Category: Music Teaching

Musicians have special concerns when dealing with their health. There are certain musicians' products that are vital for optimal performance.

I never leave home without these special musicians' products. Why?

Lip Eze

You see, as a trumpet and saxophone player/teacher, I am always worried about getting chapped lips. Ever since I was 9, I would always carry lip balm in my pocket.

After all these years, I have gotten so quick at applying it, I can easily do it one-handed so I could quickly get back to playing my trumpet or saxophone.

The problem was that not every lip balm worked out for me. The consistency wasn't good, or it had toxic ingredients (like parabens, petrolatum or petroleum or chemical dyes). 

When I learned about Lip Eze, and tried it out, I was ecstatic. The consistency was perfect (not "cakey" or greasy), I could play my instruments with it on, and the ingredients were all organic and I knew what they were (they weren't strange unidentifiable chemicals).

A lot of toxins are taken on through the skin, and if you don't protect your skin and be consciously aware of what you are putting on..... Mel Kotlyar

I wanted to make sure that everyone knew about Lip Eze, and had the same benefits as I did using it.


Your level of health equals your level of performance...  Mel Kotlyar

Click here to read the rest of the article and to access the special discount...

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to perform and you can’t stop your reed from squeaking no matter how much you soak it.

If you live in a dry area, or even a high-altitude location, you may find that your clarinet or saxophone reeds squeak most of the time. This can be due to them being unbalanced.

In part 2 of my interview, Tom talked about a few instances where he was giving workshops in areas that were dry and in high altitudes. Performers were complaining because they could not get their reeds to work properly. Listen to the interview for the rest of the story…

We also talked at length about how some of the great professionals are using the ATG System in all kinds of playing conditions, with great success. Folks like Eddie Daniels, Ricardo Morales (NY Philharmonic), and many others use the ATG System and depend upon it for solid performances day in and out.

Click here to read the rest of the article, and to get access to your limited-time 15% discount on the ATG System...

In my latest radio show for the BAM Radio Network, I had the great privilege of speaking at length with Tom Ridenour.

Tom is a world-class Clarinetist, Educator and inventor who has created a product that can truly help clarinet and saxophone musicians of all abilities perform better and more consistently. 

I heard about Tom and his ATG Clarinet and Saxophone Reed Finishing System from a couple of friends who raved about how they were able to play every reed in the box. Their claim goes against the accepted belief that not every reed in the box will be playable.

I had to see for myself, so I bought the ATG Clarinet and Saxophone Reed Finishing System. I couldn't believe my eyes and my ears! It really does work.

To read more, and to get a limited-time 15% discount on the ATG Reed Finishing System,  click here.

Many musicians, in particular woodwind players, do not warm up properly before they start practicing or performing. Since irreparable damage can't necessarily be done by not warming up on a woodwind instrument (as opposed to a brass instrument), some folks don't recognize how a good warm up can enhance your playing.

The function of good warmups

According to Nick, a good warm up connects your mind with your body: the mental with the physical states.

When warming up, we are not just mindlessly playing long tones or running scales, we are thinking about how we are producing our tone, how we are coordinating our fingers, articulation and breathing. 

A good warm up keeps everything working the way you want it to.

If you don't warm up, you're not paying attention to your physiology, and you're not even coming close to what you can get out of the instrument if you physically prepare your body.

Playing the saxophone is physically demanding, and you need to prepare yourself for that.

The main function of a warmup is to get your mind and body connected so you can make music efficiently.

To read more, click here

If you're tired of your clarinet, saxophone, oboe or bassoon reeds dying out on you after only a couple of weeks, you need to listen to my recent interview with John Mackey from Reedjuvinate. (make BAM link)

What is Reedjuvinate?

Reedjuvinate is a reed storage system that is cleverly designed to allow your woodwind reeds to last a long time AND prevent them from being infested with germs and mold.

John Mackey is a MD and biomedical researcher, a passionate jazz musician, and lead alto sax player in the River City Big Band in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
He was getting tired of spending so much money on reeds. Synthetic reeds didn't work as well for him. He got frustrated enough to do research to find a solution that would make reeds last longer.

He created Reedjuvinate around 3 years ago to help Saxophone and Clarinet players have "Plug and Play," instantly-playable reeds.

These reeds would last longer because they weren't subjected to the taxing wet-dry cycle that physically breaks down cane reeds.

When he was first designing and researching to create the product, he used pure, re-agent grade ethanol. It helped keep the reeds hydrated and germ-free. But John wanted a way for kids to use the product safely, so he did more research and found that Original Listerine did the job just as well due to its own 30% ethanol content.

To get your limited time 10% discount on your next ReedJuvinate offer, click here...


Struggling with jazz improvisation?

I recently had the honor and pleasure of chatting with Tim Price, world-renowned saxophonist, about how to teach authentic jazz language.

I had been reading Tim's article's on the Saxophone Journal for many years now, and had gotten to know him over the last 2 years while we met up at NAMM in Anaheim.

We had a terrific conversation, that I split into 2 parts:

Part 1 - we talk about how to start beginner Jazz improvisers, in a private and school setting, and strategies to keep the jazz language authentic.

(You can listen to Part 1 of the interview by clicking here.)

Part 2 - (coming soon) - we talk about helping beginner and intermediate saxophone players with tone quality and technique (and other topics).

Tim Price

Tim Price - Bio pic 2016

Here's Tim's Bio, (originally appearing on the D'Addario page here.):

In the last few years, Rico artist Tim Price  has had the extreme good fortune to have bands of his own featuring world class stellar players like Lew Tabackin, Bennie Green,Carl Allen, Ray Drummond, Allison Miller and Bill Goodwin.

