Blog

Rock Start Adds Maxx McGathey

We’re excited to welcome another new teacher, Maxx McGathey, to our ranks! Maxx is a talented pianist but also teachers drums, bass, guitar, and voice. He was just featured in the Chicago Reader! Check out this great video of his band Gramps The Vamp. Welcome Maxx!

Rock Start Welcomes Kara Cavanaugh!

We’ve expanded again by adding the incredibly talent Kara Cavanaugh! Kara is accepting students on voice, piano, and guitar. She’s recently released her debut album, “Ain’t Gonna Run,” which includes this tune below. Welcome Kara!

Rock Start Welcomes Joseph Sanchez!

We’re welcoming yet another teaching to the RSL fold! Joseph Sanchez boasts an impressive resume (including a stint with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and performances with Yo-Yo Ma) and a passion for teaching. Contact us today to sign up for clarinet lessons. Here’s a video of Joseph performing with his group The Lake Effect Quartet:

Welcome Joseph!

Rock Start Welcomes Sylvia Chen!

Rock Start has added Hsin-yu (“Sylvia”) Chen to our roster of teachers. Sylvia is a talented violinist and is excited to join the team. Read all about her accomplishments here. If you are interested in starting violin lessons, please reach out to Brendan and we’ll get you signed up!

Practice Makes Possible

Perhaps the biggest struggle with parenting a child learning an instrument is navigating practice time. I frequently hear from parents who worry that confrontations over practice time are causing undue amounts of stress and anxiety in the home. This is usually the main reason that a child will quit an instrument (“We’re not going to pay for lessons if you aren’t going to practice” is a pretty common refrain between parents and a child).

There’s no easy solution, but I’ve developed a few strategies to help alleviate the situation over the last twelve years of teaching music to children.

*You aren’t alone. One of my favorite stories to tell to parents comes from my mom. I started piano lessons at age 4 after a Christmas morning snafu. Apparently I communicated to Santa (and not my parents) that I wanted piano lessons more than anything in the world. Of course my parents had no idea I wanted lessons and quickly scrambled to address my tears. Like so many beginners, I loved the idea of taking piano lessons. Of course, as the years went on my interests changed and piano became much harder. My mom recalls that she thought arguments about practicing would “ruin our relationship.” I loved thinking about myself as a talented pianist, but I hated practicing. I dreaded lessons that I wasn’t prepared for and it caused me great anxiety. But I also learned the importance of putting in a little bit of work every day (instead of saving it all until the day before) and being properly prepared. I’m a professional musician now and frequently thank my mom for making me stick with it as long as I did. The point here is that you aren’t alone. There may be kids out there that love to practice and don’t need to be reminded, but they are certainly the exception, not the rule.

*Chipping Away. It’s very easy for your teacher to tell that you haven’t practiced between lessons. 9 out of 10 times my students will offer excuses and list the numerous activities and obligations that prevented them from practicing. I usually counter by asking them if they watched TV or played on electronics (they always have). I do this to let my students know that they can usually accomplish our practice goals by sitting down for 10 or 15 minutes per day. That will add up to over an hour of practice time for the week and exponentially increase both the progress and interest level in music lessons. Of course there are weeks when there simply isn’t enough time, and that’s ok. The goal is to make those weeks the exception.

*What’s the goal? Speaking of goals, I read a great article in the Sunday Times about how pursuing excellence has “corrupted the world of leisure” and hobbies. Basically the idea is that we throw ourselves into sports, music, dance, and other activities with expectations of mastery instead of simply enjoying ourselves. This certainly applies more to overworked and overstressed adults, but I think there’s a lesson for children. I have some seventh grade students that are facing high school tests, tons of school work, and religious studies this year. It might make sense to quit music lessons. However, it’s possible to work with your teacher to adjust expectations and goals. Taking a break from mastering the craft of an instrument and simply enjoying music can be a great way to avoid quitting and even renew interest. The biggest goal should be sticking with it.

I hope these tips help. If you are struggling with getting your child to practice please talk to me (or your teacher) and we can definitely work through it together.

 

3 Tips for Practicing After A Summer Away from Lessons

It’s that time of year when students are preparing to return to textbooks, pencil sharpening….and music lessons! Many of my students will take extended breaks from weekly lessons over the summer to attend a summer camp, family vacations, or just to break up the routine of the school year. Getting back into the swing of regular lessons can be a tough adjustment. Here are a few tips for parents to help students return to regular practice

1. Write It Down.  I use a notebook to record weekly assignments and remind each student what he/she did during their weekly lesson. I also request that each student keep a practice log to record weekly practice (even 10-15 minutes per day makes a HUGE difference). Parents can easily check this notebook to stay aware of the current assignments. You can also post the practice log on the fridge or in a high-traffic area. These strategies might not work for everyone, but generally writing down assignments and charting weekly practice can be a gentle reminder (and hold students accountable) to help get students back in the habit of practicing

2. Talk It Out. Practice doesn’t have to be a chore like washing the dishes or making a bed (even though doing the hard work of practicing isn’t always fun). Talk with your child about music that they discovered over the summer: tunes they sung at camp or a favorite summer pop song. Our teachers don’t mind taking a detour from the lesson books to play the latest Taylor Swift jam. Learning a pop song can also serve as a reward for completing less exciting tasks like scales. This Childish Gambino tune was my summer jam 🙂

3. Slow It Down. It takes time to shake off the rust of a summer without lessons. It’s important to remind your child that it will be a minute before they are back up to speed. The Eagles said it best: “Take It Easy.” I usually tell my students at least once per lesson that slowing down a piece or a scale exercise will make it much easier to play.

These are just a few tips for getting back into the groove of music lessons. Our teachers are here to help you with the adjustment period, so don’t be afraid to ask us for more ideas!

New Rock Start Teacher Kevin Campbell!

Rock Start is excited to welcome a new teacher to our ranks: Kevin Campbell. Kevin is a talented multi-instrumentalist and will be teaching piano, guitar, bass, and voice for us. He’s a Chicago-area native and plays around town in a few projects, including progressive jammers Stampy and Grateful Dead cover band Terrapin Flyer.

Here’s a look at Kevin (on the bass) with his band Stampy. Contact us today to sign up for lessons!

Rock Start Welcomes Marti Kallenberger

We’re very excited to announce that we’re adding a new instrument (french horn) and a new teacher to our team! Marti Kallenberger is a freelance french horn player with a Masters degree from DePaul. She’s just completed a tenure with the prestigious Civic Orchestra and is excited to take on new french horn and beginner piano students. Welcome Marti!

Rock Start Teachers on TV!

Rock start founder Brendan O’Connell and teachers Caleb Mitchell and Lucas Gillan made an appearance on ABC’s Windy City Live this week with their band The Right Now. The band is releasing a new album entitled Starlight on February 24th. Congrats guys on a great performance!

Rock Start Welcomes Kuan-i He & Hunter Diamond

We’re excited to add MORE teachers to our ever-expanding roster: violinist Kuan-i He and saxophonist Hunter Diamond. Kuan-i, who also goes by Evie, is an accomplished violinist and also teaches piano. Hunter is just starting out his music career in Chicago but is already making waves as one of the most in-demand tenor players in town.

Check out Hunter’s aptly named Black Diamond Quartet performing at the legendary Green Mill:

We’d also like to wish Pei Yun good luck as she moves to California!