Pedagogy and Products August 28, 2015

This week’s edition of P & P is all about unusual approaches to music education. Ideas and programs that may not be among the traditional, but are still excellent ways to implement music education programs.

Good Medicine. A great doctor has many tasks that go into building an excellent reputation: wielding a scalpel with precision; listening to his patient’s symptoms; writing prescriptions; solving complex medical problems….playing piano? While your family practitioner may not be an accomplished musician, a recent charity event held at the Harriet Himmel Theater in West Palm Beach, FL featured several talented physicians who are musical talents as well, in a concert to benefit local children’s music education programs.

This year’s Physician’s Talent Showcase offered performances by several Florida-based doctors who double as entertainers in their spare time: Dr. Millard Brooks, full-time anesthesiologist and part-time magician/comedian; Dr. John Fernandez, rock singer/guitarist; classical guitarist Dr. Kenneth Fuquay; harpist Dr. Jill Rodila; and Dr. Peggy Hunter, a talented classical pianist. The program was rounded out by several other performers including vocalist Dr. Robin Shecter; flautist, Dr. Robin Sykes; bass guitarist, Dr. Thomas Rowe; and drummer, Dr. Jack Zeltzer. Another highlight of this annual event which is sponsored yearly by the Kretzer Piano Music Foundation is performances by children who have benefited from the proceeds raised by the foundation. Three of the foundations Kretzer kids who performed this year were singers Skye Alyssa Friedman and Emily Rynasko and pianist Zachary Williams.

The event attracted an audience of 400 attendees and raised a total of $60,000 which will be used to expand music programs for children in need. More important however, it goes to show that music is an important part of a well-rounded education program that helps to create smart and talented children who may one day even grow up to become doctors! For more information about the Kretzer Piano Music Foundation, contact:

Build a Guitar, Become a Scientist! Much of the focus of education in the United States today centers around the STEM curriculum (Science Technology Engineering Math). Teachers around the country are working together to create and implement programs to help raise the test scores of American students in these critical areas to lift our standards to match those of other developed countries. Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation in partnership with its Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Centers, a new music-related program is the latest method to help teachers and students meet this goal.

Recent Guitar Building Workshop at Falls Rock Shop

Science and Math teachers gather at one of the NSF centers for an intense, 5-day guitar building institute where they learn hands-on, applied learning techniques which they can in turn implement to engage their students and spark interest in STEM subjects in hopes that they may one day fill the growing need of businesses who are looking to fill jobs in the fields of science, engineering, and technology. The workshop is centered on twelve crucial steps which go into building a guitar: each one of which coordinates directly with a particular facet of physics, math, or science. Examples include fret spacing calculations/math; string tension/ratios; and compression and tension of guitar necks/physics. The goal is for teachers to in turn, adapt or implement some of these same ideas to their students when they return to their classrooms.

Teachers who are selected in these five-day workshops receive free tuition and a stipend which allows them to participate in the event. Over the four-year length of the grant 235 teachers who teach STEM subjects have participated in workshops around the country; an additional 335 faculty have been exposed to these same techniques via national education conferences. In turn, these teachers have adapted some of these same techniques to reach more than 4,600 students. The goal is to reach 19,000 students by the year 2016. Teachers who want to sign up or those who just want to learn more about the program as well as the STEM correlations click here.

Of course musically speaking, we here at Falls Music School and Falls Rock Shop know first-hand of the benefits to be gained by building your own guitar. Just ask anyone who has participated in one of our guitar-building workshops where we implement these same techniques (without the corresponding STEM learning, as we’re all about the music!) Even better, sign up to participate in a workshop yourself and go home with a brand new custom-designed guitar that you have created yourself. Contact

Learn Computer Coding Through Music. Anyone who knows teens also knows that music is one of the most important facets of their daily lives. Likewise, anyone who knows the demands of today’s job market realizes that demand is ever increasing for careers in the computer and tech fields. Smart teachers may therefore ask, is there a way to combine these two interests and inspire students in high school and college to learn the skills necessary to meet the demands of the current job market?

Another program which receives its funding from the National Science Foundation is EarSketch, a computer programming website developed by Georgia Tech University. Designed for use in introductory computing classes at the high school or college level, EarSketch is a modular curriculum which includes lesson plans and teaching materials which educators can use to structure classes in the way that best meets their individual requirements. Students then implement these concepts to learn computer coding in either Python or JavaScript (two of the most important computer languages in the world) by creating their own music, by manipulating loops, composing beats, and applying special effects to a multi-track digital audio workstation. The system works with any style of music, so each student remains motivated creating music they enjoy while learning techniques that can ensure them future employment.

EarSketch is a web-based application, so there is no software to install; even better, the program is free to use under the Creative Commons License thanks to support from the National Science Foundation and the Scott Hudgens Family Foundation. To learn more about EarSketch click here.

I hope you enjoy these innovative music education ideas. As always, stay in touch with Falls Music School by clicking here for the latest in music education trends, techniques, and new products.

As always, you can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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