December 29, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Thanks to all our patrons, 2009 was our top performance year since we started in 1996.

Thank you for making an exceptional network.

Happy New Year!

Join | Since 1996 | USA/Canada

December 28, 2009

Choosing the Right Vocal Coach Member, Debora Lebendiker, shares her article on the subject of choosing the right music teacher. Based in Miami, Debora is a singing coach specializing in stage performance and artist development.

The Only Thing That Counts Are the Results
By Debora Lebendiker

Often, I see singers who come to my studio looking to fix different problems. They all have something in common though. They do not feel comfortable with their voices. It would be normal to see artists who want to improve their vocal technique, but what is interesting is that many of these students have already been studying with other vocal coaches.

That is where I start to emphasize the importance of obtaining results in the short-run. It is true that the vocal development takes some time, however working with a vocal coach should generate improvements within a month of vocalization exercises. There have to be some improvement which creates a feeling of comfort with one's voice. This will advance the progress. It would not be sensible to wait a whole year to see results. If within a month or two, results are not seen, then it might be time to seek another vocal coach.

The vocal coach has a great responsibility of taking a student and helping him/her to improve his/her voice each day. The harm is done when the coach does not let the student go because the coach cannot accept his or her own teaching limitations. On the other hand, the student continues taking classes because there is a good relationship with the coach, continuing with the classes without realizing the consequences this can have on his/her voice and also takes away from his/her professional opportunities. My advice is not to go just by nice words and compliments. Seek results that can lead you to achieve excellence as an artist.

Join | Since 1996 | USA/Canada

December 07, 2009

The Art of Flute

NEW YORK CITY | On a recent trip to NYC, we visited with Member, Jun Kubo. Jun is a concert flutist who graduated from the famed Juilliard School, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and NYU. Trained as a classical flutist, Jun is delving into a world, as she calls it, of music creation. This includes branching out into a variety of musical styles such as jazz and contemporary improvisation, fusing Asian musical traditions, electronic music and original compositions. It seems that there is a renaissance of sorts, where highly trained classical musicians take the strength of their training foundation and move into most interesting directions, shaping new creative frontiers.

Join | Since 1996 | USA/Canada

December 06, 2009

The Lap Harp Magic

NEW YORK CITY | In NYC, we visited with Member, Mia Theodoratus. Mia is a private harp teacher and performer who does not know the meaning of the word NO. She is always ready to perform. She is enthusiastic about her love for harp and in this interview we get a clear picture of her creative outlook. She improvises, writes her own music, and performs with singers and dances in original show productions. Mia recorded with TV on The Radio, Leona Naess, FischerSpooner and other independent artists. Mia also teaches how to play and interpret Irish and Celtic folk music.

Join | Since 1996 | USA/Canada

December 03, 2009

Music, Literacy and Dale Hubert

In interview with Dale Hubert, we are exploring the creative ways to reach children and encourage interest in literacy. Dale is a 3rd grade teacher in Canada, and for eleven years he taught special education. He is the creator of Flat Stanley Project, now an international phenomenon.

Before you became a schoolteacher, you had a music career. Tell us about it.

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a teacher, but I had several other interests along the way. I grew up when folk music was making a resurgence and I was drawn to the guitar. I began with no skills and through perseverance and understanding parents I slowly learned the fingering of chords and began playing songs that were important to me. After university I went to Europe and while in Spain I saw a street singer and I figured I was as good as he was, so I bought a guitar and sang in the street. I made enough to pay for food and rent with some left over, then got a job singing in a bar.

Photo courtesy of Dale Hubert | Dale (left) Barry (middle) and Brian (right) from Yorkshire. I did that for a few months then teamed up with a duo from England and we lived in a van and sang in the streets from the south of Spain to Sweden and as far west as Crete. After a year I returned home and performed in the lounge circuit in Manitoba and northern Ontario. I did this for a couple of years and along the way developed skills in handling crowds that would later on come in handy in the classroom. No matter how unruly the students, they don't compare to a drunken crowd of loggers and miners from northern Ontario!

As an educator, how do you ignite students' imagination?

