world. To spread joy and inspire people; even strangers. Music gave me purpose and that is to be love.

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Music IS My Life

Scholarship Entrant: Simona from East Elmhurst, NEW YORK
Essay Question: How has music changed your life? Please describe a specific example and share what music means to you.
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From the first time I held my flute in my hands, I knew this was going to be a special gift in my life. Choosing to follow the musician’s path was the perfect fit for me. I absolutely love performing; I love preparing for it. I love the nerves and the excitement, and I enjoy every moment of a performance. The gift of music makes my life complete and keeps me happy each day; my main goal is to spread those feelings of happiness to the world. Through my performance, I want to share the excitement and emotions that music creates in me. When I perform, I give my all. Music is a special gift; I am blessed to have been given the chance to pursue music all my life. To me music is an endless universe that can’t be fulfilled in a life time but I believe that with hard work, discipline and love everything is possible.
Studying at Queens College has been a life changing experience; being in such a prestigious music university pushes me every day to work diligently, so I can meet the expectations required. My goal is to take every opportunity to learn, inspire, grow as a person and musician; always trying to be better than anticipated and inspire other people with music. I know that earning a master’s degree in music will be a challenge for me, but I am willing to take challenge and learn the best from it.

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The Language of Music

Scholarship Entrant: Arrica from Oakland, CA
Essay Question: How has music changed your life? Please describe a specific example and share what music means to you.
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Music has changed my life by allowing me to express myself and connect with others in incredible ways. It’s a language to me, something that allows me to say so much more than my words could ever say on their own. As a teenager music kept me out of trouble and allowed me to get my feelings out without necessarily having to ‘talk’ about them. It helped me make dear friends, and it helped me become a well-rounded person. Music is that thing I don’t feel like I could exist without.
As I continue to perform and teach others all that music has to offer, I’m reminded time and again how music changes lives. One of my students for example comes from a family that constantly struggles to make ends meet. She’s grown up in incredibly challenging circumstances but music has helped carry her through. Music gives her hope and a creative outlet. She is always telling me how grateful she is to have me as a teacher but I am also filled with tremendous gratitude. Watching her strength and perseverance and the role music plays in her life reminds me how it changed mine and still continues to on a daily basis. In addition, every time I perform I am grateful to be able to communicate through the language that is music. There is nothing in this world that brings me more peace and fulfillment. I couldn’t imagine where I’d be without it.

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Music, My Hero!

Scholarship Entrant: Victoria from Philadelphia, pa
Essay Question: How has music changed your life? Please describe a specific example and share what music means to you.
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Music is a driving force in my life. Coming from a poor upbringing, I saw few opportunities or any way out until I discovered the power of music. My world transformed! Exciting possibilities finally felt attainable. Music brought me from a land of settling for what was in front of me, into a new uncharted space where my dreams could grow and become a clear vision for my life.
For this and so many reasons, music is my love. I give, sacrifice, and am always willing to do it again. When you are passionate, you must give every piece of yourself. Music is a part of who I am; it is not just something I do. And while it sometimes drains me, making tomorrow’s challenges feel insurmountable, it is also my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Music is why I try to reach seemingly unattainable heights.
Music not only opened my world, but it also brought me amazing people that shaped me as an artist and a person. They encouraged my dreams and now offer the support that picks me up when I am battered by a brutal industry. They proved that we are in this together and will be for as long as we nurture our love for music. And while there’s no guarantee of return on our investment into music, we don’t need one. We must simply keep the fire burning within us so we can continue to create and chase the impossible!

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4 Ways Piano Competitions Make You a Better Player

piano competitionsWhat do the best piano players have in common? Most of them have participated in piano competitions, exams (like the ABRSM), or recitals. Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. explores the benefits of piano competitions…

 

Competition of all kinds gets a bad rap nowadays. In dozens of counties and hundreds of schools across the country, competitiveness is under fire. Students and young athletes are being told that participation and team building are all that counts, and therefore, game scores are not kept. And in even more places, music competitions have become music festivals, in which groups or soloists are graded individually and places like first, second, and third are not given.

Well, in my opinion, competition is what often drives humans to succeed. This is especially true when it comes to musicians, and more specifically, to pianists. Here’s a list of ways that competing makes you a better piano player.

• Pressure to practice

Perhaps the most immediate benefit of piano competitions is not necessarily the pressure to perform, but the pressure to practice. To have a clear and concrete deadline in front of you is quite motivating when it comes to practicing toward that goal.

Knowing that strangers will be looking for both the good and the bad of your art is a whole lot better than being told simply to practice in order to improve in a general way.

• Performance experience

Getting up in front of an audience to speak is one of the most widely feared activities in the world, and that’s only speaking! So getting up in front of an audience to play the piano is even more special, and playing your very best in a competition setting takes the experience to the next level. Performing before judges is nerve-wracking, but very exciting. And honestly, after a competition, a simple recital will feel like a breeze.

• Self-assurance

You have to be self-assured in order to be willing even to enter a competition, and your self-assurance builds as you continue to compete, no matter what the outcome. This helps you to be the kind of pianist who walks into almost any musical situation and says, “Sure, I can do that.”

That kind of attitude can open up the world to you, presenting opportunities that you may never have dreamed of, because you’re saying yes to experiences a less-assured person may have said no to.

