Music Lessons

There's no substitute.

Nobody has ever just picked up a musical instrument (any music instrument) and just started playing it. That’s not the way that learning to play music works.

music lesson

Learning to play a musical instrument is a time-consuming activity that requires a whole lot of “want-to.” There’s no substitute. There’s no substitute for practice time, either.

I’ve had people say to me, “I wish I could play a guitar like you play.” I don’t say it, but what I’d like to say is, “If you REALLY wanted to play, you’d have learned to play.” Wishing doesn’t translate into playing. PRACTICE translates into playing.

So my point here is that unless a student is willing to forego other activities in favor of practicing, music lessons just aren’t going to do much good. You don’t learn to play at a weekly hour or ½-hour music lesson. You get instruction at that hour or ½-hour lesson, but you learn to play by practicing several hours each and every day between lessons. Without that kind of time and effort commitment, music lessons given by the best of the best music teachers won’t do a bit of good.

I’ve always believed this about music lessons: Music is sound. Music theory is about how that sound computes, so to speak. You don’t learn theory first. You learn sound first, and then the music theory behind the sound will make sense.

Learning to keep time is the first step in learning to play music. All first music lessons should be lessons in listening rather than in playing. Music students should be able to pick out the beat of the music they hear. When they can hear the rhythm, then it’s time to start teaching notes, scales, and chords.

Famous Quotes About Music

Both the famous and the infamous have opinions about music

People of all walks of life have opinions about every topic you can imagine (and maybe about a few topics you would never want to imagine). Music is no exception. Both the famous and the infamous have opinions about music, ranging from what it is to what it isn’t to what it could or should be.

Famous Quotes About Music

Here are a few of my favorite quotations about music:

Kin Hubbard was a well-known cartoonist (he created “Abe Martin of Brown County,” which ran in U.S. newspapers from 1904 until his death in 1930) and a humorist. There are a great many terrific quotations attributed to him, but his comment on music is one of my favorites. He said, “Classical music is the kind we keep thinking will turn into a tune.”

Oscar Wilde was a famous playwright and poet. He was also a scoundrel in many ways, but he did have insight. About music, he said, “Music makes one feel so romantic — at least it always gets on one’s nerves — which is the same thing nowadays.”

The English novelist George Eliot was actually a woman by the name of Mary Ann Evans. She said that she used a male penname so that her novels would be taken seriously, and since she lived during the 1800s, it was probably a wise choice. About music, she said, “I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.”

J. K. Rowling (the Harry Potter books author and my heroine because she got kids to read) said, “Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!”

Perseverance matters

Your impact is limited by your dreams... and your effort.

In 1984 I met a remarkable man who had a profound impact on my life.

33 years later his perseverance to share with others the same insights he taught me, is spreading.

His impact is reaching thousands of miles and lives

NJYS percussion 1987

The New Jersey Youth Symphony* percussion section in 1987, just before I moved back to the UK. Evan, Tom (who became my Best Man, and is still a good friend), Adina, and SPB

George Marriner Maull was the Music Director and Conductor of the New Jersey Youth Symphony* since its founding in 1979. I was not good enough to play clarinet with that group, but my percussion skills got me in. A concerto performance and a Junior Scholarship to the Mannes College of Music in New York City also made me eligible for Maestro Maull’s advanced student “Listening Class.” It was in that class that I learned the difference between hearing and listening.

Classical Music

Classical music takes many different forms

Most people think of classical music as the music of famous composers of old, like Bach and Beethoven. The dictionary defines classical music as: “a traditional genre of music conforming to an established form and appealing to critical interest and developed musical taste.” Classical music is also sometimes referred to as “serious music.”

Classical Music

Serious music or classical music takes many different forms. Classical music can be a performance by a full orchestra, or it can be what’s described as chamber music (serious music played by a small group.)

An opera is a drama set to serious music. An opera consists of singing and overtures and interludes played by an orchestra. A cantata is classical music or serious music written for orchestras and vocal performers. A cantata is based on a religious theme. A concerto is also classical music. A concerto is music designed to be performed by an orchestra and a soloist.

A sonata is classical music as well. A sonata is a long music composition that usually consists of three or four “movements.” Often the last movement of a sonata is called a rondeau.

In general, classical music is not “toe-tapping” music with a distinct melody that can be hummed or sung. The rhythm of a piece of classical music is often obscure. The term “classical music” is often used simply to distinguish serious music from popular music styles like folk, country, pop, and rock.

