6 Benefits of Music Lessons

By Angela Kwan 

Between soccer and scouts, your school-age kid's schedule is loaded with fun activities. If you're on the fence about adding music classes to the list, take note of the benefits that come with signing your little one up for violin or piano lessons. Maybe she won't be the next Beethoven, but she may have an easier time learning math, practicing good manners (including patience!), and becoming a team player. Read on to learn more about the benefits of music education.

It improves academic skills.

Music and math are highly intertwined. By understanding beat, rhythm, and scales, children are learning how to divide, create fractions, and recognize patterns. It seems that music wires a child's brain to help him better understand other areas of math, says Lynn Kleiner, founder of Music Rhapsody in Redondo Beach, CA. As kids get older, they'll start reciting songs, calling on their short-term memory and eventually their long-term memory. Using a mnemonic device to do this is a method that can later be applied to other memory skills, says Mary Larew, Suzuki violin teacher at the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, Connecticut. Musical instrument classes also introduce young children to basic physics. For instance, plucking the strings on a guitar or violin teaches children about harmonic and sympathetic vibrations. Even non-string instruments, such as drums and the vibraphone, give big kids the opportunity to explore these scientific principles.

It develops physical skills.

Certain instruments, such as percussion, help children develop coordination and motor skills; they require movement of the hands, arms, and feet. This type of instrument is great for high-energy kids, says Kristen Regester, Early Childhood Program Manager at Sherwood Community Music School at Columbia College Chicago. String and keyboard instruments, like the violin and piano, demand different actions from your right and left hands simultaneously. "It's like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time," Regester says. Instruments not only help develop ambidexterity, but they can also encourage children to become comfortable in naturally uncomfortable positions. Enhancing coordination and perfecting timing can prepare children for other hobbies, like dance and sports.

It cultivates social skills.

Group classes require peer interaction and communication, which encourage teamwork, as children must collaborate to create a crescendo or an accelerando. If a child is playing his instrument too loudly or speeding up too quickly, he'll need to adjust. It's important for children to know and understand their individual part in a larger ensemble, Regester says. Music Rhapsody offers general music education classes, in which teachers split students into groups and assign each child a task. Whether a team is responsible for choosing instruments or creating a melody, students work toward a common goal. "These are the kinds of experiences we have in society," Kleiner says. "We need more group interaction and problem solving."

It refines discipline and patience.

Learning an instrument teaches children about delayed gratification. The violin, for example, has a steep learning curve. Before you can make a single sound, you must first learn how to hold the violin, how to hold the bow, and where to place your feet, Larew says. Playing an instrument teaches kids to persevere through hours, months, and sometimes years of practice before they reach specific goals, such as performing with a band or memorizing a solo piece. "Private lessons and practicing at home require a very focused kind of attention for even 10 minutes at a time," Larew says. Group lessons, in which students learn to play the same instruments in an ensemble, also improve patience, as children must wait their turn to play individually. And in waiting for their turns and listening to their classmates play, kids learn to show their peers respect, to sit still and be quiet for designated periods of time, and to be attentive.

It boosts self-esteem.

Lessons offer a forum where children can learn to accept and give constructive criticism. Turning negative feedback into positive change helps build self-confidence, Regester says. Group lessons, in particular, may help children understand that nobody, including themselves or their peers, is perfect, and that everyone has room for improvement. "Presenting yourself in public is an important skill whether you become a professional musician or not," Larew says. This skill is easily transferrable to public speaking, she adds. And, of course, once a child is advanced enough, she'll possess musical skills that will help her stand out.

It introduces children to other cultures.

By learning about and playing a variety of instruments, kids can discover how music plays a critical role in other cultures. For instance, bongos and timbales may introduce children to African and Cuban styles of music. Although the modern-day violin has roots in Italy, learning to play it exposes children to classical music popularized by German and Austrian musicians. Versatile instruments, such as the violin and piano, can accompany a wide repertoire of styles, including classical and jazz (which originated in the American South). It's important to familiarize children with other cultures at a young age because this fosters open-mindedness about worlds and traditions beyond the ones they know.

What to Consider When Selecting an Instrument

Ultimately, the instrument you and your child choose should depend on a number of factors. Here's a list of questions to consider before bringing home a new music maker:

  • Is your child excited about the instrument? Does she like the way it sounds and feels? Some music schools offer a "petting zoo" that introduces kids to multiple instruments.
  • Is the instrument too challenging or is it not challenging enough (for both you and your child)?
  • Does your child's temperament match the instrument?
  • Can you afford the instrument and the maintenance that comes with it?
  • As a parent, do you like the sound enough to listen to your child practice it for hours at home?
  • Is your child specifically interested in a particular music style? If so, factor that into your instrument choice, as some specifically cater to certain styles. For instance, a violin player will have a hard time fitting in a jazz ensemble.