Tim's travels have also taken him to New Orleans in September 2004 for a very special "Coltrane Tribute" with Tony Dagradi, and superstar drummer Stanton Moore from the jam band "Galactic". The Coltrane event as well as the club "Snug Harbor" was SRO !!
As were gigs that Tim played in the East Coast area with his bands with Rachel Z and drummer Bill Goodwin. At this point in time Tim's career couldn't be more positive, things are moving in a very positive way.

Tim Price is a proud Rico artist, performer and educator worldwide. A Berklee College of Music graduate and one of the country's foremost woodwind artists.

His stature at the North Sea Jazz Festival couldn' t have been more prestigous with a backup band of Bennie Green on piano, Ray Drummond on bass, and Carl Allen on drums. Tim's special guest that night at the end of his set was Dutch superstar tenor titan Hans Dulfer.Tim also has been a special guest with Grateful Dead member Bob Weir's RATDOG.

Tim has played with musicians like Bennie Green, Hans Dulfer, Lew Tabackin, Ray Drummond, Jon Mayer, Greg Bandy, James Gadson, Don Patterson, Billy James, Major Holley, Alan Dawson, Bill Doggett, Jack Mc Duff, Cecil Payne, Richie Cole, Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones, Gary Burton, Doc Severinson, Dr. John, Lew Tabackin, Charlie Mariano, Shirly Scott, Trudy Pitts, Bootsie Barnes, Sonny Stitt, Ernie Krivda, Rachel Z, Larry Young,George Young, Sweet Sue Terry, Greg Piccolo & Super Heavy Juice and Claire Daly.

He's spent years in the trenches with the big bands of Tommy Dorsey under both Murray McEachern and later Buddy Morrow, Cab Calloway and Harry James. He's also been part of Ernie Krivda's Fat Tuesday big band. Tim's bassoon has been a part of the Lawrence "Butch" Morris Orchestra at the 2004 "Vision Festival" in New York City.

He loved the soul and rock gigs he's played with Aretha Franklin, Billy Paul, The 5th Dimension, Lou Christie, Lloyd Price, Four Tops,Ike Turner, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others from that idiom.

Some people might find this facet interesting considering that when Tim left Berklee he went on the road playing the jazz organ bar circuit. Tim has played with every major organ player except Jimmy Smith. Tim feels that was a great proving ground for a young saxophone player and something that is really missing today- Those classic jazz bars in major cities and small industrial cities scattered through the United States. Playing jazz 6 nights a week in a environ that is a proving ground for your growth.

Mr. Price's writing on jazz and the saxophone appears regularly in the Saxophone Journal, he has been a featured writer for that publication for over 18 years.

In addition to being the recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the arts fellowship jazz grant five times!!
His saxophone books are published through Hal Leonard. He currently writes workshop-ma ster class articles for SONIC , the innovative German / Dutch music magazine.

He has authored three books on sax playing, and his blogs for Rico Reeds on Facebook and Myspace appear every Monday.

His original tunes have been recorded by Houston Person,Supersax tenor player Jay Migliori and his composition " Twins Of Spirit" has been recorded by the Sean Kennedy 5 featuring Bob Mintzer.

Tim played the NORTH SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL in Holland in July 2002, as well as many radio shows and clubs with Dutch tenor sax player Hans Dulfer. Other festivals include Newport Festivals,Vision Festival in NYC, Tri-C Jazz Festival, Berks Jazz Festival ,Cape May Jazz Festival & Boston Globe Jazz Festival.

Tim performs and does clinics throughout the world. He teaches private instruction in New York City and from his home studio in Reading, Pennsylvania.Professor Price teaches jazz saxophone at the New School University in New York City. He is also a saxophone instructor at Long Island University / Brooklyn campus.His teaching on Skype has become a worldwide trend setter. You can reach him on Skype here:

One of the Rico's most requested clinicians, Mr. Price travels worldwide performing with and teaching student and professional jazz ensembles.

You can contact Tim at


Tim's Advice on Jazz Improvisation

Tim studied Jazz BA (Before Aebersold!).

The way he learned was via Call and Response, which is what he suggests for teachers.

The difference is that when he uses this technique, he's not just listening for correct notes; he's listening for the language - the swing, groove, feel, etc...


You can read more by clicking here ...

What makes kids want to practice their instrument?

Some kids want to play a really cool song they heard on the radio.

Some kids need an outlet to express themselves.

Some want to be hanging out with their friends, who also take instruments.

Others may have found something they can relate to and identify with, and may want to become musicians when they get older. For these young musicians, getting them to practice on a regular basis is easy because they are self-motivated.

But for the majority of parents and music teachers, getting kids to practice is like pulling teeth - it's a painful, daily fight.

Many parents and teachers use incentives like stickers, candy, and music books to "persuade" kids to practice, in the hopes that once a child starts to see (and hear) progress, they will be more self-motivated to practice.

Parents can relate this to trying to get their kids to eat vegetables. They try to hide the vegetables in some kind of creative concoction so their kids will get the valuable nutrients in the vegetables and also start to realize that vegetables can taste good too.

Lots of times, incentives work. If used right, after a while, kids don't need the prizes to lure them into the practice room because they have established a set routine of practicing and are getting results. The teacher has hopefully established a strong foundation of how and what to practice so the beginning musician can work on their goals in a structured fashion.

Sometimes incentives don't work - the young musician may not understand a key concept about producing sound, which makes them embarrassed to play in class and afraid to ask the teacher for help. They eventually drop out because they feel it's too hard to play an instrument.

But perhaps if there was extra guidance from the teacher throughout the week, delivered in such a way that the child could understand...

Ideas to inspire the youngest musicians

MyMuCo App

I had the opportunity to interview Ian Green, one of the founders of the MyMuCo app, along with one of his students and her mom. (You can read about my first interview with Ian here, where he introduced and explained the app.)

