Musical Fast Track Lesson 2 – Put Yourself On a Mission

In the last lesson of “21 Great Ways to Become a Monster Jazz Musician” we talked about musical values. We talked about how making choices based on our values will focus our musical efforts and ensure an individual and original sound and approach, the goal of all jazz musicians. In this lesson we will talk about being “on a mission.”

Now that you have determined your values and what’s important to you musically, the next step is to create your mission statement. In a nut shell, this is the ultimate purpose and objective of your practicing, gigging, listening, studying and composing. This is a sentence that explains what you are aiming to accomplish.

Think about it this way: When NASA sends a shuttle on a “mission” to space, they have a reason for it. They don’t just say, “Hey, we’ve got nothing to do today, let’s send the shuttle up into space, for fun.” They send it up for a reason. They send it up to put a satellite into orbit, to repair the XYZ doo-hickey on the space station and to complete a particular experiment. Now, it seems ridiculous to send the space shuttle into orbit and spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours of work for no purpose–in other words, with no mission. So why would you want to spend thousands of hours practicing and thousands of dollars going to school and studying with no purpose for your music?

Write down your mission. Write down in words what it is you plan to accomplish with music. What is your main focus? Don’t rush this. Spend some time thinking about it. Writing down your mission or “major definite purpose” will have profound effects on your musical progress. Without a mission it’s as if you are on a road trip with no destination or reason in mind. This might sound like fun for awhile, but unless you are extremely lucky and the exception to the rule, you will end up nowhere. If you intend to make a major contribution to jazz and become a monster jazz musician, you must have a purpose and a mission.

Here’s a great exercise to help you get started on your mission statement: Write a eulogy for yourself. What would you want people to say about your music after you’re gone? What do you want to be remembered for? What will be your legacy? If you know the answers to these questions, you are in the minority and on the fast track to realizing your musical dreams.

Once you have crafted a mission statement, use it as a springboard. Refer to it when you are making your practice routines. Refer to it when you start a new musical project or even buy a new method book. Use it to help you make all of your music-related choices.

Action Step1: Write your own eulogy. How do you want to be remembered?

Action Step 2: Get a blank piece of paper. At the top write your new mission statement. Remember, this is the ultimate goal of your musical journey. Next, write your list of values. These will be your guides and signposts on your mission. Refer to the list of your favorite players from Lesson One if you need inspiration. You have now begun a strong foundation to support yourself on your way to success.

In our next lesson we’ll start to get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about deciding exactly what you want to learn and achieve with music. Until next time…

Do Not Lose Music Lessons For Your Child

As we continue our conversation on the advantages of music education for children, I want to make sure you understand that music schools and private teachers do not have it in their agendas to make a great musician out of every student!

Have you ever talked to people who have completed only half of their music education? If not, then I recommend you do. Certainly, they had some difficulties in training, because studying is hard work! But I bet you’ll hear them say that they regret quitting. Later in life, people understand that the kind of push they received in their emotional and intellectual development was due to musical training in their childhood.

I talked to many adults who had taken music lessons as children. Some told me amazing stories about how the music helped them improve their memory (and not only musical). Others noticed that their spoken language became richer, and their voice more expressive. I’ve also met people who use their once-musically trained hands and fingers to do dainty, nimble work in skillful projects. For example, among these are many who work as secretaries or at jobs that are closely connected with a computer.

Children who study music can better and more expressively recite poems than other children. Many “musical” children grow up to be fine actors.

Also, very few people know that the most successful among those who are multilingual used to play musical instruments in childhood! And, the longer their training was as a child, the better their grip on foreign language speaking and comprehension as an adult! Ninety-five percent of polyglots used to or still play musical instruments.

Also, it is obvious that playing music makes the hands – and especially the fingers – of painters or artists quite skillful and capable. Having listed the advantages of music education, I’d like to add that former “musical” children, even if they did not become professional musicians, having grown up, regard their work with more responsibility and professionalism. They are pleasant to talk with because they love people. Due to their specially developed ear for music, “musical” people understand their relatives and children better. The majority of them are happily married, and they choose jobs that have to do with communicating and working with people. There are many teachers, doctors, personnel managers, lawyers, bank clerks, counselors, as well as translators, journalists, etc., among them.

