Welcome to Encore’s Online Blog where you can find news and insights into all things music!
This blog features, articles written by staff, music Faculty feature bloggers, student feature bloggers, student spotlights, reviews, links to outside news sources and helpful articles!
March 25, 2020
What It’s Like Having Online Lessons
By Noelle Reda
My first thought when I heard that I would not have school for a while was how much I was going to miss band and then I wondered if I would still have my lessons at Encore! I take lessons with Lea, who is kind and whenever I have a lesson, I always end up laughing and walking out with a smile on my face. Even if I am stressed about District or honors band auditions she knows exactly what to say to make me feel better and help me focus. She always pushes me in the best way and believes in me. I always want to improve and work my hardest. Every Friday is my favorite day because I know that even if I have a bad day at school I will have my lesson with Lea and I will have fun even if we are doing a lot of theory work.
So, when I heard that I might not have my lessons for a while, I was so sad until I heard that we were doing lessons online! My first online lesson with Lea was this past Friday. At first, I had to get used to the software but everything went pretty smoothly. I had gotten my wisdom teeth out less than a month ago and my jaw started hurting a day before my lesson. I told Lea and she knew exactly what to work on to help me and not hurt my mouth. In my lesson, we worked mainly on scales and how many sharps and flats were in them and then we worked on hearing and seeing if I could identify the notes that she was playing. Five minutes into my lesson it felt like we were in her office in Encore and it was normal. The benefit of having my clarinet lessons online is so I can still work on my music and have guidance on where to improve. It is so important that during this crisis everyone stays healthy and safe which is why it is nice that we have the ability to use the internet to communicate.
June 6, 2019
By Penny Wayne-Shapiro
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a child saying that….Wayland School of Music would be housed in a custom-built, state-of-the-art facility with Steinway pianos in every studio. 🙂
Joking aside, though, I know just how these reluctant practicers feel, because sometimes I don’t like practicing either! And you can bet that all professional musicians have had that same feeling at one time or another.
So why do we keep doing it anyway? And how can we encourage students to do it too?
“Well,” you might say, “we all have to do things that we don’t like doing. It’s character forming.” But that argument doesn’t go very far even for an adult musician, never mind when you’re hoping to inspire a child to learn and love music long-term, rather than see it as drudgery to be endured!
Should we point out that there are also things that we enjoy doing sometimes but not always – such as exercising, studying, taking care of a pet? We keep doing these even when we don’t feel like it because we understand the benefits, and we trust that in a day or two we’ll be more into it again.
That’s an improvement, but it takes maturity to keep that long-term end in mind, and most young children are not yet at that point developmentally.
In fact, this blog post was inspired by a 7 year old student who had her lesson a couple of days ago. Like many students, she’s enthusiastic about lessons and has made a great start, but she’s just getting to that point where the initial excitement has worn off and the long-term benefits have not yet been experienced.
What she actually said was profound: “I don’t like practicing, but I like playing!”
And right there, we have the seeds of a solution. If we can keep an age-appropriate balance of work and fun along the way we’ll keep students engaged, and much more willing to practice regularly.
I asked this young lady what other activities she enjoyed. She mentioned soccer so I asked, “When you go to soccer practice, what’s the first thing you do?” As I expected from my own experience as a soccer mom, the reply was “Drills.” Does she enjoy the drills? “Not particularly.” But she agreed enthusiastically that the drills help you play better, giving you skills that make the game itself more fun.
But drills are not the only way you learn skills, and they shouldn’t be too heavy. You also get better at soccer by actually playing it, and the same is true for an instrument, as long as you’re doing so with reasonably good habits.
Playing an instrument really is fun….and it’s more fun the better you can do it. How can we maintain that balance of drill and pleasure for our young developing musicians, so they can find that out for themselves?
1) Make sure drills don’t take up too much of the practice session.
Just as in soccer, it’s best to do some “building work” first – scales or other exercises before pieces, and prep work on new material or tricky passages before playing a piece through. That way you’re setting things up right.
