Tag Archives: Education

Musicians, memory, and learning

Great post over at Scienceblogs.com by Dave Munger titled “Musicians have better memory — not just for music, but words and pictures too

As musicians, we are constantly training ourselves to memorize. We spend hours upon hours memorizing music, and using mnemonic cues such as melodies, song form, harmony, music notation, and so on to help us memorize. Many of us start at a very early age.

Not only that, but practicing music is really doing repetitive calisthenic exercise on the parts of your brain that process technical thinking. We count over and over again (one and a two and a…), those beats are subdivided into fractions and complex mathematical iterations begin to permutate in both rhythm and harmonic elements of music performance.

It gets better: Music composition is really just another flavor of writing code. Musicians who read music are trained to read code from an early age. Musicians make excellent programmers.

So it is clear to me that music instruction is a critical component of education, and should begin consistently and from an early age. This is the best way to develop inherent technical thinking skills, improve memory, and help kids survive in an age where the people who know how to write code, or at least can think in code-like patterns, have a far greater chance of success professionally.

Taking a little break

The past three years have been grueling. Working full time, taking classes towards a masters degree, and being a dad all at the same time was taking a toll. The last few months were especially interesting since I was working on a book project on top of everything.

Well, life has returned to a new kind of normal for the past couple of weeks, and it is good to have a little free time again. The masters degree is done – I am now a graduate of of the University of Denver in computer information systems, with concentration in web design and development. And the book is done – an introductory guide to standards-based web development. More on the book details in a later post…

So it is nice to experience a little rest for a change. I actually have had time to relax a bit and get back in touch with cooking, taking the kids on excursions to places like zoo and the Exploratorium, reading a geek book or two that I actually want to read, and of course practicing.

Hey, perhaps I’ll even have more time to post items here in the ‘ol blog! But don’t hold your breath… 😉

The Importance of Mentor

Finding the right mentor is more important than anything else. This quote struck me as a perfect example of the mentor-disciple relationship:

Confronted with a sudden, near-lethal dose of humility, my mind hatched an insane plan. Acting with cleverness and boldness unmatched before or since, I started looking for Wil Shipley. When I finally found him, I blurted out: ���I want to work for you, with no pay, for one year.��� When I got back to Seattle, I sold my condo, gave away most of my things, and moved into Wil’s basement.

For certain disciplines, teacher is everything. Sure you can learn programming and do it well on your own with a solid curriculum of books, dedication, and a few classes. But having an iconic mentor to guide you through and provide answers to your most vexing questions on demand is a huge boost. The same goes for music study: You can go far with private lessons and lots of practice, but having the right teacher makes a big difference when you look at the statistics. Jason Heath states:

Music performance degrees are completely superfluous to your pursuit of a music performance career.

Check out his post on this for the numbers. It is an interesting statistical analysis – the four double bass teachers clearly show a strong track record for who gets hired in modern orchestra bass sections.

I say if you want to do something with your life and are willing to make a life-changing and risky change in your life to pursue that goal, then stop being such a chicken and go for it.

Learning Mandarin via Podcasts

This is a great idea, beautifully implemented:


I like the fact that they’ve broken down the podcasts into newbie, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I especially like their business model: Distribute the podcasts for free, and charge for the additional learning materials.

They have chosen the blog format to present the material, and have made it available for subscriptions via iTunes and comments are open. Not to mention, a fairly attractive site design. Well done, useful, and innovative.

Wingnuts Over Colorado

PlaybillArts: News: Colorado Music Teacher Defends Screening of Faust Video

The controversy began after Waggoner, who teaches elementary, middle and high school students at the K-12 school in a small town about 25 miles east of Denver, tried to pique the curiosity of the first, second, and third graders in one of her classes about opera. She chose a video of Gounod’s Faust (which she found on the classroom shelf) to teach the children about bass and tenor voices, the use of props, and “trouser roles” in opera.

The latter, she says, led to accusations that the married mother of two was a lesbian promoting homosexuality; the plot of Faust, where the title character sells his soul to the devil to recapture his youth, led to her being labeled a devil worshipper.

What a bunch of lunatics. The shocking details of this article don’t stop there, so read on. If these people can’t tell the difference between teaching music and lesbian devil worship, then they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to vote, much less procreate.

Link found at The Rest is Noise.