Speedlinking December 19, 2011 Edition

One of these days I will get to musing on something regarding this teaching year. Today isn't one of them.
In the meantime, please check out these fantastic posts by my colleagues:
(c) 2011 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Yes There IS a Point to Practicing Scales

A rather humorous and informative post by a young musician about when he had a dramatic revelation about the usefulness of scales (and arpeggios) when faced with learning a piece for a gig with very little time. Thanks to my colleague LaDona Ahenda (and her son Mark) for sharing this on her blog.

Music Students With Blogs - Speedlinking

Another short entry. Yes, it is indeed "crazy" season, when students and teachers find it hard to keep up with the pace, which only seems to push forward with an unceasing accelerando. Here are a few blogs I've found written by music students. They provide an interesting view of the trials and tribulations of studying music:

UMS Student Blog Vocal Chords


(c) 2010 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.


Google Docs Makes Music Reports Easy

Two ways that my students can earn bonus points (and thereby Maestro Bucks) through my incentive program is to do a research project or concert report. One of my students, Grant, is pretty technologically savvy and has been using Google Docs to complete and submit his reports.

He simply emails me the link, I print it off to store in my Student Composition and Projects Binder and he gets his bonus points and Maestro Bucks.

Here's an example of just how simple it can be.

(c) Copyright by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved. Grant owns the copyright on his report.

The Musical Brain

This past weekend, CTV presented an interesting documentary called "The Musical Brain". Famous musicians Sting, Michael Bublé, Feist, Wyclef Jean and David Kane participated in the documentary. Studies were conducted on babies, the elderly, the non-musician and the professional musician to better understand music's effects on the brain. It was validating to see on a scientific level why we musicians are so brain-dead after an intense day of teaching/performing/practicing/listening to music. After all, many areas the the brain are firing signals at breakneck speed, analyzing and processing information, thinking ahead, drawing upon past and current emotions and memories to emote in the moment and using delicate sensory, auditory and motor skills in a fraction of a second. And let's not forget the great internal war that sometimes happens throughout all this when nerves and doubt creep into the picture.

Sound engineer turned neuroscientist/author Dr. Daniel J. Levitin has published two books on music and the brain and did the brain scan on Sting and Michael Bublé. In the end, Sting was a little uncomfortable with the results.

Psychologist Petr Janata and his team determined that some portions of the brain are 5% larger in expert musicians than non-musicians, that the auditory cortex in professional musicians is 130% denser than in non-musicians and that the corpus callosum can be up to 15% larger than non-musicians. The other parts of the brain that are further developed in musicians are the planum temporale, cerebellum, gray and white matter.

Dr. Charles Limb did a fascinating study with jazz musician David Kane, which showed what creativity looks like as a brain scan as Kane improvised.

Here's an interview that Dr. Levitin gave on TVO:

For me, it was almost the right amount of scientific detail. I found the percentages from a different study. Any more and it would take away the mystery and passion of our merry music making. Sting admitted afterward that he's quite content with being "happily lost" with this science stuff.

Here is The Musical Brain:

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Piano Music Hunting made easy at

Thanks to my colleague Katrina for this link This extensive database of piano music was developed by friends and colleagues of Katrina's. It was recently presented the MTNA conference in Denver and it was received very well.

Happy exploring!

(c) 2008 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Music and Med School

One of my piano parents inquired what makes music lessons so attractive to university faculties such as medicine and engineering. In the 1990s, Lewis Thomas, a physician and biologist conducted a study on undergraduate majors of medical school applicants. Of all successful applicants, 66% of them were music majors.

Closer to home, I can tell you that many of my former teacher's students have gone on to study engineering, another demanding program. One of the best pianists from my university piano class went on to be a surgeon. Another friend earned the Gold Medal in his graduating class at the University of Lethbridge and later went onto become a Rhodes Scholar, completing his Ph.D. thesis analysing the works of writer James Joyce, while playing trombone in community orchestra - for fun!

Music study involves so many parts of the brain, teaching everything from creative expression to analysis, ingenuity to working under pressure and from self-discipline to project management. And much more. These are all skills that are valued in medicine and engineering.

I have done a couple of blog entries on how "music lessons make you smarter" ("A New Study on the Benefits of Music Education" and "Why Study Music"). But don't take my word on it. Check out this latest set of articles:

(c) 2007 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.