But there should be plenty of time and stamina left over for the enjoyment of actually making music: trying new pieces through, and revisiting old pieces for fun and the pleasure of mastery – “This piece used to be hard for me, but now I can play it easily!”
2) Help the student to celebrate the intrinsic rewards of the drills.
There are immediate benefits that can be enjoyed right away. For example: “Did you notice how the third time you played that part slowly, your fingers almost seemed like they were doing it by themselves because they knew what was coming? You didn’t even have to think about it! How cool is that?” Realizing we’ve just achieved something feels good, and makes us want to repeat that experience.
3) Find ways to make even the drills fun!
Here are a just few suggestions to liven things up:
a) Roll a die to see how many times to play a tricky measure.
b) Divide your piece into short sections and number them. Using regular playing cards or Uno cards, pick a number to see which section to practice next.
c) Play the practice lottery: write each scale, exercise or piece on a small piece of paper, shake up the folded papers in a jar, then close your eyes, pick one out and do whatever it says.
d) For a variation on c), write silly instructions such as “turn around in circles while playing”, “play with your eyes shut”, “stand on one leg”, etc., and pull one out for each repetition of an exercise.
e) Turn the drill into a competitive game of “ding the bell”. Many of my students love this! Set a challenge, such as playing a scale with correct fingerings, or maintaining beautiful hand positions for a section of a piece. If the student forgets or makes an error, the adult can “ding the bell” by tapping a pencil on a glass; the student wins if s/he completes the task correctly without the adult getting a chance to ding (or only dinging, say, twice). As I tell students, “You win if you can keep me quiet.” It’s amazing to see how intently they focus on the task at hand for the satisfaction of beating the adult!
As young musicians grow in maturity and skill they will begin to develop their own intrinsic motivation to keep practicing for the long-term rewards. Along the way, the principles above will keep them leveraging the short-term rewards – the fun of “playing”, in both senses of the word – to help them get there.
By Penny Wayne, Guest Blogger, Director – Wayland School of Music
April 24, 2019
Parents often ask on community boards for recommendations for music teachers, sometimes adding “…..preferably one who’ll teach my child at home.”
We totally understand! Life is ridiculously busy, children have to be carpooled to many activities, family and work obligations are competing for your time – and a teacher who will come to your home, leaving you to answer your emails or get dinner started while s/he works with your child, sounds very convenient.
But – that convenience is offset by a number of other factors that you’ll want to consider, as you make this important decision about an activity you’d like to become a rewarding and enjoyable part of your child’s life.
First – kids really benefit from seeing that they’re part of the community of a music school. They meet other kids coming in and out with instruments, and overhear them playing a piece they want to play themselves (or experiencing the same challenges). They perform with them when we take our music out into the community. They learn that playing an instrument is not just something we do in isolation, and begin to understand that they are part of something much larger – a fellowship of young musicians.
Second – the more professionally-established, experienced, and musically successful the teacher, the less likely s/he is to feel that home visits make sense. Without any disrespect meant to younger or less experienced teachers – most of us find, as we become more established in our musical careers, that having all our students come to one studio location is a much better model both educationally and economically. There are many distractions at home for your child, and driving from lesson to lesson takes time and gas for the teacher. So teaching in a well-set-up professional studio with all our music and other tools, and where we can accompany students as they play, makes much more sense for the professionally-established teacher and her students.
These are the teachers we hire at Wayland School of Music. We believe that all students, from complete beginner to developing young artist, deserve to have this kind of successful, inspiring, established musician – one with deep professional experience as both teacher and performer – as their guide to their instrument and the beautiful world of music. (For more on why we feel this is so important, see here.)
Third – students themselves seem instinctively to take their lessons much more seriously, and learn better, when they go out to a dedicated studio or music school rather than taking lessons in their living room. What clinched it for us here at WSM was hearing one of our teachers comment that when he became established enough professionally to stop doing home visits, and transferred his remaining home students to his professional studio – those same students began to progress twice as fast and play much better!
For all these reasons, we think you’ll find it worthwhile to give your child the best possible musical start, by taking the plunge and signing up for lessons at an established professional music school – one where all the lessons take place under one roof.