Ian is a musician, teacher, father and entrepreneur who graduated from Queen's University and the Royal Conservatory of Music at Toronto. He is a Registered Music teacher, and has a thriving studio at 

MyMuCo Inc. is a technology start-up based near Toronto, Canada, with a mission to strengthen the global community of musicians, to nurture new musical talent and to provide more resources to musicians with which they may pursue their passions.

Ian has been working with the Pridmore family for a while now and has noticed tremendous progress with Elyse once she started using the MyMuCo app.

In fact, the makers of the app did some research and have found that students using the app have made over 30% more progress than those not using MyMuCo.

What's happening here? Is this the answer to motivating students to practice?

For Elyse, it certainly is.

In my latest interview, found here, Elyse tells us in her own words what motivates her to practice.

She also gives teachers some tips to help their students.

How can the MyMuCo app help teachers and parents?

To read more, and to get access to a very special limited time offer, click here..

Being a music educator and a performing musician, I am alarmed at the constant news of music programs being cut, music teachers being laid off and students not getting the best music education available.

The pressure for school districts to "make the grade" on Common Core tests has directly affected music and arts programs not only for current students, but for this generation.

There is one solution that can help save a program and keep music in schools...

Marketing for Music Educators

When we hear the term, marketing, we have this gut reaction of "slimy", "salesy", "sleazy", etc.  We just want to educate our students and not have to deal with becoming a salesperson...

The truth is that you already are a salesperson! ???

Yes! Every time you step on that podium, or bring your performing group to a community event or competition, you are promoting, or selling, your program.

This is especially true with your community events. There could be an important political or public figure in the audience that can become a great future supporter of your program.

By running a great program, you are already marketing and selling music education to your community.

But, there are more strategies you can pursue that can have a huge impact for you and your program.


This is where Kathleen Heuer comes in.


Read more by clicking here.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathleen Heuer, of Kathleen, Marketing Music.Education, and Broken Chord, for my radio show on the BAM Network.

Kathleen is a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant, has her own Podcast entitled,....., and is the Founder of the Norwin Area Arts Council. She was the former Communications and Social Media Coordinator for the National Association of Music Parents.

I "met" Kathleen when I reached out to the National Association of Music Parents a few years ago. Since then, we have been in digital contact, promoting each others' sites and services. Kathleen has been a strong advocate for music education in schools and helping music teachers and music parents spread the word about the important benefits of music education. She consistently promotes great music ed content that she finds on the internet, and has services to help music teachers promote their programs.

Common Core; Is it Good or Bad for Music Education?

Kathleen and I spoke about the effects Common Core has had on music education. Since New York was practically one of the "test" states for for the roll-out of this program, I have first-hand knowledge of the effects it is having on our programs.

Although we both agree the idea of  Common Core is very good, we also agreed that the implementation was poor, and in many cases, music and arts programs have been the ones to suffer.

Some programs have seen a severe decline in enrollment due to ....


Read the rest oif the article by clicking here...

MyMuCo; a new Music Practice App

By DSchwartz, 2015-03-13

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a tweet (@MyMuCo) that talked about helping kids be more engaged in music practice.

As a teacher myself, of course I was interested, so I checked out the website.

The site,, is very friendly and has a video that explains the product. There are also posted reviews from respected publications on the home page.

The app has the following features:

  • Lesson Planning
  • Practice Planning
  • Syncing with students
  • Student profile
  • Teacher calendar
  • Student dashboard
  • Teacher feedback
  • Lesson library

I had the opportunity to interview Victoria Kuta and Ian Green from MyMuCo for my BAM Radio Network show, The Music Teacher's Resource Guide. Listen to the interview here, and read the summary from the interview below.

MyMuCo; a new Music Practice App





MyMuCo Inc. is a technology start up based near Toronto, Canada with a mission to strengthen the global community of musicians, to nurture new musical talent and to provide more resources to musicians with which they may pursue their passions.

The premise behind this resource is that kids need a community to help them accomplish goals. By involving parents and teachers in an engaging app, a musical community is born for that child, and practicing is not only fun, but there's also accountability.

Their mission statement is: “Inspiration for Kids, efficiency for teachers”

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Victoria Kuta and Ian Green about this app.  Ian is one of the co-founders of the app, and Victoria is in charge of sales and marketing.


(Read more of this article here...)



New subscribers to my site will receive a FREE 4 month subscription to the MyMuCo Teacher App! This entitles the teacher and 5 students to sign up and try out this great resource.

This offer goes away after May 15, 2015!!!

Sign up by clicking on this special link.


Are you feeling less motivated to teach because your enrollment numbers are dropping?

Are fewer and fewer students attending lessons because they don't want to miss (or are not allowed to miss) Common Core classes?

Do you wonder if  you can pull off the next concert with less rehearsals than ever before?

Common Core has brought fundamental change to the way we teach and the way children learn. Some feel it is better, some worse, but either way, it appears to be here to stay.

How are you adapting to Common Core?


Dr. Peter BoonshaftDr. Peter Boonshaft

I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Peter Boonshaft for my radio show on the BAM Radio Network. He took time out of his extremely busy schedule to chat about this very important topic.

The following question has been on my mind for awhile, as I have spoken with many music teachers and witnessed many changes that have not been favorable to music education.

What suggestions do you have for motivating music teachers in the Age of Common Core?

"This is the set of cards I have been dealt, so how am I going to play them the best way I can so every child succeeds as best as possible?”

For some teachers, music classes have been cut and/or students have been dropped to accommodate more tutoring in Common Core classes. Some are being told to teach Common Core subjects within major ensemble rehearsal times. This has led some teachers to lose motivation to teach, and others to outright leave the field.

Others have been able to form partnerships with general education teachers to bring music and Common Core subjects to both areas of the student's education.

As teachers, we have 2 choices: we can continue to "fight" Common Core, or we can embrace it and see how we can use it to help our students learn better.


