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  • Tuesday Tips: Short and Sweet by Michael Huestis

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jun 07, 2022

    Students who have a short, specific, and achievable goal when practicing benefit from a proper and healthy mindset when entering and leaving the practice room each day. If the goal for the day is to learn a very short passage of music with a high level of achievement, and that goal can be accomplished without a marathon session, then that student is likely to walk out of the practice room feeling a sense of accomplishment for the time that was invested.

    On the flip side, if practice goals are vague and have no clear point of accomplishment, students feel like practice is an exercise in failure, perhaps despite working for a very long time and achieving some solid training. All too often when a student is asked, “What are you working on today?” they will respond with something like, “I’m going to practice my solo until it sounds good.” As we all know, “until it sounds good” is usually weeks or months away, and even if students put in several hours of time, they are likely to walk away from that session thinking their practice time is a failure because they didn’t meet the goal.

    Students who leave the practice room having accomplished a short goal at a high level will feel good about their daily practice routine and look forward to returning the next day. This disciplined approach will give them the mindset they need to achieve in the future, and more importantly, they’ll look forward to doing so!

    Michael HeustisMichael Huestis teaches at Prosper High School in the North Dallas area. He serves as the assistant director of the Music for All, Sandy Feldstein National Percussion Festival, is serving his first term as the PAS Texas Chapter President, and is the founder of the Percussion Solutions for Band Directors social media group. Huestis’s ensembles have performed at PASIC, Music for All National Percussion Festival, MENC Biennial Conference, Bands of America Grand National Championships, President Bush’s inaugural parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Drum Corps International World Championships.

  • Tuesday Tips: The Why, Who, and How of World Percussion by Dr. Michael Crawford

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | May 10, 2022

    Creating an enriching practice of world music styles and instrument techniques are dependent on the why, the who, and the how. Unfortunately, the process of transmitting a musical selection’s cultural context can often take a backseat to the time constraints and pressures associated with the final product (e.g., handing out sheet music with Western notation to expedite the learning process). The multicultural music education movement — referred to by some as “world music education” — has been primarily about the diversity of musical aesthetic and less about the circumstances and processes of the music-making itself. As a result, Western percussionists (such as myself) often neglect inseparable learning pathways and unintentionally distort the meaning and value of diverse musics from around the world. 

    This month’s Tuesday Tip offers some examples of processes that encourage thoughtful transmission practices of world music.

    As facilitators of explorations into world percussion, we need to be aware of the potential to other, tokenize, and essentialize another group by creating a position of dominant majority over the practices and members of that culture. TIP 1: Avoid using terms such as “their music” and “our music” (othering), representing an entire continent by a singular musical style (tokenizing), and narrowing an entire culture to one element of music (essentializing). 

    Here are some ways to avoid such pitfalls: (1) establish communication with community members whose cultures are being represented; (2) put your students in contact with a “culture bearer” or practicing expert of that musical culture; and (3) if applicable, allow students of that representative culture (who express an interest) to share their experiences in music and cultural elements. The picture here shows a group of my students interacting and learning from “culture bearers” (Kaminari Taiko, Houston, Texas) of the Japanese taiko art of drumming.

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    When exploring world music styles and the performance of world percussion instruments, it is important to analyze and understand what elements are thought of as essential for authentic — common practices of that culture — transmission to occur. For those trained in a Western-classical tradition it is easy to forget how many underlying concepts are behind the reading and execution of simple rhythms and meter. 

    TIP #2: If you are teaching students about West African drumming, musical elements such as aural transmission, improvisation, and social interaction are essential. These “non-tangible” paradigms (less common in Western-classical music) are crucial for most participatory-style West African musical experiences. 

    This next image is a drum circle activity at the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas) and represents a group of collegiate, non-music major students engaging with participatory-style interactions: aural learning skills, social interactions, improvisatory expression, and a setup conducive for shared power and musical contribution.

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    An explanation of world music without cultural acknowledgement may be void of value and simply reduced to a collection of unique sounds and intriguing rhythms. Percussion educators can make the procedural engagement of world music meaningful by turning good intentions into instructional realities. There are many ways to connect the music making processes of world percussion to the inherent cultural values associated with the music’s cultural significance. Have fun by creating and exploring your own connections! Remember, creating an enriching practice of world music is dependent on the why, the who, and the how.

    Michael CrawfordDr. Michael Crawford
    is an active musician, educator, and adjudicator based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area metroplex. He serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Texas (UNT), where he teaches the Percussion Methods course for undergraduate music education majors and supervises band student teachers. Dr. Crawford holds a BM in Music Education, an MM in Percussion Performance, and a PhD in Music Education. Dr. Crawford has performed throughout the United States and Europe with the Waco Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Chorus, Lone Star Wind Orchestra Percussion Ensemble, and the Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps. He has presented featured clinics, showcase concerts, and research projects at the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), National Conference on Percussion Pedagogy (NCPP), Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA), and Texas Bandmasters Association (TBA) conferences. Dr. Crawford’s scholarly work has been published in the Journal of Music Teacher Education and The Instrumentalist. He is a member of the PAS Education Committee and a certified Smithsonian Folkways World Music Pedagogy educator.

  • Tuesday Tips: Positive Mindset by Michael Huestis

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Apr 12, 2022

    How many times have we heard that at the highest levels of performance, “It’s a mental game” or that a high-achieving performer is “mentally tough”? This mantra is repeated constantly in sports, business, and the performing arts. We are told time and time again how important it is to master the “inner game,” and yet, in most cases, our teaching systems include systems for building skills but not mindset. Some of us may have had students that have it and students that don’t have it, but we’re really not sure why.

    As educators, we were taught to teach students to play strokes, scales, rudiments, dynamics, grips, excerpts, and exercises by the hundreds, but our education classes rarely taught us to teach students how to build their self-image. Most of us own numerous percussion method books, but may or may not have a copy of Barry Green’s book The Inner Game of Music on the mental aspect of music performance. Teaching students how to think about themselves in a healthy and positive way is vital for the highest level of performance.

    Students can be trained to think of each self-evaluative thought as one of three things: great, good, and needs improvement. This allows for accountability and diagnosis in their thought process without a negative emotional reaction. Even if a performance of an etude was extremely poor, the most productive thought should be “That needs a lot of improvement.” Teachers can guide students through this process, both in ensemble and individually, to help frame their responses to success and failure in a way that leads to musical and mental growth. Discussing the process for tackling adversity, asking students to diagnose problems and pose solutions, and helping them evaluate what led to the mistake are all valuable approaches. As students learn to diagnose and reengage the problem, they will learn to trust their instincts and training. This process allows the teacher to build an evaluation process that is not reactive, but instead reinforces the systems for building musicianship and a positive mindset.

    Michael HeustisMichael Huestis teaches at Prosper High School in the North Dallas area. He serves as the assistant director of the Music for All, Sandy Feldstein National Percussion Festival, is serving his first term as the Texas PAS Chapter President, and is the founder of the Percussion Solutions for Band Directors social media group. Huestis’s ensembles have performed at PASIC, Music for All National Percussion Festival, MENC Biennial Conference, Bands of America Grand National Championships, President Bush’s inaugural parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Drum Corps International World Championships.

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