Posts in Music Education
Pete Jablonka: Family Support Story #10

Sometimes in life, you meet people under circumstances based on business, but life can turn all that around by putting all parties into situations where it becomes a matter of keeping one’s sanity as a team effort.  A karmic connection, where without each other being part of the mix, neither would have come out as unscathed. Friendship can endure over the years, even with sizable brakes occasionally as a factor. The biggest lesson learned: Generosity, Kindness, and openness are all transferable qualities.  It’s the essence of the idea “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and I think that a large part of my demeanor and the quality of my character was forged in my relationship with my friend, Pete.  

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Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

This is one of the most common questions that a songwriter will get from an eager student or an enthusiastic fan, or sometimes from a friend curiously pondering as they listen to a song... 

“When writing a song, which comes first?...The words? The melody? The chords?”

There is an easy answer to this...

There is NO set method that is universally practiced by everyone.

The songwriting process is vast in its ways of manifesting and inspiring itself into existence with the help of a skilled (or not always so skilled) conduit.  The conduit for this divine outpouring is YOU, and it’s Me, and it’s every being with the intention and desire to make it so.

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The Sarnas: Family Support Story #9

Years ago, I met a family while lingering around Guitar Center.  I overheard them talking about buying a guitar setup for their daughter, and so I offered my card and we had a conversation.  I started lessons with them shortly after meeting them and I worked with the daughter, Christine, for several years.  

I learned early on that her mother had cancer, and that she was battling for her life, so her mom’s health was often a topic that I would check in on week to week as we worked.  I would do my best to help distract her from the difficulty of the situation, while also flowing with the emotional shifts that were coming with the coping process. She was a very good student, and took to the guitar and singing with an open mind and great ease.

Sadly, sometime after we started lessons, her mom passed away.  It was a heavy time in their house, and I did all I could to help Christine and her father feel supported by my presence.

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Agreements for Collaborations

Have you ever found yourself in a collaboration or team effort spin-out? Have you ever walked away from a meeting with others and said, “What the hell just happened?” or “I don't like the way this turned out?” If you have, then likely you have either NO agreements in place, the agreements are not defined well enough, or the agreements were not honored. This is not good...but it is fixable and it is manageable, provided that all of the terms are stated, agreed upon, and written down. It’s really that easy. The hard part is nailing down everyone’s true needs, desires, and expectations. In this blog we will explore this topic.

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The Vawters: Family Support Story #8

I first met the Vawters while leading a drum circle for the Freehold Special Scouts troop 454, where they earned the music merit badge. 

The gig had resulted from a referral I had received from a woman I met at a different special needs drumming event that her child attends.  So it was a nice little connection.

I met the father, Jamie Vawter and we talked about having me at his home to do private lessons and drumming for his family, which included his elderly mother, a delightful woman I might add, and his son Zach, who is 20 years old with low-verbal Autism.

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How To Travel Well With Others (Part 2)

Sometimes, collaboration includes the element of travel excursions. For bands this could mean going on tour, for artists this could be traveling with an agent to a gallery opening across the country, for architects this could mean going to Europe to restore a historic structure, and so on. No matter who you travel with, it's important to travel well. This blog will explore travel dynamics and offer some tips gained from experiences I've had on the road.

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Becca/Kelton: Family Support Story #7

When it comes to building trusting and loving interactions with clients over the years, there is an openness that develops, a sense of safety that one can be themselves free of judgement or condemnation. I enjoyed this level of comfort with Becca, and one day when she came into her class she went quiet and kinda smirked as she said “Can I tell you something?”.. to which I of course said, “Sure, whats up?”, and that’s when she revealed her truth to me.

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Music Video Tips #2

Just as it was with advent of the video age, modern day artists rely heavily on video and image content to “show” more than “tell”. That’s the beauty of video; it’s dynamic and more exciting than a photo or text. Artists have been using video to showcase themselves for many decades now. The Beatles did it 1964 on Ed Sullivan before MTV, Score Composers alongside animators did it before as early as 1937 with “Snow White”, and really, all major artists have done it before, during and after these times. You tube changed the game, and then came other standards like Vimeo, Instagram, Facebook, and dozens of other platforms, all of which feature video platforms and Live Stream features. Given all of these technological media advancements, it’s crucial for Artists to get in line with the times and utilize video as a way to promote themselves.

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The McDaniels: Family Support Story #6

One of the families I worked with very early on were the McDaniels.  I taught DJ, the eldest son. 

I first met him, and the family when I worked at Rising Star Music in Spotswood, New Jersey when I was a relatively new music teacher.  I was probably about twenty years old, and so I was still able to age-relate easily to younger teens, since I wasn’t that far ahead of them life-wise.   DJ was one of my guitar students, and when I eventually left the studio, he wanted to continue on with me privately, and so we worked together for several years to come.  I might have been teaching him until he graduated high school, but I don’t remember that part exactly. Even after we stopped doing lessons, I would often see him and hang out, often at the gym, or at the mall. 

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Inspiration And Technology

Inspiration is a slippery thing.  It comes and it goes. It strikes us in moments when we aren’t prepared, and it isn’t always something that makes itself known when it appears. It’s no surprise that the perfect lyric comes to us when we don't have a pen and paper handy, or a melody that creeps into our head when there is nothing to do but sing it a million times to try to remember it.  So the best thing a creative person can do is to be prepared at all times. It seems like a big task to always have a go-bag ready to capture such gems in the moment they decide to appear. It IS a big task, and the difference between a person that seizes the moment and one who doesn’t is in fact that go-bag of preparedness. I ALWAYS have a pen and paper no matter where I go.  I literally travel with these crucial tools everywhere. If you see me, I’m likely to have a backpack with me. My go-bag, if you will. That is what sets me apart from others that lose the precious diamonds of creativity. I am always ready to receive and capture. Are you?

Let’s talk about some ways to always be prepared.

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How To Travel Well With Others (Part 1)

Sometimes, collaboration includes the element of travel excursions. For bands this could mean going on tour, for artists this could be traveling with an agent to a gallery opening across the country, for architects this could mean going to Europe to restore a historic structure, and so on. No matter who you travel with, it's important to travel well. This blog will explore travel dynamics and offer some tips gained from experiences I've had on the road.

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Trenton Psychiatric- Wellness Story #1

I have been providing wellness services to various facilities for the last four years or so (since 2015), and I am always reminded of one of my first experiences at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey.  For confidentiality reasons, I can’t share names or any patient details that could reveal their identity, but I can share some experiential stories.

The Shakes

I was at my session for the day, providing various music and alternative wellness services, and towards the end of the work day I had one last person approach me to ask if I could help with any of my tools.  As he approached me, I could see him visibly shaking with tremors, as a result of all the meds he was on.

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