To read more, click here.





Why were the National Arts Standards updated?

Are they part of Common Core?

How do I implement them into my program?

In the second part of my interview with Dr. David Gaines, President of NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association), we covered these questions about the update to the National Arts Standards and more. (You can catch the first part of my interview with Dr. Gaines here.)

David Gaines headshotThe New National Arts Standards, as explained by Dr. David Gaines.

The New National Arts Standards

The driving force behind the update to the Arts Standards was a coalition of music, art, theatre, dance, visual media teachers called the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). This group worked for 2 years to develop and create the new standards, that were released June 4, 2014. It has been 20 years since NafMe (then MENC) developed national standards, and it was time to acknowledge the use of technology as well as different approaches to teaching.


You can read more by clicking here.

Are you curious about what goes into judging a Solo Festival?

Do you wonder how adjudicating can benefit you?

How could it possibly help your own students?

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. David Gaines, President of NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) for my radio show on the BAM Radio network. Dr. Gaines has extensive experience teaching in public schools, conducting wind ensembles, being actively involved in NYSSMA, and serving as an administrator and Curriculum Associate in his district in Massapequa, NY.

We talked at length about the importance of becoming an adjudicator and how it can benefit not only the students who participate in NYSSMA, but also your own students, whether they are in private or public schools.

In fact, Dr. Gaines.......  

Read more here.....

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a man who created a website and an app for beginning instrumentalists.

I checked out his website, and thought this would be fun and engaging for beginning musicians.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amit Gur, BandPad websites and app creator for my Radio Show on the BAM Radio Network. Here's some of what we talked about....


A little background

Amit holds a BA in computer science from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and an MA in conducting from Bar Ilan University, along with vast experience in teaching and conducting wind instruments all over Israel. In 2011, Gur published the "First Steps for Wind Instruments and Band” booklet series, and formed a social Community for Instrumental students, serving 150 schools in Israel.

Amit has been teaching beginning Band for the past 20 years. He has written many songs for his students in Israel. He noticed over the years that it's vital to make the first years of playing an instrument fun and exciting so that students enjoy music and continue to perform on their instruments.

What is BandPad?

BandPad innovates instrumental method books by acting as an interactive score....

To read the rest of this article click here.

Visit the BandPad website here.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Eugene Cantera, teacher and saxophonist at the Dallas School of Music, for my radio show on the BAM Radio Network. We were able to record 2 interviews; here's the second. (You can listen to the first one here.)

A little background info on Eugene and the Dallas School of Music :

Eugene Cantera is the Director of Marketing and Social Media for the Dallas School of Music, which was selected best music education service in North Texas by D Magazine and Dallas Child Magazine.

Eugene grew up in South Jersey, attended college at the Hartt School of Music in CT, and has been a partner at The Dallas School of Music for the past 20 years.  He is a co-founder of dlp Music Books, an avid music-ed blogger, and performs regularly in the Dallas area.

The folks at the Dallas School of Music and dlp Music Books are excited to announce a new program for saxophonists of all levels. “It’s an extension of our popular 1 Series for Reading Music and Jazz Improv” says Eugene Cantera of DSM, “A daily dose of saxophone yummy-ness that will hopefully intrigue and inspire you to get a little more sax in your life!”. ;)

There are currently over 18,000 members that subscribe to dlp blogs, the Kore and Jazz Books, and the 1 Series of emails. The DSM team is now turning their attention to instrument specific groups and have decided to begin with saxophone. “We know there are some great websites out there that have passionate teachers doing some fantastic work. We’d like to feature students, teachers, and enthusiasts alike and create a collaborative atmosphere where everyone can jump in as time allows. We’ll contribute some personal anecdotes and original dlp musiced content and then encourage folks to comment and share their thoughts, ideas, teaching and learning experiences... successes... and struggles as well”.

The new website that covers all things saxophone is:

In my second interview with Eugene, as all saxophonists do, we got into some “geek talk.” Here are some of the highlights. You can listen to the show here.

 Ligature Placement

Many sax and clarinet mouthpiece ligatures are placed with the screws or plates on the bottom side of the mouthpiece, pressing against the reed.

There have been many new styles of ligatures invented that do not follow that formula, and tighten against the mouthpiece at the top instead of the bottom. Others still tighten at the bottom, but do not cover a large area of the reed. The theory behind this is that it allows more of the reed to fully vibrate.

Mouthpieces and Saxes

Eugene and I talk briefly about mouthpieces. I currently use Theo Wanne’s Gaia metal mouthpiece for my Selmer Mark VI tenor sax, and Jody Jazz DV metal for my Selmer Mark VI alto sax. Eugene uses his 1981 plastic Meyer 6 on his Selmer Mark VI tenor sax.

The key to picking the right mouthpiece (and reeds) is....

Click here to read more of this article.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a link that advertised a new App to help students be more engaged when practicing.

I thought to myself, " Hmmmm... this is interesting. How are they going to do that?"

We all know that students are not practicing as much as when we were growing up (wow-that made me sound so old!), so what's so special about this thing that will change this downward trend?

So, I clicked on the link, and was brought to a site called Practicia. Practicia screen shot

"Cute name," I thought.

As I watched the intro video, and scrolled down, I got really excited.

No, not because I am such a geek (that's beside the point), but because I saw the huge potential in this App actually being effective in creating interest in practicing for students.

Practicia is an App that is a comprehensive practice management system. It allows teachers to give clear, multimedia practice instructions, and it allows students to accurately log their practice time and activities.

What does this App do?