By Penny Wayne, Guest Blogger, Director – Wayland School of Music
December 1, 2018
“Why I Love Wind Chamber Ensemble”
By Lydia Scanlon, Student at Encore
Encore Music Academy is a great place to play amazing music and instruments. The very nice and caring staff help you find the right instrument and devotedly show you how to play. Also they will give you really helpful techniques on how to play and go through every piece you need help with whether they gave it to you or not. For example, my wonderful teacher, Lea Botta, will go over my band music as well as my personal music for Junior Districts, as well as music for my private lessons and Wind Ensemble. It is nice to know that there is someone who really knows what they are doing to help you with whatever you need to learn.
I have been taking lessons at Encore Music Academy for about three years. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but because I have learned so much in a pretty short amount of time, it feels like I have been studying and improving for many more years. I started playing in the Wind Ensemble about one year after I joined the Encore family. It started out with just four people playing clarinet. Then we added a flutist while Lea played played bass clarinet to add harmony to the group. This was very successful, and then other big changes happened. There was another flute player, and Lea went back to playing clarinet. I took over the bass clarinet and my Mom played the piano. Now we have two clarinets, a bass clarinet, a piano and a flute. We have improved a lot.
Normally when we go to the practice on Mondays we set up and tune for about ten minutes. Once we are all tuned and sound really good, we pull out a piece that we have been practicing and see what everybody knows and work off the weakest spots first. Then we will usually play it again and again to try to make it sound like the composer would have wanted it to. We do the same with the next piece and the next until practice is over. Or sometimes when we get new music, we will sight-read it and get a general beat and tempo so when we go home we know how to play it. And when we see each other on the next Monday we know what to play and we develop an understanding for the new music we had gotten just the week before. Then we just do the same thing every week. When you join Wind Ensemble, you get new skills for playing your instrument and it helps you learn to play in a group with others. It expands your horizons and helps you to be better in other groups, such as your school’s band or a personal band.
I thought being in Wind ensemble with my Mom would be embarrassing, but it is actually pretty cool. It is really helpful to have someone that is with you to be a second pair of ears and to help you if you don’t understand. I am even luckier because my Mom is also a music teacher, meaning she is really good and helps me with some of my music. If I don’t understand how to perform a song, I have my Mom to tell me and explain what to do or how to do it. I love being in the same group with my Mom because she normally plays the same bass line as I do so it is really easy to get the beat. With my Mom helping me along with the same part it makes my life easier. She and I can practice at the same tempo and be able to master each and every group lesson.
I think my favorite piece we have ever played would have to be Clarinet Polka by: Herman A. Hummel because it was a really fun song to play. It was an upbeat song and a very light and flowing song. We had to play this song for a high school senior that played clarinet in the Millis High school band. We accompanied him in the concert and it was really cool and fun to be a part of. If you want to have lots of fun, get better at playing an instrument and become a better musician, then come be a part of the Wind Ensemble hosted by Encore Music Academy.
November 6, 2018
“Our Time at Tanglewood”
By Meghan and Hannah Laurence, Students at Encore
Last Fall, we auditioned for and were accepted into the first ever Boston Symphony Children’s Choir (BSCC)! The audition process was challenging and involved singing a prepared song, sight reading, and pitch matching. Encore helped prepare us for this process in the selection of our music and through the strong emphasis on musical theory we have received through our participation with the recording ensemble and our RCM instruction.
The BSCC was invited to stay in residence for two weeks at Tanglewood as part of the BSO summer series. In July, we spent a week preparing for and performing as urchins in the BSO’s production of “La Boheme”, an opera by Puccini. We stayed in hotel for the week and spent the majority of our days in rehearsal working with prominent names in classical music including James Burton, Andris Nelsons, Kristine Opolais, and Daniel Rigazzi. When we weren’t rehearsing, we hiked in the Berkshire mountains, attended dance performances, attended other performances by the BSO, and went to the museum. We had a great time and, despite the fact that it poured rain during our performance, the opera was well received and we got a standing ovation. The day after the Saturday night opera, we performed our own concert as part of the Tanglewood Summer Sunday’s series. We sang music from a catalog of children’s choral music called Friday Afternoons. One of the best parts of that experience was that the composer and writer of two of the pieces was actually at Tanglewood that weekend. He came to our rehearsal and gave us feedback on our performances of his songs.