Experts don't always agree on which instruments are best for big kids to learn, but many music teachers do agree that it's hard to go wrong with the piano, percussion (like the drum or xylophone), recorder, guitar, or violin.

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

Source: http://www.parents.com/kids/development/intellectual/benefits-of-music-lessons/

Steelpan Classes

I have a fantastic time instructing the kids & youth on Saturdays. Here is some info for anyone, including adults, who are looking to try something new and have fun!

Black History Month Family Fun Day!

Today I had a FANTASTIC time at DeSantos Martial Arts Studio for a Black History Month Family Fun Day for LGBTQ families with kids of colour & allies. There was story telling, yoga & martial arts demonstations, a dance, djembe and steelpan workshop. I love introducing the steelpan to children especially for the first time. #FamilyFunDay

Reel World Film Festival

ReelWorld Announces Markham Films to be Screened on March 8, 2015

Walk For Memories

Team BeLEEve came out to participate in the annual fundraiser #WalkForMemories in support of Alzheimer's Disease. 
It is always a great day of entertainment, education as well as an opportunity to connect with people and hear their stories of how the disease has affected them.

  INFRARED CALYPSO TRIO was one of the best bands (my favourite) that performed during the morning walk. They had everyone dancing. I HAD to taking a "knock" on Lester's double tenor pan.   #WalkForMemories   #InfraRedCalypsoBand     #NeverTooEarlyForPan

INFRARED CALYPSO TRIO was one of the best bands (my favourite) that performed during the morning walk. They had everyone dancing. I HAD to taking a "knock" on Lester's double tenor pan. #WalkForMemories #InfraRedCalypsoBand #NeverTooEarlyForPan

Snowflakes On Steel 2015

Snowflakes On Steel's 18th Annual Steelband Showcase was exceptional! Toronto's top steelbands, community groups and singers came out and rocked the night away. Special awards were given to outstanding members of the Toronto steelpan community.
‪#‎SnowflakesOnSteel‬ # SFOS2015 ‪#‎PanArtsNetwork‬

Black Men Loving Movie Screening

 The YMCA of Greater Toronto’s will be having a Black History Month initiative - a screening of a Toronto-made short documentary entitled ‘Black Men Loving’. 

The documentary addresses stories of fatherhood, relationships and love in our community with a particular focus on breaking the stereotypes surrounding black fathers in the media. 

This free event will take place on the evening of Friday February 6th. After the screening of the film, we will be hosting a panel discussion followed by a performance by Dwayne Morgan and a steelpan performance by Suzette Vidale.

Toronto International Boat Show VIP Night

Special Preview Night of the Toronto International Boat Show. First time ever at the show "East Caribbean Village" Caribbean booths encompassing the islands of the Eastern Caribbean States (Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines). It was a night of fun and fundraising for charities such as Toronto Star Fresh Air Fund, Able Sailing - Access BOOM Program and CNIB Lake Joe Summer Camp.


Hollywood Glama NYE at Pearl King

Brought in the New Year with friends, family and my one and only steelpan at the elegant Pearl King in Toronto. It was a fantastic evening with delicious eats, tasty drinks and music that we danced into the new year.

Steelpan at Ripley's Aquarium

Another great weekend playing this illustrious instrument in the city of Toronto. This time I had the opportunity to perform at Ripley's Aquarium. This might be the closest I will be getting to tropical fish anytime soon.

Shaw Media was celebrating their annual holiday party for their employees and decided to host it at the Aquarium. Why not right?

There we fish everywhere, I saw a couple of sharks too but there was one tank that had me mesmerized. It was so serene, I felt a calmness come over me. 

The entertainment was a lot of fun. In addition to steelpan, I saw Moko Jumbie Jelly Fish (Stilt Walkers), a mermaid, and there was a caribbean dance troupe that did limbo and had the guests dancing as well. I need to go back to this place and really spend some time checking out the undersea life. 

When I retire I definitely want PAN!

Afternoon performance with the one and only talented Roger Gibbs.

We played for a gentleman who had given over 30 years in his industry and his company wanted to give him a memorable farewell. 

Pan | Parang | Comedy

Looking for a fantastic weekend? Make sure you check out The Christmas Classic!

Pan lovers, if you haven't heard Trinidadian pannist Ken "Professor" Philmore perform, NOW is the time to get on board!

Building community with parang music

By Dave Douglas

“If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” So Last Sunday, Joan Alexander and the Trinidad and Tobago Heritage Group took the advice of the old proverb.

They brought the tradition and culture of the Afro/Hispanic parang music of Trinidad & Tobago under one roof at the Metropolitan Centre in Scarborough.