When I spoke with Sam Rao, CEO and Co-founder, for my Radio show, he told me that this Cloud-based App can:

  • help teachers better understand how students are practicing at home
  • allow teachers to send instructions for assignments, including video instructions!
  • allow teachers to send practice instructions to their ensembles or sections of their ansembles
  • calculate how much each student is practicing, so the teacher can create reward systems
  • gamify the experience through incentives
  • allow teachers to connect with parents and students throughout the week via real time feeds
  • allow teachers to see when and how much each student is practicing
  • allow teachers to hear what the student is practicing
  • allow parents to see that their children are practicing


To read more of this article, click here....


dlp 1 Series for Saxophone


The folks  at the Dallas School of Music and dlp Music Booksare excited to announce a new program for saxophonists of all levels. “It’s an extension of our popular 1 Series for Reading Music and Jazz Improv” says Eugene Cantera of DSM, “A daily dose of saxophone yummy-ness that will hopefully intrigue and inspire you to get a little more sax in your life!”. ;)


There are currently over 18,000 members that subscribe to dlp blogs, the Kore and Jazz Books, and the 1 Seriesof emails. The DSM team is now turning their attention to instrument specific groups and have decided to begin with saxophone. “We know there are some great websites out there like Donna’s! that have passionate teachers doing some fantastic work. We’d like to feature students, teachers, and enthusiasts alike and create a collaborative atmosphere where everyone can jump in as time allows. We’ll contribute some personal anecdotes and original dlp musiced content and then encourage folks to comment and share their thoughts, ideas, teaching and learning experiences... successes... and struggles as well”.


The new program begins in August and it’s free to join. “We will begin by covering some basic concepts for the newbies but there will be something of interest for saxophonists of all levels right from the outset” says Cantera. “We’re really hoping to engage teachers and students and to create a sense that we’re all on this journey together.”



To read more, click here.......


Fun Summer Practice Tips, Part 2

By DSchwartz, 2014-07-22

Dog at Beach

My recent article on 3 Summer Practice Tips for Young Musicians got a huge response along with some really great ideas from fellow teachers throughout the country and even internationally. I wanted to showcase those ideas here, add a few more of my own and provide a special bonus video for you. (I couldn't resist this picture - it's too funny!)

1. Summer Music Camps 

Some ideas to keep in mind for summertime are camps that have music programs.  Your local school district, or even neighboring districts may have 7-8 week morning summer camps where students can choose a variety of classes in addition to getting group lessons and performing in an ensemble everyday. Often, there is a concert at the end of the term. I have had many students participate in my own school district's program with great results. In fact, many of these programs teach beginners their first notes and basic technique so that when they go to school in the fall they are able to join the more advanced groups.

As Emily W., Private Studio Teacher and Violinist with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and Stephen M., Minister of music at The First Baptist Church in America and Adjunct Faculty Rhode Island College,  have suggested, Summer music programs at colleges can provide opportunities to participate in group lessons, masterclasses, ensembles like orchestra, concert band, wind ensemble, as well as chamber groups like brass quintets, string quartets and wind quintets. There are programs for younger students to explore not only performance, but learn music theory and composition too. For more advanced students, there are usually auditions in the early Spring to get into some elite programs, such as those at Interlochen, New York State Summer School for the Arts (NYSSSA) and Tanglewood Institute.

Summer music camps can change your life. When I was younger, I had the honor of being accepted into NYSSSA and studying trumpet with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as performing in wind ensemble, brass quintet, and in the jazz ensemble. That experience changed the way I approached my own composing. The next year, I was accepted into the very first group of Young Composers at Tanglewood. That was also an incredible experience, as my music was performed by a brass quintet whose members are now performing as the world-renowned Empire Brass Quintet. I also got the opportunity to meet and observe Leonard Bernstein conducting the student orchestra. There are no words to describe that incredible experience!

Check out for great ideas and suggestions for researching these camps, along with suggestions for choosing the best camp for your needs. Also check out this guest post by Barbra Weidlein on my site and my podcast with Barbra on this very subject.

Jazz and Popular Music Camps

No longer just for adults, there are also summer jazz camps and programs for teens too. The world-renowned Jamey Aebersold jazz camp at the campus of the University of Louisville in Kentucky are week-long camps designed to pair people into small ensembles at their own playing level and help them learn to improvise through lots of performances, jam sessions, ear training, theory classes and listening to concerts with world-class jazz artists.

For those on the west coast, there's also the Jam Camp West, a 6 day camp for 10-15 year olds that explores a wide variety of music and has well-known music performance faculty.

Many local music stores, as well as School of Rock and from Bach to Rock and many others, also have summer music programs that culminate in a performance at the end of the term. Groups are formed based on playing ability and rehearsals and theory classes are held regularly.  This is a great experience to allow students to build their ear training skills, perform popular music that they like and perform with others outside of their school.

2. Explore Composing and Recording

Many times we only think about performing just classical music at music camps, but there are also courses that allow students to compose music, record and sequence music through computer technology programs such as GarageBand, Logic, ProTools, Finale and Sibelius. Places such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Georgia Tech, University of Maryland's FAME Music Technology Summer Camp, amongst many others.

Arrange Songs You Like

When I was in elementary school, there were some really great theme songs to TV shows (back when there were theme songs!). A close friend of mine said to me one day, "Donna, why don't you figure out the theme to Dynasty? It's got a great trumpet solo." So I did, and that started a lifetime of arranging music for my bands and for others.  Encouraging students to figure out their favorite songs by ear, and then write them down builds SO many skills, such as ear training, understanding harmonies, writing notation, understanding rhythms, etc. Even in the very beginning, just figuring out and writing the melodies to songs can be so beneficial and fun.  (By the way, if you want to learn how to do this and how I teach it, sign up for my website and get my article and video on "Learn Your Favorite Song in 3 Steps.")

After I finished Dynasty (I did it pretty quickly), my friend challenged me to write out the theme to Dallas as quickly as possible. I took the challenge, and did it in an hour, transcribed and all. I was a proud 11 year old!