• Networking

Networking is typically used as a business term, but it’s also used in the music world. Meeting other musicians and judges and building acquaintanceships at competitions can make a big difference in your piano career, even if you don’t necessarily plan on pursuing it professionally. Making a friend at an event may mean being asked to be part of a festival or being referred for a great gig, or maybe just finding a group of musicians to jam with.

In the end, piano competitions are less about becoming better than other pianists and more about becoming a better pianist yourself. Improving your personal best is the name of the game. That doesn’t mean, though, that the success of others should be ignored. The only great thing about our jealousies is that they can indicate what our desires are. Allow others’ successes and failures to motivate you on your own journey.

 

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

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Photo by Leeds Piano Competition 2015

How Often Should You Tune Your Drums?

tuning a drum setKeeping your drums in tune is essential for your sound. Here, Seattle, WA drum teacher Mason L. shares his advice for how often you should be tuning a drum set…

One of the most defining characteristics of your sound as a drummer is the way your drums sound, so it’s important to keep your drums in tune. Tuning a drum set takes some practice to master, but it is a great skill to have whether you’re just starting to drum or you’re touring and performing professionally. Depending on what kind of music you play, how often you play, and how much your drums move, you may need to tune your drums more often or less often than you think.

What kind of music will you be playing?

All drummers know that a drum set sounds different in a punk band than it does in a jazz band or an indie rock band. Whatever genre you’re playing, listen to some similar music and listen to how the drums sound, if you’re not familiar. Drums sound unique in every style, and they should be tuned according to whatever style you’re playing.

Once you’ve listened to some music from the style you’ll be playing, or if you’re already familiar, analyze what you hear. Does the snare sound high or low, resonant or muted? Are the toms low and thumpy or higher and resonant? Does the bass drum have a pitch or not? Knowing the characteristics of the drum sound in the genre you’re playing and tuning your drums accordingly will help you fit in with new bands and will make you look knowledgeable and experienced.

If you’re thinking about tuning your drum set for the first time, do so as soon as possible. If your drums aren’t already in tune, tuning them will make your drums sound the best they possibly can. When the drums sound the way you want them to, you can remember how they should sound when you tune them again in the future.

How often do you play your drums?

The most likely reason drums go out of tune is because they’re played for a long amount of time. Drums don’t usually go out of tune if they’re not used, unless they sit abandoned somewhere for months. If you practice three times a week, it might be smart to pick a day every week or every other week to tune your drums. Professional touring musicians tune their drums often, at least twice a week, so the drums they play can sound their best for every performance. In the drum corps world, drummers sometimes play for 10 or more hours a day, and it’s not uncommon to tune a drum twice in the same day.

The frequency with which you tune your drums also depends on the style you’re playing and the way you want your drums to sound. It’s easier to maintain a lower, less resonant sound than a higher, resonant one. Some jazz drummers, who usually have higher, more resonant drums, obsess over the way their drums sound, tuning them with the same frequency that guitar players or other string players would. But a punk drummer may not ever tune his kit after he acquires it, because the thumpiness and lower pitches stay in tune easier.

Don’t forget to replace your drum heads every so often

You probably need to change a head when you can’t get the tone you want from the drum, when the head is broken, or when it’s riddled with stick indentations. Drum heads, especially bass drum heads, can be a little expensive, but a head change can make your drums sound their best and feel much better than an older head.

Need a refresher on how to tune your drums? Here’s a helpful YouTube tutorial that breaks it down step-by-step.


The tone and pitch of your drums define your sound as a drummer, so it is important to keep them in tune. To sound your best, analyze how often you play your drums, how often you move them, and what style you’ll be playing to figure out how often you should tune them. Sometimes drummers take tuning for granted, but tuning a drum set can be refreshing for your ears and rewarding as an amateur or professional drummer.

Mason

Mason L. teaches drums in Seattle, WA. He received his Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance from University of North Texas and has been teaching students since 2011. Learn more about Mason here!

 

 

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A Music Tale

Scholarship Entrant: Denise from Missouri city, Tx
Essay Question: How has music changed your life? Please describe a specific example and share what music means to you.
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Ten years ago I joined my middle school band; where I first learned how to play trumpet. As I went to high school I continued playing and was Drum Major my Junior and Senior year. Being a Drum Major taught me so much about music and molded and developed my character. I learned how to be a leader and became a mentor for many of my peers.
When I graduated high school I knew I wanted to continue to be around music. It was here when the music completely changed my life.
I began taking private piano lessons and a couple of months later I was asked to learn bass guitar.
I currently play piano and bass for the music ministry at my church. I play for the senior Sunday band, an all women’s band and a youth band. Playing music for the church has brought my understanding for music to a whole new level. I practically eat, sleep and breathe music.
I can’t go a day without practicing and wanting to perfect my craft. It has definitely consumed my life in a positive way.
I am currently going to school to become a music major and hope to one day be one of the greatest music directors.
There really isn’t enough words to describe how music has truly changed my life. Till this day i am still changing and transforming because of my passion for music and I know it’s still only the beginning of a long journey ahead.

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Music is Life

Scholarship Entrant: Sirona from Kissimmee, Florida
Essay Question: How has music changed your life? Please describe a specific example and share what music means to you.
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In this new age, With social media it’s easy to get caught up in the lights and,camera’s. I am trying to teach my African American daughter who soon Will be nine years old ,the value of music. It’s more to life than pretty people, putting all your businesses on line,and worst of all twerking. I would love to teach her great value in life.And to be honest ,I really don’t know any other way than music. Music gives my family something to look forward to, Music is Life

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