In August, we were asked to return to Tanglewood to reprise Mahler’s Third Symphony. Although we were excited to perform this piece for a second time, the highlight of this second trip was being asked to be part of an interview series for New York Public Radio on what it was like to perform Mahler’s music. We, along with two other members of the chorus, answered questions about our musical experiences, what it felt like to be in the choir, and what it was like to sing the part of angels in the choir. The other cool part of that week was that we were at Tanglewood as the BSO and celebrity guests prepared for the Leonard Bernstein celebration performance. We got to hang around Tanglewood with Yoyo Ma, John Williams, Susan Graham, Keith Lockhart, and Audra McDonald.
This experience was one of the most influential times in our lives. We had the opportunity to live like professional musicians for two weeks and take a peek at the life of a musician at the BSO. This also helped us gather more knowledge on what it takes to make it. This experience proved how hard it can be to be successful in this field as an artist. We made good friends, performed in front of large crowds, and gained appreciation for the educators who brought us here and made this trip possible. Overall, these performances opened our eyes to the diverse world of music, and we are very excited to continue our training with the BSCC. Please come see us sing with the Boston Pops at all of the children’s matinee performances of the Holiday Pops!
October 18, 2018
“Echoes and Heroes”
By Lisa Ostrow, Co-Owner of Encore Music Academy and Recording Studios
There are heroes amongst us: More often than not, they are not recognized as heroes or even all that hero-like, but to me they have the power to make or break a day, to slay the dragons, and to right the wrongs. They climb mountains (of paperwork, at least), navigate labyrinths of unimaginable peril fraught with twists and turns and a cliff edge or two, and brave the terrors of unknown and uncharted pathways. They guard and protect, negotiate and navigate, and do it all with patience and grace. Who are these unsung heroes of whom I speak? They all have names – Lili, Jenn, Kathleen, Marybeth, Nikki, Tyler, Francisco, Lauren, Brianna, Laura, and Gabriela – and they are the faces you first see when you walk through the doors of Encore. Ever since we opened our doors back in February, 2012, each has left an indelible imprint on Encore, and on us.
First, there was Lili. Twelve-year-old, mature-way-beyond-her-years Lili began with us as an intern, volunteering her time when we could not yet afford to hire help. Soon she graduated to become the very first Office Manager of our Franklin location. Although she was just fourteen, with official work permit proudly in hand, Lili developed our filing system, implemented procedures, and covered every inch of surface with humorous and insightful reminder sticky notes. One remained on the printer for years after she left: It sported a drawn picture of Gandolph with the words, “You shall not throw out ink cartridges”. And it worked! To this day, even though the note is long gone, (much to her chagrin when she returned for a visit), the reminder lives on. Her passion was organization, so much so that she organized all the guitar picks into perfection in the retail display, and since she left us to go to college, the display has never been quite the same!
Next came Jenn – quirky, adorable, bubbly, effervescent, and full of ideas, — and what a remarkable find she was. Jenn catapulted us into technology, and moved us forward with remarkable speed. Never has Encore ever been so clean, either! The magic eraser was her friend, and now it’s ours, too! She had a talent for thinking outside the box, filling that box with great ideas, and then selling them. When she left, we thought we could not go on, but then along came Nikki.
Sweetly shy, our Nikki came on board and took Encore by really quiet thunderstorm! In addition to her Office Manager role, she took the Encore Music Education Foundation under her wing and organized our first auction, a superhuman feat of tremendous strength, perseverance, stamina and, just perhaps, a tinge of insanity. Calm, steady, and remarkably efficient, she helped us grow, change with the times, and build the Foundation’s foundation! And she did it all with blushes, killer wit, and unparalleled intelligence, which was wasted on us and was much better put to use pursuing her Master’s degree in linguistics. (Who wouldn’t trade us for that?!)