Now, dear parents, hopefully I have dispelled all your doubts about choosing music lessons for your child and answered the question as to “Why I want my child to get music education.”

Yet having made such a serious and responsible decision, I am sure that many of you still have some doubts and questions. And those of you whose children have already begun training will come across certain issues and require assistance and guidance in resolving them from time to time.

Drawing from my own experience, I have noticed that while preparing children for music lessons, parents do not always use the recommended literature, which, unfortunately, is really hard to come by. Sometimes such books are written in “dry” and complex language not intended for easy reading and understanding.

Copyright (c) 2010 Tatiana Bandurina

The Psychology of Music

In a previous post, I mentioned how text messaging can be a very distracting tool for students. From my own experiences, I’ve seen people at the library and in class text message continuously, distracting them from what’s really important. I’ve seen the same thing happen with music. Practically every student has an MP3 player and/or laptop with music downloads. Using these devices while studying, or in lectures, has proven to be a threat to school performance. But for others, music stimulates the brain and allows one to focus. At the workplace, many employees are listening to music at their cubicles.

A study at the University of Windsor studied the effect of music on software engineers. The researchers collected data from 56 participants (male and female) and observed their work performance over five weeks. The results indicated that when music was absent, quality of work was the lowest and projects were taking a lot longer to complete. The researchers concluded that music promoted a positive mood and improved acuity.

There is one potential flaw to this study – were the projects the same difficulty when comparing presence of music to the control? If easier projects were assigned to the subjects when they were listening to music, then no practical conclusions can be made from the study.

However, other analysis demonstrates that music has a positive effect on how our brain functions. A study was conducted to test the ability of mice to learn new things. When the mice were exposed to heavy metal music, they actually all started attacking each other. When mice were exposed to classical music, there was a clear observable improvement in perception. This experiment poses an interesting question, how do different types of music affect our performance? Are there significant differences between music genres when assessing quality of work?

Music is a lot more powerful than we think. In fact, music has been used as a means of therapy. Researchers observed that patients who listened to calm, classical music experienced significantly less post-surgical throbbing than those who did not. Exposure to music helps autistic children stay calm and maintain composure during stressful situations. Even in plants, studies demonstrated that plants exposed to jazz or classical music grew healthier compared to those exposed to rock music, which grew droopy.

But music has also demonstrated negative effects. Music can be a distraction tool for many while working, walking, running, driving etc. Just like text messaging, it makes you unaware of the environment around you. Having an impaired perception of what people are saying around you could be very dangerous. The American Psychological Society found a strong correlation between violence and music. Youths who listened to music with violent lyrics were linked to more aggressive and dangerous behavior. A study by a sociology professor found that higher rates of suicide were present among those who listen to old country music.

Although I have mentioned a variety of conclusions that have been formulated by analysis of music studies, there are a few points to consider that could potentially question the validity of these results. Many studies use small sample sizes that do not reflect the population. In addition, there are many other variables that could be present that skew the data. Thus more research is required to accurately develop conclusions regarding the effects of music. However, many of these experiments have been reproduced to provide very similar results.

I’ve noticed that the link between work or school performance and music generally varies from person to person. Although studies do show that there is a general positive correlation, data should be dug deeper. For example, what types of music have the best and worst effect? Are there any specific professions that music has an overwhelmingly positive or negative effect? We have already seen a few studies that demonstrate opposite effects when comparing classical to heavy metal music exposure.

However, funding a study of such nature would be very worthwhile because this could provide a lot of value to educational and work institution policies. Permitting the use of music could improve employee output and productivity. It wouldn’t even cost the company anything because of the free accessibility of online radio. Even then, who doesn’t have a mobile music device these days? Perhaps we may even see universities allowing the use of personal music during examinations (of course these students would have to be closely monitored). After all, exams technically are supposed to test our knowledge and ability to apply concepts in real world situations (what they actually do is another topic of debate). And in real world situations, we would probably be listening to music, so why can’t we during exams?