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These search terms have been highlighted: together coastside children make beautiful music 

 The young must be directed to music and must be educated in it.             -- Aristotle

Together Coastside Children Make Beautiful Music

Emily Berk & Joe Devlin

This article appeared in Coastviews September, 2000 issue.

It starts when your child desperately wants to learn to play a musical instrument.

You know that studies prove that learning to appreciate and play classical music improves many children's academic ability. You also know that musical instruction at local public schools is uneven at best. So, caring parent that you are, you select a compatible instructor and rent an instrument. Lessons begin; money and musical notes flow from your home.

Lessons continue; still the child progresses. You buy the perfect learner instrument.
Pieces get challenging; they don't always sound so good the first twelve times the child plays them. The child begins to resist practicing. The newly-purchased instrument gathers dust in a corner.

How to keep the child's interest in music from flagging?

One technique that works for many children is to encourage the child to play music with others. The joy of participating in a well-practiced ensemble may keep some children from losing interest.

Our Coastside is blessed with talented and enthusiastic music teachers who work with groups. This month, we feature four of them.

Marc Marcus, Chief Clarinut
I was twelve. On my way to a cello lesson, I heard the sounds of a marching band. The clarinet parts found a nook in my brain and just stayed there.                                                                                                            --- Marc Marcus

Marc Marcus' Clarinuts ensemble provides "a chance for young performers to learn to read music and play music and perform together. And to record themselves playing so they can hear for themselves whether they are improving. And, to play original clarinet music," which Marcus himself composes "with an eye toward improving the playing facility of the Clarinuts."

Marcus also divides the ensemble into duos, trios and quartets that play pieces from the classical clarinet literature. "The Clarinuts' total focus is on clarinet," Marcus enthuses.

The more he works with his Clarinuts, the more Marcus appreciates the group dynamic. "There's always someone in the group who does something a little better than you do. Because you are in a group, you realize that you must work a little harder on your fingering perhaps, or your breathing. It's that old story about being on a team." Every one in the group pushes the others to excel.

The Clarinuts currently comprise six clarinet players, but their pieces usually involve just five clarinets -one bass clarinet and four sopranos. "One Clarinut can handle all parts," says Marcus. "That student understudies all the players." One student just acquired an E flat clarinet, so Marcus is thinking about incorporating it into his compositions. And, they are looking to add an alto clarinet to the ensemble. They rehearse on Wednesdays after school for about an hour and a half.

This year, Marcus wants to form a second clarinet ensemble. To join, a student should already know how to read music on the treble clef well.

Marcus is also assembling a saxophone group called the Saxophiliacs. They will probably rehearse on Mondays starting this fall.

For more information, please call 650-728-7561 or email:

Lisa Spector:
A Classic Piano Teacher
If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.
—Bruce Barton

Lisa Spector, a Half Moon Bay-based concert pianist whose performances have been described as "breathtaking" (and more) by critics around the world, has been spreading her enthusiastic love of classical music to Coastside piano students since 1990.

For years, parents of young children have urged Spector, whose talent, gentle manner and love of great music make her a compelling teacher, to give their kids private piano lessons. She almost always refused. "Most five-year-olds are too young for private lessons," Spector told them.

Then, in the spring of 1999, Carole Tillotson decided to leave the coast. Tillotson, Grande Dame of coastside piano instruction, had been refining her Make Music piano instruction curriculum for groups of young students for 19 years.

Spector sat in on one of Tillotson's pre-kindergarten classes. She saw "joy". "Within thirty minutes of watching the class, I wanted to teach it," said Spector.

Tillotson trained Spector for six weeks. By early summer 1999, Lisa Spector was teaching Tillotson's former students to "Make Music" on her own.

"Make Music incorporates piano music into the lives of students aged 4, 5 and 6," says Spector. "It's a structured, educational program specifically designed for younger students. It's playful, not intimidating. It prepares them for daily assignments that will come when they get older."

Children begin the Make Music curriculum starting at age four. "We help the youngest children develop listening skills. Just as children pick up spoken language easily at this young age, they also pick up the language of music. These beginning classes for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade students feature singing, listening to great music, playing rhythm instruments and some electronic keyboards. But what's crucial is that they are taught playfully. For example, they don't realize I am teaching them to read music. These young students master the concepts, but they don't have to learn the jargon until they are older."

For students aged 7 or so and up, Spector is integrating Tillotson's Make Music curriculum with another program called Music Tree. These students take half-hour piano classes in pairs. They focus on playing duets with each other and with Spector. "In my two-child classes, each student's learning experience is more concentrated than in the larger group, but it's still fun, playful."

As children grow in musical sophistication, many choose to branch out into individual lessons. "Every child learns differently," says Spector. "Some really love the group stimulation. Others progress faster on their own."