And then Jenn came back! Yes, she actually came back! We were in a bind, and the timeing was right, so Jenn returned and performed another round of technological upgrades and mini magic eraser miracles for us before she was drawn away again.
Enter, Tyler, the first trace of masculinity behind the desk at Encore in Franklin. While studying full-time for a grad degree, Tyler gave us his absolute all until he was literally doing it in his sleep!
Cut to Francisco, just fifteen and smart as a whip! He knew where everything was and how to do everything, and what he didn’t know, (which wasn’t much), he could find out in 20 seconds or less on Google. He was our Fran Of All Trades, equally as good behind the reception desk as he was in the studio, and he would still be working here today, but that pesky high school career got in the way!
Meanwhile, in Millis this whole time, Brianna reigned supreme. Singlehandedly, she has battled solar light malfunctions, relentless weeds that threatened a hostile takeover of the front office through the adjacent wall, a flash flood when the air conditioner broke, and a few toilets clogged with rolls of toilet paper when curious children want to see how many will fit at one time. Weathering the many changes of staff, faculty, and policy with courage, humor, and grace, as the steady heartbeat of Encore, Brianna understands how it all works, and how we all work, too. Bri was our rock, is still our rock, will always be our rock, and a precious one at that. Funny, steady, quirky, and just plain fun, Bri is the glue that binds both locations together. But, when she can’t be there—take Saturdays, for example—there have been two others who have braved the 8:30 start time on a weekend morning to play parking attendant, housekeeper, grounds manager, garbage collector, babysitter, and, of course, Office Manager. First Kathleen, and then Marybeth, became our Saturday morning warriors, braving torrential rains, blizzards, and a perfect summer day or two, to open the doors at Millis and welcome the masses. To get up early on a Saturday morning is never easy, but to do it for others is, perhaps, simple madness! But, oh, are we ever grateful for our Saturday gladiators!
Lauren came to stay for a while to fill the Franklin lobby with smiles and laughter. Upbeat always, Encore echoed with her bursts of bubbly laughter. And, boy was she brave! In the closet off the kitchen, there lived a huge, ginormous, gargantuan, ridiculously scary, and maybe even hairy—wait for it, folks—SPIDER, who lived, it would seem, simply to terrorize Lea, one of our instructors. It seems his sole aim was to hear her scream, and scream she did! And, it was always Lauren, fearless and dauntless, who came galloping to her rescue. Although Skipper somehow evaded capture and imminent death, he seemed intimidated enough by Lauren’s bravado that he stopped making appearances in Lea’s lesson room.
And then there was Laura – sweet, serene, empathetic, and uber-capable Laura. With the heart of a mother, Laura cared for and nurtured all of us. It is she who started the Encore faculty group in order to bring us all together outside the workplace. It is she who sat on the floor with one small and very unhappy autistic child for two hours until he was calm enough and ready to get up and leave with his own mother. And it was she who would make countless dinner runs, knowing that we would not eat, otherwise. And the bowl of candy she would keep under her desk was the piéce de resistance for all of the faculty; she seemed always to know exactly what we needed and her timing was impeccable. But Israel called Laura away, and now Gabriela is here to stay!
So, what is a hero, really? Is it someone who slays the monsters and rescues damsels in distress? Or, is it the person who brings a spark of joy into the lives of others through actions and deeds? Just maybe a hero is that person who takes an ordinary day and turns it into something extraordinary. From Nikki, who went way above and beyond the call of duty to learn braille so that she could braille music, lyrics, folders, and files for me; to Laura, who went above and beyond to turn every day into something special for every faculty member and student that walked by her desk, Encore is brimming with our own brand of heroism. The Bris and Jenns and Gabrielas are the heart and soul of Encore, our everyday dragon-slayers, our heroes.
September 17, 2018
“Anytime I Hear Music I Smile”
By Noelle Reda, Student of Clarinet and Theory at Encore
Encore Music Academy is a place where I can learn, grow, and be myself. I have never felt that way anywhere else and I always feel welcomed with open arms whenever I arrive. If I did not have Encore in my life I would have definitely given up on clarinet and I would be missing out big time. Music means more to me now as I get older, because it helps give me time to forget about high school drama and homework. I play clarinet, I’m starting flute and I love listening to music.