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Photo Credit: Copyright: damedeeso / 123RF Stock Photo




Summer's finally here. Warm weather, vacations, summer camps, long days in the pool or at the beach... Who wants to practice their instrument?

For many Band and Orchestra Directors, the summertime is where their students stop practicing and lose some technical and reading skills that they have worked hard to attain. You can almost call it the "Summertime Blues." But with these three tips, students' interest, enjoyment, technique and reading can be maintained and even improved. Share these with your students and Music parents so that they can experience a creative summer.

1. Learn Tunes by ear

"Whether we are an adult or a young child, the main reason we all take an instrument is to play music."

Everyone has certain songs that they love and want to perform, whether for themselves or for friends and family. Once beginners learn how to play at least 5-6 notes with a good tone quality, good breath support and clear articulation on their instrument, they can play many simple folk songs, like Hot Cross Buns, Mary Had a Little Lamb, London Bridge, Oh Susanna, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jingle Bells, My Dreydl, Ode to Joy, Yankee Doodle and America.  The best way to learn these tunes is to first sing them (try to do this without the lyrics so that you can focus on the notes) many times until they are so clear in your head you can sing them back at any time you want. (We call this audiating, a term created by Dr. Edwin Gordon.) Figure out the key the song is in, use a fingering chart (if necessary), and work through each phrase of the song by ear. After you have figured many songs by ear, find the music for them. Compare what you played by ear with what you are reading. (If you want firsthand experience learning songs this way, and learning how to read music with understanding, check out my Online Video Lessons.)

For intermediate level musicians, try learning the Star Spangled Banner, Happy Birthday, Amazing Grace, Auld Lang Syne, Greensleeves, Reveille (for trumpeters), Haydn's Surprise Symphony, William Tell Overture, Offenbach's Can Can, and Bach's Minuet (originally in G). See how much of these tunes you can figure out by ear. At this point, you are probably reading music, so find the sheet music in method books or song books and compare what you figured out by ear with what you see on the page.

For advanced and also intermediate musicians, learn some of your favorite popular tunes. Try to learn these by ear also, and then afterwards either buy a songbook  or download the sheet music on sites like Sheet Music Direct. Try to purchase songbooks with a CD so you have background music to play along with. (If you have an app like iReal Pro, you can input the chords and the style of the song so you have background tracks.)  Having a CD can also help you check your rhythm reading.


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evaluation pic

Solo Festival Season just ended here in my area in NY this past week. Thousands of students prepared and performed classical and jazz pieces for judges all across the NY metro area. Each one of these students not only had to be prepared physically, but mentally as well.

Children, like adults, approach performance differently. Some look forward to it, some dread it, some can take it or leave it. What's really interesting is that you would think that the person dreading the situation would fare the worst, but that is not always the case.

There's one other factor that can determine success in performance that many people may not acknowledge out loud. The worth, or value of the result can have a huge effect on the preparation and the actual performance. What do I mean?

If a student desperately wants to get into All-State or the college of their dreams, the value of their result of their performance will be huge.  If another student is told they must participate in NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association's Solo Festival) even though they do not want to, the worth or value of that performance result is not high at all.  By attaching a significance to the result, there's not only an increase in the level of motivation but also the level of pressure one puts upon themselves. If done right and with proper guidance, this can lead to superior performances. If the event is approached with worry and misplaced fear, the results can be devastating.

My own personal experiences with preparing for NYSSMA were interesting. I was a top student in school, as well as in music. As is common with top students, I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to succeed. I would be thinking about and preparing NYSSMA solos a year in advance (in fact as soon as I was done with that year's solo performance). I had to make All County, I had to make All-State. I put a tremendous value on the result of my performances because nothing was more important than getting into those elite groups. It was all or nothing for me. If I didn't make it into those groups, I was devastated, my year was ruined. My preparation and my performances were approached with a huge amount of worry and fear.

But was all that self-imposed pressure healthy? Some can argue yes, while some would say no. Self-motivation is key for any successful performance, whether it's music, dance, sports or academics. If you are not intrinsically motivated, it will be difficult to achieve success on a regular basis because you will not feel the same level of happiness over the accomplishments you have made because the level or worth or value was not as high for you.

But when you add the fear of failure into how the event is approached, the performance is not about making music anymore. It's solely about achieving a status where the end result is sometimes out of your control. You can get 100 in an All-State audition and still not make it. Then the important questions are: "Did you enjoy the process of learning that difficult piece of music? Did you learn and grow from all that hard work?"

Luckily for me, I did very well in almost all of my performances. I prepared very well, and had good guidance. But my perceived value of the end result of these performances made me place unrealistic demands on every practice session. When you are playing a brass instrument, this can be dangerous because brass embouchres (facial muscle settings) take longer to develop than woodwinds. It's very easy to play a brass instrument with inefficient technique for quite a while until the point is reached where the embouchre can stop functioning properly. There's many famous stories of trumpet players who have had to take time off from performing to fix these types of problems. (i.e. Dave Douglas, John McNeil, Freddie Hubbard)  In time, my inefficient embouchre gave out, and my performances suffered. The next steps were the most crucial as I had to learn to deal with what I perceived as failure.

Is failure such a bad thing?

To read more, click here


If you liked this podcast and article, please Share it on your social networks, and sign up for my site to get updates and my free video and articles on Learn to Play Your Favorite Song in 3 Steps, and How Did Adele, Beyonce and Members of KISS Knock Out Their Stage Fright?

If you want to give your students an edge in performing at Solo Festivals, you can pre-order my program, Solo Festivals: Know What They Want, Know What to Expect and Nail That Audition!



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Developing Student Leadership, Part 2

By DSchwartz, 2014-06-03


I recently had the honor to interview Tim Lautzenheiser, renowned music educator and motivational speaker, for my radio show on the BAM Radio Network.  For background information on Tim, click here.