“This is not a show this is a lime! It’s amazing that I started it in 2000 and it’s still going strong like Johnny Walker. On this journey, I have met so many people and made a lot of friends but tonight I have dedicated the event to Sylvia Rampersad who passed away two weeks ago. She was from my hometown, San Juan, in Trinidad,” said Alexander.

Over 700 supporters attended the 14th Annual Parang Lime and the lineup of artists included parranderos Los Pajaros, Los Amigos and La Petite Musicale. Other acts consisted of Soca Vibes, Dr. Jay, DJ Slim, SKF and Earl la Pierre Jr. and Jerry Jerome.

From serenal, aguinaldo to parang soca, the parranderos serenaded the audience to their heart’s content and had them up on their feet, dancing in front the stage and in every hallway. The evening’s message was all about peace on Earth and goodwill to everybody.

By the time headliner Willard ‘Lord Relator’ Harris came on stage, the crowd was primed and pumped by the superb performance of Los Pajaros, filling the room with their sweet music and high energy.

Accompanying himself on guitar, Relator opened his set with a medley that began with Nap Hepburn’s Listen Mama, the audience instantly joining in a sing-a-long. Further into the set, the vintage calypso troubadour touched on some of his most popular impersonations including Dean Martin and Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong, much to the delight of the audience clapping and cheering in appreciation.

At the evening climax, The Caribbean Camera had an opportunity to discuss with Relator what his thoughts were on the event and the growth of parang culture in Toronto.

“It was a good venture by Tantie Joan and sons and other members of her group and I like what I have seen here. If I have to compare what happens in Brooklyn, New York, I think Toronto is in front and in the right direction,” says Relator.

“The Trinidad & Tobago Heritage Group must get a plug, because their hearts are in the right place in trying to promote the culture and stay rooted in what is happening. This is an encouraging sign that I see and the support that I saw Saturday is very encouraging as well. The standard that I see here … Trinidad is not very far in front.”

Nearing the close of the evening, Joan Alexander said she felt good that people came out and had a grand time, even though it was cold. She also disclosed that 25% of the event proceeds go to Trinidad & Tobago Heritage Group, a small bursary goes to Oshawa Caribbean Cultural Group run by Lydia and Sylvester Francis, and the West End Club will also get a donation towards their scholarship fund.

Some of the funds along with the things that people have donated go to the island of Cuba; it’s all part of supporting Spanish heritage.

“First, I want to thank God because without him, there’s really no success. I want to thank everybody, all those that supported me over the years. Some have been coming for the 14 years since we’ve started in 2000 and for that I am very gratefull,” Alexander said.

“And, of course, this could not happen without the help of my children, Kolin (Soca Vibes), Nigel and Albert who is out in Alberta.”

Source: http://thecaribbeancamera.com/?p=3738

Photos by Peter Tang

St. Aiden's Variety Show

This Saturday I will be participating in St. Aiden's Variety Show. This event is a fundraiser to help support their youth group's service/learning trip to Nicaragua.

I had the opportunity to ask program facilitator Lucy Reid, some questions to learn more about this project:

Would you mind telling me a little bit more about the youth group? How long has it been in existence? 

At St Aidan's our youth don't have regular meetings, but we do periodic special activities with them, and the big one is the service/learning trip to Nicaragua.  In 2013 we did this for the first time (although I'd led other groups), so our 2015 trip will be our second venture. 

What is the mission/vision of the trip?

The goal is to help our youth learn about another culture and contribute in some way by serving the needs outlined by the host community. It isn't a mission in the traditional sense, because we're going to learn and serve, and we'll be receiving as much as we give.  

How many youth will be a part of the project this year? 

8 young people will be going aged 13 to 24. They will be accompanied by four adults.

Why was Nicaragua chosen for this project? 

We're going to Nicaragua because of the organization that works there, Companeros. It's based in Managua, though its founder is a Canadian. Its philosophy of fair trade service and learning based on respectful collaboration with local communities is a great model for teaching youth about cross-cultural partnerships and volunteer service.

What activities will the youth be a part of while there? 

After a couple of days of orientation we'll spend 5 days living on a coffee farm, working with the local people to improve their school building and community space. Poverty forces families to put their children to work picking coffee beans in the harvest season, but with decent school facilities they can at least continue their education and break the cycle of poverty.

How can someone get involved? 

The best way for people to get involved at this stage is by supporting our fundraising efforts!  We depend on a wide circle of support from those who help us with our fundraising, so that no potential youth participant is excluding for financial reasons. 

The Companeros website is at companeros.ca, and gives lots of details about the organization and the sorts of projects it facilitates. 

Thank you Lucy for helping us to understand more about this endeavor.