Anytime I hear music I smile. Music can express so many feelings and emotions. You can think back to an old memory or look forward to the future.
Band in school by far is the best class and I can’t stand when people say it’s just an “easy A class” because it is so much more important than that. Encore makes music even more special to me. Lea is my instructor and she is truly the best! She is so kind and hardworking. She does so much for me and is always there for me. And Pat and Lisa, what would I do without you guys? You make Encore a happy, joyful, fun place to go and I love you both so much! I honestly learn more in Encore than I do in school. I remember my first clarinet lesson; I was so nervous and I felt like crying. Little did I know that Lea is one of the kindest, most hard working people I know and Encore is like my second home.
Music has made the world a better place and it feels great to contribute to that. I am so proud whenever I say that I am a musician and it’s just a wonderful feeling. I can’t go a day without listening to music, or singing a tune from a Maroon 5 song. When you walk into Encore you hear all of the beautiful sounds coming from people who want to learn and improve. Some instructors who I have met are so kind and passionate and you don’t get that from just anywhere. Encore just gets this smile on my face that I can’t stop. Encore is a family and I’m so glad that I’m a part of a wonderful community. I have grown so much not just as a musician but a person as well!
August 18, 2018
“My Home Away From Home”
By Lea Botta, Director of Woodwinds and Manager of Program Development
I have been teaching here at Encore since February of 2013. I started with two students on a Saturday. I had a very busy teaching studio of my own, teaching 6 days a week in various schools throughout the South Shore. I had worked hard to build my studio up and loved every minute of it. However, having moved to Franklin in 2009, the commute to the South Shore was definitely grating on me. It was time for a change.
I remember my first phone call with Lisa, one of Encore’s Founding Directors. It was the night before a blizzard. I was on my way out to get milk and bread….I don’t even drink milk, but this is New England – it’s just what you do.
I met with Lisa and Pat the next week and I passed muster. They hired me. It was with a lot of trepidation that I started working for someone besides myself and gave up some of my own studio time to work at Encore. I gave Encore a Saturday out of my schedule as a compromise. If things didn’t work out, I still had five other days at my own studio.
Fast forward five or so years … one day with two students on my schedule turned into five full days of lessons. This past year, I was hired full-time as Director of Woodwinds and Program Development Manager. I have never looked back or regretted giving up my own studio to teach here. Besides having two of the best and most understanding bosses on the planet, I work with a great group of people. My colleagues that teach with me are highly educated, awesome musicians and are professional in every way. I couldn’t ask for better students. They are highly motivated, enthusiastic, and work hard to become better musicians in every lesson. I can tell that they, too, love being here at Encore.
And, yes, Encore is my home away from home. I am honored and proud to call this wonderful place so! Onward and upward!
July 23, 2018
“The Sounds of Encore”
By Laura Ostrow, Office Manager
You drive up to the familiar Encore sign, walk up to the door, and may already hear music flowing from inside the entryway of the building. As you open the door and take your first step in, you hear a symphony of sounds all at once, creating a chorus of laughter, song, and music. To your right, you hear the typing away of the office manager who greets you with a smile saying “hello.” As you walk in further, you may hear the songbird sound of a student singing an Italian Aria in the classroom on your left, mixed with possibly a grungy electric guitar rock song in the room straight ahead. As you move into the reception area, you may hear the heartbeat of the school through the steady beat of a drummer practicing his rhythm. And when you walk through the main room, you may hear a full ensemble singing, playing instruments, or practicing for their next big performance. As you step into the recording studio, it is suddenly quiet, peaceful, and the sounds of Encore become muffled through the burgundy soundproof walls. You hear audio feedback, as the mix master closely listens and carefully tunes the track to perfect pitch. As you exit the studio and continue through Encore’s hallways, you may hear a class discussing the intricacies of theory, and in the next room, those same intricacies being sung out clear in song.
These are the welcoming sounds of Encore. These are the sounds of our students’ second home. You are welcome here! 🙂