Now that Lisa Spector has completed more than a year of Make Music instruction, she plans to share the wonders of classical music with an even younger constituency as well. In the next few months, Spector will offer lessons "emphasizing rhythm and movement to Mozart and other healing music" to groups of babies (under one year old) and their parents.

For more information, contact Lisa Spector, 650-726-5119. Lessons are offered at 731 Main Street, Half Moon Bay.

Experimenting with Native American Flutes
"Viviana, when are you coming back? After you left the last time, the children turned their guns into flutes!"
—Josephine Pritchard, HMB Children's Center

Viviana Guzman, who has graced our Coastside with her music and dancing for four years, has shared her gifts with Coastside children for nearly as long. Her relationship with the HMB Children's Center began when Josephine Pritchard, Director of the Children's Center, heard Guzman practicing at the church near the Center, and persuaded Guzman to play for her kids. Guzman was so impressed with the work Pritchard does with her kids that she has returned to play with the children at the center at least once a year ever since. Guzman also regularly shares her love of music and rhythm at Coastside public schools.

This summer, Guzman "tried an experiment", as she puts it, in introducing more people on the coast to music. She picked some dates in June and July and hosted adult and children's workshops in playing native American flute.

"It was just to see what would happen," Guzman admits. She picked the native American flute because "it is pretty easy to learn. Anyone can just blow into one of these flutes and won't sound bad when playing with the rest of the group because most of these flutes have only five holes -a pentatonic scale."

Another advantage of native American flute-playing is that native Americans did not write their music down; they learned by listening. That meant that the Juilliard-trained Guzman did not have to teach her students to read music before they could play beautiful music.

"I went over the principals of tonguing and breathing with them. Then I brought in some folk songs, and we all learned to play them. One class learned three in fact."

Guzman encourages improvisation in these classes. "It's important to believe you can just play whatever and it's fine. The idea is to be carefree, to follow the improvisation through."

Viviana Guzman and partner, guitarist Richard Patterson, neither perform for young students nor lecture them. Instead, they "play musical games with them. For example, I tell them they can use music to communicate emotions. Then, we play a game that proves it: we use music to enhance the story of a haunted house. Our music makes the story really scary!"

In another game Guzman plays with her students, they sit in a circle. Each student must "talk to his or her neighbor" by playing just three notes on their flute.

This summer's "experiment" consisted of two classes for children and two for adults. (Guzman requires children to be at least eight years old to participate so that their fingers are big enough to hold onto the flute. High school students with formal musical training are encouraged to join the adult workshops.)

The classes were intensive. The children's classes met for two hours for four straight mornings in a row. The adult workshops were three hours long for two evenings in a row.

"Well," Guzman laughs, "I guess our summertime experiment worked. My people want more!" The next set of Native American flute workshops will take place on Monday, September 18 and Thursday, September 21. Children's classes start at 5p.m.; adult classes at 7p.m. Please call in advance to secure a space.

Viviana Guzman, classical and world flutes, P.O. Box 625, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

The Seaside Summer Academy

You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note.
                                                                      ---Doug Floyd

For years now Gail Edwards, professional flutist and flute teacher, local harpist Janice Ortega have journeyed from Pacifica to Oregon to teach at the Valley Catholic Summer Chamber Music Festival. Last time they went, they dragged fifteen of their students along with them. "It was fun, but it was hard," Gail reminisces. "We taught all day and then we were responsible for all these kids afterwards."

Edwards decided that young people in our area needed this kind of sophisticated musical instruction program closer to home. So, this past summer, after seven months of planning, fund-raising and hard work, she launched the week-long Seaside Summer Music Academy. The Seaside Summer Music Academy is dedicated to the proposition that the Coastside's intermediate and advanced music students deserve the opportunity to make music together and close to home.

Thirty-two students in grades 4 through 12 met daily at the Pacifica Community Center to make music together. Each day, each student participated in one small group (bell choir, flute group, harp group, chorus, or jazz ensemble) and either played in the orchestra or sang in the chorus. Edwards also provided daily instruction in music theory. And students were encouraged to select their own pieces and playing partners and perform for fellow students and the public during "Brown Bag lunches" throughout the week.

The Seaside Academy featured highly-qualified teaching talent— all local. "Musicians who have the opportunity to teach locally don't have to forfeit their local gigs," says Edwards. Which is why she was able to persuade excellent instructors from Bay Bells, the San Francisco Symphony Pops, Cal State Hayward, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Washington High School, and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra to participate.

Edwards is already working on next summer's Seaside Summer Music Academy. She would like to at least double the group's enrollment so she can schedule a daily ensemble class for the more advanced players. She's also looking for a way to accommodate students from Napa and other parts of California.

For more information about the Seaside Summer Music Academy, contact Gail Edwards, 650-359-4604,

Edwards will happily accept your tax-deductible donations. Make checks out to Keyboard Productions, 1161 Fassler Drive, Pacifica, CA 94044.