The first thing I try to do is build a feeling of safety and community. I tell the students that the most important word they will ever learn from me is YET. Then I tell them that some grade 3 students already think that they can't read or can't do math and I tell them that perhaps they can't - yet. As soon as we add the word "yet" to the statement, it opens a world of possibilities. It's OK to not be able to do things yet. When I began learning to play the guitar I was very unmusical and had very limited natural talent but since I was intrinsically motivated to succeed, I stuck at it, made the effort, and eventually achieved my goals. I believe the key to success in the classroom is through offering authentic and meaningful opportunities to develop skills. For example, when teaching graphing in math I'll have the students graph data that is important to them such as baseball stats or favourite hobbies. It's been a long time since I was a student, but I often ask myself what I would have liked my teachers to have allowed me to do, then I try to manipulate the curriculum to allow that to happen. I've taught special ed, Grade 6, and Grade 3 and for last couple of years have been team-teaching with an excellent teacher, Zillah Moss, in a 3-4 split class with 2 teachers and 44 students in one room. Because the students are intrinsically motivated, classroom management issues rarely arise.

Talk about Flat Stanley. What was the aha moment?

I'd taught Grade 6 for five years and had applied to teach Grade 3 for the first time. I wanted to find a way to develop literacy in an authentic and meaningful way. This was in 1994 and the World Wide Web was in its infancy. There was very little appropriate material available for 7 and 8 year olds, so I decided to create something. As a special ed teacher I'd invented an adaptive computer keyboard and written the software for it, so I was used to crafting my own materials. I came across a reference to Flat Stanley on a school's website and I thought I might be able to turn this storybook character into a traveling mutual friend that we could write about. I was hoping to arrange 8 or 10 exchanges for my students, but I planned to create a site that would allow others to share their experiences as well. I asked one of my former Grade 6 students to teacher me HTML coding and began the Flat Stanley Project. This was long before the social networking that's now so common, but I created a place for teachers to share ideas, a List of Participants, a Success Story section and a Picture Gallery. Eventually I was contacted by Jeff Brown, author of the original Flat Stanley story. Jeff was delighted with my efforts and the resurgence of interest in his book. The numbers of participants rose from 13 the first year to hundreds the next, then thousands a few years later and now millions of children are familiar with Flat Stanley as a world traveler and penpal. So rather than a single aha! moment, it's been a perpetual list of inspiring events and opportunities.

Flat Stanley met important people in high places. Who are some of them?

I enjoyed making contact with Jeff Brown. We became friends and he visited me and my family here in London, Ontario, and we stayed with his family in Connecticut. We remained friends until his death in 2003. But the little flat guy continued to make interesting friends in high places. Clint Eastwood took his daughter's Flat Stanley to the Academy Awards when he won the Oscar for Million Dollar Baby. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took his son's Flat Stanley to work and appeared on late night talk shows with it. There have been many visits to the White House and Flat Stanley has been photographed with Carter, Clinton, Bush I and II and Obama as well as numerous governors and mayors. Scientists have taken the little flat guy to Antarctica to study penguins and to labs to conduct research and there have been several trips to space. Then there are the TV stars and movie actors. A reporter from In Style Magazine once told me that new celebrities didn't feel they'd quite "made it" until they'd been asked to host a Flat Stanley! One Flat Stanley that I treasure the most is one I sent to Pete Seeger, one of my idols, and "old Pete" returned it and had written on the back of it, "Kids, if YOU keep your sense of humor and reach out to other kids in ALL the world, and get them to reach out to you in their own way, there may be a human race here in another 100 years!" But the main support remains students in schools who are developing literacy skills and building community through Flat Stanley exchanges and I am overwhelmed at the interest in my Flat Stanley Project.

What is next for Dale Hubert?

What's next? Well, as the old saying goes, the future is one of the hardest things to predict. I've been a classroom teacher for 31 years, so retirement is in the fairly near future. I've continued to enjoy music and recently bought a mandolin to add to my mountain dulcimer, banjo and guitars, so I could spend a great deal of time improving my musical abilities. I recently earned my black belt in karate and could spend the rest of my life improving those skills. Over the last few years I've taken Flat Stanley with me on vacations to Scotland, England, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Egypt and Mexico and this March my father and I are planning on visiting the Galapagos Islands. I'd like to continue the Flat Stanley Project and to remain involved in education as I look for additional opportunities.

Join | Since 1996 | USA/Canada