Qualities of a Great Leader

To be a great leader, one has to accept responsibility for one's actions, as well as the actions of others. Being passive is not an option. In order to achieve a goal, one must take massive action. Just wishing it will not make it happen. That being said, the action has to be planned and structured. For example, if the goal is to have a clean band room, jobs need to be defined, deadlines set, expectations need to be specific and clear and praise/rewards need to be timely.

It's human to blame others when things go wrong; we all do it. "Every time we blame somebody, we give up the power to change it. Embrace the responsibility, embrace the power to respond. When you blame people, all you do is get better at blaming." (Tim Lautzenheiser) Be a Solution-Driven Leader. This is a person who recognizes the problem, does not get involved in the "blame game", but rather looks for solutions and carries them out, with or without delegating tasks.

Great leaders are role models. In fact, every teacher is a role model, whether they want to be or not, even when they are not in the spotlight. Students are always watching to see how teachers/adults handle situations. If students see you over-reacting to a situation, they will learn that your reaction is acceptable behavior. Students learn not just what we teach, but HOW we teach. Be the role model you would want to emulate.


To read the rest of this article, visit my site here.

Developing Student Leadership

By DSchwartz, 2014-05-07

I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Tim Lautzenheiser, teacher, author and motivational speaker for my radio show on the BAM Radio Network. Not only is he the nicest person to talk to, but he is incredibly knowledgeable about the subject of leadership and motivation. We had a great conversation about some of the big take-aways from Tim's new book, Classic Leadership; A Curriculum for the Development of Student Leaders.

First, a little background on Tim Lautzenheiser:


Tim has successfully directed college bands for 10 years at Northern Michigan, University of Missouri, and New Mexico State University. In 1981, he created Attitude Concepts for Today Inc., an organization focusing on the area of positive attitude training and effective leadership training. He is currently Vice President for Conn-Selmer, Inc., and continues to speak on the importance of arts education for every child.

His books, produced by GIA Publications, Inc., continue to be best sellers in the educational world. He is co-author of the popular band method, Essential Elements. Tim is the senior educational consultant for Hal Leonard, Inc., and is the Senior Educational Advisor for Music for All, and NAMM (International Music Products Association).

Classic Leadership; A Curriculum for the Development of Student Leaders

Tim's newest book is a 12 week curriculum, designed to help high school students become more effective leaders.

To read the rest of this blog, click here.

Planning to Visit Music Schools?

By DSchwartz, 2014-04-27

USC Thornton campus

This timely articel gives tips and questions to ask before and during college visits to music schools.  Being prepared and asking the right questions will help make your choice easier and a better fit for you.

Planning to Visit Music Schools?

by Barbra Weidlein,

Whether you're a music teacher or parent of a music student, it's a good idea to urge prospective music majors to learn everything possible about the music schools they're interested in before they visit them. Resources like are designed to provide much-needed insight and support.

Students will get much more out of their college visits if they spend the time beforehand investigating majors offered, faculty, tuition etc. and come up with questions that show they've done their research. Students will be seen as serious prospects, which will work in their favor if they apply.

Considerations before ever leaving home:

1. Do the schools offer what students want to study?

This may sound like a no-brainer, but there are many students who spend time and money to visit music schools several states away from home only to find that they don't actually offer the field of music they really want to major in. Taking the time to investigate majors thoroughly before ever leaving home is essential.

2. Will faculty, administrators, and students be available to talk with?

It's essential to contact the music schools or departments before planning a trip. Look at their academic calendars online to make sure they’re not on spring or fall break, in finals, or celebrating graduation day.

Faculty who are not teaching for their school's summer music program typically take off during the summer to teach elsewhere. In fact, most everyone in the department may be on vacation when prospective students arrive. This happened to my own son when he visited a music school that was high on his list of prospects, and he ended up with little more than a chance to see the campus and take a generic tour.

3. Are lessons available?

By getting a lesson, students will learn a lot about faculty they may spend the better part of four years with. Getting a feel for the chemistry between student and faculty is important. Contacting faculty in advance, to see if they'll be around, is highly encouraged. If they don't respond, waiting a week and recontacting them is recommended.

What to look for once students are on campus:

To read the rest of this article, click here!

Long Lake Camp for the Arts

(photo: Long Lake Camp for the Arts) 

Today's blog is a special guest post just in time for planning musical activities for the summer. Music camps and programs can be a great vehicle for learning and further enjoyment of music. Enjoy!

Summer Music Camps & Programs: Why, Where, and How

by Barbra Weidlein,

Is your child or student considering majoring in music in college? Or do they love music so much that the idea of spending the summer away from it is hard to imagine?

Summer music camps and programs are ideal for both types of students. By summer’s end, some who've always assumed they'd have a career in music will realize that music will always be an important part of their lives but not what they want to focus on in college and beyond. Others will discover a deeper passion for music as well as new areas or instruments to explore. Either way, anyone who loves music will be well-served by immersing themselves in summer music programs.

6 Benefits of Summer Music Camps and Programs

  1. Audition practice and support - Students approaching their senior year get a head start on preparing for pre-screens and auditions. Many summer music programs are staffed by faculty who will listen to their recorded and live auditions. This is a great time to get feedback and start thinking about how to present oneself to a prospective music school.
  2. Freedom from other distractions - Summer music programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to dive into one's passion without the confines of school. No tests to study for, none of the typical demands and distractions of the school year to pull students away from what they love.
  3. Pursuing music AND having fun - Whether attending a week-long program or one that lasts for six, students get to meet new people, jam, perform, develop a sense of community, and, depending on the program, participate in other fun, non-music- related activities.
  4. Exploring new areas of music - Summer is the perfect time to learn about new instruments, genres, and fields of music. Program faculty are more relaxed than during the school year, and have time to mentor students and develop supportive relationships that may last long after the program ends.
  5. Enhanced performance - By the time school starts, students who’ve attended summer music programs typically find their music has taken a giant leap forward.
  6. Practicing takes on a whole new meaning - Students learn how to practice longer and more efficiently. New practicing habits tend to be long-lasting.