Classical music is thought to be “highbrow,” or music for the wealthy and connected, as opposed to music played, sung, and enjoyed by common, everyday people. Some say that classical music can only be really appreciated by those with extraordinarily well-developed ears for musical nuances and excellence.

And then there are some “exclusive purists” who only recognize the Classical period of music history: about 1750-1825 or so (Mozart, Haydn, early Beethoven). They also tend to be the people who make you feel bad if you applaud between the movements of a symphony, which is something neither Mozart, Haydn nor Beethoven ever experienced! (It was the Conductor Toscanini in the 1930s who asked audiences not to applaud between movements, as it caused his live radio programs to run over time.)

Music, whether it is called classical or serious, jazz or hip hop, country, folk, or bluegrass, is, after all, still music. If you are a real music lover, you appreciate excellence in any music genre, whatever you call it.

If It Is Music to Your Ears…

What EXACTLY is music?

The dictionary defines music as “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” The fact is, however, that what really constitutes music has been the subject of debate by philosophers, scientists, and even musicians themselves.

Music is not all Greek

Where and how the very word “music” came into being is debated. Some say that the word came from the Greek word “mousikê” (“tekhnê”) by way of the Latin “música.” Others say that the word comes from the ancient Greek word “mousike,” which was used to describe any of the arts or sciences performed by muses.

You’d probably have a bit of difficulty getting a devoted fan of opera to agree that rap was, in fact, real music. Rock-and-rollers are devout in their belief that all music culminated in the development of rock and roll, and that anything called “music” before or since wasn’t really music.

What we call music is in every part of our lives. If you watch television or listen to the radio, if you go to concerts, plays, or sporting events, music is there. Music has been used to inspire and to incite. Music is powerful!

So what exactly is it that determines what type music we personally find pleasing? I think that our appreciation and enjoyment of particular types of music is based on several factors.

The main factor that determines our affinity for a particular genre of music is based upon our personal history — the circumstances under which we lead our lives. The music that we like is a reflection of our own inner feelings, and those inner feelings are produced by our personal history.

The bottom line is, if it’s music to your ears, it’s music!


A cultural shift about to happen

I have caught word that a child is using his imagination and I’ve come to put a stop to it.Principal Skinner
The Simpsons

Remarkable how accurately The Simpsons writers reflected our farcical realities.

But that child is now a grown consumer.

…and about to rediscover Classical Music.

Are you ready for that?


Man with imagination in a suit

What is the best way to start a new club?

7 points to consider as you set up a new group for music lovers

There are three stages to setting up any new adventure, especially one involving a group of people.

  1. The idea
  2. Turning the idea into reality
  3. Implementing the program

Right now, a team I am involved with is hurtling towards stage 3 and it has been a wonderful journey.

Not everything has been smooth sailing, but most fascinating is realizing the similarities between forming the Dunedin Music Society as a public charity, and just about every other musical ensemble or non-musical program I have witnessed being created.

Here are seven points you might find useful when you find yourself bringing a group of people together for the first time:

Looking sharp…

Does a Conductor's uniform really matter?

You paid $60 for a decent seat.

There are a hundred funeral-clad souls seated on a brightly lit stage, each performing their own little solo recital.

The house lights dim, and the orchestra falls quiet.


A waiter from the Ritz Carlton bounces out of the wings with unsavory frizzy hair flopping so much it draws your gaze.

For some reason, the audience go wild and applaud the appearance of a magnificent maître d’.

Give him a top hat, and he could be a groom.

Or Batman’s nemesis, the Penguin.

So why do most Conductors still wear tails to perform in, and does it really make any difference?

7 odd reasons why people avoid the Opera

And they are nothing to do with the music!

Mention the word “Opera” and the vast majority of the population in both the USA and the UK run and hide.

People actually look for ways to avoid talking about it, like it’s a sleazy secondhand car salesman or embarrassing bodily discharge.


According to a few surveys and studies* it seems as though the reasons people avoid the Opera (and Classical Music in general) have nothing to do with Opera itself, but what we imagine it is like.

That seems a bit odd to me.

Why do we choose to like or dislike something based on what we don’t know?

Here are seven possible reasons:

Feed yourself, and others

Live music does so much more than entertain.

2016 has been a year of ups and downs, changes, reflections and growth.

For some it’s been a painful year.

The holidays are a time when we reflect on the past, yet look forward to new beginnings.

However stable or tumultuous your life has been recently, make it a plan to attend more concerts in the near future.

Here’s why…