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"You Can't Play That"

“You can’t play that yet.”

At times, they are the worst words you can hear as a music student. But there’s always a reason – even if it isn’t obvious at first.

If you’re learning to play an instrument, chances are you started because either a) your parents forced you, or more likely b) because there was some song that inspired you to pick that instrument. That’s a wonderful thing to have: inspiration. The only problem is that achieving that “goal piece” takes more than inspiration; it also takes perspiration.

What you want to play and what you need to play are two distinct things. For example, in a piano lesson, there will typically be some finger exercises, scales, repertoire and then, finally, something for “fun.” You may want to play the Harry Potter theme, a Beatles tune or something elegant by Chopin, but if your fingers are still tripping over a C major scale and triads, this isn’t going to happen yet.

The difficulty comes in when what you want and what you need are very far apart. Especially for beginners, this is disheartening. A lot of the time, students feel that their teachers don’t understand what they want, or worse, that they don’t care.

If you have a caring, professional teacher, then you must remember that we most definitely care about your well being as a musician, along with keeping you on a path we know can lead you to the success you want. Sometimes that path involves things you may not expect, or necessarily like at first. Please know that your teacher truly does want what’s best for you in the long run.

So the next time you ask to play that Adele song, or that Beethoven sonata and we say, “Not just yet,” remember: it’s not forever. We’ll get you there. We promise.

Online Lessons: A How-To and Why-To

See the screenshot beside this story? It's a student project. What makes it more amazing is that it's not on the teacher's computer, but the student's. Live, online and in another country. Midtown Music School proudly demonstrates the future of music education, right now.

Midtown Music School has stated, since its inception, to use technology in a very real, tanglible way that can create educational opportunities never before possible. For proof, we'd like to share a story about how to have a lesson and maintain a student-teacher relationship when thousands of miles separate both people.

A long-time student, Leah, has been studying theory on and off with Midtown Music School teacher David Stone for a few years. Leah is an excellent student, but there's one problem getting in the way of regular instruction: Leah lives in Boston, studying music at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music.

David was thrilled with Leah's abilities and attitude as a student, but the commute was making lessons a bit difficult.

When settling on a new major - film composition - Leah had several assignments that, while she was doing well, felt she needed some extra instruction.

"I learned all my chords and harmony in the jazz program, but I feel like I'm missing some of the fundamentals of harmony, of function," she explained.

A little technology, mixed with a little know-how, has enabled David and Leah to continue working together on a regular basis. Both are thrilled with the ability to have a regular lesson that truly is almost as good as being in the same room.

Here's all that is required:

- two computers, equipped with webcams and a reasonably-fast Internet connection

- an online chat program such as Skype

Once both parties have exchanged contact information, it's as simple as making a phone call and being online at the same time. But that's just the beginning.

Most online chat programs allow users to Share Screen. This allows people to actually view, live and in real time, what's happening on the other person's screen. Better still, it allows both people to work together on a single desktop.

In David and Leah's case, Leah opens up her current composition project in Finale 2009 - a music notation program; think Microsoft Word for sheet music - and David can take control of the pointer, circle an area of interest, and even mark changes directly on the score while both can listen to the changes together, live.

It's an exciting first step towards the future of music education. While it doesn't replace the live interaction of teacher and student, in the case of David and Leah, it's a dynamic, interactive and feasible solution to a previously-unsolvable problem. Midtown Music School is proud to be on the forefront of this emerging field.

Dates: Recitals, Holidays and more

Below are some important dates in the Midtown Music School calendar. Be sure to take note!

RECITAL DATES

We are pleased to announce the student recital dates for the 2011-2012 school year!

Please mark these dates on your calendar:

Winter Recital: Sunday, January 29th at 11:00 a.m.

Spring/Summer Recital: Sunday June 10th at 11:00 a.m.

Both recitals will take place at the Women's Art Association Gallery, located at 23 Prince Arthur Avenue, near Bloor and Avenue Road. The cost is $10 per student.

We hope to see lots of friends, family and performers showing off what they have learned!

Click this link to View Map.

HOLIDAY DATES, WINTER 2011

We love our work, but even the best teachers need to recharge. But hey, it gives you more chances to practice!

We'll be closed from December 24 to January 8, 2012 (sounds so far away, doesn't it?). However, the phone and email boxes will be available anytime you have questions for us - we'll get back to you, we promise.

Also, for those of you wanting to play something in time for the holidays, some advice: start right now! By the time you have the piece down, it'll be time to bust it out over that sixth glass of egg nog. Besides, you might be the only one in tune at the time!

While we'll wish it more later, all the best for the upcoming season from Midtown Music School.

The Story of a Piano Room

The question I'm always asked is, "How on earth did you get that piano upstairs into that room?" The answer is a combination of a great community and brute force.

The first item of business was renovating the space. So, on a hot July morning (and afternoon, and evening, and night) an amazing team of folks came together to paint and patch the piano's future home.

It was an amazing undertaking, putting up three and four coats of paint on walls in a single day. Luckily, other people came to lend a hand as the hours rolled on. Armed with rollers and brushes, we worked tirelessly. Students who were scheduled to have lessons lent a hand long after they thought they would go home, but we were having too much fun.

And, of course, nobody's clothes were able to survive the paint onslaught.

A few days later, it was literally Christmas in July at Midtown Music School. The piano body comes wrapped in a blanket and foam, while the legs are attached afterward. 

It is then painstakingly carried up each flight of stairs by laying down a non-stick runner, grabbing straps and lots of loud grunting.

Once it was rolled into the room, the piano's legs get screwed and bolted on, the pedal mechanics are attached and then it gets carefully flipped onto its legs. At long last, it's time to open the present.

Like everything in life, the piano room came together with lots of hard work and lots of great help. A huge thank-you goes out to all those who pitched in!