Types of Programs and Benefits of Each

  1. Performing arts camps  -  For students who want a well-rounded summer, performing arts camps provide music lessons, practice, and performance opportunities. They also offer traditional camp activities, including water and land sports, hiking, overnight excursions, crafts, etc.
  2. Programs on college campuses - These tend to be more serious music programs and require an audition for acceptance. They offer a chance to experience what life would be like at particular music schools. Instructors are often faculty members, so it's a great chance to see what it would be like to be in their studios and classrooms. It's also an opportunity for them to get to know prospective college students. Students live in dorms, get familiar with the campus, and participate in group activities and performances that build connections and facilitate new friendships.
  3. Instrument and genre-focused programs - Some programs are specific to an instrument, including voice, or to a genre, such as jazz, marching band, or chamber music. These programs are typically audition-based. They may take place on college campuses, thus offering all the benefits described above in #2. These programs offer immersion in one's area of musical focus. Connections made with faculty and other students in these types of programs often last long after the college years.
  4. Programs associated with music festivals - These are intensive programs for advanced student musicians. Often housed on college campuses, students who attend these programs meet faculty from all over the country and beyond in addition to a select group of other students.


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HC Practiceathon pic

For the past few articles, I have been addressing ways to motivate students to practice their instruments more at home. Many fellow teachers have shared some terrific ideas, advice and techniques. I wanted to highlight one in particular this week.

A good friend and colleague of mine, Peggy Rakas, started a Practice-a-thon in 2006 to help raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Her initial efforts raised $20,000, and was matched by the Dave Matthews Band! She has continued coordinating the yearly fundraiser ever since, with an average of $30,000/year being raised for the local Harry Chapin Food Bank. She is currently also the New York State Coordinator of the Practice-a-Thon.

With local governments giving less funding to schools, and school districts cutting back on music and arts programs, music teachers may want to consider running your own Practice-a-Thon. This is not only a great idea for music teachers, but also for PTA parents and Booster Clubs to think about.

What is a Practice-a-Thon?

The idea is simple: each student who participates gets people to sponsor every minute that they practice their instrument for a particular month. (Since March is Music in Our Schools Month, the schools on Long Island tend to run their Practice-a-Thons at that time.) Usually, people pledge a penny a minute, or 5 -10 cents for each minute. The student records their practice minutes every day on a practice log, and tallies the number of minutes practiced each week and then for the entire month. The student multiplies the final total minutes practiced by the monetary amount pledged by each sponsor. The sponsor writes out a check to the local charity for the final amount. The teacher collects the checks and sends them to the charity.


Click on the following link to read the rest of this article:


Action Steps:

1. If you are interested in holding your own Practice-a-thon, you can get ideas for creating your own student and teacher packets at this link:

2. If you liked this article, sign up for my website, where you can get my free article and video on Three Steps to Learning Your Favorite Song.

My last blog, “Are We Stressing Out Today’s Kids With So Many After-School Activities” generated a lot of great discussion and comments. I want to expand on this discussion with some tips I have used and also learned from a lot of the comments received.

Many readers mentioned that we are in a sense “competing” with sports, dance, art, etc. A colleague of mine (name) made a great point: she said that kids show up to sports practice or ballet and do the work there. They are usually not expected to go home and work more (unless they are going to be Olympic athletes). So there’s this expectation that students will learn whatever they need during their music lesson and not need to put extra time in at home. This is reinforced at home because as music programs get taken out of schools, less people are exposed to performance programs, and do not know what is involved with creating music.

What can we do?

Here’s some ideas that I have used or have heard other well-known teachers implement. Some of these ideas will take time, but are worth it in the long run…

  1. Get to know each of your students. This is a tall order, but showing interest in your students’ lives builds trust.  When you bring the conversation outside of music, it shows you are interested in more than one aspect of who they are.  It shows you are about them as people. This can be as simple as noticing and talking about a special sticker on a student’s folder to complementing them on an accomplishment in another subject or sport.
  2. A great tip I heard from a colleague (Mickey F.) was this: He tells his students making mistakes is fine, but make NEW mistakes! He doesn’t want to hear the same OLD mistakes over and over. To reinforce this, he uses different colored pencils to show them that they made an old mistake and he doesn’t want to hear that mistake again.
  3. If the student keeps coming up with the excuse that they don’t have time, and they are of elementary school age, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact the parent via email or phone to find out more about the situation. I would explain that their child is falling behind in their learning and try to come up with a practice plan with that parent.


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Donna Schwartz
About Donna Schwartz

Donna Schwartz is a public school Band Director, General Music teacher, Jazz Band

Director, Private Teacher and Professional Musician with over 26 years experience.

She was a Jenkins Award, PTA-recognized Teacher of the Year in 2008, and has

had countless students get accepted into All County, All New York State ensembles, as well as USDAN, and Pre-College divisions at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music.

She performs on saxophones in large theatres and festivals, and has performed with Vicci Martinez (Season One Finalist on the hit NBC Series, The Voice) Richie Cannata (saxophonist from Billy Joel's band) and Bobby Rondinelli (from Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath).

Donna has written guest articles for the Association of Music Parents, LIGHT, Practical Home Schooling, the Zoen Network, DANSR and SBO (School Band and Orchestra) Magazine. Her website, has videos and articles for solutions to common performance problems, and she offers Online Video Lessons for beginning musicians.

(The Podcast theme song was composed and arranged by Donna Schwartz.)

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